Monday, March 31, 2008

Highland Conqueror

Highland Conqueror by Hannah Howell (2005)

Description: Lady Jolene Gerard is running out of time - each moment she remains within the walls of Drumwich Castle she is in jeopardy. Her only chance lies with a prisoner chained to the dungeon walls, a Scotsman who, in return for freedom, helps Jolene and you young nephew escape her cousin's deadly snare. Pursued by murderous villains, Jolene is prepared to fight for her life. But in the arms of rugged Sigimor Cameron, she soon surrenders her heart...

He was too late to save the Englishman to whom he owned a blood debt, but not the man's lovely sister. Stunned by his desire for the spirited English lass, Sigimor presses them on to safety, his enemies in dogged pursuit. And while sweet desire speaks a thousand words, the secret they long to share remains locked in a battle of stubborn pride. But when saving Jolene from his enemy leaves Sigimor no choice but to make her his wife, a bargain born of passion can only be sealed by the kiss of true love...

Review: From the very beginning of this story I was absolutely captivated. We start of with a prison break and the action never stops. Another interesting aspect to this book are the relationships between the English and the Scots. Not many of Howell's books have them mix quite so nice. The character development was great and the story kept me turning the pages. A really great read.

Score: 4 out of 5

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Mistress by Amanda Quick (1995)

Description: After being trapped in a little country town for twenty-six years, Iphiginia bright lost no time in closing down her academy for young ladies to set off on a life of grand adventure. But after a year of touring the classical ruins of Italy and Greece she returned to England to discover that the real excitement was there at home. Its seems that her Aunt Zoe has fallen victim to a sinister blackmailer and only Iphiginia can hope to stop the culprit before he can do more harm.

Her plan is inspired: Imitating history's most legendary beauties - Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Aphrodite - the former schoolmistress will remake herself and descend upon London society as the dazzling mistress of one of the ton's most powerful men, Marcus Valerius Cloud, the infamous Earl of Masters. Rumors hint that the enigmatic earl has disappeared at the hands of the blackmailer, and by posing as his unknown mistress Iphiginia is convinced that she can ferret out the villain.

From the white feathers in her hair to the white satin slippers on her feet, Iphiginia is transformed into a vision. And overnight she is traveling in the ton's most glittering circles and being sought after by a host of eager admirers, including one she does not expect - the Earl of Masters himself, who strides into a shimmering ballroom one evening to coolly reclaim his "mistress."

He is everything they say he is - arrogant, attractive, devastatingly deductive - and Iphiginia can't help but be enthralled. But when Marcus agrees to play along with her charade, she doesn't know that the determined earl has plans of his own: to tease and tempt her, until the beautiful deceiver becomes more than his mistress in name only.

And just when Iphiginia begins to fear for her heart, the blackmailer turns his vengeful threats on her, and she and Marcus must uncover the maze of scandal and treachery behind the criminal's schemes... or forfeit the chance to learn whether their passion is a masquerade or the tumultuous evidence of a love that can last for all time.

Review: Most definitely a fun read. I really enjoyed the characters of Marcus and Iphiginia. It was most interesting to see where the story was going to go and what they were going to do next. Like always, Quick does a great job with her research and makes a really believable story. I really enjoyed it and think you will too.

Score: 4 out of 5

Don't Look Back

Don't Look Back by Amanda Quick (2002)

Description: As if a head for business and a nose for trouble aren't enough to distinguish fiercely independent Lavinia Lake from the other women of London's fashionable Claremont Lane, there is one more feature to set her apart. Lavinia is also well versed in the practice of mesmerism, an extraordinary gift that far surpasses mere charm and physical appeal. Nobody knows this better than the usually coolheaded Tobias March, who seems to have fallen hopelessly under her spell. Fortunately for all, however, Lavinia uses her powers for good. And ever since a tragedy involving one of her subjects, she has even retired them in favor of her work with Lake and march, a joint venture providing "discreet private inquiries for individuals of quality." Celeste Hudson, the stunningly beautiful young wife of a family friend and fellow mesmerist, would surely count herself among such individuals - were she still alive, that is.

