Monday, September 27, 2010

Midnight Crystal

Midnight Crystal: Book Three of the Dreamlight Trilogy (Arcane Society, No. 9) by Jayne Castle

For many earthly centuries, a legendary curse has plagued the Winters family, stemming from the tumultuous founding of the Arcane Society. But now, on the futuristic world of Harmony, the curse’s final mystery will be unraveled…

Adam Winters has enough responsibility as the new head of the local Ghost Hunter Guild without being saddled with the family curse. He’s convinced his recent nightmares and hallucinations will lead to him becoming a psychic rogue—unless he can find a stolen relic and a woman who can read dreamlight.

Marlowe Jones rides into his life on a motorcycle and with a dust bunny at her side. Though a descendant of the rival Arcane family, she’s just what Adam needs: a psychic private investigator and dreamlight reader extraordinaire.

Together, amid the glowing catacombs and steamy underground jungles of Harmony, Adam and Marlow must break the curse, save the entire underworld—and fight a passion that could destroy them both…
--Midnight Crystal by Jayne Castle ©2010 by Jayne Ann Krentz, published by the Penguin Group

My Review

Book Three in the Dreamlight Trilogy takes us into the future and across the galaxy with Jayne Castle, to a planet called Harmony.

Adam Winters is falling under the family curse. He’s developing another psi ability, leading to hellish nightmares and disturbing hallucinations. He needs the Burning Lamp and a powerful dreamlight reader to stabilize his mind before he goes completely insane.

Marlowe Jones is that woman, and as luck would have it, she also has the connections to track down the missing Lamp. But stabilizing Adam’s mind is only the beginning of their association with each other. The Arcane Society had what they believed was the Burning Lamp in their possession—which Adam confesses is actually a fake—but it was stolen. Who stole it and why?

When Adam and Marlowe use the Burning Lamp it to stabilize the underground power generator that illuminates the green quartz structures throughout the planet, they unknowingly activate the Midnight Crystal. None of Adam’s ancestors who employed the Burning Lamp have ever been able to activate the Midnight Crystal, leading many to believe that the Crystal is simply a pretty stone with no special power. But surrounded by the green quartz psi and activated by Adam and Marlowe, the powerful hypnotic command embedded within the Crystal comes alive and orders Adam to destroy every living member of the Jones family. Can Adam find the strength to disobey his multi-great grandfather’s command and save Marlowe?

I wish I had been a beta reader for this story, as I would have posted several questions to the author for clarification.

First, why would the Winters family on earth risk losing control of the Burning Lamp by letting it go to Harmony? Granted (as the history goes), no one thought about the possibility of the Curtain between our worlds closing, making the Lamp inaccessible to those on Earth, but still, why take that risk? Unless every last member of the Winters family moved to Harmony to stay near the Lamp, moving it across the galaxy is a very risky move.

Second, how is it something made on Earth centuries ago be the key to stabilizing an alien power generator on another planet? And as luck would have it, that object is on the right planet at the right time? It feels too contrived to me.

Third, who stole the Burning Lamp from Adam? Tully, an antiquities and artifacts dealer in the Old Quarter has it and is willing to give Marlowe first crack at buying it, but how did he get it? He dies before Marlowe can ask him, so we’ll never know.

Fourth, Marlowe visits the Arcane Society library to do a little research. As the scene is written, it is implied that the books in the Arcane library are originals, not copies. Like the Lamp, why would Arcane make the risky move of sending these important books and documents to another planet? If at some point it said that the books were copies and the originals had been left on Earth, that would make perfect sense and this paragraph would not have been written. But it doesn’t, and so this paragraph exists.

There may have been other little questions that popped into my mind as I read this, but they were minor enough that I forgot them. These are the big four, though, and ones I would dearly have loved to pose to Ms. Krentz prior to this book being published. Alas, that did not happen.

Despite my questions/issues, Midnight Crystal is a good story and a nice tie-off to the Dreamlight Trilogy. If you read the other two stories, Fired Up and Burning Lamp, you will obviously want to read Midnight Crystal, and you should, as it nicely ties-off the Dreamlight Trilogy.

