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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Review: Pleasure: The Shadowdwellers

Title: Pleasure: The Shadowdwellers
Author: Jacquelyn Frank
Page Count: 330 pages
Publisher: Zebra Paranormal Romance
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Year of Publication: 2009

50 words or less: The third book in the Shadowdwellers series tells the story of Sagan, the kidnapped priest from the last installment, and Malaya and Guin, the Chancellor of the Shadowdweller society and her bodyguard, respectively. Evil Acadian is on the loose, drama unfolds, deals are struck, plans are made, politics are played.

Jacquelyn Frank is easily one of my favorite authors of paranormal romance. At this point I’ve read everything she’s had published to date and I’ve truly enjoyed all of her offerings so far.

For the most part, Pleasure was no exception. Each book in the Shadowdweller series, in addition to being a romance novel in every sense, clued the reader in to a certain aspect of Shadowdweller society; Ecstasy introduced us to their culture and their world, Rapture shared their religion and their spiritual beliefs, and now Pleasure worked to shed some light on the politics that governed this admittedly unstable world. Ms. Frank’s writing is lyrical without being boring, poetic without being trite, and I found the conversations between the characters to easily be my favorite part of the whole story.

That doesn’t mean that Pleasure is a perfect book, however. In both stories, there’s a definite undercurrent of feeling insecure and inferior, of being unworthy, and of ignoring one’s accomplishments in the face of imagined character flaws, and that meant that the train to Angstytown left on a fairly regular basis. Ultimately, those elements were used to make important things happen in the story, which is a definite good thing, because personally I can only read so much of that before I start to lose interest.

There also was, and you don’t catch me saying this too often, perhaps a little too much bedroom action in this particular book. I don’t have qualms about the quantity or frequency of sex scenes in books like some reviewers out there, but in this particular case I felt like sex scenes were what was going on while we were waiting for actual events that were important to the story line to get around to happening. This was more prevalent in Sagan’s story than in Guin and Malaya’s, but still.

In spite of all that, I read Pleasure in one sitting and wasn’t sorry I’d spent the money to buy the book. I’d recommend this series to anyone who was looking to explore paranormal romance but wasn’t sure where to start, and also to anyone who enjoys PNR but is kind of tired of the vampire/werewolf experience that’s so popular right now.

As a side note, it bears mentioning that although there are two stories in this volume, this isn’t a story anthology; rather, Pleasure reads more like a play, with Act I featuring Sagan and Act II featuring Guin and Malaya. The stories happen concurrently, but are not separate from each other.

If you’re interested in reading Pleasure, I highly recommend starting with the beginning of the series, which starts in Ecstasy. I really don’t think the series will make much sense or be much fun if you start with the third installment. The end of Pleasure made it seem like future installments were a possibility; I’d definitely read them if they did happen.

Overall Grade: A-

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review: Shifter


Angela Knight, Lora Leigh, Alyssa Day, Virginia Kantra

Berkeley Sensation

317 pages

Paranormal romance

Came out in 2008

50 words or less: Four stories from popular paranormal romance authors centering on the theme of shape shifters, with high levels of boy meets girl shenanigans, boys turning into animals, and of course, abundant nookie.

The fun thing about these short story anthologies is that they (like life) are a lot like a box of chocolates on sale after Valentine’s Day, except that just to make it interesting, someone has taken the sheet that explains what all of the chocolate flavors and centers are, leaving you to just kind of grab one and guess. If the chocolate is one of the dark chocolate covered peanut butter ones, it’s great and you’re in good shape! If it’s say, one of those weird apricot ones, well, at least it’s over quickly.

Such is definitely the case with Shifter. The first story, “Mad Dog Love” by Angela Knight, toes the line between quirky but fun paranormal romance and weird apricot chocolate territory. It’s the story of enslaved werewolf Rance Conlan and empress of the future Zarifa Lorezo and their adventures finding her outlaw brother. Anyone who’s ever read her Mageverse series knows that Angela Knight definitely isn’t afraid to take ideas that don’t seem to have anything to do with each other, like Arthurian legends and vampires or, in this case, werewolves and space, and jam them together until somehow, a story emerges. A story does emerge here, but it’s not a life-changing one by any stretch.

The second offering, Lora Leigh’s “A Jaguar’s Kiss,” is definitely more interesting. A short entry in her Breeds series, this is the story of Natalie Ricci (a human) and Saban Broussard (a laboratory experiment where human and jaguar DNA were combined to create a supersoldier…or something…) and it not only does well as a stand-alone story, it also got me interested in reading more of the Breed series.

Up next is “Shifter’s Lady” by Alyssa Day, which is part of the Warriors of Poseidon series. I’ve read the first two (I think) books in the series, and honestly I’m no closer to deciding whether I like them or not than I was before reading this. Ethan is a panther shifter trying to solve a rash of assaults and murders; Marie is the First Maiden of the Nereids who hasn’t ever left Atlantis until now. There wasn’t anything inherently wrong with the story that developed from this premise; I was just left feeling kind of disinterested in what happened to Ethan, Marie, any other characters from the series, or the world that they all share.

Of the four authors included here, Virginia Kantra was the only one I hadn’t come across before reading, and her “Sea Crossing” was, in my opinion, the most innovative story of the four. The beginning of the story reads like your standard Regency romance—young woman is ruined by her youthful indiscretions and is setting off to start a new life away from the society that wants nothing to do with her. While en route, she’s shipwrecked, rescued by a mysterious stranger, and brought to a strange town of sorts to recover. So far, so good, right? Except the town is populated by selkies, people who can turn into seals, and her ship was wrecked on purpose so the seal/people children could have a teacher. Griff, the hero of the story, has to figure out how to explain all this to Emma, the heroine, without it sounding as crazy as all that. It’s definitely a unique premise and it worked for me.

Reviewing anthologies is tough because each story has to rely on the other ones for cohesiveness, and one clunker can definitely offset the enjoyment of the others. Shifter isn’t a perfect story collection by any stretch, but the selection of authors represented and the diversity of the stories work well together, and although some of the stories weren’t my cup of tea they’re a good, cheap way to discover new authors without having to sit through a full-length novel.

Overall grade: B-

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hello and Welcome!

This is my little corner of the universe, my very own book blog! I've been meaning to review what I read for quite awhile now but am finally doing it! Currently I'm a teacher and a candidate for a master's degree in Early Childhood Special Education; when I'm not doing something with that, I'm reading, and sharing books and book ideas with other people.

I literally will read anything- science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, romances, nonfiction, cereal boxes....you get the idea. This will be an opportunity for me to talk about what I've read and what I thought about it and also to get new ideas on what to read next!

When I'm not teaching or reading, I like to cook, knit and be crafty, so (mis)adventures in those areas might find their way in here as well. The possibilities are endless!
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