Tag Archives: paranormal romance

Omens, Visions, Deceptions

About a year and a half ago I picked up Omens, A Cainsville Novel by Kelley Armstrong and totally fell in love with the bookcovercharacters and the paranormal mystery plot. Olivia Taylor-Jones is a department store heiress with everything going for her; she is beautiful, intelligent and caring. Her fiancé is a brilliant attorney who is getting ready to run for office. In a short while Olivia will turn 25 and come into the inheritance left to her by her father.

Then, without warning, everything falls apart. Liv is suddenly thrust into the media spotlight when a story is leaked claiming that she is adopted and names her birth parents as infamous occult serial killers. To Liv’s horror her mother confirms the rumors before jetting off to Europe to evade the press and her fiancé abandons her as a form of damage control for his political campaign.

Looking for shelter Liv finds herself pulled to a small, remote suburb called Cainsville, a safe haven where she can hide while she sorts out the mess that has become her life. Soon enough she realizes that Cainsville is not all that is seems and Liv finds her self pulled deeper into the mystery of her birth-parents’ crimes while realizing that the omens she has seen all her life are real and not just part of a vivid imagination. An uncertain friendship with her birth-mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, gives Liv the impetus to embark on solving the mystery of her identity.

What I really enjoyed about Omens was the mystery of Cainsville: Who is Olivia and how does she fit into the puzzle? Why does she see things that other people don’t? Who is Gabriel Walsh? Why is he helping Liv even though her birth-mother is no longer his client? Most importantly, are her parents all that they seem or is there something extraordinary laying beneath the surface?

1When I finished Omens I immediately went back to page one and re-read it, and that is not something I do often. The interactions between the characters left you wanting more and the questions behind Cainsville and the inhabitants were entertaining and other-worldly. So when Visions, the second Cainsville novel, came out last year, I was thrilled. But as I read I became wary; Armstrong was taking the series in an all too familiar direction. She introduced Ricky, a “Sons of Anarchy” cast off and un-surprisingly Liv found herself in the middle of a love-triangle. We find some of the answers to our paranormal questions but the mystery of Cainsville promptly took a back seat to the blossoming romance between the characters and the (terrible, absolutely terrible) age old question: Who gets the girl?

Optimistically, because Visions ended with many unfinished plotlines, I (naively) assumed that book three would bring everything to a close while getting back to the intriguing mystery that made Cainsville enjoyable in the first place… I don’t think you need to read omens or have second vision to see where this is going…

Deceptions came out this August and the story of Cainsville is now entirely focused on the love triangle with Liv at the gggcenter. The titles really could be how I feel about the books: There were omens of what was to come, visions of the love triangle and finally the deception has been uncovered. Now before you get out the pitch forks (I know Armstrong is a popular author in the genre) the books are still well done, and the plot makes sense, but Armstrong’s focus is no longer about unmasking the truth of Cainsville. Even the questions surrounding Liv’s birth parents (while driving the plot) are secondary to the relationships between Liv, Gabriel and Ricky.

I will read the rest of the Cainsville novels, and maybe if I had stumbled on them after they were all released I would be more forgiving, but waiting a year in-between books that don’t answer any questions but are instead an epic “will she / won’t she” is frustrating to say the least. The last thing I wanted to do is get interested in a series that has the potential to turn into a paranormal version of Stephanie Plum, or even a more serious Sookie Stackhouse-esque love-triangle.  But no matter how much I may want to fight it, Armstrong’s writing has kept me interested and I do care about what happens to Liv and the inhabitants of Cainsville.

What do you think? Have you read the Cainsville novels? Do you agree with my frustrations over where the plot has gone or do you think the love-triangle has made the book?

-Natalie

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Punny Side Up: Clever Titles, Fun Summer Reads

The only thing better than a good pun is a bad pun, the kind that leaves you doubled over, groaning. When you spot a pun in a book title, it usually means you’re in for a good time, reading-wise. And since it’s summer, why not put aside the ponderous reads for a while and take a chance on something silly? Here are a few titles to try on for size.

apocalypsecowApocalypse Cow, Michael Logan. Everybody takes it on the chin in this snicker-worthy, satirical horror tale about a government experiment gone horribly wrong. The cows of Scotland have turned zombie, and the virus responsible leaps quickly to other animal species. Look out humanity: now you’re the snack! As the country descends into chaos, three extremely unlikely heroes–a teenage math geek, a slaughterhouse worker, and an inept journalist–do their best to save the day. Which pretty much means humanity is doomed, but you’ll have a lot of fun watching the train wreck. Terry Pratchett enjoyed this book enough to give it a prize in 2011, so now that it’s available in the U.S., you should check it out, too; I expect you will find it very moo-ving.

