Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rebels And Lovers by Linnea Sinclair

An Advance Review

Category: Romance – SciFi

Series: Yes – Book 4 of the Dock Five Universe

Availability: March 2010

OUT OF OPTIONS…Devin Guthrie can’t forget Captain Makaiden Griggs even though it’s been two years since she was in his family’s employ. A Guthrie does not fall in love with a mere shuttle pilot. Going against his wealthy family’s wishes isn’t an option—not with the Empire in political upheaval, much of it caused by Devin’s renegade older brother, Admiral Philip Guthrie. The Guthries must solidify their standing—financially, politically and socially—or risk losing it all. But when a Guthrie heir—Devin’s nineteen-year old nephew—goes missing, Devin’s loyalty to his family’s values is put to the test. And suddenly the unthinkable becomes the only option available: Devin must break the rules and risk allying himself with the one woman he could never forget—and was forbidden to love.

I want to start this review with a word of “Thanks” to Linnea Sinclair for, once again, allowing Kat, Mel and I read her latest story ahead of its release date.

These are some of the pertinent details of this story:

1. Although it is the 4th instalment in the Dock Five Universe, it can be read on its own. However, I strongly recommend that you also read Gabriel’s Ghost (Book 1), Shades Of Dark (Book 2) and Hope’s Folly (Book 3) simply because they are tremendously good reads.

2. We get to know the Guthries – one of the oldest, wealthiest and most established families in the Empire – like we’ve never done before. It is this "family" aspect of the story that makes it somewhat different from the previous three instalments.

My discussion with Kat and Mel is as follows.


Kat: I liked the plot - it was action-packed and good. I also liked the characters very much.

Jace: I liked the action-adventure-mystery aspect of this story first and foremost, followed by the characters. The action-adventure was very well done – thrilling and fast-paced - yet it flowed naturally and seamlessly from one segment to the next. The whole story came together very well.

Mel: I very much enjoyed the non-stop heart pounding action that is Linnea's trademark.

Kat: I didn't see it coming as to the identity of the bad guy! The accomplice was also a surprise. This twist saved the story, but the end felt a little bit too rushed, in my opinion.

Jace: I suspected the traitor from the beginning so this part of the plot wasn’t too much of a surprise for me. However, I never expected who the accomplice turned out to be! And I agree – the end bits felt a little rushed.

Mel: I began to suspect the traitor early on too. I was floored, though, by the accomplice!

Kat: I have to say that Devin and Kaidee's love story was much better than Philip and Rya's. :)

Jace: I liked this love story more too. Devin had loved Kaidee for 7 years – this simply melted my heart. :)

Mel: I, too, thought Devin and Kaidee's love story was more romantic. I'm a sucker for unrequited love and it makes me melt when it's the man who loves first. :)

The Main Characters

Kat: Devin was a great sexy hero, but he was also a typical Linnea hero. Kaidee was great - I liked her right from the beginning - but I already saw heroines like her in Linnea's other books.

Jace: I agree – Devin was very sexy in his honour, decency and ordinariness.

However, I felt that Devin was quite a departure from the typical Linnea hero because (mainly) he wasn’t an “action” hero like Philip and Sully. He was a “passive” guy whose forte was number-crunching, data analysis, strategy, gadgetry – that kind of thing – rather than running around with guns blazing (although he certainly was no slouch in this area).

Mel: I adored Devin, but then I've loved all of Linnea's heroes. I loved that he was an accountant and not a star ship captain. :)

Jace: As for Kaidee, I do agree with you, K, as she reminded me of the heroine in Finders Keepers. Like the other Linnea heroines, she was a good and loyal person who would do what needed to be done to protect those she cared about.

Kat: I thought of Finders Keepers too when I read this book. Some parts somewhat reminded me of it.

Mel: I liked Kaidee as well and I agree with both of you about her being like the heroine in Finders Keepers.

The Lead Secondary Characters

Kat: Barty (the Guthrie steward) was great, but I couldn't see him as a man that old. There was always a picture of him of about 60 years old maximum in my head. Every time it was mentioned that he was older just didn't feel right to me.

Jace: I liked Barty very much. I also didn’t get the feeling he was very old. When he fell so sick after running around Dock Five, I was rather surprised to be reminded of his age. His range of skills was impressive and he was certainly an invaluable character.

Mel: I, too, liked Barty. For some reason, he reminded of the butler from Batman. :) He did come across as being a much younger man than he was.

Kat: The only character who felt fresh and not familiar was Trip (Devin's nephew). Oh my, I fell head over heels for that guy. :) I loved his attitude and courage, and I'm really looking forward to seeing more of him.