I give this story THREE STARS.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Three Fates

Three Fates by Nora Roberts
She was shimmering silver, small enough to fit in the palm of his hand. He took possession of her on an impulse—never knowing that she was more than just a trinket who might fetch a pretty price in a pawnshop at the next port. Then a thunderous explosion rocked the ship—and in mere minutes, so many fates were changed…

When the Lusitania sank, more than a thousand people died. One passenger who survived became a changed man, giving up his life as a petty thief—though keeping the small silver statue he lifted, a family heirloom to future generations. Now, nearly a century later, that statue, one of a priceless, long-separated set of three, has been snatched from the Sullivans. And Malachi, Gideon, and Rebecca Sullivan are determined to recover their great-great-grandfather’s treasure, reunite the Three Fates, and make their fortune.
The quest will take them far from their home in Ireland: To Helsinki, where Malachi seeks out Tia Marsh, a formidable American scholar whose privileged background, sharp mind, and authoritative knowledge of Greek mythology mask a fragile, fear-plagued woman within, and whose family is an important link to the mysterious missing statue. To Prague, where a bold exotic dancer named Cleo will enchant Gideon Sullivan—and embark on a gamble to turn her life around. And to New York, where security expert Jack Burdett joins the Sullivans in their fight against an ambitious woman who will stop at nothing to acquire the Fates.
--Three Fates by Nora Roberts, Copyright ©2002 by Nora Roberts, published by Putnam Books

My Review


Why? Why? Why?

Why did I read this book for—no joke—the third time? Or was it the fourth?

If I was to draw up a list of my ten absolute-favorite books, this book would be Number One. Numbers Two through Ten are up in the air, but Number One—hands down—is Three Fates.

That’s why.

I love this book not just for the wonderfully told story, but the wonderful way in which it is told. As a reader, I would tell you that the story involves seven people, six working against one, all in pursuit of the same goal. As a writer, I love the intricate plot and the myriad of story lines that weave its structure.

The stars of the story are Three Fates, a trio of small silver statues depicting Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, the three sisters of Greek Mythology who weave, measure and cut the thread that measures each of our lives. The Sullivans, Malachi, Gideon and Rebecca inherited one of the statues which had actually been stolen by one of their ancestors on the Lusitania right before it sank in 1915.

Unaware of its value, Malachi took the statue to renown antiques expert Anita Gaye. Anita, recognizing the statue for what it is, employs her feminine wiles and steals the statue from him. Determined to get it back, the Sullivans hatch a plan to find the other two and sell them to Anita for the millions of dollars that they’re worth.

Malachi goes to work on Dr. Tia Marsh, who is in Helsinki on a lecture tour promoting her new book. She’s also an expert in Greek mythology and a descendant of Henry Wiley, the original owner of Clotho, the statue his great-great-grandfather stole. Gideon heads to Prague to track down Cleo Tolliver, the descendant of the owner of Lachesis. They think to get ahead of Anita, but they don’t realize that Anita is already ahead of them. Tia’s hotel room is trashed, forcing Malachi to abandon his plans. Cleo’s apartment gets the same treatment and Gideon and Cleo go on the run across Europe.

Anita consults with her security expert, Jack Burdette. He’s also a collector and she attempts to pump him for information about the Fates. Almost immediately afterward, Jack heads for Ireland to meet the remaining Sullivans, Rebecca and her mother Eileen. He also stops off at his great-grandfather’s home to pick up the third Fate, Atropos. Anita, of course, has no idea that Atropos belongs to Jack’s family.

Uniting through various circumstances in New York, the six form a team to figure out a way to bring Anita down. Not only do they want the stolen Fate back, they want Anita to pay for all her crimes. And pay she will, in ways she can’t begin to imagine.

I love the structure of the story because as you read it, you can see the individual stories—threads, if you will—and how they weave and mesh together to form an intricate storyline. Not only do their present lives mesh, but so do the histories of their families and everything connects back to three silver statues. You can see it all, and it all is easy to follow. That’s what I love about this story, and I’m sure, a few years from now, I’ll be reading it again. And I’ll enjoy it as much as I did the first time I read it.

