Tour’s Books Blog

March 26, 2011

Short Reviews: New Release Paranormals, Romantic Suspense, Erotic Romance, Cozy Mystery

Talk about a disappointing group of books.  YEESH!  Not one really good one in the whole lot!

  • Title: Accidentally Catty
  • Author:  Dakota Cassidy
  • Type:  Humorous paranormal romance series
  • Genre:  A vet gets infected my a mountain lion that’s really a shifter and must deal with the paranormal reality
  • Sub-genre:  Normal human gets involved with vamps and shifters and an insane scientist
  • My Grade: C  (3.0*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel – about 100,000+ $8.50-10 with list of $15.00
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore

Dakota Cassidy’s hit or miss Accidental series new entry has its moments in Accidentally Catty, mostly in the spirit of Gracie Allen style humor delivered with ’30’s screwball nonsense, but the story is little more than a novella inflated to 350+ pages.  Essentially, Grace Woods is a vet in a very small town with a poor excuse for a wild game preserve next door.  One night she finds a sick mountain lion on her doorstep.  in treating the cat she gets scratched.  then the cage holding cat is holds a naked, handsome man while Grace’s arm is now a cat’s paw.  The man has a British accent, is obviously educated and hasn’t clue who he is.  Grace calls the new hot line her former characters in the earlier books started to answer paranormal crisis.  While it’s nice seeing them, Nina (Accidentally Dead) got on my nerves.  Now Grace has a vamp, a werewolf, and a cat shifter on her hands.  Plus, the town gossips are out to ruin Grace’s vet practice.

Into this mess throw one evil genius, a grandfather trying to protect his grandson, and two people deeply attracted to each other despite the exceedingly odd circumstances.  It plays well, is shallow and lacking the character depth her earlier books had.  A fast, easy read.

Is Accidentally Catty worth $8.50-$10 price?   Only for fans of the series.  It’s not her best work.

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  • Title: No Place to Run
  • Author:  Maya Banks
  • Type:  Romance – Sexy Romantic Suspense
  • Genre:  Book 2 of the KGI series; woman in jeopardy
  • Sub-genre:  A romance during a mission leads to complications months later
  • My Grade: C-  (2.8*)
  • Rating:  PG-13 to NC-17
  • Length and price:  Full novel – about 80,000+ $7.99
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore

Maya Banks is a very versatile writer in the various branches of the romance genre.  Ranging for erotic contemporary to Harlequin fluff, the quality of the writing is always good.  The plots and characters can vary all over the place.   Lora Leigh’s Nauti series seems to have inspired every romance writer to try their hand romantic suspense.  Some are good, others, not so much.  Ms Banks is in the ‘Not So Much’ category.  Starting with The Darkest Hour and now No Place to Run, has entered the romantic suspense market with a whimper.

The strength of Ms Banks books is her characters, the romantic tension, but in real romantic suspense, that character tension is balanced with action.  Yes, she has her villain in the evil, if dumb, uncle.  But frankly none of the story elements really gelled.  I was on page 200 and still wondering when we’d have more than some lame relationship drama.   By the time the HEA limped in, I was just glad it was all over.  If all you want is modest contemporary romance, fine, just don’t expect real romantic suspense like Anne Stuart’s Ice series or Tara Janzen’s Steele Street series and certainly nothing matching Suzanne Brockman’s Out of Control or her Over the Edge.

Is No Place to Run worth $7.99?  Not for romantic suspense fans.  Maya Banks fans might feel differently, though the steam level is lowered from her erotic romance levels. No Place to Run is a romance with a little action.  Frankly, Mr Impossible, one of the best historical romances ever, has more action and plot than this does and it’s sold as plain old romance.

***************************************************************

  • Title: This Side of the Grave
  • Author:  Jeaniene Frost
  • Type:  paranormal series; Night Huntress Bk 5
  • Genre:  Vampires battle ghouls and a crazed vamp and his followers
  • Sub-genre:  Cat and her unusual heritage become the lightening rod for a power mad vamp
  • My Grade: C-  (2.7*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel – about 100,000+ $7.99
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore

Lightweight seems to be a term I’m using a lot these days.  Sad really.  It’s like writers are so busy trying to cash in on multiple series,  they can’t be bothered to build a good, complex book.  When I can whiz through 350 pages in hours, and wonder where the hell the story was, it’s like trying to satisfy hunger for steak with popcorn.  It doesn’t work.  Here we have another popcorn special.

This Side of the Grave has a brewing war between vamps and ghouls as well as vamps and vamps.  Vamps need the safety of a master’s clan.  Those who have their master die find themselves very vulnerable, prey for other vamps, vamp hunters, and other supernaturals.  Someone is killing them off.  Cat and Bones investigate and find an old vamp, hungry for power, is using Cat’s odd hybrid status as a raison d’êrte for killing the disenfranchised vamps and ghouls.

The Marie Laveau, the historically famous Voodoo queen,  is now the ghoul queen of New Orleans, a black mambo – the name for a voodoo practitioner of dark magic.  (The real Marie Laveau was not a black mambo)  She helps Cat and Bones – but at some cost to both.  The words she spoke tell Cat how to defeat the vamps.  The big ending is more dull thud than big bang and it’s over.  Not a lot of meat here even for series fans.

Is This Side of the Grave worth $7.99?  No.  Dull, weightless, and shallow, only die hard Cat and Bones fans would like it.  There are way better series out there.