While mythology's Medusa could turn men to stone, lovely Celeste was more accustomed to turning them to jelly. In fact, unbeknownst to her husband. Howard, the ambitious Celeste was planning to use her talents to forge a new future in society - one that would not include him. Sadly, her plans were cut shot when she was murdered. Only a gentleman's cravat wound around her lovely neck remained for evidence - small compensation for the strange and priceless bracelet that may have been snatched from her wrist as she drew her last breath.

As a result, Lake and March are soon in Howard Hudson's employ on the trail of the killer. But Tobias is convinced the dashing widower is more interested in tracking down the missing relic. If so, Howard is not alone. Any number of ruthless types are after the very same antiquity, whose centerpiece is an unusual blue cameo of inestimable value and supposed legendary powers - powers of immeasurable worth to anyone in Howard's line of work.

Together, Lake and March undertake a tantalizing investigation that leads them from the glittering ballrooms of the ton to London's seediest taverns to a mesmerist whose therapies include treating ladies suffering from "hysteria" via a most unconventional method - and, not least of all, to the darkest reaches of men's psyches.

Review: The second installment of the March & Lake murder/mystery series is a very enjoyable read. I didn't realize it was the second book, but it wasn't hard to figure much out about what has already transpired. The story gave an interesting look into how we perceive our old friends (and their motives) and how they look to others. I was interested in the historical research that was done. All in all, a great mystery with a dash of Romance thrown in.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Second Sight

Second Sight: An Arcane Society Novel by Amanda Quick (2006)

Description: In financial straits and on a sure path to spinsterhood, Venetia Milton thought her stay at the remote, ramshackle Arcane House, far from society's prying eyes, would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to engineer her own ravishment. She was there to photograph the relics and artifacts collected by a highly secretive organization, founded two centuries earlier by an eccentric alchemist. And the alchemist's descendant - her employer, Mr. Gabriel Jones - had the eyes of a sorcerer...

After a night to remember, Venetia is prepared to cherish the memories of her romantic encounter and move on, but she is shattered when, shortly after their night together, she reads of Jone's death in the paper. As a private tribute to her one-time lover, she adopts the name "Mrs. Jones" and the guise of a respectable widow, and embarks on an new career as a fashionable photographer in London, where her unique ability to "see" beyond her subjects and capture that quality in her photography makes her photographs highly prized.

But her romantic whim causes unexpected trouble. For one thing, Mr. Jones is about to stride, living and breathing, back into her life. And the bonds that tie them together include more than just the memory of passion; Venetia's special "double vision" has caught the attention of someone Mr. Jones is tracking - someone who will go to any lengths even to murder, to possess an ancient, extraordinary secret that has been lost for centuries. Someone who believes that as the "wife" of Mr. Jones, Venetia is the key.

Now, as she introduces Gabriel about town as her miraculously back-from-the-dead "husband," Venetia must join him in a perilous quest to track down a dangerous opponent who manages to stay one step ahead. As they explore the darker, wilder underbelly of the modern, scientific Victorian world, they must see through society's illusions - or this time, Gabriel Jones may not be rising from the dead, and neither may Mrs. Jones.

Review: Another fun read from Quick. It was most interesting to see the heroine of the story do the seducing for a change. Another interesting aspect of the story was the extra ability of some of the characters. They were not the standard paranormal abilities, which was refreshing. It was also interesting to read about the photography references. Once again, Quick has done her homework and it shows.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

Friday, March 28, 2008

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast by Hannah Howell (2007)

Description: On the eve of her wedding to the heir of Saiturn Manor, the stunningly beautiful Gytha is shocked to learn that her betrothed, a man she barely knew, is dead. Now she must marry the new heir, Thayer Saiturn, a battle-hardened knight known as the Red Devil...

With a face scarred in battle and a heart broken in love, Thayer has no interest in marriage. But not even the Red Devil can break the promise his foster-father made years ago and soon finds himself married to a woman whose exquisite beauty and sweet innocence intrigue him. But can his new bride look beyond his scars to find a hidden passion and undying love locked deep inside him?

