Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bridal Jitters

Bridal Jitters by Jayne Castle

In the distant future, an official marriage of convenience between paranormal business partners is almost called off because of love…

--Bridal Jitters by Jayne Ann Krentz, Copyright ©1999 by Jayne Ann Krentz, published by Berkley Books

My Review

This story was originally published as part of the Charmed anthology with three other authors (Lori Foster, Eileen Wilks and Julie Beard).

When the mysterious Curtain opened, people of Earth were able to travel between our world and a new one, named Harmony. Long ago, a mysterious alien civilization abandoned Harmony, leaving behind green quartz ruins, unusual artifacts and a strange “vibe” that brought out psychic abilities in all the planet’s inhabitants. Before long, people began to colonize Harmony and travel and trade between the planets became commonplace.

Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the Curtain closed, stranding the colonists. Cut off from all they knew, the new Harmonics had to find a way to survive…or die.

When Sam met Virginia, he knew she was the one for him and would do anything to keep her with him. Anything. So he came up with not just one, but two ways to keep them together. First, he suggested they become business partners, combining their ghost hunter and tangler abilities into one consulting agency. Second, he suggests a marriage of convenience would keep their taxes low. She agreed to his proposal, but now she’s not so sure.

Because she’s fallen in love with Sam.

Those feelings need to be put to the side, however, while they work on their first job. They’ve been hired by an excavator to clear a particularly nasty ghost trap called a waterfall, blocking their progress. As Sam works to defuse the waterfall, he has to act quickly, not just because the waterfall is dangerous, but because the runaway truck barreling down the corridor will kill them if he doesn’t get them through.

Sam manages to carve a hole large enough for him and Virginia to jump through, but now they have another problem. They’re trapped on the other side in a chamber like neither had ever seen before in the catacombs.

Virginia thinks it’s the remnants of an alien zoo. Sam thinks it’s an office park or prison. They’re both wrong. And in this Halloween season, when the real ghosts are released underground, will Virginia and Sam survive the storm?

I give this story THREE STARS.

Charmed Anthology

Harmony, containing Bridal Jitters and After Dark

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Single Sashimi

Single Sashimi by Camy Tang

Venus Chau is determined to start her own game development company and launch the next Super Mario-sized phenomenon. However, she needs an investor to back her idea. When Drake Yu, an old nemesis, approaches Venus with a contracting opportunity at his sister’s startup, the offer tempts Venus to think the unthinkable.

Venus would rather throw away her PS3 than work for Drake again…but then Grandma bribes Venus to do this favor for Drake’s wealthy family. With the encouragement of her three cousins, Lex, Trish and Jennifer, Venus discovers that even a wounded heart can undergo a beautiful transformation…
--Single Sashimi by Camy Tang, Copyright ©2008 by Camy Tang, published by Zondervan Books

My Review

Some books easily land in a genre while others sit nicely on a fence between two. This book, a Chick-Lit Asian Christian Romance, manages to straddle four and does so very nicely.

The story is set in San Jose, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley, about eight months after the end of Only Uni. Venus Chau is not the oldest of the four Christian Sakai cousins, but she is the most direct. She’s the programming team lead/acting game lead at a popular computer gaming company and her firm, direct style of management intimidates most people she comes in contact with. But not Drake Yu.

Venus worked for Drake once but quit after a “personal dispute.” Now, suddenly, after almost six years, Drake calls her and offers her a new job. He’d retired a few years earlier at thirty-eight due to a sudden heart attack, but now he’s come out of retirement to help his sister’s start-up. The company needs a new Chief Technology Officer, one that can get the employees under control and drive production. In Drake’s mind, Venus is the most obvious choice. To sweeten the deal, along with the promotion and higher salary, he’ll help her start her own programming company. Her immediate answer is “no,” but after she’s passed up for promotion to permanent Game Lead—by a junior programmer, no less—she decides to take Drake’s offer.

While her work life may be settled for the time being, her spiritual life is not as good as it should be. She prays every morning, reads her Bible and even volunteers to work with a church youth group, but something is missing. She just can’t figure out what.

Though she prefers her introverted lifestyle, Venus is besieged by relationships. Her relationship with God, her father, her mother, her cousins, her secret business partner, the youth group, her co-workers and most especially, her relationship with Drake—she has no idea how to control them all.

It’s only when Venus finally learns to let go of control with her relationship with God do the pieces of the other relationships start to fall into place. But will she like the picture God is drawing for her, one that leads her away from the dream she’s been working hard to create and toward a life with Drake?

