Tag Archives: Nalini Singh

July 2010 Reads

1 Aug

Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

Furies of Calderon is the first in the fantasy series Codex Alera and I really liked it. It tells the familiar story of an aging king without an heir and a looming war of succession, placed in a world where people bond with elemental furies. The story is told by several characters and it looks like Butcher has some interesting things in store for what’s to come. And while the characters mights be a bit too one/two-dimensional, some at least are capable of being gray (such as a woman on the “bad” side helps a woman on the “good” side). At the moment, I’m most interested in Isana, the aunt of the main protagonist Tavi. It seems she had an interesting and tragic past so I’m looking forward to finding out more.
If there’s one thing I found a bit off-putting, then it’s that Furies of Calderon is a very action-driven novel and the characters always seem to end up in a place even worse than they are at the start of a chapter, following the “what can go wrong, will go wrong” line of thought. It made for a relentless pace for much of the story and that felt a bit exhausting at times.

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

YA, set in the world of multiplayer online games. For the Win looks at the economic system of these games and focuses on the lives of “gold farmers,” who work under appalling conditions to get virtual items which their employers then sell for real money. I found this premise interesting, especially because I played such a game for nearly a year until last month.
The story and the characters’ behavior in For the Win are guided by an idea/vision and “lectures” on economy interrupt the novel several times. There’s nearly no character development and because of the many POV characters, I didn’t get a very strong sense of continuity until very late in the book when all the different story lines start converging. So, interesting read in terms of idea/vision/lectures on economy but at times it felt more like a documentary than a novel. Also, I’m not exactly sure why it’s labeled YA. The premise is a big draw probably but the lectures don’t seem to fit.

This Duchess of Mine by Eloisa James

I really enjoyed reading this novel. It was witty and fun and where else do you find a heroine that goads another woman into seducing the heroine’s husband? Really, I like James’s novels mostly for the interesting, non-cardboard characters and I don’t care if I would find them nice or likable in real life. So, I had fun reading this novel. But I’m not sure there is much story underneath all that sparkle.
Jemma and Elijah are married and after years of living apart, it’s time to produce an heir. Good thing they also realized in the previous books of the series that they also want to jump each others bones. So where’s the story eh problem?
Jemma realizes that she doesn’t know what Elijah likes and she thinks she’s only second (third?) best to Elijah’s governmental work and his rivalry with Villiers. Elijah thinks of Jemma as “MINE!” and his honor is very important to him. Hmm…I’m still not sure how all this translated into the coy flirtation and dancing around each other that takes up more than half of the story, especially because they agreed about the need for an heir and time is running short with Elijah illness, but it was fun to read nevertheless. The later part of the novel concerns itself with Elijah’s illness and oh, there are also some interesting developments for Villiers in the story. And that’s what happens.
So, fun to read; looking forward to reading Villiers story next.

Her Sister’s Baby by Janice Kay Johnson

This was a surprise book for two reasons. First, I didn’t know I had this book. It was a bonus book in my edition of Spencer’s Sweet Memories. Second, the story features a baby and I enjoyed reading the novel quite a lot.
The story: “Colleen will do anything for her sister Sheila, including having her baby. Sheila’s husband, Michael, wants a baby, too. When Colleen offers to be a surrogate for his wife, he’s deeply grateful. Then an accident takes Sheila’s life, and Colleen and Michael turn to each other in their sorrow only to discover an unacknowledged attraction.” (quote: Goodreads)

Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

Smooth Talking Stranger started off great but halfway through it lost the main obstacle for a relationship between Ella and Jack: Ella’s boyfriend left the field.
I say main obstacle because Ella’s insistence that she will never marry and her relationship problems didn’t seem to play too much of a role in the second half of the novel IMO. They came up from time to time then, I even believed them, but I not once had the impression that they would stand in the way of the couple’s HEA. So in my view, Ella’s boyfriend was the main obstacle and I was left with no real tension in the second part of the novel. In addition, Ella’s light bulb re how much Jack means to her comes in the way this so often does in Kleypas’s novels…
I also asked myself: 1) where did Ella get all her fabulous clothes? I thought she left with only a few to look what was the matter with her sister. 2) For two reasons I’m left with the slightly weird impression that Jack is second-best to Luke, Ella’s nephew. 3) It seems to me that Ella is a vegan only because her boyfriend is one, one who has strong views about it. From this I gather: Ella tries to please other people. A lot. And I’m left wondering: what does this say about her relationship with Jack? Jack, he who is of the tribe “MINE!”
Okay, it seems I didn’t like this novel, but that’s actually not true. I thought the way it delineated and constructed gender (roles) very interesting. Just look at that vegan business, for example. And there are things I liked: Kleypas’s contemporary voice, the beginning, Jack’s willingness to do everything for HIS woman (very nice fantasy!) Or how the novel looked at how damaging parents can be to their children. There’s good stuff but I missed something in the second half.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

