Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

About Leslie S

can usually be found hunched over her ebook reader or lurking in the romance and sci-fi/fantasy sections of her local bookstores. She discovered her love of fantasy at a young age, reading everything from Piers Anthony to Robert Aspirin and C.S. Lewis. At the age of 12, she picked up a little book called The Thorn Birds, and after crying for five days straight, decided that she liked the romantic elements, but needed a happier ending. Her first tentative visits to the romance section brought her to such favorites as Linda Howard and Judith McNaught where her love of the romance book was born. She then turned to Brenda Joyce, Lisa Kleypas, J.D. Robb, Anne Stuart, and as the years passed, many more. She currently prefers paranormal romance, urban fantasy, traditional fantasy, historical and the occasional YA.

Posts by Leslie S:

Review: Kissing Midnight by Emma Holly

Review: Kissing Midnight by Emma Holly

Dear Ms. Holly:

I’m a fan of your writing. Most of the time.   The problem is that while I’ve enjoyed many of your books, I often tend to drift half way through with either the characters or the story unable to retain my interest. With the publication of your new trilogy about the upyr released in three consecutive months, I decided to go ahead and read all three.   I’ll admit that I was a little daunted by such an idea.   And while I probably could have used a longer break between each book, the publication dates allowed the story and the characters to stay fresh in my mind.

The year is 1933.   Estelle Berenger has been in love with Edmund Fitz Clare since she was fifteen years old.   From the moment he appeared in front of her at school, asking the sullen teenager to look after his adopted daughter Sally, Estelle was smitten.   Although she doesn’t know it until later, Edmund is also responsible for saving her life shortly after they meet.   While in his wolf form, he jumped between her and a lightning strike. Estelle is unharmed for the most part except for a minor scar near her eye, a strong arm, and a "funny ear" which sometimes allows her to hear thoughts.

Through the years, Estelle becomes a good friend of the entire Fitz Clare family including Edmund, Sally, and Sally’s two adopted brothers: plain looking and dependable Graham, and good looking and protective Ben.   Because of her childhood accident, Estelle sees through Edmund’s glamour of aging professor to the beautiful and gentle, but slightly tortured man underneath.

Luckily, the point of view doesn’t stay focused on Estelle and Edmund the entire time. Theirs is a pleasant sort of romance, but kind of unexciting after they declare their feelings for the other. They’ve been in love and have desired each other for years, and after the book starts, quickly decide to cast their reservations aside.   It was unclear to me why they waited so long unless they needed the impetus of Estelle moving out of the Fitz Clare residence. But it seems to me, characters that react that strongly to each other probably wouldn’t have been able to keep their passions at bay for the two years that they lived under the same roof- at least not in an Emma Holly world.

A similar sentiment could be said about Sally and Ben- yes, that’s right, Sally and Ben.   They were raised together as brother and sister, but that doesn’t slow them down much. Hey, at least they waited until Sally was 17, I guess, but then again, I also wondered how they waited so long considering the relentlessness of their desire for the other.   I’ll admit to being more than a little icked out by this relationship.   Both were pretty quick to disclaim that they were only like brother and sister, but come on, really? Adopted brother and sister still counts as brother and sister in my book.   Seriously, um, gross.

Meanwhile, the story shifts back and forth to Graham who is in fact a secret agent working for an organization called MI5. Although his spy work, for the most part, had been pretty boring stuff, that quickly changes when he meets a beautiful woman who tells him of the existence of the upyr and gives him a new assignment: spy on Edmund.   The mystery woman, who is herself an upyr,   succeeds in thralling Graham into distrusting and doubting his father. And while Graham made me want to pull out my hair at times for being weak, for allowing himself to be thralled, and for believing the worst of a man who has done nothing but love him and shelter and protect him, he was, for me, also the most interesting of the Fitz Clares.

I wasn’t thrilled by the ending.   Edmund’s tortured soul and guilty conscious lead him to act rashly, and of course, someone is there to take advantage of that. Thus, the stage is set for book two.   For the most part, I was absorbed by the characters- albeit frustrating at times- and the story. I found myself struggling to finish the last part, but that may because I could see what was being set up for us for the next book. Overall, Kiss Midnight was a compelling, but somewhat unsettling book.


:) Joonigrrl

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.

REVIEW: Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland

REVIEW: Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland

Dear Ms. Rowland:

I’ve been stuck in a reading rut for months. Nothing has appealed to me.   Even books I was dying to get my hands on 6 months ago have languished away unread on my bookshelves.   After I explained my situation to Jane, she recommended your work and I’m glad that she did.   I   did have some trouble getting into the story and had issues with the characters, but ultimately it proved to be an entertaining book.

Kara Gillian is a Detective in a small town not too far from New Orleans. She’s also a summoner of demons.   Perhaps because of this, Kara has been fascinated for years by the unsolved Symbol Man murders and what she believes may be the involvement of the arcane arts in said murders.   When a body is found with strikingly similar injuries to the previous victims, Kara is pulled from her detective work in white collar crimes for her first homicide investigation.