Jace: I thought Trip was well portrayed. I was quite tickled that he idolized Philip so much and wanted to fight with the Alliance. He certainly was a hero-in-the-making. That he took after Uncles Philip and Devin in character (and not stuffy like his father) only made him more endearing. :)

Mel: I totally hope Trip will get his own story. He needs a little growing but wow … what a great hero he'll make.

Characters From Previous Instalments

Jace: I was so pleased when Philip appeared towards the end. I love the guy! Having known him in the previous 3 books, this wonderful character felt like an old friend. I was very pleased to see him doing well.

Mel: I was thrilled to see Philip and crew. Captain Folly was still in charge of things onboard the ship! :)

Jace: The very brief mentions of Chaz and Sully comforted me. I know it’s silly to miss them so much.

(For those who are new to this series, Chaz and Sully are the lead characters of Books 1 & 2 – Gabriel’s Ghost and Shades Of Dark.)

Kat: I loved Sully, Chaz and Ren - I crave for at least a cameo appearance of them!

Mel: I missed seeing Chaz, Sully and Ren (oh, how I love Ren). I would so love to see one more Chaz-Sully story, if only to know how things turned out for them.

Jace: Shades closed with an open ending – there ought to be at least one more of them!!! I feel like we’re left hanging; there’s no closure. I know Linnea can’t write a direct Chaz-Sully sequel right now. *sigh*

What We Liked and What We Didn’t

Kat: I thought hard about why it took me so long to finish the book because I basically liked it very much. There were some things that bothered me.

I have to admit that I have high expectations where Linnea is concerned. For me, this story felt "been there, done that". The characters were new faces, but nothing else felt fresh.

Jace: I have to agree with you, K.

Mel: While I do agree that it wasn't a fresh story, I still liked it very much (as I do all of her books). I always know when I read a new Linnea story that I'm going to have a great time.

Jace: Oh, totally, M. I always look forward to reading something from Linnea. Heck, I even enjoy re-reading her books so much.

Kat: The writing was very good (as always), the characterizations too, but I missed the extra sparkle. It just didn't keep me and put me on a mad roller-coaster ride like GG or Shades. It was just very good.

Jace: This story bears the classic “Linnea touch” – fantastic characters, great dialogue and fast-paced action. She can move a story along so well. I have to say, though, it would be tough to match the brilliance of GG and Shades because they were exceptional.

Mel: It would be a very hard task to top GG or Shades. In my mind, those are her very best.

Kat: I know this is unfair, but I loved her winners so much that I'm desperately wishing there'll be another one! Bottom line - I liked this one and I didn’t. I'd rate it a 4 out of 5. Sensuality: warm.

Jace: Linnea is the standard by which I measure other SFRs (as both of you know well). I’ve enjoyed every one of her stories – some much more than others – and I’m looking forward to more from her in the tradition of GG, Shades, Games Of Command and An Accidental Goddess. My rating for this story is 4.5/Warm.

Mel: My rating is 4.5/Warm as well.


View the Rebels And Lovers video, brought to you by Linnea Sinclair.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Good Reads

A quick update ...

I'm on Good Reads now. If you're there too, let's connect as friends. :) Here's my profile.

I'm still maintaining my Shelfari shelf but I'm over at Good Reads more these days.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

More books!

click to enlarge
I didn't buy these books - they're Christmas gifts from my dear, dear friends. These sneaky girls peeked at the wishlist on my bookshelf then had to keep their fingers crossed the entire time it took the books to reach me that I didn't go out and buy the same books! *grin* Thank you, L and M.

Yes, it's not Christmas yet ... and I've already read one of these and am in the midst of another. I'm bad, I know.

I'm delighted to report that I've just finished my 95th book of the year! This is the first time I've even come close to this many and I'm quite proud of it. I'm now aiming for 100. *grin*

Monday, December 7, 2009

I'm back :)

Hi everybody,

Can't believe it's been six months since I put this blog on hiatus. Before I ramble further, I want to say "Thanks" to everybody who visited this blog, left comments, and still kept me in your feed-readers during that time.

These six months had been a productive time as far as reading is concerned. I read 69 books - a great achievement for me, that's for sure. I found some fantastic authors who've become auto-buys (Juliet Marillier, Jeaniene Frost) and developed a fondness for Young Adult fantasy (more about this in a later post).

I didn't manage to make much of a dent in the TBR pile because I was buying books almost as fast as I could read them! Six months ago, there were 140+ books in the TBR. Today, there are 127, which means I bought 56 books in that time (I'm just realizing this now)!!! And I was wondering where my money disappeared to.