I read the German edition of this novel. Different from other editions I know, it doesn’t reference a character in the title. The German edition is called “Verblendung” (~ delusion). Somehow I thought I would get something along the line of La Femme Nikita (the original, not the US remake) with this novel. Not so. There is a female character, Lisbeth Salander, and she’s not your usual female character, but she’s not the main character (maybe that changes in the other books?). That honor belongs to Mikael Blomkvist, the author stand-in who is in love with brand names and himself and so naturally have all the women fall at his feet; that is jump into bed with him right away.
There are two stories in this novel. The mystery of the missing Harriet (what attracted me to the novel) is solved way before the end and it wasn’t all that difficult to get an idea why Harriet disappeared (helpful little statistics fronting each part of the story) or what happened. The last hundred or so pages are spend on solving Mikael’s problem, the one that made him lose his position at his newspaper and so enabled him take up Harriet’s case in the first place. (You go, Mikael!)
I actually enjoyed the novel in the beginning. It was a bit slow, yes, but I was willing. Then the brand names started to bother me. I swear each time a laptop was mentioned, its brand name was mentioned, too. Same with other things. I was reading that novel on my vacation at the pool (spotted three readers with the same book!) and because the brand names annoyed me, I told my boyfriend each time I encountered one. It was like a game. (Later he knew just by my huff and lowering of the book that I’d found another one.)
Anyway, besides in brand names, the story is bogged down in exposition, unnecessary details and bland characters IMO. Admittedly, Lisbeth is a cool character but she goes the way of the big boobs later in the story, thinking how she likes to have that option or something like that (Who thinks that? Is it really the cool and not-giving-a-damn Lisbeth?) And of course, Lisbeth also realizes she’s in love with Mikael (yeah Mikael!). So no, while Lisbeth is easily the most interesting thing about this novel, she didn’t save it for me.
There is a decent mystery buried underneath that all but it was hard to find. And I think I missed the social criticism completely. The abuse of women was presented too sensational and over-the-top. I couldn’t view that as criticism.

The Shy Bride by Lucy Monroe

I don’t remember much about this one. The heroine is a pianist and a recluse, the hero’s a self-made millionaire. Oh wait, that’s probably billionaire. Anyway, I thought the heroine’s anxiety attacks were done quite well and I liked Monroe’s voice. So I’m actually tempted to read the book that features the hero’s best friend.

Slave to Sensation, Visions of Heat, Caressed by Ice by Nalini Singh (re-reads)

I read a review for another novel in this series and I was interested in reading it. But because I’d tried the first three novels in the Psy/Changeling series and we didn’t click, I didn’t. This set me to thinking about why I didn’t enjoy this series as much as most other readers and so I read the three novels I already had again.
I came away with a clearer grasp of why they don’t fit me completely. It’s the characters. They seem too much an illustration of their race traits to be complete individuals to me, with the conflict centered around the Psy/Changeling differences and what kind of Psy is part of the pairing. It makes characters and conflict look like part of the world building which makes the world building and the way it’s done more interesting but it also makes the characters (and story) less so for me. Yeah, I think that’s it.
So, maybe I’ll buy the next one in the series one day to see how the world building goes. After all, I liked Visions of Heat better than the first time so there is hope.

Sweet Memories by LaVyrle Spencer

I found Sweet Memories to be a nice and sweet story about a woman who’s wary of men because if they show interest, they show interest in her big rack. The novel’s a bit dated (not that I minded) and at times it felt slightly too sweet for my taste. Also, the story seemed a bit thin, concerning itself for the most part with Theresa’s anxiety and worry about her big breasts. But at the end Theresa’s made some changes to her life and seemed more grown up, so altogether I was fine and enjoyed reading it.

Nalini Singh – “Caressed By Ice”

3 Nov

GENRE: Romance / Paranormal
PUBLISHED: Berkley Sensation, 2007

WHY THIS NOVEL: I wanted to see how (or if) the relationship dynamic changes with a Psy hero and a Changeling heroine.

The back blurb:
“As an Arrow, an elite soldier in the Psy Council ranks, Judd Lauren was forced to do terrible things in the name of his people. Now he is a defector, and his drk abilities have made him the most deadly of assasins–cold, pitiless, unfeeling. Until he meets Brenna…
Brenna Shane Kincaid was an innocent before she was abducted–and had her mind violated–by a serial killer. Her sense of evil runs so deep, she fears she could become a killer herself. Then the first dead body is found, victim of a familiar madness. Judd is her only hope, yet her sensual changeling side rebels against the inhuman chill of his personality, even as desire explodes between them. Shocking and raw, their passion is a danger that threatens not only their hearts, but their very lives…”

First, I’ll be lazy with this post: minimal plot description of the book (not that I bother much with that anyway, I think); there’s the back blurb I quoted above and I’m very late to read this.