Camy Tang is a wonderful author with several titles under Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense line as well as the Sushi Series (which I’m now done reading—better late than never!).

Are you wondering why she never published a book for the fourth cousin, Jennifer? If you join Camy’s YahooGroup newsletter (for details, click here), you can get Jennifer’s novella titled Weddings and Wasabi…I think she’s finished writing it…

I give this story THREE STARS.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Enchantment Emporium

The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff
The Gales of southern Ontario can change the world with the charms they cast, and they prefer to keep all this power in the family. The Gale Aunties are in charge of this clan, or like to think they are. Alysha, like all her cousins, often finds herself beset with too many Aunties trying to run her life. SO when a letter from her missing Gran arrives telling her that she’s inherited a junk shop in Calgary, Alysha is ready and willing to honor her grandmother’s last request to keep the shop open and serve “the community.” The Aunties, of course, want her ot find out what really happened to Gran and come right back home where they have her future mapped out for her.

It isn’t until she arrives in Calgary that Alysha realizes it’s the fey community she’ll be serving in The Enchantment Emporium—and that one person’s junk may be another person’s magical treasure. Finding out what happened to Gran will not be easy, especially since Alysha has no way of knowing just how much otherworldly trouble is brewing in Calgary. And even calling in family reinforcements may not be enough to save the day…

--The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff, Copyright ©2009 by Tanya Huff, published by Daw Books

My Review

As you can tell from the list of titles I’ve read, I tend to stick with contemporary romance novels, but every now and then I need something different. For the first half of this month, I’ve been reading The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff, a novel set firmly in the Urban Fantasy genre. Not my favorite genre, but one I occasionally enjoy.

Alysha “Allie” Gale is 24 years old, recently unemployed, and has just moved back home with her large, extended, magical family. She’s trying to figure out what she wants to do next when she receives a letter from her grandmother in Calgary, saying if she’s reading this letter, then she’s dead and she’s left all her possessions to Allie, including a junk shop called The Enchantment Emporium.

With a new purpose, Allie packs her bags and moves to Calgary. Gran wants her to serve the community and that’s what she’s going to do. Anything to get away from the gaggle of nattering aunts, baking pies and pushing her to make a decision about who she’ll marry and what she’ll do with the rest of her life.

The peace she finds in Calgary is quickly quashed when her first customer arrives, a five-foot-six-inch leprechaun. Part of Gran’s “service to the community” was to run a mailbox service for those who would otherwise have difficulty getting mail, and Joe O’Hallan definitely qualified.

By the time a cute reporter from the local weekly tabloid shows up, Allie has started to get the hang of running the shop. Graham Buchanan had started to interview Gran for a story about the shop, but now that she was gone, perhaps Allie would like to pick where she left off. There’s a definite attraction between them, one they happily explore.

What Allie doesn’t know—yet—is that Graham works for a sorcerer. Sorcerers are the Gale family’s number one enemy and this one has a secret, several secrets, that connect him to the Gale family. And to a family of Dragon Lords who appear poised to take over the city. Or burn it down.

Things are about to get interesting in Calgary and Allie’s life will never be the same.

At 473 pages and with more characters and bisecting story lines than I could detail here, this is a very involved read, but Tanya Huff has a great sense of humor with her characters and tells a great story. It took me just over two weeks to read, but it’s a great story and well worth the time.

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Light in Shadow & Truth or Dare (a Two-Fer!)

Light in Shadow and Truth or Dare by Jayne Ann Krentz

Light in Shadow -- Hiding behind an expensive, black-market-created identity, Zoe Luce has built a successful interior design business in Whispering Springs, Arizona, and hopes that she has just as successfully buried her past. She can't ignore her unique psychic abilities, however, and when she walks into a new client's bedroom and hears the walls scream and moan, she knows something terrible has happened in the house. Did her client murder his wife? She's determined to find out, but investigating a possible murder is beyond her expertise, so Zoe turns to Ethan Truax, a private detective new to the small Arizona community. Solving the murder of the businessman's wife is a piece of cake for Ethan compared to the complicated enigma that he finds in Zoe. Mysterious nightmares haunt her and when a would-be blackmailer is found dead, Zoe's past inexorably collides with her new life, threatening their dreams of a future together.

