Monday, July 11, 2011

Quick & Dirty Reviews: Salad Reads

Look, I'm all for artistic, literary books that promise an enriching experience but sometimes... I just want to be entertained.  Especially during those lazy, hazy days of summer when it's too hot to focus.  Or to put it another way: literature is like a fine gourmet meal, course after course, richly sauced.  In cool weather, it's satisfying and fulfilling but in the summer heat, it just makes me sleepy.  I'd much rather have a salad.  Light and tasty but just as gratifying.  Below are a couple of recommended salad reads.  
The first by Melissa de la Cruz, who is branching out from the young adult world, where she is known for her popular Blue Bloods series, (at least it says on the galley I received that is popular, I'm not actually familiar with the series myself...) and the second by Thea Harrison, who after a long sabatical away from writing romances, is now back with a brand new series.

*Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz:  Boy, it was nice to read a paranormal about witches; there's only so many vampires and a werewolves a girl can take.  In this book, the witches in question are the Beauchamps women - mother and two adult daughters - each with her own set of powers.  Mother Joanna has healing skills powerful enough to bring folks back from the dead; daughter Ingrid can read auras and has the power of foresight; and Freya can influence the heart with her potions and charms.  However, due to some unfortunate events in Salem centuries ago, they are prohibited from ever using their powers again and must live their lives -  sometimes together, sometimes apart - as ordinary folk.  Well, ordinary folk who happen to live for centuries, never aging, never truly dying.  Now the three women are back together, living in the town of North Hampton, Long Island and what was doable for so long has suddenly become much harder.  First one slips, then another, until the three women are back to using magic regularly.  But there are peculiar goings on in the town - mysterious attacks, barren women, puzzling illnesses and a strange silvery darkness in the water.  In order to save themselves and the town from the dark power causing havoc, the three must figure out what is going on and use their powers to put a stop to it.
I enjoyed this book; it's light, breezy style makes it a good summer read.  The three women are likable without being perfect, each has her flaws quirks.  The mythology is Norse which, while not obscure, makes a nice change of pace from the Celtic mythology that is more commonly used in paranormals.   There's also a nifty twist at the end that I didn't see coming, that sets up the next book.  De la Cruz evokes a strong sense of place, nicely capturing the feel of a Long Island shore town.  The book has a few flaws, though.  Hunky brothers, Bran and Killian, are little more than two dimensional character types, which made it difficult to invest in their love triangle with Freya.  I really had no idea who the good guy was until I was told at the end.    And as much as I enjoyed the story, I felt it lost some energy about half way through. I realized that I was very close to the end of the book and still had no idea why things were happening.  It all gets wrapped up in the last 40 pages but it felt kinda rushed    Still, this was a solid read and one that I liked.  

**Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison:     
Having been blackmailed by her ex-boyfriend into stealing from the horde of Dragos Cuelebre,  Pia Giovanni is forced to go on the run to escape the wrath one of the most powerful Wyrs on earth.  But Dragos wants more from the thief than vengeance, he wants to add Pia to his horde and he is a dragon not used to being denied. 
Look, this is not a great book but it is a FUN book.  It's problems are minor compared to the enjoyment level.  There are familiar tropes in this book and some scenes that don't ring quite true.  A heart to heart about feelings and relationships between Pia and gryphon, Graydon, had me wondering if they were going to start braiding each others hair.  And there were a few small moments that came across as cheesy, plus it is one of those - You Are My Mate.  Your scent drives me wild.  Mate! Mate! Mate! books but... guess what?... I didn't care.  I was having too good of time.  I really liked the protagonists.   Especially Pia, who is a half Wyr/half Human and is Not a kick ass, near-invincible, leather wearing dynamo with a tramp stamp.  But she's no weakling either. She depends on her smarts and her wit to get her out of sticky situations and when she has to, she can hold her own in a fight.  She also refuses to let Dragos push her around.  Dragos is a dragon, the only living one in existence.  He's domineering, arrogant, manipulative and at times terrifying. He's also sex on a stick. So... a typical romance hero.  What makes him different from every other uber-alpha, hot shit paranormal hero is his ability to laugh.  Pia softens him, not through any feminine guile or passive innocence .  Pia makes him laugh.  He is able to unbend enough to enjoy her.  These two work for me because I believe that they really like each other.  Add in some hot sex scenes and a murderous villain bent on destroying Dragos and you end up with a very entertaining, highly amusing read.  I'm looking forward to the next book in the series which will involve Tricks and thunderbird, Tiago.  But I hope we will see more of Pia and Dragos.  Especially Pia, as there is much of her past that I'd like to see explored.  
I'm glad to have discovered Thea Harrison. Her books are going on my auto-read list.  (It's tres exclusive, don'tcha know.  * snort*)  And I'm sending my copy to my sister, who is even pickier than I am.  I bet she likes this one.
Grade: B+  

* I received Witches of East End free from the publisher at BEA 2011.
** I received Dragon Bound via

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