Tag Archives: “Ice” series

Anne Stuart – “Fire And Ice”

10 Jul

TALK ABOUT LOST IN TRANSLATION…

In the wake of a failed love affair, brainy beauty Jilly Lovitz takes off for Tokyo. She’s expecting to cry on her sister Summer’s shoulder, then spend a couple months blowing off steam in Japan. Instead, she’s snatched away on the back of a motorcycle, narrowly avoiding a grisly execution attempt meant for her sister and brother-in-law.

Her rescuer is Reno, the Committee’s most unpredictable agent. They’d met once before and the attraction was odd– tattooed Yakuza punk meets leggy California egghead–but electric. Now Reno and Jilly are pawns in a deadly tangle of assassination attempts, kidnappings and prisoner swaps that could put their steamy partnership on ice.

Fire and Ice is the fifth book in the “Ice” series and it’s the story of Jilly and Reno. They met for the first time about two years (I think) before the start of Ice and Fire in Ice Blue, the story of Jilly’s sister Summer and Reno’s cousin Takashi. It was just a short meeting, more a glimpse, but they were both equally fascinated by each other, as unlikely as that seemed based on their outward appearance and their differences in background. Then Reno also was present in Ice Storm, the story before this one, and Fire and Ice starts where Ice Storm ends: with someone after the agents of the Committee. And that’s why Takashi and Summer are not where Jilly expects them to be when she drops by for an unscheduled visit* and why it’s up to Reno to see that nothing happens to Jilly.

I thought Fire and Ice could be interesting with the pairing of the carefree, no rules apply Reno and the brainy, unsure of her appeal Jilly. And it worked for some time for me. But not enough to make me not realize that Fire and Ice is basically a damsel-in-distress story. That’s what keeps the story together because otherwise, the plot is all over the place. First Jilly and Reno run from someone who works against the Committee, then there’s trouble within the organization of Reno’s grandpa, and then there is last part that happens in the US and that feels like it’s an afterthought to make the story longer based on a rather flimsy connection to what happened before. Hmm.

Sidenote: Jilly is supposed to be incredible brainy but other than telling that it is so, there was no evidence of it. This is no dig at the damsel-in-distress slant of the story: Jilly’s clearly out of her depth in nearly all situations and besides the kind of smarts needed there is a different kind of smarts than she’s supposed to have I think, so I didn’t mind that most of the time. I just would have preferred more than the mere mentioning of degrees or field of studies to show that Jilly is indeed an egghead (especially because there are times she could have acted a bit smarter; see below).

As for the romance, amidst all that running, Jilly and Reno are afraid to admit they are attracted to each other. Jilly thinks she’s unattractive – tall for a woman and a kind of recluse thanks to her being so smart she always was years ahead in school compared to kids her age. Reno is a firm believer in “sex, not love” and fears Jilly is different and not just because of the dire warning from his cousin, the husband of Jilly’s sister, to stay the hell away from Jilly. And even if Reno respects nothing, he at least respects family. Which means his cold behavior feeds Jilly’s insecurities about herself even more. Much angst ensues.

But yes, amidst all that running, Jilly and Reno fall in love. At least the novel’s end says so. I have to admit, I don’t know why. As I said, I enjoyed their “romance” (and the angst) in the beginning but no matter how much they worried about the futility of their attraction, it didn’t show me when or why their fascination with their differences turned into love so uhm…at the end of the novel, Jilly and Reno’s romance still only was a strong fascination with each other’s differences in my eyes.

And yet oddly enough, I liked this novel better than Ice Storm despite Ice Storm having the more convincing romance and the tighter plot and Fire and Ice having a heroine who throws the gun at the villain instead of firing it.

On its plus side for me: the angst-ing in the beginning, the Japanese background and setting, and – I suspect – the fact that Reno is based on a character from Final Fantasy: Advent Children, a movie which in turn is based on Final Fantasy VII a video game for the PlayStation (see more here – link to “The Final Fantasy Wiki”). If I should name one thing that shaped my love for games it would have to be Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy VIII to be precise (more on that in a later post perhaps). So that’s why I suspect that I’m a bit forgiving for Fire and Ice‘s shaky plot and romance: Fire and Ice gets a (major) point for “coolness” from me.

* Funny: In Ice Storm the reason why Reno shows up in London is that Jilly is coming to Japan to visit her sister for some time. The story in Ice Storm covers only a few days and Reno leaves at the end of it to look after Jilly in Japan, but in Fire and Ice Jilly’s visit to her sister is unplanned?

