Thursday, February 28, 2013

Stealing Shadows by Kay Hooper

Cassie Neill is ‘gifted’: she can enter most peoples’ minds, sometimes by simple proximity but mostly by making a connection to the person, either by eye-contact or physical touch. She can even reach some people by touching an object that they have held or worn. This makes her invaluable to the LA police as they try to catch a serial killer, but when she makes a mistake a child dies and the killer escapes. In an attempt to seek some peace, Cassie moves to sleepy Ryan’s Bluff, North Carolina, where she has inherited her aunt’s isolated house. However, it seems that murders happen even in the most unlikely of places.

Her first contact relays his fury and determination to kill the woman that he despises. In an effort to save an innocent life, Cassie speaks to the local Sheriff, but he is dismissive of her abilities and she eventually turns to Judge Ben Ryan in the hopes that he will believe her. Then a young woman is murdered and Cassie suddenly finds herself a suspect until she can prove that she is telling the truth. As the killer continues her killing spree, Cassie must work with law enforcement to uncover any clue to his identity, risking her own mental health by sharing his terrifying thoughts.

This is the first in the Bishop / Special Crimes Series, which will reach its fourteenth installment this summer. Each book is a stand-alone crime mystery involving a woman with paranormal abilities who must help to catch a deranged serial killer. The common link between all the titles is the presence of Noah Bishop, an FBI Agent from the Special Crimes Unit. However, in this title Bishop does not make his appearance until the second half of the story, which left me wondering about the name of the series and slightly distracted.

However, the story was gripping enough to overcome this distraction and the Ms Hooper’s use of the killer’s Point of View at certain times added to the general air of terror and threat that he generated. The descriptions of Cassie’s experiences inside the heads of both this killer and others were very well done. They had a sense of reality which overcame the necessary suspension of disbelief required by her abilities. I particularly appreciated that Cassie was not simply a fluffy, special bunny who had a normal life despite of her ability. As with Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse, Cassie is constantly disabled by her ability, which can be as much of a curse as a gift. She shares Sookie’s feelings of separation and isolation, and even finds the same respite in the arms of a man whose mind is silent to her, even when she touches him.

I was worried that Cassie would be revealed to be quite a passive character as soon as it was obvious that this was a Paranormal Romance. However, she is a very strong personality who shows great bravery and determination throughout the plot and does not become a wet blanket as soon as the alpha male becomes evident. As someone who is wary of the Romance genre, I found this a great relief and it greatly increased my enjoyment of the book. There are Romance elements, but these are subtly done and do not reduce the heroine into a mere cipher for our wish-fulfillment. Instead, we are shown the development of a strong relationship, in which both parties grow and become greater than the sum of their parts. I also felt that theirs was a relationship that I could actually believe would last into the future: so often Romance couples make such unlikely coupling that it is almost impossible to imagine them growing old together.

Our hero, Ben, is suitably tall, dark and handsome, but he also has his issues and needs to develop as a character before he can commit to their relationship. I particularly liked his relationship with the Sherriff, which was close and yet suitably male, with a healthy dose of realism to make it more interesting. Indeed Ryan’s Bluff and its inhabitants were well-realized and provided a suitably detailed backdrop for the story that unfolded. However, I would have liked certain characters to have been introduced more than a few pages before they were placed in jeopardy. There was one scene in particular where we were given several women converging on the place that we knew would be the scene of the next abduction, and I found that rather heavy handed and melodramatic. It led to a feeling of ‘red shirt syndrome’, where the least known character was obviously the one in danger.

The plot clipped along at a good pace, with plenty of shocks and lots of tension. I was particularly concerned about the dogs that were introduced as guards against the killer. I am one of those people who get more upset about a dog being murdered than a human: I am not sure what that says about me, but it is the truth. After we met them, I was in constant fear that the killer would silence the faithful doggy protector before taking out his chosen victim.

I was especially impressed by the depiction of the relationship between one of the women and her abusive former husband. Although she was only a minor character, I thought that her transition from terrified, powerless victim to newly-empowered independent woman was very well done. Her inner turmoil and doubts about facing down her former abuser were inspiring and I particularly loved a scene where she warned him that if anything at all happened to her newly-acquired dog she would hold him responsible. It was very refreshing to see a positive outcome from such a horrible situation.