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  • Title: Murder of a Bookstore Babe
  • Author:  Denise Swanson
  • Type:  Humorous cozy mystery series; Scrumble River #13
  • Genre:  School counselor gets involved with another death at the town’s new bookstore
  • Sub-genre:  The highest small town murder rate since St Mary Mead
  • My Grade: D+  (2.4*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel – about 70,000+ $6.99
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore

This series would be so much better if Skye Denison would just grow a backbone once and for all and tell her annoying, manipulative mother off.  I am so fed up with a woman her age acting like a doormat for her mother’s psycho-drama, it’s spoiled the whole series.  In each book it looks like Skye will finally GROW UP, but she never does.  The thing is, outside Skye’s personal life, the stories usually work, but not this time.

A bookstore is opening in town and they are daring to sell paranormal, si-fi, romance, and other genres that a certain element in town deem ‘unfit’.  Plus there’s the weasel son of the mayor who uses the street as his car lot blocking access to the store.  But Skye and Trixie are determined to help support it, despite the picketers.  Skye brings in some of the books she inherited with her house only to find a former student crushed under a bookcase.  You’d have to be blind, deaf and dumb to miss who did it and why right then. (Harriet Klausner called it a “A great puzzler” I wonder if we read the same book?)  Red herrings are strewn in the path, including financial misdeeds, petty bickering, extra-marital affairs, and the possibility of the wrong person dying.  But overwhelming the mystery are the annoying subplots, small minded people, and the never ending story of Sky and Wally (her current, long suffering, fiance) and Simon (the ex-fiance who still doesn’t get the damn message), which has worn thin.

I’m sick of the Wally-Simon yo-yo, Skye’s inept handling of it, her childish stupidity – she’s an ADULT, though you’d never know it.  Frankly, Wally should dump her and move on to someone capable of managing her own life without mama’s approval.  Good grief, talk about the WRONG MESSAGE.  Worse still, the action is stagnant, the mysteries stale and predictable, and the characters irritating.

Is Murder of a Bookstore Babe worth $6.99?  NO!  Save your money.

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  • Title: Crescendo
  • Author:  Leah Brooke
  • Type:  Erotic contemporary romance; ménage
  • Genre:  A 40 year old struggling designer finds herself the object of lust of two younger men
  • Sub-genre:  Two friends fall for the same woman and decide to share, though one suspects betrayal
  • My Grade: C+  (3.5*)
  • Rating:  X to XX
  • Length and price:  Plus novel – about 140,000+ words for $9.99; trade paperback $18.50
  • Where Available:  Ebook available at Siren and some online bookstores; trade paperback at Amazon, B&N, etc.
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from publisher’s bookstore

Leah Brooke is an erotic romance writer best known for her Desire, OK series and her Dakota series, though my personal favorite was a stand alone, Alpha’s Mate.  In Crescendo, she moves the action to Philadelphia, not exactly a glamorous city, though Miami is thrown into the mix for its locale.

Julianna Lovette is having a very bad day.  Facing her 40th birthday, finally working up the nerve to try a dom, only to be mistreated, then having a near accident as she struggles to drive home ashamed and hurt, she gets to her parking lot only to have her blasted high heels send her sprawling onto the rain soaked ground.  Suddenly two men are there.  They followed her after she nearly hit a stopped car and ran a red light.  Frightened by them – it’s 3 in the AM and two big guys are trying ‘help’ her – or so they say, she tries to flee, only to be filed by a broken heel.

Nick Morietti and Steve Vanguard are business partners and friends.  Steve and his buddies from his old military unit run security for Nick and Steve is also a partner in the newest luxury hotel, Crescendo.  Since muggers rarely arrive in a limo, Julianna finally calms a bit, but the humiliation of the night just keeps piling up.  Then they insist on taking her to her sad little apartment and tending to her cuts.  Next morning she decides it’s just another embarrassing misadventure to put behind her.  She desperately needs the contract for the Crescendo hotel or she’ll be bankrupt.

Julianna goes for the interview to find none other than her old boss there, the head guy of a big design firm that gained its rep on her work but gave the open management position to the man’s girlfriend.  And the two guys who ‘saved’ her and witnessed her humiliating evening are the damn Crescendo’s owners.  She ends up with the job – much to her own shock.  But things start happening.  Paint colors are all wrong even after she checked them when they arrived, a dozen other mistakes keep getting made.  It feels like sabotage.

Nick and Steve have never been into sharing.  Nick is a dom, Steve likes his women wild in bed.  He’ll step aside and let Nick have Julianna, but Nick proposes sharing.  If they can convince the skittish Juliana who is afraid of getting involved, hurt, and disappointed again – especially with younger men she’s working for.  Steve is less than thrilled at sharing but the three find themselves taking slow steps to a ménage.  But the sabotage continues and Steve’s men become convinced Julianna is a mole for their ex-CO who abandoned them thinking they’d be killed by the enemy.  Nick refuses to believe it.

Cescendo is a long book for a story with such a limited plot, but it reads well and the characters, though not exceptional, are well drawn.  The ‘Big Mis’ with the suspicion falling on Julianna is a stretch.  Who is sabotaging her is obvious.  It is the Nick character that carries the load in the story, the central rock for the emotional turmoil around him.  There is obviously a second book featuring Gabriel and and Julianna’s friend Kelsey, the object of Gabriele’s attention.

Is Crescendo worth $9.99?  Well, it’s a good story and well written, unlike far too many erotic romance books, but it lacks anything really original in plot or character.  I do like that there was time to develop relationships.  I didn’t like the same old ‘big mis’ ploy used here.  the price for an ebook makes me cringe.  At $8.50, I’d say yes, but at $9.99 for an ebook, that hits a price barrier for me – and judging from the low level of feedback on the Siren forum, it looks like a price barrier for others.  Pricing across the board has really gone up, 20% or more.  It makes me pause just long enough to not buy as I used to.

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