Shuzluva’s Book Review Extravaganza!

Box of Books


Thanks for the box ‘o books. I am diligently (or making the earnest attempt at) reading everything. Since I received the new box, I decided it was high time for me to get together reviews of the old box. Man, that was a lot of books. I laughed, I cried, some were better than Cats. And some definitely were not. I couldn’t imagine writing full reviews for all of these, and seriously applaud those who do, because it’s just too overwhelming for me. So instead, here’s Shuzluva’s Superfast Box Review!

Book: Highland Rogue
Author: Tess Mallory
Grade: B-

In Brief. Having spent the majority of her adult life raising for her twin sisters after their parents died in a tragic accident, Maggie Graham is finally doing something for herself. She’s in Scotland on her dream vacation (actually a bullshit archaeological dig for tourists that would probably cost a lot of money and be very unfulfilling). Maggie discovers a tri-spiral in an ancient cairn. I know nothing about Scotland, Celtic symbols and the like, but this is one of those that you don’t fuck around with. Maggie manages to use the spiral to send herself back 300 years and meet the man of her dreams (of course), who is embroiled in scandal, thievery and familial issues (of course).

What I Liked. The relationship between Maggie and Quinn McIntyre is well described. Quinn is a good foil for Maggie in that he realizes that she’s somewhat…uh, unpracticed at the art of man-baiting, and gets her to come out of her shell in creative ways. Maggie’s character growth is good (not great – see below), and she eventually fights for what she wants, and comes up with an unexpected solution to her problems.

What I Didn’t Like. The plotline was very middle of the road for me, bordering on boring, but not a total washout since the ending was thought out and not just simply wrapped up in a bow. I liked the opening scenes when Maggie is at the tourist trap; the writing, dialogue and descriptions were very crisp and well defined. However, as soon as Maggie stumbled back through time things seemed to slow down considerably. Maggie’s vaccilation between being a “mom” and a “woman” also annoyed the crap out of me. Yes, she’s raised her sisters, but you can’t tell me that she didn’t have a single moment of resentment, anger, or the desire to act her age without all of them being tinged by guilt. I know that part of the story is focused on Maggie becoming her age rather than a modern day spinster, but that line to me is very tired.

The Bottom Line. This book got a B-. I’m not a huge fan of Scottish anything these days, but this was a nice time-travel and while certain plotlines seemed to drag, the overall character development and romance was relatively strong.

Book: Taking The Heat
Author: Kathryn Shay
Grade: DNF

EXTREME In Brief. This book centers on NYC, firefighters, and a family that owns a nearby Irish pub. It is apparently a love story between Liam O’Neil and Sophie Tyler, but I couldn’t get far enough into the book to get the love story going, nor did I get far enough to read about the villian (an arsonist).

What I Didn’t Like. The writing and dialogue was extremely stilted in this book, and there was a lack of smoothness that slowed the pace of the book. But that isn’t really where the problem was for me.

What Made it a DNF. While I didn’t like the writing style and couldn’t make a connection with any of the characters, it doesn’t help that I absolutely HATE stories about fires. Nora Robert’s Blue Smoke comes to mind, along with Backdraft, Ladder 49 and the Hindenburg. I just don’t like stories about fire, firefighters or burns. I have tremendous respect for the men and women that do those jobs, but I can’t handle stories about them, or the victims of fire. In addition there are a spectacular amount of 9/11 references. To me, memories of that day and romance just don’t mix. I stood in my office building on 6th Avenue and watched a fire bomb explode out of the South Tower after the plane hit it. I have never felt so helpless in my life. There is nothing romantic about that. NOR DO I THINK IT WAS THE AUTHOR’S INTENTION TO MAKE IT SO. However, it’s hard to talk about NYC firefighters without discussing 9/11, ergo, no makings of a romance here for me.

Book: Gone With The Witch
Author: Annette Blair
Grade: C+

In Brief. Storm Cartwright is a witch, a triplet, and an orphan. She’s sassy, sexy, and hears babies crying, especially when she’s around Aiden McCloud. She thinks the baby she’s hearing is somehow connected to Aiden, and plans a trap for the gorgeous restoration specialist. Their adventure takes them up and down the East Coast as they fall for each other while following Storm’s psychic voice.