I am not sure that I feel a desperate need to read more in this series, but as they are all stand-alone titles, I could easily see me picking one up when I need a good solid read with an intriguing plot and strong characterization.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Book Selections for March

During an entertaining meeting we decided on the following book choices for next month's meeting, which will be on March 21:

Murder On Astor Place by Victoria Thompson, which will be arriving on the Nooks shortly.

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters, which can be ordered through Mainecat.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

In Death Series by J.D. Robb

This series will reach title number 37 later this year: I have no idea how Ms Robb (aka Nora Roberts) finds time to eat or sleep!

We read the first title in the series, Naked in Death, last fall. It read perfectly well as a stand-alone title, leaving no loose ends dangling or an unwelcome cliffhanger that propels you on to the next installment, which is always welcome in the first title in a series. However, I am not sure that I felt much need to read further into the series, which was a little disappointing as I had expected a strong desire to continue exploring this slightly futuristic world.

At first we are presented with our heroine, Eve Dallas, as a tough, independent woman, but as soon as she meets Roarke she starts to trust him for no particularly good reason. Whilst I can understand her unwilling attraction to the man, I find it very difficult to accept her having sex with him so early in their relationship. It boggles my mind that she would chose to have sex with any man, let alone one that she hardly knows and who could be a vicious serial killer. This seems to play far too much into the ‘emotion over logic’, ‘your heart knows the truth’ stuff that makes my head ache when I read Romances. It is not that I disliked Roarke, but I would have been far more interested in their relationship if they had had to deal with her inability to trust men. I wanted to see her slowly learn to let Roarke within her emotional perimeter, but their relationship seemed far too rushed to me and this undermined my enjoyment of the crime aspect of the story.

1. Naked in Death
2. Glory in Death
3. Immortal in Death
4. Rapture in Death
5. Ceremony in Death
6. Vengeance in Death
7. Holiday in Death
8. Conspiracy in Death
9. Loyalty in Death
10. Witness in Death
11. Judgment in Death
12. Betrayal in Death
13. Seduction in Death
14. Reunion in Death
15. Purity in Death
16. Portrait in Death
17. Imitation in Death
18. Divided in Death
19. Visions in Death
20. Survivor in Death
21. Origin in Death
22. Memory in Death
23. Born in Death
24. Innocent in Death
25. Creation in Death
26. Strangers in Death
27. Salvation in Death
28. Promises in Death
29. Kindred in Death
30. Fantasy in Death
31. Indulgence in Death
32. Treachery in Death
33. New York to Dallas
34. Celebrity in Death
35. Delusion in Death
36. Calculated In Death (Publishing Feb 26 2013)
37. Thankless In Death (Publishing Sept 2013)

 For more on the In Death Series, visit the author's website at:

Monday, February 4, 2013

Voting page for March's books

Just as a reminder the next meeting will be on February 21 at 6:00 pm in the Lecture Hall. I have just put up the book vote page for March's book picks.  There were a few that I kept from last month's choices, but the majority came from suggestions of book group members.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A New Offering From Gail Carriger

We read Ms Carriger’s debut title, Soulless, last year. It was an amusing change to the usual Urban Fantasy novels, with the refreshing addition of Steampunk and a truly wonderful heroine in Alexia Tarabotti. It offered us a decidedly different take on the vampires and werewolves that typically populate such titles and had an amazingly acerbic and sarcastic sense of humor, which kept me giggling in delight for the entire read.  I have to admit that I enjoyed it so much that I read the second and third books in the Parasol Protectorate series and I intend to conquer books four and five this year, so I was delighted to read that Ms Carriger will publish the first in a new series on Tuesday.

Etiquette & Espionage is the first offering in the Finishing School series.

Here is the description from Goodreads:

It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to finishing school.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother's existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea--and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right--but it's a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine's certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.

First in a four book YA series set 25 years before the Parasol Protectorate but in the same universe.

Ms Carriger has plenty of interesting information about the title on her blog where you can check out posts on:

There is even a post displaying the cover art for Curtsies & Conspiracies, Finishing School: Book the Second.

I am fairly certain that you will be seeing Etiquette & Espionage on a book vote soon . . .

Sue :)