Review: An interesting tale to say the least. Howell gives us an atypical romantic hero in Thayer. He has to be one of the most insecure medieval knights I've read about. I did enjoy the story though. The characters were well developed and I really did care what happened to them. Like usual, there was great wit and fun moments intermixed with danger. All in all, a good read.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

Friday, March 14, 2008

Everything and the Moon

Everything and the Moon by Julia Quinn (1997)

Description: Seven years ago he left her all but ruined...

Victoria's father had told her an earl wold never marry a vicar's daughter, and he was right. Robert had promised her marriage, then danced off to London while she suffered the shame of a foiled elopement. But even though Victoria doesn't particularly enjoy her new life as a governess, when Robert offers her a job of a different sort - his mistress - she refuses, unable to sacrifice her honor, even for him.

But Robert won't take no for an answer, and he vows to make her his, through any means possible. Can these star-crossed lovers learn to trust again? And is love really sweeter the second time around?

Review: This is basically a story of love at first sight gone all wrong. If it could go wrong for these two, it did. I did enjoy the story, but some of what I read was sort of out of character. If you are looking for a nice story about love at first sight, then this is for you. A most definite pleasant read on a lazy day.

Score: 3 out of 5

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Batman and Son

Batman and Son by Grant Morrison (2007)

Description: When Bruce Wayne travels to London to attend a charity benefit, he finds his past waiting for him. Talia, daughter of the evil mastermind Ra's al Ghul, engineers an attack by an army of mutual Man-Bats to kidnap the Dark Knight. But why? The answer lies with a young boy named Damian - a boy Talia claims to be her son with the Batman. But is he really? To what end does Talia leave him in Batman's care? And what kind of child is he if he has all of the skills of Batman... but none of the morals?

Review: A dark tale surrounding the Dark Knight. Unbeknownst to Batman/Bruce Wayne, he has a son with the daughter of one of his biggest foes. The family reunion didn't quite go as planned, but is all lost? I could not put this story down. It enthralled me from beginning to end. The artwork was outstanding as well. This is a must read, especially for Batman/Dark Knight fans.

Score: 4 out of 5

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Road to Perdition

The Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins (2004)

Description: Rock Island, Illinois - 1929. Michael O'Sullivan is a good father and a family man - and also the chief enforcer for John Looney, the town's Irish Godfather of crime. As Looney's "Angel of Death," O'Sullivan has done the bidding of Chicago gangsters Al Capone and Frank Nitti as well - but when a gangland execution spells tragedy for the O'Sullivan family, a grieving father and his adolescent son find themselves on a winding road of treachery, revenge, and revelation.

Review: This was most definitely an interesting historical graphic novel. Having grown up near the Chicago area, I am well acquainted with the mobsters in the book. It was interesting to see them woven into this most interesting gangland that Collins created. There is also an underlying lesson about who we truly find to be evil based on their actions. Even though this story takes place back during the depression, it still is something we can learn from today. A really great read, especially if you enjoy mysteries or noir.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Chibi Vampire Volume 2

Chibi Vampire, Volume 2 by Yuna Kagesaki (2006)

Kenta sees Karin at work and school, each day serving as a reminder that something about the girl with the oft-bloody nose just isn't right! He's suspicious... and he's not exactly subtle about it.

Fearing that he might discover her secret, Karin decides to ill this potential problem- with kindness! She goes out of her way to do all kinds of nice things for him. But when Kenta catches her "feeding" yet again, the gig may be up So what's a vampire girl to do? Why, take the boy home to met her parents, of course!

Review: Another cute installment in the Karin saga. It is obvious that there is something between Kenta and Karin, but how long will it take them to figure it out. This really is a cute and humorous little series. I highly recommend it.

Score: 4 out of 5

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bleach Volume 3: Memories in the Rain

Bleach Volume 3: Memories in the Rain by Tite Kubo (2004)

Description: Ichigo Kurosaki was a little boy when his mother passed away. One rainy day, Ichigo, whose ability to see the undead is a blessing and a curse, tried to stop a young girl from drowning in a nearby river. His mother, Masaki, ran after them, frantically trying to rescue her only son. Then everything went black, and Ichigo awoke only to discover his mother dead and the little girl gone.

It's the anniversary of Masaki's death, and the entire Kurosaki clan, along with former Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki, head to the cemetery to pay their respects. Sleeping demons rarely ever stay still and pretty soon Ichigo confronts the Grand Fisher, the Hollow that may be responsible for his mother's demise.