Secondly, I was not really blown away by Visions of Heat. But there was my curiosity about the relationship dynamic and I read comments by readers stating they liked the next one better. So I went and bought Caressed by Ice.

Thirdly, I’m happy to say that I liked Caressed by Ice better. Main reason: I thought the romantic conflict (why Judd and Brenna can’t be together) and the romance more convincing than in Visions of Heat.

Of course, the romantic conflict is the same as with the other novels in this series so far: a Changeling and a Psy are paired, so emotion and reason, or maybe better, non-emotion meet. But this time, as opposed to Visions of Heat, I believed in the danger it would pose for the Psy character to break with Silence, the conditioning that keeps emotions in check via pain (Judd already dropped out of the Psy Net), because there was a better balance between the Psy and Changeling side. The Changeling side didn’t always (seem to) win when the Psy side had to deal with emotions. Of course, it could also just be because I’m a sucker for tortured heroes. But oh, Judd is a very appealing one – caressed by ice indeed (aside: although obvious as hell, I liked that there are several scenes out in the snow).

I also believed that Brenna and Judd “have something.” It is not just lust between them. This might be because they’re both “damaged” characters, so things had to go slower (which also helped my impression that there was more balance between Psy and Changeling sides) than with a hero character who is constantly walking around aroused. But there is also the fact that Brenna and Judd know each other for some months before the story starts. Judd was there to help with Brenna’s healing, supporting the Psy healer Sascha, and he’s the only one who doesn’t look at Brenna with pity. He sees Brenna’s strength and his rational way of seeing things helps her more than the overprotection and cuddling she gets from her family and friends. In return, Brenna helps Judd discover the good side of emotions, so at the end he laughs and plays, even if it’s only with her. They are right for each other.

Again, I think the world Singh created interesting on an academic/intellectual level. The Changeling world is inclusive in that there’s not just cats and wolves able to change, there are also deer, bear, eagle changeling to name just a few. The new things I learned about the Psy world are intriguing and chilling, especially the implant bit (what’s up with the scientist?) and the Ghost. I also like that there are hints of gray in this world:
– not everything in the Changeling world is good.
– Silence might have it’s uses for Psys with certain skill sets although that doesn’t make the way or that it is implemented at all any less questionable.
So I’m interested in what is to come. Maybe even humans get some play time because so far, they’re missing from the picture except with “don’t underestimate them, they have weapons” statements. Also: the women are no push-overs which is always good.

But I also had some problems. While I enjoyed the slow realization in relation to the mystery, I also had my suspicion from the beginning who would be the villain (I was right). There are a number of background plot lines floating around and on the whole, I didn’t think them all that well integrated into the story. Most of the Psy Council bits seemed jarring to me. And one day after I finished the book I couldn’t (still can’t) remember what happened to Brenna’s visions. Is there a resolution to this? But again, and most of all, the resolution of the romantic conflict struck me as easy in contrast to what went before and what I expected because of that. I understand that Judd was afraid of what would happen and that he needed time to get used to the idea of doing it, but the actual description when he breaks Silence didn’t make me feel the danger and left me curiously cold so that I asked myself, “why didn’t he do this sooner?” And that I would answer “no conflict then” is not good. Although I have to say this part worked better for me in this novel than in Visions of Heat.

Overall, I thought Caressed by Ice better paced than Visions of Heat, especially in the beginning/for the first half I was really hooked. And I liked that the relationship dynamic with a Psy hero and a Changeling heroine was different, although much of that just might due to their background (Judd’s Psy ability, Brenna’s experience). But other than that, I don’t know. I think there’s something in the way the stories are written, that keeps me distanced and makes it difficult for me to fully appreciate the original world Singh has created in this series.

I know this series is a favorite of many readers. It just doesn’t seem to be one of mine.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Maybe (as part of series).

Grade: 4 – / 5

Nalini Singh – “Visions of Heat”

26 Sep

GENRE: Romance / Paranormal
PUBLISHED: Berkley Sensation, 2007

WHY THIS NOVEL: It’s a favorite series of many readers and I wanted to take a second look.

The back blurb:
“Used to cold silence, Faith NightStar is suddenly being tormented by dark visions of blood and murder. A bad sign for anyone, but worse for Faith, an F-Psy with the highly sought after ability to predict the future. Then the visions show her something even more dangerous-aching need…exquisite pleasure. But so powerful is her sight, so fragile the state of her mind, that the very emotions she yearns to embrace could be the end of her.
Changeling Vaughn D’Angelo can take the form of either man or jaguar, but it is his animal side that is overwhelmingly drawn to Faith. The jaguar’s instinct is to claim this woman if finds so utterly fascinating, and the man has no argument. But while Vaughn craves sensation and hungers to pleasure Faith in every way, desire is a danger that could snap the last threads of her sanity. And there are Psy who need Faith’s sight for their own purposes. They must keep her silenced-and keep her from Vaughn.”