What I Liked. This book had a lot of snappy, upbeat dialogue, which is hard to do when the heroine is supposedly hearing children crying in need. It was delightful to read Aiden’s comebacks to Storm’s provocative comments and actions, rather than him being all frowny-alpha-male. Ms. Blair does a nice job of taking the characters on both a physical and emotional journey during which they both learn things about themselves and learn to (mostly) trust each other.

What I Didn’t Like. *Ahem*…for me there’s good sex writing, and there’s bad sex writing…and then there’s writing that simply makes me cringe. Reading some of the passages was like having a bucket of cold water dumped over my head – it completely took me out of the book. I’m all for a great sexy romp, but the allusions and metaphors GWTW got outta control for me. I’ve hidden this just in case you don’t want to be spoiled or don’t want to read about sex…at least I think it’s sex (pssst… it’s hidden):

Storm fell asleep on her stomach with Aiden petting Elektra, and woke up as Triton began to…mate…with her again, but this time Aiden also wanted to kiss Elektra, so he raised her hips and entered her from behind, slipping his dragon so deep it kissed her pulsing womb.

The Bottom Line. I really enjoyed Storm and Aiden’s story, but was so completely turned off by their version of erotic conversation that I don’t think I’ll be picking up any of the other books in this series. This one gets a C+.

Book: How to Knit a Wild Bikini
Author: Christie Ridgeway
Grade: B+

In Brief.Nikki Carmichael is a sous chef with a bum knee, making it impossible to continue working in a restaurant. She advertises for a personal chef position and gets an interview with Jay Buchanan, playboy, millionaire, and publisher of NYFM (think Maxim magazine). Jay has supposedly sworn off women, so Nikki immediately pretends to be a lesbian to land the job. Jay hires her to ward off a neighbor that is interested in an entanglement. Sparks ignite between Nikki and Jay faster than a flambe, and a (mostly) lighthearted romp ensues.

What I Liked. Nikki and Jay really do have fantastic chemistry. Their repartee is close to laugh-out-loud, but at the same time they don’t have to work too hard to quickly bring the book hot enough to fry eggs on the pages. They both fight their attraction for various reasons, but Ms. Ridgeway does a nice job of keeping the pace of the book moving without getting bogged down by the “I can’t fall in love” syndrome.

What I Didn’t Like. There are a few dangling story lines and a secondary plot that felt extremely rushed between Jay’s neighbor Shanna and landscaper Jorge. In addition, there were some heavy elements introduced into what was essentially romantic comedy with a very sexy edge. The Malibu & Ewe shop, which is an elemet that will bring together three (I think) books seemed to get slightly shoved into the mix as well, but Ms. Ridgeway made it work better than the secondary plot between Shanna and Jorge.

The Bottom Line. This book was a lot of fun, and got a B+. It also made me wish I was in California right now. I’m looking forward to reading Unravel Me, the next book in the series.

Book: Under Darkness
Author: Savannah Russe
Grade: B-

In Brief. This is the fifth book in the Darkwing Chronicles, which follows Daphne, the vampire spy, and the Darkwings in their efforts to protect the US and the world from the continuing terrorist threat. In this installment, Daphne and the Darkwings are assigned to decipher and defuse a terrorist plot centering around the disappearance of The Intrepid, an aircraft carrier that generally sits in the East River of NY and is a museum. The Darkwings are sidetracked by the appearance of a hoarde of vampire hunters, and Daphne in particular loses focus as her on-again-off-again lover Darius reappears at an inopportune time and is hiding something from her.

What I Liked. I really liked this book (there’s a but further along). One does not need to read the previous four in the series to pick up the action here, but I do feel like I missed some major drama and might have to see if they’re available. The interaction between all of the Darkwings was fantastic, Daphne’s habits were very New York-centric, and the author really knows the City That Never Sleeps. Daphne recognizes her faults as both a person and a vampire, and realizes that there are some things that aren’t going to change, some things she’ll try to change, and some things that she may have to change, which really attracted me to her. She knows that Darius is really bad, yet she can’t manage to stay away, and is disgusted by her weakness, but not hypocritical enough to call out another vampire having the same problem. I actually thought this was much more vampire-mystery-not-so-chick-lit until Darius showed up and the wheels…well they didn’t exactly fall off the bus, but I know I heard a tire blow.

What I Didn’t Like. Simply said? This:

My velvet well pulsed around his fingers.