~ * * * ~

I think I’m done with novels by Anne Stuart. The only problem is, I loved Black Ice, the first novel in this series, and now I’m afraid to read it again and find it lacking.

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Anne Stuart – “Ice Storm”

22 Jun

BEHIND HER MASK IS A DEADLY SECRET…

The powerful head of the covert mercenary organization The Committee, Isobel Lambert is a sleek, sophisticated professional who comes into contact with some of the most dangerous people in the world. But beneath Isobel’s cool exterior a ghost exists, haunting her with memories of another life…a life that ended long ago.

But Isobel’s past and present are about to collide when Serafin, mercenary, assassin and the most dangerous man in the world, makes a deal with The Committee. Seventeen years ago Isobel shot him and left him for dead. Now it looks as if he’s tracked her down for revenge. But Isobel knows all too well that looks can be deceiving…and that’s what she’s counting on to keep her cover in this international masquerade of murder.

Isobel’s been the head of the Committee, a “covert mercenary organization,” for some time now and the added responsibility is slowly but surely getting to her. Hints of it have been in the novels before this one, but now it’s clear how close to breaking down she really is. And now the Committee is given the order to save the life of Josef Serafin, also known as “The Butcher.” Serafin’s worked “[j]ust about everywhere in the world where bad things happen” (14) and he’s willing to trade the information he gained by working for the major players on the baddie side for safety and a new life now.

Isobel would much rather kill Serafin than save his life but there is nothing she can do than follow the order. As she is a bit short-handed on available agents (see the novels in this series before this one), she has to go on the mission to safe Serafin herself. Of course, there are complications. The first, but not the only one, is that Serafin is actually someone Isobel knew in her past, turning the mission into a confrontation with her past when she isn’t so sure about her present, let alone her future.

The beginning chapters alternate between the present time and the past. Seventeen years ago Isobel, called Mary then, met someone named Killian while backpacking through Europe and fell in love with him. They spend some time traveling through France together, first as friends and then as lovers, until the day Isobel finds out she’s just been used by Killian as a convenient cover for his assassination job. That was the day she shot him and the day her life changed from plans to visit a school in Paris to something else entirely.

The thing I liked best about this novel is Isobel’s and Killian’s story. I love second-chance-at-love stories and with all Isobel and Killian’s been through in the time they spent apart, I was happy to see them finally together. Sadly, other things didn’t convince me equally. Leaving aside the Committee itself, I didn’t buy Killian’s background. He’s supposed to be the most dangerous man in the world, hired and sought after by all the bad guys in the world, while at the same time it seems he screws up most of his assignments. Huh?

Isobel is head of the Committee and to be in that place I expect her to be a strong woman. A woman who actually uses a gun and doesn’t throw it at the attacker, for example. Isobel is that woman. The problem is, she’s thrown into a plot with a premise that takes all initiative away from her. At best she’s able to react, but never act. At worst, she’s just able to follow the lead of Killian/Serafin. I thought that disappointing.

But it is made worse by having her behave like someone who’s new to all this agent stuff. She’s not crying or breaking into hysterics, no, but, for example, she can’t think of a reason why someone would want to drug her or incapacitate her, an agent of the Committee who’s out to get the bad guys. Huh? doesn’t cover this for me, I’m afraid. On top of that, sometimes she’s behaving like she’s a teenage girl with Killian, not a grown woman trained to keep her head in all situations. I couldn’t buy this as a sign of her emotional upheaval and breaking apart, no matter how I tried. In her position and with her experience, I would have expected her to have a better grip on herself, no matter what. As it is, it just enforced the question how she got to be head of the Committee in the first place.

Oh, and this: “…at least three hundred of Busanovich’s worst enemies escaped…” just cracked me up. “Three hundred worst enemies,” B. must be quite a badass.

To conclude, I liked the romance, but I was disappointed that the only woman in the Committee was saddled with a plot that practically forced her to the sideline. But then again, even with a different plot, I’m not sure Isobel would have lived up to what I expected, given how she behaved in general. Reminding herself to suppress the shaking of her hand to not show weakness is not a good sign to convince a reader that Isobel is up to being an agent and a strong person. In fact, it is common sense and nearly everyone knows and does this daily, I think.

February, 07, 2010

7 Feb

Read: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

At Fairfield High School, on the outskirts of Chicago, everyone knows that south siders and north siders aren’t exactly compatible elements. So when head cheerleader Brittany Ellis and gang member Alex Fuentes are forced to be lab partners in chemistry class, the results are bound to be explosive. But neither teen is prepared for the most surprising chemical reaction of all–love. Can they break through the stereotypes and misconceptions that threaten to keep them apart?

