After Dark

After Dark (Harmony #1)After Dark by Jayne Castle
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I was intrigued by the idea of a whole series of interconnected stories – past, present, and future – by this author (under various pseudonyms). There are so many different series, with some books numbered in more than one series, so it was a little arbitrary where to actually start, but I really was intrigued by the idea of pet “dust bunnies”, so this was it. Set in the future, about 200 years after humanity had crossed through some kind of planetary curtain and then were unable to return, cut off from Earth. The planet is called Harmony. The human colonists have apparently been developing the ability to resonate with amber and use it to focus psychic energy. The planet was once inhabited by a race of aliens who left behind the ruins of their culture protected by illusion traps and eerie energy manifestations (ghosts.) I enjoyed the world building, although some of the terminology was confusing at first. Lydia is a tangler – someone who can psychically untangle and defuse the illusion traps. Emmett is a ghost hunter – someone who can either summon or dissipate ghosts. And dust bunnies! sort of a cross between a predatory rabbit and a spider (not literally, but they do have six legs and 4 eyes…) All of that was interesting. A solid 4 stars for the sci fi/paranormal aspect. The relationship between Lydia and Emmett, as they learn to trust each other while solving a mystery, was okay plot-wise. It kept me guessing “who done it.” So something between 3 and 4 stars for plot. And if you like romance, there is that, too, but I have to say the two explicit sex scenes really didn’t add to the plot for me and could just as well have been left out. I’d call this more of a mystery than a suspense/thriller. And there was sexual tension, but nothing I would call a romance, so 2 stars for the romance aspect. I may read more in the series, but it isn’t compelling. Hopefully the sequel will develop the romance and back story a bit more. I will be reading the prequel short story “Bridal Jitters” since it is included in this edition of After Dark (titled Harmony.)

Book Description: Life is tough these days for Lydia Smith, licensed para-archaeologist. Seriously stressed-out from a nasty incident in an alien tomb, she is obliged to work part-time in Shrimpton’s House of Ancient Horrors, a very low-budget museum. She has a plan to get her career back on track, but it isn’t going well. Stuff keeps happening. Take the dead body that she discovered in one of the sarcophagus exhibits. Who needed that? Finding out that her new client, Emmett London, is one of the most dangerous men in the city isn’t helping matters either. And that’s just today’s list of setbacks. Here in the shadows of the Dead City of Old Cadence, things don’t really heat up until After Dark.

Series info (Harmony: Ghost Hunters):
.5 Bridal Jitters
01 After Dark
02 After Glow
03 Ghost Hunter
04 Silver Master
05 Dark Light
06 Obsidian Prey

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Son of the Morning

Son of the MorningSon of the Morning by Linda Howard

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you don’t think too much about the glaring plot holes and gratuitous sex scenes I suppose this is sort of a fun, fluffy book. I have no clue what the title signifies. I don’t recall the phrase “Son of the Morning” coming up at all. I enjoyed the fact that a lot of the book takes place in the Twin Cities. And I’ll read anything about medieval Scotland, and a modern-day scholar translating historical documents. But Grace’s reasoning and inner-thought process left me shaking my head – starting with why the heck didn’t she go to the police immediately after witnessing the murder of her husband and brother. Then, of course, there is the fact that this CLUELESS woman is extraordinarily lucky, not just once, but quite a few times. This book contains VERY explicit sex – if you like that kind of thing you’ll be in heaven. It’s not my thing. Nothing particularly romantic about any of it. I suppose the fact that they share sex dreams before they even meet is supposed to indicate that they are meant for each other. Whatever. But first she has to get over feeling like she is betraying the memory of her dead husband. But like I said, if you can get past the plot machinations, I enjoyed the adventure of her outwitting the sadistic, evil guy, and her relationship with the woman she rents a room from in Chicago. But really, the sex added nothing at all to the story.

Description: A scholar specializing in ancient manuscripts, Grace St. John never imagined that a cache of old documents she discovered was the missing link to a lost Celtic treasure. But as soon as she deciphers the legend of the Knights Templar – long fabled to hold the key to unlimited power – Grace becomes the target of a ruthless killer bent on abusing the coveted force. Determined to stop him, Grace needs the help of a warrior bound by duty to uphold the Templar’s secret for all eternity. But to find him – and to save herself – she must go back in time to fourteenth-century Scotland and to Black Niall, a fierce man of dark fury and raw, unbridled desire. Audiobook read by Natalie Ross.