I give this story FIVE STARS.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Obsidian Prey

Obsidian Prey by Jayne Castle
Three months ago, amber tuner and independent prospector Lyra Dore made the find of the decade in an underground rain forest: amethyst ruins. But the very man she was dating stole her claim - and her heart. At least she has her artistically talented dust bunny, Vincent, to comfort her....

Amber Inc. CEO Cruz Sweetwater never meant to hurt Lyra. His affinity for obsidian amber gives him the ability to sense that she is his true love. But the ruins have mysterious powers, putting everyone involved with the project in danger. Only by trusting their psychic instincts will Cruz and Lyra survive - and surrender to the desire that binds them.
--Obsidian Prey by Jayne Castle, Copyright ©August 2009 by Jayne Ann Krentz, published by Jove Books

My Review

“You’re the woman who broke Cruz Sweetwater’s heart.” That’s what everyone connected to the Sweetwater family says to me whenever I meet one of them and it’s driving me crazy!

First of all, Cruz lied to me about his name. When we met, he said his name was Cruz Marlow. And so now he tells me that Marlow is his middle name. Okay, so I guess technically he didn’t lie, but he never used the name Sweetwater around me, so I call that a lie by omission. Second, he used me. He kept me distracted just long enough so his company, Amber, Inc., could jump all over my find in the rainforest and file paperwork with the government so they could legally claim my amethyst ruin as their own. Right out from under my nose! Can you believe that? And then, once their claim had been accepted, they shut me out, refusing me any access at all. It was my ruin, darn it! I found it, therefore, it belongs to me, not them! And third, oh, third was the worst. Once I was shut out, Cruz walked out of my life. Bam! Gone! So long, see ya, thanks for the memories. And those crazy Sweetwaters actually have the gall to say I broke his heart!

So now here we are, three months later, and look who’s come crawling back. I was all set to enjoy my revenge. I imagined Cruz Marlow—um—Sweetwater, begging to take me back, but I never imagined him asking me for help. It seems an energy storm is blocking the entrance to their—ahem—my ruin and no one within the Amber, Inc. empire can de-rez it. But since I’m the one who opened it in the first place, could I please come do it again? I was all set to say no when Cruz told me there were five people trapped inside. Oh, geez. Guess I’m going to have to help Cruz after all.

So off into the underground rainforest we went and I oh-so-nicely-and-neatly made short work of the energy storm. I now have the gratitude of Amber, Inc. and the Ghost Hunter Guild. I can do without the Guild’s gratitude, but as for Amber, Inc? I need to decide how much to charge them for my skills.

But there’s something else Cruz needs my help with. Seems one of the amethyst relics collected from the ruin has gone missing and he thinks, given my naturally affinity with amethyst, I can help him track it down. I naturally refuse to help him, but the next day, I was consulting with a new client at an exclusive collector’s auction and what did I sense but missing relic. But before Cruz or I can do anything, the gallery owner is murdered. Oh geez again!

So not only do I have Cruz Sweetwater back in my life, I have to deal with a gang of thieves and murders. Oh, and there’s the strange waking nightmares I’ve been having lately, and the feeling that someone is stalking me. Plus all those darn Sweetwaters keep saying I broke Cruz’s heart!

Can’t they understand that it’s Cruz who broke my heart when the cad made me fall in love with him and then walked away from me?

I tried to channel the spirit of Lyra Dore as I wrote this, but I can’t say I was particularly successful at it. Oh well, it was fun to write anyway.

Jayne Castle/Jayne Ann Krentz has the wonderful ability to create characters that are slightly whacky and a little off center, but spunky. Lyra certainly fits that description and she’s a perfect foil for Cruz. Throw in a dust bunny, a secret admirer, a mysterious modern artist and an even more mysterious collector and you have another entertaining Harmonic adventure.

I was disappointed at the very end, though. Throughout the story, Lyra and Cruz trade barbs and snappy remarks that add to the emotional and sexual tension between them. Even when some of that tension is released (you know what I mean), they still have this great banter between them. He hurt her by stealing her claim and then walking away and now he’s back and he wants her, but she’s not going to go quietly. She fights him every inch of the way, kicking and screaming and just when she’s had enough of those darned Sweetwaters saying she broke his heart, he goes and says “I’m sorry. I screwed up. But I fell in love with you when I first saw you.”