This book ended my string of “books started, books put down after one or two chapters” so it’s a good thing I finally found it again in early January after looking for it for months. Of course, I found it accidentally and also in a place I’m sure I looked at least twice.

Perfect Chemistry tells a story that has strong shades of West Side Story. In fact, it has strong shades of nearly every cliché found in high school romances. Or at least, it has enough of them it would have been turned into three Sweet Valley High books back in my day. There’s The Bet, a year-long school project that brings two people together who normally wouldn’t have any contact, and there’s the good, perfect cheerleader and the bad boy gangsta. What keeps it all together is the look beneath the surface, some sweet and touching moments, and two young people finding their own identity. That’s why I enjoyed reading Perfect Chemistry. Quite a lot and nearly up to the ending. Especially the epilogue pushed it too far into fairy tale territory whereas the whole gang business, let’s just say I had trouble buying it completely in the setting of that story. But up until the last few chapters, I was caught up in the story. I even had to sniffle a time or two. (4/5)

Currently Reading: Ice Blue by Anne Stuart

Museum curator Summer Hawthorne considered the exquisite ice-blue ceramic bowl given to her by her beloved Japanese nanny a treasure of sentimental value-until somebody tried to kill her for it.

The priceless relic is about to ignite a global power struggle that must be stopped at all costs. It’s a desperate situation, and international operative Takashi O’Brien has received his directive: everybody is expendable. Everybody. Especially the woman who is getting dangerously under his skin as the lethal game crosses the Pacific to the remote and beautiful mountains of Japan, where the truth can be as seductive as it is deadly….

I’m maybe halfway through and the more books I read in this series, the harder my time gets with the idea behind the Committee. It’s just too “James-Bond” to me – a private organization that’s out to save the world without any involvement of authorities.

With Ice Blue I also have the problem to understand why Summer still lives. Takashi claps eyes on her and he can’t do what he’s send to do: kill her. Especially because the first time he looks her in the eyes, it’s a situation conducive to just pull the trigger and be done with it – his assignment and saving the world. But he doesn’t. I guess I would have less trouble believing that if he’d spent some time with her. But after looking her in the eyes for the first time – a cold-blooded killer? – uhm, not so much.

What’s even more puzzling to me, the Committee deemed Summer expendable for the greater good from the start but they go and gather information about her right down to her bra size (they are able to produce a near identical wardrobe to her own for her in the matter of a few hours later in the story). Why do that when they wanted to off her from the get-go? Why go to all that trouble?

All this leaves out my impression that I’m basically reading the same story again as in Cold As Ice. Different names for the main protagonists and villains, different locations, but more or less the same situations between the main protagonists, the same conflicts. But all this also leaves out the fact that I still find the conflict – falling for the one you’re ordered to kill – compelling.

I’ll continue reading.

Today: Joint Commentary On Anne Stuart’s “Cold As Ice” @ “Jace Scribbles”

19 Mar

stuart-anne-cold-as-ice1Jace from the blog Jace Scribbles suggested buddy-reading Anne Stuart’s Ice-series when I went on a mini-glom for other Anne Stuart (Ice) novels after I fell totally in love with Black Ice, the first in the series. Jace had all the other books in the series, too, and buddy reading and joint reviews are fun, so soon we were exchanging emails, discussing our impressions of Cold as Ice, the second book in the Ice-series.

For me, it was the second time I read Cold as Ice and I’m afraid, it didn’t do as good as the first time but nevertheless – and as expected – I had a lot of fun buddy-reading with Jace. Thank you, Jace.

You can read our joint commentary here.

The back blurb of Cold as Ice:

The job was supposed to be dead easy–hand deliver some legal papers to billionaire philanthropist Harry Van Dorn’s extravagant yacht, get his signature and be done. But Manhattan lawyer Genevieve Spenser soon realizes she’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that the publicly benevolent playboy has a sick, vicious side. As he tries to make her his plaything for the evening, eager to use and abuse her until he discards her with the rest of his victims, Genevieve must keep her wits if she intends to survive the night.

But there’s someone else on the ship who knows the true depths of Van Dorn’s evil. Peter Jensen is far more than the unassuming personal assistant he pretends to be–he’s a secret operative who will stop at nothing to ensure Harry’s deadly Rule of Seven terror campaign dies with him. But Genevieve’s presence has thrown a wrench into his plans, and now he must decide whether to risk his mission to keep her alive, or allow her to become collateral damage…