Monday, July 28, 2008

Dangerous to Touch / Jill Sorenson. 2008

Jill Sorenson's debut novel came to me (free!) when I won a contest over at HelenKay Dimon's blog last month. I can't remember reading anything out of the Silhouette Romantic Suspense line before, so I was looking forward to giving this one a try. Here's the blurb:

All her life Sidney Morrow had tried to repress her disturbing psychic visions. Until a vision of murder shattered her fragile serenity. She had to go to the authorities—make them listen. But Lt. Marc Cruz didn't trust her one bit. In fact, the sensual homicide cop treated her like a suspect. And sent her senses haywire.…

The dark-haired beauty knew something about the serial killer Marc was after. But he was certain "visions" had nothing to do with it. Determined to be her constant shadow, Marc wasn't prepared when desire blindsided him—and put them both in the path of a relentless killer.

This one had a really interesting premise which made the heroine, Sidney, appealing to me. Sidney has a psychic ability to receive visions or thoughts from someone she touches. As a result she doesn't like to touch other people and ends up leading a rather lonely existence. She needs a hero who will accept her as she is and understands that he won't be able to hide anything from her. The book opens when Sidney finds a stray dog. After touching the dog, she gets a vision of a murder and she ends up taking the dog to the police and becomes embroiled in the investigation of a serial killer. Lt. Marc Cruz is the detective assigned to the case and it isn't long before he and Sidney become involved. Marc has issues of his own and he's forced to deal with them in light of Sidney's "gift."

For the most part I really liked this book. It was well-written and drew me in right from the first. Only one thing really bothered me. Sidney's psychic ability gave her an unfair advantage in the relationship when she could touch Marc and sense things from him. A couple of times she even lept to wrong conclusions based on something she "saw." It seems Marc realizes that by simply being with her, his life would be an open book to her. There's a point where he makes a comment to his friend that he thought he'd like to be in a relationship that had total honesty. In a way, Marc has no choice about being honest, yet he never really asks Sidney for this in return. She keeps a lot to herself; because of past experiences she does have a hard time opening up to Marc. But I would have liked to see Marc and Sidney discuss the imbalance in their relationship and how they'd have to deal with it. Also, at the end of the book, I would have expected Sidney to know Marc's feelings with more certainty. Over a month has passed at this point--what? she's had no more visions or feelings after being with him so much? That seemed a little inconsistent.

Otherwise, I thought this was a solid, suspenseful read, and a pretty fine debut. I look forward to reading more books by Jill and am happy to recommend that you give this new author a try.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

TBR Day. Wanted : One Perfect Man / Judi McCoy. 2004

This post is just making it under the wire. Whew. But I did it.

This month's book is a bit of a departure. Most of the books in my TBR pile are historicals, because that's what drew me back into reading romance in the first place. At some point several years ago I read Judi McCoy's "heaven" trilogy and liked it well enough to order her "wanted" series from Amazon (aka Starlight trilogy). I've been meaning to read them ever since. It seemed time to pick a contemporary out of my TBR pile, and this was one of the few available.

Wanted: One Perfect Man is the first book telling the stories of 3 women sent to earth to find specific men and become impregnated by them. These women come from a planet of humans with advanced technological skills, but suffer an inability to give birth to healthy male children. Zara is the heroine of this story. She is sent to a backwater town in north Texas to find the potential father of her baby. She has to adapt to living on earth, find her man, and get pregnant, all within 30 days. Then she'll be picked up by the mother ship and taken back home. Daniel Murphy is a former astronomy professor hiding out in this Texas town with his 8-year old son, Will. Both Zara and Daniel have secrets that they are keeping from the town and from one another. Zara's arrival doesn't go unnoticed by people hunting for aliens come to earth and these characters soon show up in town sticking their noses into everything.

This should not be considered SFF despite the outer space theme. There are all kinds of holes in the story if you look at it as science fiction romance. For instance, even though Zara is human, she expects to have 3 fertile periods during her 30-day stay. She's also supposedly from a technologically advanced society, yet her abilities appear more psychic than scientific. It is no spoiler to say that Zara gets pregnant pretty quickly; it takes less than 24 hours for her to experience some pretty, and weird, signs of pregnancy. So is she human or isn't she?

Basically this book has great potential, but little substance. I like the basic story idea, but it never seems to be fleshed out. The premise of a single dad in hiding along side the alien woman who needs a man is intriguing. But, everything happens too quickly. Supposedly Zara and Daniel have a quick emotional connection, yet they barely talk to one another and they certainly don't trust one another soon enough with their secrets. There are also so many secondary characters that it makes the story drag down.