And she melts like putty in his hands.


What a way to ruin an ending.

I give this story THREE STARS.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Water Bound

Water Bound, a Sea Haven novel by Christine Feehan
The last thing Lev Prakenskii remembered was being lost in the swirling currents of the ocean and getting sucked deeper into the nothingness of a freezing black eddy off the coastal town of Sea Haven. Just as quickly, just as miraculously, he was saved—pulled ashore by a beautiful stranger. But Lev has no memory of who he is—or why he seems to possess the violent instincts of a trained killer. All he knows is that he fears for his life, and for the life of his unexpected savior.

Her name is Rikki, a sea-urchin diver in Sea Haven. She has always felt an affinity for the ocean, and for the seductive pull of the tides. And now she feels drawn in the same way to the enigmatic man she rescued. But soon they will be bound by something even stronger, and their tantalizing secrets will engulf them both in a whirlpool of dizzying passion and inescapable danger.
--Water Prey by Christine Feehan, Copyright ©August 2010 by Christine Feehan, published by Jove Books

My Review

I thoroughly enjoy Christine Feehan’s stories and I’m glad she stepped away from the crueler, darker path that she was starting to go down (those who have read her last Drake and Dark stories know what I’m talking about). Water Prey introduces us to some new characters, namely Rikki Sitmore and her “sisters” on their farm outside Sea Haven, the home of the Drake Sisters.

Rikki’s a loner, working solo as a sea urchin diver and is very happy with her solitary lifestyle until the day she’s swept off her boat by a rogue wave. Quickly gaining her equilibrium under water, she spies something unexpected. There’s a man in the water, and if she doesn’t act quickly, he’s going to die.

Lev Prakenskii probably would have welcomed his death, if it weren’t for the piercing gaze of the woman who rescued him. She didn’t just see him, she saw into him, and that sensation was one he would treasure for the rest of his days. Once on her boat, however, his battered, broken mind not only sees her as his savior, but as a threat. And threats must be eliminated.

Rikki slips easily past his defenses and takes him to her home to rest and heal. Romance blossoms quickly, but Lev senses something different about Rikki. The jerky little hand motions, her almost-obsessive cleanliness, the need to keep everyone out of her home (except him, somehow), brings him to one conclusion about her, a conclusion her “older sister” Blythe confirms.

But he didn’t need Blythe to confirm that she’s a water element, someone who is drawn almost compulsively to water, and water to her. Lev figures he might as well be water for the way he is drawn to her. But someone else is drawn to Rikki. Someone whose element counters Rikki’s, and if Lev isn’t careful, he may lose his love to the one thing she most fears.

Can Lev save Rikki from her fire-starting stalker and carve out a new life for himself in Sea Haven, knowing someone else out there wants him dead too?

I actually felt a little let down at the end of this story, though I couldn’t figure out why. Later, I resumed listening to my current audio book (Obsidian Prey--review coming very, very soon!) and figured out why. We readers have become accustomed to the villain—once uncovered—explaining all the reasons for his crimes and his plans for what comes next. That didn’t happen in this story. Through a mistake he made, Sheriff Jonas Harrington was able to trace the bad guy's fingerprints and come up with an ID. Rikki didn’t recognize the name, so they dug deeper and found the connection. Once Rikki was no longer in danger, Jonas explained everything to her and Lev. End of story. No protracted explanation for the reasons for his crimes, no baiting by the heroine to throw the villain off-track so the hero could swoop in and rescue her, no last minute boastful cry by the bad guy. Just boom, done, here’s why, now let’s get on with life. And, I have to admit, I like it. Because, let’s face it, it’s a much more realistic ending (seriously, do bad guys do this in real life?), and I like writers who keep it real.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dark Light

Dark Light by Jayne Castle
Reporter Sierra McIntyre's stories on Crystal City's ghost hunters—and their mysterious guild—have earned her tabloid a bit of respect. And they've allowed her to clothe her dust bunny companion Elvis in rock-and-roll style. It helps that she has mega-rez intuition to fall back on...