Review: The continuing saga that is Bleach continues to intrigue me. This particular story was sad but revealing. The emotions that go into each of these stories is apparent and makes me want to continue to read the entire series. This really is a great series that everyone should read.

Score: 4 out of 5

Rurouni Kenshin Volume 1

Ruroni Kenshin, Volume 1 by Nobuhiro Watsuki (2003)

140 years ago in Kyoto, with the coming of the American "black Ships," there arose a warrior who, felling men with his bloodstained blade, gained the name Hitokiri, man slayer! His killer blade helped close the turbulent Bakumatsu era and slashed open the progressive age known as Meiji. Then he vanished, and with the flow of years, became legend.

In the 11th year of Meiji, in the middle of Tokyo, the tale begins. Himura Kenshin, a humble rurouni, or wandering swordsman, comes to the aid of Kamiya Kaoru, a young woman struggling to defend her father's school of swordsmanship against attacks by the infamous Hitokiri Battosai. But neither Kenshin nor Battosai are quite what they seem...

Review: This story was most interesting. I also enjoyed all of the historical aspects to it as well. I really did not know that much about the Meiji period and find it fascinating to learn more about it. The character development is great and I really can't wait to learn more about Kenshin.

Score 4 out of 5

A History of Violence

A History of Violence by John Wagner (2004)

Description: It's just another quiet day in small-town, USA, until a couple of wanted killers walk into Tom McKenna's diner looking for trouble. When Tom gives them more than they bargained for, he and his family are thrust into the kind of white-hot media spotlight that attracts a lot of attention - and questions about Tom's past. Is he really an easygoing small town guy, or is there something more?

Review: The concept behind the book is a very interesting one. We live in such a violent society that the violence inside of the book isn't really that shocking anymore. This story is a character study into what a small decision can do to change a person's life entirely. I was not too fond of the artistic style of the book. It was drawn to stark and at times it seemed sloppy. If another style had been adopted, it could have been more interesting. I have seen the movie that is based off of this novel and found it more interesting than the book. Nonetheless, I think it is still worth a look. However, if you have a weak stomach, this perhaps is not the book for you as there are many truly graphic illustrations.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

Movie Connections: Now a major motion picture directed by David Cronenberg and nominated for the Palm d'Or Award at the Cannes Film festival, A History of Violence is a nonstop psychological thriller about a man with a secret past who will do anything to keep it that way.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Last Rituals

Last Rituals: An Icelandic Novel of Secret Symbols, Medieval Witchcraft, and Modern Murder by Yrsa Sigurdardottir (2007)

Description: After the body of a young German student - with his eyes cut out and strange symbols carved into his chest - is discovered at a university in Reykjavik, the police waste no time in making an arrest. The victim's family isn't convinced they have the right man, however, so they ask Thora Gudmundsdottir, attorney and single mother of two, to investigate. The fee is considerable - more than enough to make things a bit easier for the struggling lawyer and her children.

Its not long before Thora and Matthew Reich, her new associate, discover something unusual about the deceased student: He had been obsessed with the country's grisly history of torture, execution, and witch hunt - a topic made all the more peculiar by the fact that unlike witch hunts in other countries, those in Iceland had targeted men.. not women.

As Thora and Matthew dig deeper, they make the connections between long-bygone customs and the student's murder. But the shadow of dark traditions an conceals secrets in both the past and the present, and the investigators soon realize that nothing is as it seems... and that no one can be trusted.

Review: This is an English translation of a first novel by Icelandic author Yrsa Sigurdardottir. A most interesting mystery that involves secret soticeties, symbols, witchcraft, and family secrets. If you are a fan of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code you will most definitely be interested in this new author. Sigurdardottir makes characters who we care about and a most interesting mystery that one cannot guess right away. I am most interested to see where she goes with her next installment in this series.

Score: 4 out of 5

I Thee Wed

I Thee Wed by Amanda Quick (1999)

Description: It isn't easy making a living as a lady's companion when one possesses a sharp tongue and an original mind. That's how Emma Greyson has gone through three such positions in six months. but penning her own reference and hiding her spirited nature behind a pair of spectacles won't keep her out of trouble for long.