There are a few humorous moments in the story. And Daniel is a solid hero who has given up a lot to keep his son safe. That helped me keep on reading. But I wasn't so entranced that I couldn't put it down so I could do other stuff. I'm going to read the other two books in the series since I pulled all three of them out. But this one I'd just give a conditional recommendation to. Hopefully I'll like the other books better.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I made it to Sisters!

Sisters, Oregon, USA--home of the premier outdoor quilt show in the country. Set in the high desert of central Oregon, Sisters is a quaint little town that pulls out all the stops to make thousands of quilt lovers feel at home for one day each year in July. And this year I got to go!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fun, Funky Flowers

I'm doing a block exchange with a couple of friends and here is my first set of blocks. The pattern we're using uses a free-form piecing technique. It's very fun, although it wastes a lot of fabric. Because it's free-form, the blocks look slightly different from one another, although they were pieced all at the same time.

The pattern is called It's a Riot! from the April 2008 issue of BH&G American Patchwork & Quilting and it can be found here. My friends and I are pretty much following the color choices in the original pattern. But if you go to the AP&Q web site there's an alternate color option with the flowers done in soft blue & pink. Very pretty, too.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Death Angel / Linda Howard. 2008

You can usually count on Linda Howard to write something outside the norm and she's clearly done it again. Her latest book, Death Angel, is a romantic suspense novel that seems to ignore most of the genre conventions, yet succeeds very well.

For example, in your typical romance, it is assumed that the hero and heroine will spend quite a bit of the book in one another's company. That doesn't happen here. Typically, we'll also know the names of our protagonists. In this one, the hero is known simply as the assassin until about 1/4 of the way through the book.

As far as suspense goes, while there's a lot of tension generated by Drea/Andie's story of being on the run, I was really drawn in by her transformation from frilly, mob boss' mistress to independent, self-sufficient woman.

Death Angel is primarily Andie's story. When we meet her, she's Drea Rousseau, a woman who has allowed herself to become a whore for financial security. She's acting a part and hides her true self from mobster Rafael Salinas. A very intense, sexual encounter with a man known only as the assassin results in Drea making a fateful decision. She steals an large amount of money from Salinas and goes on the run. Salinas in turn sends the assassin after Drea with orders to kill her. In an interesting twist, Drea is left for dead. She recovers and takes the opportunity to remake herself into Andie Pearson, a totally changed person with a new set of goals for how she wants to live her life.

But the assassin isn't so detached from Drea/Andie. And when he learns she is still alive, he eventually re-enters her life. And together they need to make some decisions. What I absolutely loved about this book was seeing two characters make such drastic changes to their lives. One is shallow, one is cold and immoral. But their experiences and connection to one another transform who they are and makes for some very compelling reading.

This is definitely one of those books that some people will hate. But I strongly recommend it, especially if you want something different. Ms. Howard delivers in spades.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Phyl's 5 Phaves from June

OK, in an effort to discipline myself to blog more, I'm going to try a monthly feature where I'll let you know what my favorite books of the previous month were and why. Some I'll have blogged about, others not. In order, least to most:

5. Rock Star by Roslyn Hardy Holcomb. Ms. Holcomb left some comments in a discussion at SBTB about AA romances which led me to seek out this book. I found it at the library and thoroughly enjoyed this contemporary IR romance. I believe this is Ms. Holcomb's debut novel. I found the characters interesting and their story really drew me in. There's a nice little "mini-sequel" available as a free download on the author's web site.

4. One with the Shadows by Susan Squires. Ms. Squires' first book in this paranormal series about vampires who are created because of a symbiotic parasite in the blood is one of my favorite paranormal books. The book previous to this one was disappointing and I almost decided not to read further in the series. I'm glad I gave this one a try as it was much better and I was thoroughly engaged by it. The heroine in particular is someone who has been beaten down by life, but chooses again and again to act courageously. I really liked her.

3. Your Scandalous Ways by Loretta Chase. All those good things other reviewers have said about this one? True. There's an interesting post about the symbolism of jewelry in this book here. I found this story of courtesan turned romance heroine thoroughly believable and I loved the way genre conventions were turned upside down.

2. With Every Breath by Lynn Kurland. I already raved about this one.

1. Lifelines by CJ Lyons. Hands down, best book I read last month. I was tempted to blog about it when I read it, but that was a very busy week and I never got to it. Written by a pediatric ER doctor, this is a medical suspense novel with strong romantic elements. I believe this is intended to be the first of 4 books about 4 women who work in a busy Pittsburgh ER. We are treated to the POV of all 4 women, although heroine Dr. Lydia Fiore receives the bulk of our attention. This is just first-rate romantic suspense with strong characterization and terrific pacing. The medical information is presented easily without making us non-medical types feel lost or overwhelmed. Book 2, Warning Signs isn't due until January 27, 2009, according to Amazon. ARRRGGGHH!!