Especially when she interviews Ghost Hunter Guild Boss John Fontana about the disappearances of retired, homeless hunters. She doesn't want to trust the physically and psychically powerful man, but her senses—and Elvis—give her the green light. To uncover the conspiracy within his own organization, Fontana proposes...marriage. And though it's purely a business arrangement, there is nothing pure about the attraction that sizzles between them...
--Dark Light by Jayne Castle, Copyright ©August 2008 by Jayne Ann Krentz, published by Jove Books

My Review

Sierra McIntyre has always been the family misfit. In a family full of overachievers who set their goals early in life and pursued them almost single-mindedly, Sierra drifted, trying out this career and that, until she finally seemed to find her calling in journalism. Only problem was, she worked for The Curtain, a Crystal City tabloid. Her stories were good, though, and they were getting noticed by everyone in the city, including the new Ghost Hunter Guild boss, John Fontana. Especially her stories on the “burned out” Ghost Hunters who were being kidnapped by aliens.

Fontana grants Sierra an interview and the attraction that flared between them was immediate. But Fontana has more pressing matters, namely protecting Sierra from those who would wish to stop her investigation…permanently. Within minutes of their introduction, Fontana is proposing marriage, and Sierra surprises herself by accepting.

Being a Guild Boss’ wife does afford Sierra a level of protection, and she has a new partner in her investigation, namely her husband. Together, with the help of her dust bunny, Elvis (bedecked in rhinestoned white cape and sunglasses), they work to uncover the mysterious aliens suspected of kidnapping the Hunters

Both Sierra and Fontana come into their Marriage of Convenience with secrets. Fontana is a bit of a rarity on Harmony—his father was in a Covenant Marriage to another woman when he was born, making him an illegitimate child, and it’s something he fears her family will hold against him. Sierra, unlike the majority of those on Harmony, does not use amber to focus her psi abilities. Her intuition is a natural-born thing, which makes her an oddity amongst the general population.

Plus there’s her connection to an intriguing secret psychic society here on Earth…

When I decided to re-read/listen to the entire Harmony series (at least, those books I have…I’m missing the very first two), I didn’t realize I would run into one little … well, “problem” really isn’t the word for it. Anyone who has read or re-read a series (any series), back to back to back (to back to back to back) realizes that they really get tired of reading the back story over and over (and over and over and over and over) again. Each story in this series was written to stand alone, which means the origin of the planet, how we humans came to populate it, the alien ruins created out of luminous green quartz and the effect it has on the population, etc, must be explained over and over (etc.) again. So I’m a bit tired of the repetitive back story at this point, but there are just two more stories to go--Obsidian Prey which is next and Midnight Crystal, which also happens to be the third book in the Dreamlight series. See how it all ties together? No? Well, that’s because you’re not in my mind and trust me, you don’t want to be there. Navigating through that maze is like navigating the Harmony Catacombs. Without your tuned amber, you’re lost forever.

I give this story THREE STARS.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Silver Master

Silver Master by Jayne Castle
Fleeing a lurid scandal, matchmaker Celinda Ingram arrived in Cadence City desperate for a new start. Known for her strong para-resonator abilities, she is able to match up clients by reading their psi waves. It's this talent that sets her body tingling when security specialist Davis Oakes shows up at her office.
A formidable psychic himself, Davis is trying to track down a powerful relic that Celinda supposedly bought as a toy for her pet dust bunny. Trying to wrest the ruby red object from the suspicious duo nearly drains Davis of the energy he'll need to keep his growing desire for Celinda in check - and to keep her safe from those who will do anything to possess the relic...
--Silver Master by Jayne Castle, Copyright ©August 2007 by Jayne Ann Krentz, published by Jove Books
My Review

When Davis Oakes arrived at her office, accompanied by local police detective Alice Martinez, Celinda Ingram immediately felt a strong attraction. He’s working on behalf of the local Ghost Hunter Guild, tracking down a peculiar alien relic that she recently purchased. Celinda happens to have the relic with her, but before she can hand it over to Davis, her pet dust bunny, Araminta, snatches the relic and runs away with it.