I read Nalini Singh’s Slave to Sensation two years ago. I wasn’t particular blown away, but I thought the Psy and the world Singh created for them different and intersting. Since then, she wrote four full-length novels in the Psy-Changeling series, and the series is loved by many readers. As with Kresley Cole’s Immortals-After-Dusk series some months ago, I thought to give Singh’s series another try and I bought the second one, Visions of Heat.

What I still like best about Visions of Heat is the world Singh created. The Psy world is interesting and intriguing. Unfortunately, Visions of Heat comes with the obsessive-possessive-mate story line, this time in the form of changelings (leopards, jaguars, wolves and whatever else), and it’s this part that drives the romance. I was really disappointed by that because with a plot that threatens madness when emotions get too strong, I expected and wanted (maybe even thought it necessary) more balance.

Instead, the hero goes from “I can be patient for her” to establishing a mate-bond without her knowing (!) to having be tied down for intercourse because he can’t control himself any longer in roughly two weeks. There was nearly no influence of Faith’s conditioning (linking emotion to pain) on the way the romance developed and on the heroine’s behavior except for some hyperventilating and coming close to or having a seizure a few times, IMO. Faith was rather similar to a “normal” heroine who’s afraid of emotion and never had a sexual thought in her life and then goes sex-kitten in a very short amount of time. Huh? I thought the way she grew up and lived all her life would have a much stronger impact. I especially couldn’t believe how fast she changed.

The one time when things seem to go really wrong, the Cassandra spiral thing right after Vaughn and Faith have slept together for the first time, left me strangely unconcerned. I really wanted and waited for a more dramatic development with Faith’s conditioning. I would have welcomed a – temporary of course – descend into madness as a result of the hero’s constant pushing, that would have been interesting, but I guess I just knew that wouldn’t happen.

So, I don’t know. The romance just didn’t convince me. On Vaughn’s side, there is constant lusting and hard evidence of his lust love all the time in such a way that I start to wonder why he doesn’t take matters into his own hand. Especially since he feels he’s losing control and well, there’s also the possibility of Faith going crazy from overload of emotions. Instead, Vaughn has to be tied down for their first time and that only happens after Faith convinces him that waiting for him to gain more control when all evidence points in the other direction is a boneheaded idea. And Faith, let’s just say I wondered how she’s so sure she loves Vaughn. Vaughn is the first man she meets who feels emotions and makes her feel. Couldn’t it be the same with other such men? Is it because he can keep her from spiraling into madness? Why?

There is also a suspense plot going on that is only slightly more than a reason for Faith and Vaughn to meet, and there are some political developments in the Psy world. Now, as I said, I like the concept of the Psy and their world and think there’ll be some interesting developments there, I especially liked the thing about the NetMind, but on the whole, I find this world rather sketchy in its description. It leaves a lot to the readers imagination and reminds me of fantasy novels where characters are constantly shooting fire balls and lighting strikes from their finger tips without giving the reader once an explanation how this is possible. Take for example the scene where Faith cuts her link to the PsyNet:

Drawing in the scent of her mate, she went deep, deep inside herself, past every shield and block, past reason and cognition to the primitive nucleus–because the link to the PsyNet was powered by instinct and made at the instant of birth, the one thing about her race that wasn’t controlled or manipulated.
And there it was, in the absolute and utter center.
She’d thought she’d linger over this, but she couldn’t. It hurt too much. Saying a soft good-bye, she reached out and sliced through it in a single fatal stroke.
Everything ended. (p. 260/261).

What are these shields and blocks? How (and with what?) did she slice through the link? I don’t know, maybe this was explained in Slave to Sensation and I just don’t remember. In Visions of Heat, I didn’t find an explanation how thoughts turned into concrete objects for the Psy (that’s my explanation for descriptions like the one quoted above). And somehow I find myself not really able to just go with the flow.

I know I’m rather alone with this, but I didn’t see Visions of Heat as more than an average novel. I know this series is loved by a lot of readers and I wanted it to turn out the same way Kresley Cole’s Immortals series turned out on my second try, I wanted to love it, but this time, I’m sorry to say it didn’t work. Maybe it was the wrong time of month, I don’t know, I just don’t get what makes this special, and the Psy-related stuff isn’t good or interesting enough on its own (see paragraph above) to make me read on. I know the next one has a hero who’s a Psy and I think it could be interesting to see how (or if) this alters the dynamic of the romance. But other than that, I think I won’t go on with this series.

Would I recommend this novel? Maybe.

Would I read this novel again? Maybe.

Grade: 3 + / 5