Saturday, May 06, 2006

Recent Reads

Out of Control by Shannon McKenna
I’ve read and loved Shannon McKenna’s books. No, wait, I didn’t finish Return to Me and I haven’t read any of her anthologies. But I did read and very much enjoyed Standing in the Shadows and Behind Closed Doors. When I read her first book, I thought “wowzers! Good, hot – I like! I thought the same thing with the second book. But then I ran into Return to Me and hit a wall. Since I bought this one in trade size, I felt pretty burned and decided to wait for MM for the rest of her books.
The only quibble I had with her first two books – and it was a minor one – was I found her heroines a bit passive, a bit too wide-eyed and innocent. Now I don’t generally have a problem with this kind of heroine, but her heros are more than alpha – they are like uber-alpha heroes. So I thought her heroines might get a bit steam rolled after a while by the hero alphaness. But like I said – this was only a minor quibble and didn’t keep me from enjoying the books at all over-the-top though they are.
Now we come to Out of Control. Different. Kind. Of. Heroine. And sadly I don’t mean this in a good way.
Margot is a girl in trouble. Framed for a murder she didn’t commit, she is in hiding from the cops who want to arrest her and from the real murderers who want to kill her. She has just recently been the victim of a sicko stalker. Very reluctantly she approaches our hero Davy McLeod a martial arts expert and PI for his advice. What results is a run from a maniac who kills everyone in his path.
First off – the good. Davy was great. He is the older brother whom we have already met in her previous books. On the outside Davy is cool as cucumber, but once he meets Margot, he becomes a cauldron of burning emotions that he doesn’t know how to handle. All his life he has been in charge of everything and nothing fazes him. Because he is wildly attracted to Margot, he comes up with this really dufous plan of protecting her with his life and the payoff will be great sex. Like I said – dufous plan, but it made me laugh at how thick he was about women. Another good. The villain. He was creepy with a Capital C. You really don’t want to get into his head, but once you do, you feel a bit of sympathy for him – a wee, wee tiny bit.
Now for the bad. Margot. I don’t know if the author was over-compensating for the passive type heroine, but she was dreadful! She constantly pulled the tail of the tiger that was uber-Davy – deliberately upsetting him, seemingly just to get a rise out of him. She walked the TSTL line the whole book through and crossed over on more than one occasion. In fact, after one of her really stupid moves, she would have in the race for the Too Stupid To Live Heroine contest.
It’s really hard to grade this one. I’ll definitely keep reading her but hope she finds the middle ground for her heroines.

Evil creepy hero – 5 out of 5
Dufous Uber-hero – 4 out of 5
TSTL heroine – 2 out of 5
Which – if I remember correctly – would make it about 3.6 out of 5 – but since I’m a heroine focused reader – I would grade it a 3 out of 5

The Penalty Box by Dierdre Martin
I live in Canada where hockey is a national treasure. I have a husband and two sons so hockey is a national treasure in our home (although since they all cheer for the Leafs it’s rather a lacklustre treasure). Since I myself have been a fan of the sport since I was nee high to a grasshopper – the only one growing up in a house of girls except my poor dad who himself wasn’t a real fan, whenever I see a sports romance my ears perk up. Well – not my ears since I don’t read with them, but you know what I mean. I will always be sure to give them a try – especially hockey and baseball romance books. I read her first book, Body Check and really liked it. Then we came to Fair Play and it had one of those heroines I couldn’t stand. So much so in fact I skipped her next one, Total Rush. Then The Penalty Box came out and the reviews were decent so I decided to give it a try. I liked it. I didn’t love it mind you – not like See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson, but I liked it. It had a storyline I like. Katie Fisher was one of the uncool kids growing up. Not only was she poor, but she was overweight and very smart; a very bad combination. She has nothing but bad memories of her childhood. However she has successfully transformed herself into and attractive career woman who has a great job as a professor. She comes back to her home town to help take care of her nephew when his mother goes into rehab. Very reluctantly she attends her high school reunion where she runs into Paul Van Dorn whom she had a crush on growing up, even though he was a jerk and treated her bad back then. Paul is a former NHL hockey player forced to leave the game he loved due to too many concussions. He moved back to his home town and took over the local hangout renaming it the Penalty Box. Paul feels bad for the way he treated a young Katie and I believed him Sparks fly between them, but they both have issues to deal with from their past.
Like I said, I liked this book, I’m glad I read it and I’ll be more than willing to give Ms. Martin another try. I’ve read the same kind of book before – and always enjoyed them - ugly duckling becomes swan and wins the heart of her love.
Grade: 3 ½ out of 5

The Smoke Thief by Shanna Abe
There was a bit of controversy when this book was reviewed at AAR. Many readers thought it deserved a higher grade than it received. I found it not too long ago and it had a sqeal of a deal price which I couldn’t resist and being curious, I wanted to see what the fuss was about.
Well – I have to say I agree with the readers who were shocked at the low grade. I thought this book was excellent! It’s about a world of shape shifters called Drakon who can change from human form to smoke to dragon. What’s even more unusual is it’s a historical shape shifter dragon book.
Clarissa Rue Hawthorne escaped years ago from the ‘compound’ after growing up feeling like an outcast. She made her way to London where she became a famous jewell thief. Cristoff (Kitt) is the leader of the clan who sets out to find her and bring her back to the fold less she be discovered and the secret of the Drakon come out. Rue, who she likes to be called is a great heroine, the kind I really like. She is smart, compassionate and loyal. Kit, when he sees her again, decides she’s it – she’s his mate. But Kate isn’t a complaisant willing participant. Instead she wants him to see her as a partner and as strong in her way as he is in his. And most of all she wants him to love her and not just make her his mate because she is the alpha female. I went back when I finished this one and reread the review. Again – I just didn’t see the criticisms the reviewer made. This one is a keeper for me.
Grade: 4 ½ out of 5


Marg said...

I've only read one Shannon McKenna and agree with your analysis about her heroes being uber-alpha! Having said that I would read more. I was just thinking about buying Behind Closed Doors the other day.

~ames~ said...

I read the first two books out that Shannon McKenna series (if you could call it that). I really enjoyed them. But I trust you, so maybe I'll wait to see Return to Me at the library.

Hope you're feeling better!

CindyS said...

Dang it, Return to Me is the other book of hers I have in the TBR pile. Looks like I picked up the two worst ones.

I didn't like See Jane Score because I felt like the hero had some serious anger managment issues and was passive agressive.

I really want to read The Smoke Thief but I'm waiting for it in paperback. Hmmm, I should check to see if it's coming out soon.


Lori said...

I loved See Jane Score - great Gibson! I felt really ambivalent about The Penalty Box. I enjoyed it, but parts of it really bothered me. I loved Shannon McKennas first book, Standing in the Shadows. Wow - talk about an alpha! She does alphas like nobody's business! But, when you have such an amazing first book, it's really tough to live up to it. And I think tha she is having that trouble (as is Deirdre Martin).