Determined to complete his assignment, Davis sticks with Celinda, knowing Araminta will return with the relic…eventually. That means Davis will have to go with Celinda to Frequency City to attend her sister’s wedding.

Having left Frequency only four months earlier to escape a sex scandal involving powerful Guild Council member Benson Landry, Celinda is not exactly happy to go back, but she can’t not go to her sister’s wedding. She was, after all, the matchmaker who paired her sister Rachel with Josh Santana. She has to go…even if she does have to wear a nauseatingly pink maid-of-honor gown. And even if that means Davis will have to go with her.

On the way to Frequency, Celinda finds herself confessing to Davis the real reason she left Frequency City. Benson Landry was the cause, but the sex scandal was faked. When Landry shows up at her hotel door, Davis takes action, letting Landry know Celinda isn’t alone any longer and he’s more than capable of defending her. He leaves, but Landry isn’t finished yet.

Celinda figures out exactly what the ruby artifact can do in the right hands, and realizes what it can do in the wrong hands. She must do whatever she can to keep the artifact out of Benson’s hands…and out of the Guild’s hands.

I give this story THREE STARS.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Ghost Hunter

Ghost Hunter by Jayne Castle
Local Guild boss and powerful ghost-hunter Cooper Boone is everything botanist Elly St. Clair could ask for - the handsome, strong, and silent type. Maybe too silent. For when Guild secrets threaten her career at the college, Elly has to call off their marriage - and leave small-town life behind...
But starting over in the thriving metropolis of Cadence City isn't easy, especially when one of Elly's new friends disappears in the eerie catacombs beneath the streets. Cooper turns up just in time to help Elly investigate. And as the mystery deepens and dangerous ghost myths and legends come to light, Cooper makes it clear he intends to stick around - and this time he's holding nothing back...
--Ghost Hunter by Jayne Castle, Copyright ©May 2006 by Jayne Ann Krentz, published by Jove Books

My Review

Botanist Elly St. Clair has discovered that her fiancée Cooper Boone—head of the Aurora Springs Ghost Hunter Guild—has been keeping secrets from her. Secrets that are getting out and threatening her career at the local college. Feeling she has no other choice, Elly ends her engagement and leaves Aurora Springs for the big city.

“Give her six months,” Cooper assures her distraught father. “She’ll be ready to come home then.”

But when Cooper arrives in Cadence City to take Elly home, he finds a completely different woman than the one that left Aurora Springs. This new Elly is confident, strong and self-assured. And she needs a Ghost Hunter to go with her into the catacombs on a rescue mission.

Elly’s friend, Bertha Newell, is a ruin-rat who regularly combs the alien catacombs under the city for alien treasures to sell in her shop. When she failed to return from her latest expedition, Elly knew something had to have gone wrong. She needs to search for her, and for that, she needs a Ghost Hunter. Luckily, her Ghost-hunting ex-fiancée happens to be in town.

They find Bertha below, but they also find a rare and dangerous blue Ghost, which Cooper has no trouble dispatching. Another of his secrets, Elly realizes. She never knew Cooper could work blue Ghost light. Unfortunately, Cooper had to melt amber to take care of the spectre, an act that comes with its own unique consequences.

Bertha remembers little of what happened to her in the catacombs, but in her pocket is a handful of twigs and leaves. Elly quickly recognizes them as the plant source of a powerful new street drug called Enchantment, or Chant. Whoever is manufacturing the drug is using the catacombs as their lab and storage site.

Cooper contacts the local Guild and offers his services as an investigator—another secret, Elly realizes. The Cooper Boone she knew was a librarian before he became Guild Boss. She knew nothing of his investigative background. All the more reason to cancel their wedding, she tells him. How can she marry someone who keeps so many secrets?

Whether Cooper likes it or not, he’s got a partner for this investigation. Can Cooper and Elly find out who is responsible for the new street drug before they themselves are arrested as the suspected drug dealers? And how is it all connected to her family and the Aurora Springs Guild?

I give this story THREE STARS.