Saturday, August 8, 2009

What I Read this Summer

Ahhh, Summer. Lazy hazy days spent recharging the batteries. My typical schedule began with a morning writing session. I curled up in my favorite leather chair with my laptop and wrote until I ran out of gas, rarely changing out of my pajamas. Early afternoon was blog-rolling time, checking in with the book-publishing world and my favorite writers. Finally, in the late afternoon or evening after dinner, I disappeared into someone else's book.

School starts on Monday, and summer is officially over for me. I'm excited about a new year and new students, but as a last nod to my break, I thought I'd share what I read.

DAYHUNTER by Jocelynn Drake

This was my first summer book, and I loved it. DAYHUNTER is the urban fantasy follow-up to NIGHTHUNTER. The series follows Mira, a vampire, embroiled in a classic struggle between good and evil and an unlikely attraction to the vampire-hunter, Danaus. In Drake's world, the vampires have a very structured hierarchy. Mira has close ties to the upper echelon of the council, and as she follows the trail of the evil naturi, she discovers corruption in her own ranks. Because the naturi represent a threat to both vampires and humans, she teams up with Danaus. Lots of twists and turns make this a fun read, and even at the end, Mira is unclear about who she can trust. I look forward to more of Drake's work.

SKIN TRADE by Laurell K. Hamilton

I've already done a complete review of this book, and you can read it here. I was a bit harsh in my review. Maybe because we hurt the ones we love the most?? I'm not sure, but even in hindsight I'm sticking by the original review. I love LKH and Anita Blake, but I didn't love this book.

MAVERICK by Lora Leigh

This romantic suspense stars Micah, a special ops, former Israeli Mossad badass. He has to save the heroine, Risa, from an assassin who has been hired to kill her because she's been repressing information that will expose someone important. Risa was a test subject for a drug called whore's dust. Human traffickers use it to make unwilling young women more willing. Risa saw the doctor in charge of the tests, but repressed the memory. As villains go, this guy is pretty darn despicable. In addition to saving Risa's life, Micah vows to heal her battered spirit. Honestly, most of the story is Risa's healing. The plot is unique, and the hero is hot, but I wanted more action. The book is labelled "romantic suspense," and that's why I picked it up. I was in the mood for suspense, and I got a tender romance. My only quibble is the misleading label. As a straight-up romance, it's a winner.

THE BROKEN WINDOW by Jeffrey Deaver

Because I didn't get enough suspense from MAVERICK, I grabbed a Jeffrey Deaver novel. He never fails to entertain, and this was no exception. Lincoln Rhyme is Deaver's wheelchair-bound sleuth. He makes the folks on CSI look like amateurs. This book opens with Lincoln's cousin appearing to commit a vicious murder. The reader realizes early on that the cousin has been set up. The story is a chilling tale of extreme identity theft. The serial killer has access to a database containing the most intimate information. All he needs to acquire it is a name. When Lincoln picks up his trail, the killer targets Amelia, Lincoln's partner and girlfriend. Plenty of suspense in this one, and the premise is downright scary.

PREY by Rachel Vincent

Vincent is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. I LOVED this book. PREY is the continuing saga of Faythe, a cat shifter who is headstrong to the point of recklessness. She and Marc, her childhood sweetheart, are finally on the same page at the end of the previous book, PRIDE, and then as a consequence of Rachel's actions, Marc is banished. PREY opens with Faythe visiting Marc in the free zone as she travels through on business. A group of strays (cat shifters who aren't part of a pride) attack them, and we're off to the races. The action never slows, and the plot twists are gut-wrenching. Vincent is absolutely fearless in taking the story where it needs to go. Her novels are an intense emotional ride. While she's twisting you into knots, she also comments on the role of women in society, the price of creating social outcasts, and political corruption. Faythe is flawed, but likable. Loyal and self-sacrificing, she wants the best for her pride. Too often though, she lets her emotions drive her actions, and Vincent never lets Faythe off the hook. The end of this book is gripping, and I can't wait for the next one.

HIDDEN CURRENTS by Christine Feehan

If you love paranormal romance, you can't go wrong with a Feehan book. HIDDEN CURRENTS is the last of the Drake sisters series. The 7 Drake sisters each have some sort of psychic power. Elle, the 7th sister and a secret agent, has a touch of all her sisters' powers. The book opens with Elle being kidnapped and Jackson saving her. My only issue with Feehan's books is that she likes her heroines weak. The Drake sisters are stronger than most of Feehan's heroines. They have a girl power vibe that I like, and Elle is strong until the villain tortures her and breaks her down. Cue strong alpha male savior. Jackson was a POW when he served in the army, so he understands what it's like to be tortured. He charges in to save Elle both physically and spiritually. The plot is predictable, but if you're looking for a hot paranormal romance, then HIDDEN CURRENTS works.

DEAD AND GONE by Charlaine Harris

This is another book I've already reviewed, and you can read my review here. Sookie Stackhouse has a strong voice, and I love catching up with her. The end of this particular book was unsettling, and I'm interested to see where Harris takes the series next.