Ok, let me show you some of those 56 books. I bought these at a recent book sale.

click on images to enlarge
There are 18 books in here. I love this bag. :)

My most-prized catch of this haul are the 2 Juliet Marilliers,
the 2 Chelsea Cains, the Victoria Holt
and that Carlos Ruiz Zafon. :)

I've already read 2 books from this pile. The rest should keep me quite happy into 2010.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Extended Hiatus

I'm putting this blog on an extended hiatus while I mull some things over.

Thank you, Amy, for saying that I'm missed. You (and anyone who misses me *wink*) can still "see" me over at my craft blog.

Take care, everybody, and happy reading.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On hiatus

lolcats funny cat pictures

I'm putting this blog on hiatus for the rest of this month - not because I'm running away to join a circus, not because I'm not appreciated here and not because there are no cheeseburgers (although I must say these are pretty compelling reasons).

I won't be here as I'd be busy with my online shop, having to attend to both the creative and business aspects of things. I'm having a Promotion at the shop from 24 to 26 April 2009 so I'm preparing for that as well.

Brie and Nath, I won't be able to fulfill my challenges for this month. I hope to resume in May. Ok?

Today's the 14th day of the month and I haven't even read one book so far. See how miserable my situation is?

Perhaps a cheeseburger will cheer me up.

See you in May.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Laird by Juliana Garnett

Re-Reading Challenge: March 2009

(hosted by Nath – full details here)

Category: Romance – Historical (Middle Ages)

Series: No

She is the enemy of his clan, the friend of his foe, and the most beautiful prisoner he has ever seen. She is Judith Lindsay, the brazen young beauty who’s bound by blood and honor to her beloved England – even now, as she’s bound by her captors in the Campbell family’s keep. As future laird of this proud Scottish clan, Robert Campbell knows he should treat the Lindsay woman with contempt. The feud between their people has claimed the lives of his brothers. But when he sees the quiet strength in Judith’s soul – and the fire in her eyes – his heart must surrender to a very different battle.

Juliana Garnett was one of the first romance authors I read and I want to say upfront that her books are comfort reads for me. I try to be objective with this commentary, but if I sound a bit biased, well, at least you’ll know why.

The time is 1327; the setting is Scotland. Robert’s father, the laird of the Campbell clan, is preparing to ride out with seven of his eight sons on a kidnap mission at the command of his overlord, the craven Earl of Argyll. They succeed in abducting not only the five-year-old heiress of Clan Caddel, but her aunt, Lady Judith, as well. However, this feat does not come without a cost, for all seven of Robert’s brothers died that day.

So Robert, nicknamed the Devil’s Cub, bears the guilt and his father’s ire of being the only son (and not one of his favourites) left alive. His sorrow, anger and animosity towards his father are well portrayed. He is a strong and honorable man and a laird in his own right. Despite his sorrow and anger over the senseless death of his brothers, he tries to make the hostages comfortable and shield them from his father’s maddened grief. This is a man who wants to be a scholar instead of a warrior, but circumstances leave him with no choice but to fight.

Judith is a sensible and stoic woman. Widowed and childless at age twenty-six, this English gentlewoman is wanted by neither her late husband’s clan nor her own father. She makes the best of things and doesn’t hope for too much. When she is kidnapped with Mairi (the heiress) by those dastard Campbells, she is determined to protect Mairi at all costs. Robert’s unexpected humanity gives her hope that she and Mairi will be safe as long as he’s around.

What makes this book so good for me are definitely Robert and Judith. Despite an early attraction, their love for each other grows through daily interaction, sharing of thoughts and kind gestures. They haven’t known each other for very long before they fall in love – and this is what’s so compelling for me – they are tentative with those new powerful feelings, yet they are willing to go ahead to trust and love, especially Judith. Her love for Robert is so complete and unwavering, and that’s so beautiful to read.

Forming the backdrop to Robert and Judith’s love story is an account of life of that time – clan wars, political alliances, allegiances. The author did a great job making this aspect interesting and didn’t bog it down with too many details. I had enjoyed reading about the pillaging clans who would stand together against common enemies, but as soon as those enemies were vanquished, would immediately go back to the business of pillaging each other’s livestock, etc.

All in all, this is a well-rounded, well-told highland tale.

4 out of 5. I like it. It’s compelling, a page-turner. Sensuality: Subtle

Monday, March 30, 2009

Update and Giveaways!

Yes, I'm still around. *grin* Just been very busy with my online shop and my craft blog, which I had shamefully neglected for far too long.