The Nautical Chart

The Nautical ChartThe Nautical Chart by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first book I’ve finished in my Moby Dick reading challenge – to read at least 12 books in the next few months with some connection to Moby Dick, which I’m currently reading. The opening lines immediately recall those of Moby Dick: “We could call him Ishmael, but in truth his name is Coy. I met him in the next-to-last act of this story, when he was on the verge of becoming just one more shipwrecked sailor floating on his coffin as the whaler Rachel looked for lost sons.” There is not only the reference to the famous opening line “Call me Ishmael” but we also have a reference to Queequeg’s coffin which figures prominently in Melville’s tale. Like Moby Dick, The Nautical Chart is a tale of obsession. Tanger obsessed with finding the treasure of the sunken Dei Gloria, and Coy obsessed with Tanger, despite the underlying currents that she will probably lead him to his death. There are literary and pop-culture references galore: The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Odyssey, TinTin’s Adventures, The Da Vinci Code, Master and Commander, Lord Jim, The Old Man and the Sea, and Treasure Island, to name a few … and it was mildly amusing to pick those out. This was an enjoyable tale, not too bogged down with nautical terminology, but somewhat predictable. The adventure is more on an intellectual level than physical, with good characterizations that border on caricatures. But what’s not to like about an evil, Argentinian dwarf henchman with froglike eyes? I was also amused by Coy’s name. I don’t know if this was intentional, being translated from Spanish, but he is anything but coy, being pretty simple, direct and even aggressive in his approach to life and love. The ending isn’t much of a surprise, it’s the journey getting there that is the story.

Description: International best-selling author Arturo Perez-Reverte, a celebrated master of smart, gripping thrillers, draws favorable comparisons to such literary legends as Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, and Patrick O’Brian. Translated into 19 languages, his books have sold more than three million copies worldwide. At a maritime auction in Barcelona, Merchant Marine officer Manuel Coy sees an intense bidding war erupt over a seemingly innocuous 18th-century atlas. The auction winner is the beautiful Tanger Soto, who is obsessed with a Jesuit ship sunk by pirates in the 17th century. Joining forces, Tanger and Manuel hit the seas in search of Dei Gloria and its precious, yet unidentified, cargo. Their quest sends them not only into dangerous waters, but also into the perilous recesses of the human heart. Full of adventure and suspense, The Nautical Chart is a masterful romance of the sea. George Guidall’s thrilling reading makes for an unforgettable listening experience.

Black Hills

Black HillsBlack Hills by Nora Roberts

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A pretty good suspense story, but just an okay love story. Lil comes across as sort of an immature brat. She has built up a huge grudge because she thinks Coop abandoned her years ago. Well, he’s back now, but she keeps pushing him away, and comes across as pretty unreasonable. So there’s tension between them, but that doesn’t add up to romantic chemistry. I liked Lil’s parents and Coop’s grandparents and actually thought those relationships were the best part of the book. I also liked the little love story between Tansy and Farley, although it wasn’t quite believable. All in all, I enjoyed it as a diversion, but I’m not completely sold on Nora Roberts or the romantic suspense genre. Listened to on CD, and the narrator did a very good job with the various voices.

Description:
A summer at his grandparents’ South Dakota ranch is not eleven-year-old Cooper Sullivan’s idea of a good time. But things are a bit more bearable now that he’s discovered the neighbor girl, Lil Chance, and her homemade batting cage. Each year, with Coop’s annual summer visit, their friendship deepens from innocent games to stolen kisses, but there is one shared experience that will forever haunt them: the terrifying discovery of a hiker’s body.

Twelve years after they last walked together hand in hand, fate has brought them back to the Black Hills when the people and things they hold most dear need them most. An investigator in New York, Coop recently left his fastpaced life to care for his aging grandparents and the ranch he has come to call home. Though the memory of his touch still haunts her, Lil has let nothing stop her dream of opening the Chance Wildlife Refuge, but something . . . or someone . . . has been keeping a close watch. When small pranks and acts of destruction escalate into the heartless killing of Lil’s beloved cougar, recollections of an unsolved murder in these very hills have Coop springing to action to keep Lil safe. Lil and Coop both know the natural dangers that lurk in the wild landscape of the Black Hills. But now they must work together to unearth a killer of twisted and unnatural instincts who has singled them out as prey.