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Monday, March 22, 2010

Phantom Pleasures by Julie Leto


GENRE: PARANORMAL ROMANCE

Phantom Pleasures by Julie Leto introduces Alexa Chandler, the CEO of a luxury hotel chain who has found the ultimate project. Like most women, she has dreamed of being swept off her feet by a handsome man and whisked away to a romantic castle. Now she has inherited an island with a castle that she intends to turn into a luxury hotel. The castle, however, is already occupied... sort of. In the 1700's, Damon Forsyth was trapped in a portrait by dark magic and has been waiting centuries for someone to release him from his prison. Once Alexa gets Damon out of the painting, then the trouble really starts. The source of the magic that had been used to imprison Damon is being pursued by a secret sect who will stop at nothing to possess it.

I love romances and I love supernatural story lines so I was excited about reading this book when I read the summary. Things were looking promising until Alexa showed up. At that point, the dialogue took a nose dive into camp and never really recovered. Add several rauchy sex scenes and I felt like I'd stumbled into the literary version of a porno. I know what you're thinking. What's the difference between a porno and a romance novel? Good question. One uses what little plot there is to set up the next sex scene while the other uses a sex scene to advance the plot and show developing intimacy between the characters. The chemistry between the two main characters never really sparked either, they seemed too busy using each other to get to know each other. This book is actually the first in a series. Too bad I have no interest in reading the others.

BEST FEATURE: The idea. This story had so much potential... trapping several heroes in objects that have been lost. It's not a unique plot device, but I always find it interesting.

WORST FEATURE: The dialogue. It was too stilted... especially between the main characters. Reading it was like watching a movie with bad actors.

PARENTAL WARNING: numerous explicit sex scenes and some violence; best for adults only

MY RATING: 1.5 - a few good plot twists at the end kept this one afloat, but there is very little to recommend it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray

GENRE: FANTASY

The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray is the conclusion of Gemma Doyle's story. Greed, politics and guilt-trips... no, it's not congress. It's what happens when you bind the magic of the realms to yourself and everyone wants a piece. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Gemma has the best of intentions. The magic had originally been controlled by the Order which was made up of witches like Gemma and her mother. Now Gemma plans to make an alliance with the other inhabitants of the realms and share the magic with them. But first, she wants to use her new power to help her friends secure their futures. The longer she delays, the more agitated her future allies get and things start to unravel. To add to the strain, some unexpected enemies have arrived on the scene.

As excited as I was to read the conclusion of this story, I was also sad when it was over. It has its highs and lows, but this fantasy series for girls is the best I've ever read. It touches on all the best themes: friendship, feminism, and the internal battle between the need to fit in and the desire to be special. Ah, the Victorian Age... how far we've come, but we still have a long way to go. This may be fiction, but there is no escaping reality. Not every character that you want to have a happy ending will get one. If that isn't an important life lesson, I don't know what is.

BEST FEATURE: Formula? What formula? A lot of literature follows an established pattern. Mystery novel? The bad guy gets caught. Romance? The star-crossed lovers get a happy ending. This author took the road less traveled and gave us an incredible story. Watch your back J.K. Rowling!

WORST FEATURE: The length. It's 819 pages long. Someone should take a hedge clipper to this thing. Cut 300 pages and the book would still be sublime and I wouldn't have thrown my back out picking it up to read.

PARENTAL WARNING: violence and minor sexual content; appropriate for teens

MY RATING: 4.5 for the book itself, 5 for the series over-all. The book was just too long.