I'm hosting a "Paying It Forward, Craft Style" giveaway over at my craft blog and everybody's invited to participate. Find out more here. Closing date is Saturday, 4 April 2009.

I'm also putting up links regularly to some awesome giveaways hosted by other craft bloggers. Now you have other gorgeous, functional items to try to win, besides books.

The best way to keep up with what's happening at my craft blog is simply to subscribe to its feed. Just saying. *wink*

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cold As Ice by Anne Stuart

Contemporary Romance Challenge: March 2009

(hosted by Brie of Musings Of A Bibliophile – full details here)

Category: Contemporary – Romantic Suspense

Series: Yes – Book 2 of the Ice Series

The job was supposed to be dead easy – hand-deliver some legal papers to billionaire philanthropist Harry Van Dorn’s extravagant yacht, get his signature and be done. But Manhattan lawyer Genevieve Spenser soon realizes she’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that the publicly benevolent playboy has a sick, vicious side. As he tries to make her his plaything for the evening, eager to use and abuse her until he discards her with the rest of his victims, Genevieve must keep her wits if she intends to survive the night.

But there’s someone else on the ship who knows the true depths of Van Dorn’s evil. Peter Jensen is far more than the unassuming personal assistant he pretends to be – he’s a secret operative who will stop at nothing to ensure Harry’s deadly Rule of Seven terror campaign dies with him. But Genevieve’s presence has thrown a wrench into his plans, and now he must decide whether to risk his mission to keep her alive, or allow her to become collateral damage…

I read this book with Taja (of Books and Games blog) as both of us have the rest of this series sitting in the TBR pile, and it’s always nice to buddy-read with someone. Please join me in welcoming Taja, my very first guest blogger.

Please be aware there are spoilers sprinkled throughout our joint-commentary below.

Overall impression

Jace: The story started off very well. Both the leads were interesting characters and I was interested in the plot. Then about half-way into the story, I began to smile. Why? Because the characters, and events that unfolded, became somewhat absurd - the story felt almost like a cartoon – and it continued that way to the end.

Taja: I read Black Ice and I loved it. (Read Taja’s review here. Mine is here.)

I got my hands on Cold As Ice as fast as I could and read it a few days after Black Ice, also in a rush. I had one “huh?” moment and there were two things that annoyed me quite a bit (later in the story) which was the reason I rated it 4 out of 5. Overall, I thought the first-half/two-thirds stronger than the last chapters.

I re-read Cold As Ice for this joint-commentary, and my initial opinion has changed a bit. I guess I was still under the influence of Black Ice when I read Cold As Ice the first time. The “huh?” moment – which was at the back of my mind and which I barely registered the first time – grew considerably in proportion. And it's actually not just a moment, it's quite a lot … I thought the story was so contrived!

So after the second reading, my impression of what I thought was the stronger part of this story, suffered a lot.

Jace: You nailed it! I thought the story was "cartoony" but “contrived" is the better word for it.

The plot and characters

Jace: In the beginning, I totally believed in Peter’s and Genevieve’s characterization. He was inconspicuous and nondescript which totally fit his secret agent role. She was a nervy but smart woman – she put on a brave face and made the best of things. I was interested to continue reading.

Taja: I loved that Peter barely registered with Genevieve as an attractive male the first time she met him. He was a "gray ghost of a man". Totally right for his mission (and a welcome change from what usually happens when the hero and heroine meet). I liked Genevieve and agree with what you said about her. I also liked that she was tall and had to wear contacts because I thought it something different. I was especially intrigued by the first descriptions of her.

Jace: Then, my first problem with the story. Peter vacillated between getting rid of Genevieve and saving her. That man was supposed to be a stone-cold agent; he never failed in carrying out his assignment! Heck, he would even have sex with a man in order to do his job. For him to hesitate in sending Genevieve off the boat (in the first place) and getting rid of her (later) was uncharacteristic, and for me, simply unbelievable.

Taja: This part didn't really work for me either – all this waffling around about killing Genevieve! I think it was supposed to show his inner turmoil over Genevieve but I believed in neither his bestest-agent-evah persona nor in his lover persona, so on the whole, Peter's drama failed to really move me because his conflict seemed a bit out-of-the-blue.

Jace: Sure, he would not hurt an innocent bystander – but he also thought “too bad, she was at the wrong place at the wrong time”. This aspect of his characterization reminded me of 2 other Stuart heroes – in Moonrise and The Widow – both couldn’t decide whether to be cold and ruthless or helping/saving the heroines. However, Peter was a much-improved version of the other two, whom I couldn’t stand!