I’ve hidden it for those that don’t want to know. I was so into it, and then the above happened. For a book that is so dark and serious, I didn’t think belly laughs were appropriate. The book is written in the first person, which makes sex tough. In addition, there are moments when the characters speech doesn’t reflect the 21st century. Other than Daphne’s mother, most of the vampires (and all of the Darkwings) are young(er).

The Bottom Line. I am actually going to read the next in the series. I liked all of the twists and turns the Darkwings encountered, and loved how the story took a major bender at the end. I know that I am having a hard time with the purple prose, but am extremely curious to see where Ms. Russe will take it next. B-.

Book: Dark Obsession
Author: Allison Chase
Grade: C

In Brief. Nora Thorngoode, the daughter of a noveau riche merchant (and apparently ex-criminal) has had her reputation destroyed, leaving her unfit for a respectable marriage. Luckily, our hero, Grayson Lowell is in a difficult spot (he’s been accused of murder and is in danger of losing his nephew’s estate) and has been neatly manuvered (actually shoved) into marriage with Nora. The pair quickly realize that they will suit well, but ghosts from Grayson’s past keep them apart.

What I Liked. Not a whole lot. It wasn’t terrible, but strongly reminded me of several books I’ve read and didn’t love or like, and probably forgot within minutes of putting them down. And I readily admit that gothic isn’t my genre of choice.

What I Didn’t Like. I think my general malaise is due to the consistent lack of communication between the hero and heroine and the misunderstandings, both relatively small and large. I also was not truly captured by either of the main characters, nor by the underlying mysterious plot.

The Bottom Line. I really felt this book was benign…and it gets a C.

And…that’s a wrap babes. I hope you enjoyed my Box ‘O Books reviews. Next up: Heart Fate by Robin D. Owens.


Last 5 posts by bam


Bam has been reading romance novels since she was 9 years old. She especially enjoyed the Sweet Valley High series, particularly the romance-centric ones. Her first real romance novel was "Perfect Partners" by Jayne Ann Krentz. She's obsessed with old-school Harlequin Romance novels and reads four or five a week.

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9 Responses

  1. bam says:

    Shuzluva is my hero.

  2. Zoe Winters says:

    holy crap…that sex. holy crap. What are people thinking?

    Has anyone ever in the entirety of their life masturbated to the thought of someone’s “dragon” kissing their pulsing womb?

    Less is more. I’d rather have witty banter and the sex totally off screen then deal with dragons in my womb.

  3. bam says:

    I had dragons in my womb once. My doctor gave me some penicillin for it. Hey-yo!

  4. Squee!!! I loved How to Knit A Wild Bikini. It was my favie this summer.

    I don’t even get that excerpt. Elektra and Triton? Are those euphemisms for sexparts, or was that a foursome? Fivesome, with that dragon.

  5. Melissa says:

    I just wanted to say that I’m currently reading “Gone With the Witch” and I agree with you completely. The dialogue is through the roof bad. Which actually surprises me because I’ve really enjoyed the other books by this author. Mostly. Sometimes the witchy stuff gets annoying (but the sex scenes aren’t usually so over the top). I’m not sure what she was smoking when she wrote “Gone With the Witch” but her usual writing is much less… er… dragony.

  6. shuzluva says:

    Jill – I’m so glad you liked HTKAWB too. Re: Elektra & Triton, they’re euphemisms…but sometimes the way the dialogue and writing read, they seemed like a foursome.

    Melissa – I’ve never read anything else by the author, but am glad to hear that generally speaking the sex writing isn’t so over the top. This went way beyond the outrageous meter for me.

    Bam, I’m not surprised to hear you had dragons in your womb. HI-YO!

  7. deemer says:

    Hey Shuzluva –

    I’m still waiting for the Richelle Mead book reviews on her last two succubus books!

    Please put your life on hold while you work on that. Kisses!

  8. shuzluva says:

    deemer: I haven’t ever read a Richelle Mead book…sorry. Maybe it will be in the next Box ‘O Books! That would be nice.

    Wow, that sentence made it sound like all I read are books Bam asks me to. Just so ya’ll are clear: I do purchase my own books and read both romance and non-romance, and yes, even non-fiction. Borders thinks I have a bottomless wallet, which I assure them is not the case.

  9. deemer says:

    . . . Bam? I think it’s only fair, as you’re the reason I got started on the Succubus books to begin with. . .