Truth or Dare -- In her latest paranormal tale, Krentz takes up the story of psychic interior designer Zoe and private investigator Ethan, who met and fell in love in Light in Shadow. They are now working to create a successful marriage, but different events in their pasts keep interfering with their hopes for wedded bliss. Still haunted by his brother's murder and his own pursuit of justice in that case, Ethan expects Zoe to dump him, just as his previous three wives did. Zoe is plagued by memories of her imprisonment in a private psychiatric sanatorium, as she unexpectedly encounters psychic "spider webs" clinging to several places she has recently visited. As Ethan and Zoe struggle with their pasts, both become caught up in the dilemma of Zoe's friend, Arcadia, who fears that her ex-husband has returned from the dead to settle an old score.
--Light in Shadow and Truth or Dare by Jayne Ann Krentz, Copyright ©2004 by Jayne Ann Krentz, published by Jove Books

My Review

Light in Shadow -- Zoe Luce moved to Whispering Springs, Arizona to begin a new life as an interior designer. Focusing on fung shui and other design theories that focus on the balance and flow of energies in a room, she’s building a reputation for creating interiors that compliment the homeowner’s personal needs and harmonies.

When she walks into a new client’s bedroom, the walls begin screaming at her. Literally. A terrible act was committed in the room and, once she has a chance to talk about it with her good friend, Arcadia Ames, she decides to take action. She hires private investigator Ethan Truax to find the client’s wife (who claims his wife left him and they’re in the process of a divorce).

Ethan is a bit suspicious about Zoe’s reasons for hiring him, but takes the case and investigates. When all the evidence points to murder, Ethan demands the truth from Zoe.

Zoe manages to evade most of Ethan’s questions. After all, she’s not ready to confess that she’s a genuine escapee from an insane asylum, committed against her will by her late-husband’s relatives because she says she can feel strong energies emanating from the walls of rooms. (You know the old saying “if these walls could talk?” Well, they do to Zoe.) But when someone from the asylum arrives in Whispering Springs and begins to blackmail Zoe, she turns to the only man she knows in town who can help her. After listening to her story, he helps her the only way he knows how…by proposing marriage.

Truth or Dare -- We return to Whispering Springs, shortly after the end of Light in Shadow. When they got married, Zoe and Ethan agreed that once her issues with her late-husband’s relatives were resolved, they would get a divorce and go their separate ways. But once those issues were settled, they decided to see if they could make a go of their marriage. So far, it seems to be working for them, even if Zoe has suddenly become overly security-minded and Ethan wonders how long it will take Zoe to leave. He hopes never, but given the fact that Zoe is his fourth wife, he figures her leaving is inevitable.

Other problems come to light that overshadow their concerns. Arcadia Ames, Zoe’s friend from the asylum, believes that her dead husband Grant is actually still alive and is coming after her. Arcadia checked herself into the Candle Lake asylum as a ruse to escape from her husband, but somewhere along the line, she made a mistake, and now Grant is after her, and he’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants from her—she’s holding evidence that could get him sent to jail. He wants that evidence. And he wants her dead.

Meanwhile, Zoe encounters strange, unexpected “psychic spider webs” at Arcadia’s and in the Designer Dream Home where she’s decorating the library. Some dark mind is responsible for the webs, stalking her and dredging up old memories of Candle Lake. Zoe wonder if she is finally, truly losing her mind. Can she trust Ethan with the truth about what’s happening to her, or will it be the thing that drives them apart forever?

This entry is a two-fer because the two stories go together and it took me less than a week to listen to them both. I enjoyed Light in Shadow and while Truth or Dare is also good, it has the feel of a forced sequel. That is to say, Light in Shadow was a good story in and of itself, but it did leave one or two threads untied and therefore another book had to be written to tie them off. I would almost have preferred Light in Shadow be an extra 50 or so pages longer in order to tie off those threads than to have an additional book.

BUT! Since these stories were published six years ago, I guess my opinion doesn’t really carry any weight, does it?

I give the stories THREE STARS each.

And with this entry, I'm off my Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle kick and back to Nora Roberts. I've been wanting to re-read the In The Garden series since spring and I've held off until now. I read the series when it first came out and I can remember tiny bits and pieces of the stories but not the individual or over-arching plot lines, so now would be a good time to indulge myself.

Also, next month's readings will be sparse (even sparser than this month) because of National Novel Writing Month. This is my fourth year participating and if you've ever had a yen to write a novel, go to the site and check out the details. This is your chance to spend a month pounding out that novel burning within you, to see if you have what it takes to write a 50,000 word novel. Trust me, it's tough, but it's a load of fun!