Taja: Yes, I got that he didn't want to kill an innocent but as bestest-agent-evah, he shouldn't really care about that or find a way to get her off the yacht before it was too late, so I agree with you there. The only saving grace is that I think of Cold As Ice as a romantic suspense so I'm a bit more lax about characterization.

Jace: Genevieve spent most of the story being thrown about, drugged and trussed up, didn’t she? Frankly, she became quite a joke. I also didn’t like how mouthy she was – and you know this is one of my pet peeves.

Taja: *grin* I know about your pet peeve. And I suspected this novel would trigger it - at least near the end. The two annoying things near the end that brought the grade down the first time that I mentioned above? It's because of her. Lord, Genevieve was mouthy just to be mouthy and still hadn't a clue later on. My opinion of her changed from rather intelligent to too-stupid-to-live during the later parts of the story.

Jace: Peter and Genevieve were dancing around each other verbally – this was irritating too. They talked and talked in circles, with no real communication between them.

Taja: I enjoyed most of their conversations and Genevieve's comebacks up to a point. But I agree … I, too, didn't see a real connection between them (which made the ending all the more incredulous).

Jace: I honestly couldn’t see why Peter fell for Genevieve, and she him. Which aspect of her made him fall in love? And what did Genevieve see in him?

Taja: On page 138 there's this sentence in Peter's POV … "He just didn't know if he could live without Genevieve Spenser in this sorry world." And I just didn't know where that came from. [I mean to go back and read his POV scenes up to that point to see what I missed.] On the whole, it was like Genevieve managed to get to him and that was it.

Jace: The villain became increasingly over-the-top as the story progressed. In the end, he reminded me of a cartoon villain.

Taja: I didn't care for the way Stuart established Van Dorn as the villain. As you said, totally over the top. What I did like … he reminded me of the villains in the older James Bond movies who had batshit crazy plans to take over the world. Van Dorn's Rule of Seven fits right in with that, IMO, and I liked that. LOL

Jace: Now that you remind me of those James Bond villains ... yes! LOL Entertaining, yes. Convincing, no.

And my final grouse … Madame Lambert. I seriously couldn’t believe her to be the LEADER of a group of stone-cold, hardass secret agents. Her wishy-washy and regretful thoughts had me cringing. I suppose Stuart purposely made her sympathetic and having a heart – after all, she was getting her own story later. But come on, her characterization was just pathetic.

Taja: Again, why did Madame Lambert worry over having Genevieve killed? She gave the order to start with the mission and if she was worried so much about Genevieve she could have waited. I can't remember reading an explanation why they had to up and leave right then and not wait until Genevieve had left the yacht. (It would have been better all around if I had known the reason why they needed to move just then because it would have helped to alleviate my impression that the whole story was really contrived.)

What worked and what didn’t

Jace: These aspects of the story worked for me:

1. When Peter decided to be ruthless and showed it – that was very good. Yes, he was a cold and ruthless SOB, but he was IN CHARACTER.

2. The writing was good – descriptive, brisk and restrained.

3. It was good to see Bastien and Chloe (of Black Ice) again.

4. I’m curious about the born and bred yakuza, Takashi. I’m looking forward to reading his story.

Taja: I agree with your points, especially 1, 2, and 4. In addition, I liked some of Peter and Genevieve's conversations and I liked their verbal dance around each other (all pre-rescue, and yes, even though I couldn't really see why they were attracted to each other, and I thought the whole situation on the island highly orchestrated).

What I didn't like:

1. I thought the story was really contrived as it got going.

2. Being told again and again how Peter was the most efficient and ruthless agent ever (the same goes for Van Dorn's evilness and Madame Lambert's worrying).

3. The danger was missing because the Committee had “gone soft” and Peter's inner turmoil over killing Genevieve couldn't make up for it since I wasn't really convinced of it.

4. I liked individual parts but the whole story just didn't come together.

5. (on a less grievous note) When Peter threw Genevieve glasses away … that was just plain cruel and unnecessary even if her vision wasn't actually all that bad. I just didn't understand why he did it. It didn't serve anything.

Our rating

Jace: Overall, this story was not so good for me.

A weak 3 out of 5. I’m ambivalent about this story. It’s an average read, veering towards problematic. Sensuality: Warm+

Taja: I’m definitely grading it lower this time around. I would go with 3 out of 5 also but for one thing – I remember I was really caught up in the story the first time and I wonder if I had trouble staying with this book this time because the first time I read it was only some weeks ago. So now it's 3.5 out of 5, which means it’s a decent read to me. Maybe I should read it in one year to see what I think then. LOL