ECSTASY by Jacquelyn Frank

This book sat in my "to be read" pile for a while. I've enjoyed Frank's Nightwalker series, but for some reason this book got lost in the shuffle. I guess I let this one sit because it's a departure from her previous installments. ECSTASY begins a series of books about the Shadowdwellers who are a part of the larger Nightwalker world of demons, vampires, shapeshifters, and other creatures of the night. I finally pulled it out of the pile when I noticed the sequel at the bookstore. I'm glad I did. The Shadowdwellers live in darkness. They also sometimes inhabit a realm called Shadowscape and another called Dreamscape. ECSTASY opens as the heroine, Ashla, hits a semi-truck head on. In her subsequent coma, she wanders through Shadowscape and meets Trace, a Shadowdweller. Romance ensues. As in all romance, the pair faces daunting obstacles, including a difference of race (she's not a Shadowdweller), dementia brought on when Trace remains in Shadowscape too long, a mother from hell, and the fact that Ashla is in a coma. Frank's writing sucked me immediately into her world, so I went right back to the bookstore for my next read.

RAPTURE by Jacquelyn Frank

The upside to letting ECSTASY sit was I got to read the next book immediately. RAPTURE is about Trace's father, Magnus. The Shadowdwellers live for centuries, so it's not as weird as it initially sounds. Magnus is the spiritual leader of the Shadowdwellers. He has lost his long time help-mate and needs a new one. The priests of the Shadowdwellers are not celibate by dogma, but Magnus has been celibate by choice for a very long time. Then he meets Daenaira, and boy howdy does that choice go out the window. This romance is also a good mystery. Frank is master of the red herring. Magnus has a traitor in his midst, and Daenaira helps flush out the culprit. Of course, being a big bad alpha male, Magnus resists accepting her help. Daenaira kicks ass and takes names, and proves herself equal to the task. The romance is satisfying. The mystery is good. Two thumbs up.

THE DOOMSDAY KEY by James Rollins

James Rollins' Sigma books are too much fun. Put Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Robert Langdon on the same team, and you have the men of Sigma, a secret government agency that fights crime and solves age-old mysteries all at the same time. In THE DOOMSDAY KEY, Sigma is facing bio-terrorism. Their nemesis organization, The Guild, has genetically engineered corn to be lethal. The genetic strain is related to a scourge that wiped out portions of England in the time of William the Conqueror. Grayson Pierce has to follow historical, archaeological, and religious clues to avert disaster. The book is absolutely fascinating in its theories about how pagan and Christian symbols merged over time, and Rollins weaves this information into a page-turning thriller. He includes a section at the end in which he explains what part of his book is real and what part is fiction. Most all the historical and religious stuff is real.

Rollins always includes a touch of magic in his's subtle, but it's enough to keep you thinking. And his books aren't simply blow-stuff-up, odes to testosterone. The protagonists are men, but they all have women in their lives. Some of them are on the team. Rollins writes smart, capable women. A bizarre love triangle adds to the fun of this book. THE DOOMSDAY KEY was one of my favorites of the summer. It is the 6th book in the series, and if you haven't read any of them, I recommend going back to the first one and reading them in order.

STORM OF VISIONS by Christina Dodd

I first discovered Dodd when I read her Darkness Chosen books. STORM OF VISIONS is the first in a new series called The Chosen ones, and the two series are related through a member of the Wilder family. The book starts with a fairy tale...not the kind Disney tells, but a much darker story, like one you might find in The Brothers Grimm. Two abandoned children, twins, meet vastly different fates. One wonderful. One horrible. Both are given supernatural gifts that are passed through time to other abandoned children, setting up another classic good versus evil showdown. In the present day, seven of the Chosen must work together to combat the evil. Jacqueline is the key to the group because she is a seer. She's not real keen on the job, and her adopted mother (the old seer) sends her bodyguard, Caleb, to show her the error of her ways. Of course, Caleb is totally hot and has a long volatile history with Jacqueline. Romance ensues. Caleb and Jacqueline have to overcome Mommy issues, a traitor among the Chosen, and the devil himself to find happiness. Another fun read.

SKYKEEPERS by Jessica Andersen

Andersen's series is based on the Mayan calendar countdown that ends on December 21, 2012. SKYKEEPERS is the third installment of the battle between the Nightkeepers, who are desperately trying to stop the apocalypse, and the Xibalbans, who want to hasten it along. Yep...more good versus evil...this time using Central American mythology. Each book is a separate romance, but the story arc of the larger battle runs through all of them. Andersen's approach to storytelling reminds me of J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series. This book focuses on Michael and Sasha. Sasha was kidnapped by the Xibalbans in an earlier book, and Michael has to both save her and convince her that her crazy father's stories about the Nightkeepers and the end of the world are all true. Michael's life is complicated by the fact that he was an assassin for the CIA before he became a Nightkeeper, and the demons from his former life still haunt him. The mythology of the series is engrossing, and the characters are rich. Michael took longer to grow on me than some of Andersen's other heroes. His "I'll suffer in silence and save you from my scary past" attitude is annoying, but the romance is satisfying in the end. The previews I've seen at the movies this summer suggest Andersen isn't the only author hopping on the 2012 bandwagon.

So there you have it. That's what I read over my summer break. My "to be read" pile is deep, and Karen Marie Moning's FAEFEVER sits on my nightstand waiting. I'm diving in, but now I have to balance the reading and writing with my teaching responsibilities. *sigh* I miss summer already.

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