Her latest post requires her presence at a tiresome country house party, where the cream of London society has assembled, and where it's downright impossible to avoid the advances of lecherous gentlemen. On one particular night, Emma has no choice but to duck inside a wardrobe to hide. Shockingly, the space is already occupied - by none other than the legendary Edison Stokes!

Stokes may rule his business empire with a steely hand, but he doesn't have the heart to deny the desperate request of an old friend. That plea has sent him on the trail of an anonymous thief who has stolen an ancient book of arcane potions. He suspects his quarry is among the party's guests - and he knows the villain is on the lookout for a highly intuitive woman on whom to test a certain elixir. A woman like Emma.

Aware that she's in danger, Edison resolves to keep an eye oh her by employing her as his "assistant." But he soon discovers what several previous employers have learned the hard way. Hiring Emma is one thing, getting her to follow orders is quite another!

For Emma, the new post brings exciting challenges, including unexpected passion, and chilling danger. But when murder strikes, she realizes the awful truth. unless she and Edison devise a scheme to outwit the merciless killer, she could forever lose the man of her dreams - and ever her very life...

Review: Another interesting read from Quick. I discovered after reading this novel that it was actually should be read before Lie by Midnight. I think I liked this one even more than Midnight. I enjoyed the secret society and other historical aspects. As usual, Quick has great wit and a good mystery. A most definite fun read.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Paid Companion

The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick (2004)

Description: The Earl of St. Merryn needs a woman. His intentions are purely practical - he simply wants someone sensible and suitably lovely to pose as his betrothed for a few weeks among polite society. He has his own agenda to pursue, and a false fiancee will keep the husband-hunters at bay while he goes about his business. The easiest solution is to hire a paid companion. After all, the sorry women who must accept such employment are sure to be grateful for any favor.

However, finding the right candidate proves more of a challenge than he expected - until he encounters Miss Elenora Lodge. Her dowdy attire and pinned-up hair cannot hide her fine figure and the fire in her golden eyes. And her unfortunate circumstances, and dreams of a life of independence, make the Earl's generous offer undeniable appealing.

But Elenora is unsure what this masquerade might entail. For St. Merryn is clearly hiding a secret or two, and things seem oddly amiss in his gloomy Rain Street home. She is soon to discover that his secrets are even darker than his decor, and that this lark will be a far more dangerous adventure than she's been led to believe. And Arthur, Earl of St. Merry, is making a discovery as well: that the meek and mild companion he'd initially envisioned has become, in reality, a partner in his quest to catch a killer - and an outspoken belle of the ball who stirs a wild passion in his practical heart.

Review: Another fun read from Quick. I really enjoyed the mystery aspects as well as the romance. If you are looking for a fun, easy read, this is a best bet.

Score: 3 out of 5

Lie By Moonlight

Lie by Moonlight by Amanda Quick (2005)

Description: Hired to tutor four orphaned girls at remote, ramshackle Aldwick Castle, Miss Concordia Glade is pleased to find her pupils both eager and bright. Indeed, they are bright enough to have noticed some oddities about their situation Provided for by an unseen benefactor, they are surrounded at all times by hard-eyed guards in the guise of gardeners - and their previous tutor, she learns, disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

Stepping into this uncertain atmosphere, Concordia sees at once what must be done. The plan is daring in scope and execution, but with the help of her four students, the great escape stands a good chance of success. Of course, even the best-laid plans can go awry... and even the most independent, strong-minded lady must occasionally accept an offer of help.

During an investigation into a woman's death, private inquiry agent Ambrose Wells finds himself on the castle grounds - and in the middle of chaos. The building is in flames,. People are dead. And a woman and four girls are feeling on horseback. A confirmed loner, Ambrose nevertheless finds himself taking Concordia and her students under his wing. His past has made them eminently suitable to protect them from the person behind the events at Aldwick Castle: a notorious London crime lord who will stop ant nothing to destroy those who know his secrets.

Review: An engaging story about a quick-witted governess and a man of mystery. There is also a fairly decent mystery to go along with the romance. I found it really an interesting read filled with much humor.

Score: 3.5 out of 5