While Kara is trying to stay one step ahead, or at least not too many behind, the Symbol Man and his steadily increasing body count, she’s also experiencing some demon trouble.   One night while attempting to summon a lower level demon, she accidentally pulls a Demon Lord through instead.   Beautiful in a typically exceptional sort of way, there wasn’t much to differentiate this Demon Lord at first from dozens of other urban fantasy characters.   One minute he’s threatening to rend the flesh from her bones and scatter her blood on the wind and the next he is seducing her in an inexplicably inexplicable about face. Although his reasons for doing so are finally answered at the very end, I spent the entire book questioning, and having substantial problems with this character’s motivation.   Growing bored with this generically powerful and oh so dangerous yet beautiful demon, he didn’t really spark an interest until about half way or even three-quarter through the book.

I find that I’m pretty amused by this trend of new demons in urban fantasies.   I guess my problem is not so much that authors are romanticizing demons, but that they are trying to make these romantic demons as undemonic as possible.   Take this one for example.   The word that you have created features an entire hierarchy of demons from 1st level to 12th level.   The lower level demons have smaller, reptilian bodies and are more simple and easier to control.   The higher level demons are larger, more intelligent, more powerful and difficult to control.   However, even these highest level demons are "monstrous in appearance"   with features such as a "flat nose set in a bestial face, a wide mouth accented with curved fangs, and a thick ridge crest that swept back over his head and down his spine."

And then there is the Demon Lord. Our protagonist had never heard of such a being before, and apparently he’s so high up on the demon hierarchy that he’s really no demon at all.   He’s angelically beautiful with satiny white blond hair and ethereal skin, and the "body of an Adonis."   I almost laughed out loud when I read this- it did not sound at all demonic to me. Create a powerful figure, use the demon mythology for a sense of danger and mystery, but put him in a beautiful human package so he appeals to our heroine and you’ve got the ultimate bad boy.   I would have been more interested to see what you would have done had this character followed the same set of rules that you created for the other 12 levels of demons.

I was pretty intrigued by the demon summoning and the questions it raised.   Our heroine has the power to summon, and so does her aunt, but why do they summon? And more importantly, just because they have the ability, what gives them the right? Should they be doing it at all? To summon a demon is to take away their free will and to force them to serve-even if on a temporary basis. The higher the level the demon, the more difficult it is to summon them and control them.   I was hoping our protagonist would consider the morality of her actions, but she does not.   Instead, she displays a cavalier attitude toward forcing her will on someone else.   This thoughtlessness continues even when she accidentally summons the Demon Lord and he threatens to kill her for her actions.   I kept waiting to find out that she had a strong motivation. Instead, we find out that:

"I summon… because I can," I temporized. "And I know that sounds corny, but it’s like a hunger . . . Usually I have some specific reason to summon a demon, like if I have a question that can only be answered by one of them, or if I want to learn how to do something arcane"   . . .

"So it’s all for information?" He sounded doubtful.

"Heck, no!" I laughed. "Come on, if you had the ability to summon a super-powerful arcane creature, wouldn’t you?"

And summoning is a pretty involved process. All sorts of ritual bindings, chanting and layers of protection are needed before a demon can be called and controlled.   That may be because "[t]he higher demons did not like being summoned. In fact, some utterly despised it, submitting only after intense and protracted battle with the bindings that the summoner had in place."

Uh, yeah, so they don’t like being ripped from their homes and enslaved against their will to do someone else’s bidding. I wonder why they’d have such a problem with that. And while I found all this interesting, I kept expecting Kara to be more thoughtful about the wrongness or rightness of all this- and unfortunately, she was not.

The heroine also tended to view the world in simplistic terms with a surprising amount of naiveté, and the narration and dialogue – both very awkward at times, reflected that.   I noticed this in particular with her interactions with the Demon Lord:

"He laughed and sat beside me on the bed again. "You are as clever as you are strong. It is no wonder I desire more of you." He reached a hand toward me and then paused, not yet touching me. His eyes met mine. "May I?"

That simple request sent an erotic rush through me that nearly knocked me over. He’s unspeakably powerful, yet he respects my boundaries."

At one point she even reflects upon the fact that the Demon Lord knew her better than anyone else, but come on! She spent what, a couple hours in his presence at most?

While I found the writing to be readable but awkward and the character development pretty weak, I was interested in the mystery and the murder investigation aspects of this story enough to finish out this book.   In particular, I was impressed by the police procedural and autopsy details. Again, I grew frustrated by Kara’s overly simplistic relationship with her fellow officers, and felt that her relationship with the FBI agent was far too rushed. Seriously, she spends a lifetime hiding her arcane abilities, and then confesses it all to a fed whom she just met? I just didn’t buy it.

Despite my issues with the story and the characters, I did find this to be an entertaining book. I’m not usually too interested in police procedurals, but the Symbol Man mystery and the addition of the arcane made for a quick read.   At this point, I’m not sure if I’ll continue on with your series.   I may wait to read reviews of your next book before committing to reading it myself.   However, I am glad that I read this one and I do think it will appeal to many fans of urban fantasy.

:) Joonigrrl aka Leslie

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.