Sleeping With the Entity, Cat Devon. Daniella just wants to open a cupcake shop; is that so wrong? Nick, the head of the local entitybusiness association, doesn’t want Daniella or her cupcakes anywhere near his neighborhood, which actually serves as headquarters for Nick’s vampire clan. Somehow immune to Nick’s mind control techniques, Daniella barrels on ahead with her business plan anyway, which leads to peril for her, exasperation for Nick, and plenty of sexual tension smoldering between them both. Devon’s paranormal romance is as fluffy and luscious as buttercream frosting, and once you’ve savored it, continuing on to The Entity Within will be a piece of cake.

hexHex and the Single Girl, Valerie Frankel. Unlike Devon’s novel, which is slightly silly and mostly steamy, Frankel’s tale of a matchmaking witch is a full-out wacky romp. Emma has used her psychic gifts to hook up countless happy couples, but despairs of ever finding a love of her own. Enter William, a wealthy software developer, who finds Emma utterly fascinating. Too bad Emma’s trying to fix William up with one of her clients…especially since she finds him pretty interesting, too. Replete with bad puns and composed of a cast of colorful New Yorkers (magical and otherwise), this is a screwball romantic comedy that will scramble your brain in egg-actly the way a summer read should.

Too Many Crooks Spoil the Broth, Tamar Myers. Tart-tongued Magdalena Yoder and her sister Susannah converted their family farm into a crooksbed and breakfast after their parents died. Now the Mennonite siblings, with the help of some of their Amish friends and neighbors, run the PennDutch Inn, a popular stop for folks touring Pennsylvania Dutch territory. The only thing is, there’s a corpse on the bed, and it’s ruining Magdalena’s quilt, and this simply will not do. Add in a shady politician on vacation, a pack of vegetarians who are driving Magdalena’s cook crazy, and enough food descriptions to give George R.R. Martin a run for his money, and you have a nice cozy-folksy mystery–part of a series!–that also contains recipes (the broiled bananas dessert looks particularly ap-peel-ing).

If you haven’t thrown up your hands in despair and moved on to looking at cute cat photos, you are clearly the target audience for more puntastic goodness. Terry Pratchett, Piers Anthony, Diane Mott Davidson, and Donna Andrews are just a few authors who dabble in groan-worthy titles; you’ll find these and other suggestions via this Goodreads list. My personal favorite title at the moment is Giles Smith’s  Midnight in the Garden of Evel Knievel, which I plan to acquire and read despite having less than zero interest in sports (anybody that punny deserves my consideration).

Your turn: does a punny book title send you to the checkout counter, or running for the hills? Have any fun examples you’d care to share?

Leigh Anne

also currently giggling over Polar Bolero

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Spotlight on Shana Abé

Thanks to Jess and Sheila‘s suggestions, I’ve been having a great time reading romance novels this month. I’ve even done a little branching out on my own, hoping to find an author whose work consistently makes me happy, and I think I’ve found one in Shana Abé. Two of her books made it into my weekend reading rotation, and I’m happy to report that they were both excellent, in different ways, and for different reasons.

Intimate Enemies revolves around Lauren MacRae and Arion DuMorgan, who find themselves in charge of their respective rival clans. A brief meeting as children, one in which Arion saved Lauren’s life, has stuck in both their memories.  However, it’s unclear as to whether or not that one kindness can erase years of bad blood and disputed property; after all, it’s a little nerve-wracking to fall in love with someone who’s forever harping on how their island is really your island. But fall in love they do, and when a common enemy invader threatens to wreck everything both clans hold dear, you just know Lauren and Arion are going to get it together and save the day. This book is packed to the gills with swords, honor, duty, and the angst that comes from fighting your attraction to somebody who drives you crazy, but looks really hot in battle dress. Sheer escapist fun, great for readers looking for a traditional historical romance.

What really sold me on Abé, however, was turning to The Smoke Thief and discovering that her chops in the fantasy department were particularly fine. I’m a little fussy about my fantasy fiction, so I was pleased to discover that The Smoke Thief is the first in a series of novels that does something entirely new with dragons. Abé’s intricate mythology begins with the story of Rue, a jewel thief with a secret, and Kit, the tribal lord who cannot let Rue roam free once he learns who she really is. Kit and Rue are drákon, shapeshifters whose lineage stretches back through history and faroff places, and their love story is only the beginning.

Although both books were great, I preferred The Smoke Thief; it’s a regency romance wrapped up in a high fantasy saga, something I didn’t expect to find, and can’t wait to pursue further; other books in the series remain set in the 18th century, but carry readers around the world, from Transylvania to Spain, pursuing the epic loves and power struggles of the drákon, in sensuous prose. Highly recommended for fantasy-lovers looking for something truly innovative, and romance fans willing to try something new.

I love Abé’s versatility, and, if you like romances, I have a feeling you will too (if you haven’t, already–I know how voraciously you romance fans read!). Try her tales on for size and, as ever, report back.

–Leigh Anne

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