Friday, August 25, 2006

#47 The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Though not my usual genre, this was a good read nonetheless. The story is told from the first-person viewpoint of Susie Salmon, a murdered 14 year old girl who died at the hands of a neighbor whom nobody suspects. Nobody that is, except her father who's got a nagging feeling that George Harvey is behind Susy's disappearance.

So Susie's looking down at her family and friends from heaven, watching her death split her family apart, remembering events that happened in the past, and trying as hard as she can (even though she can't affect things on earth) to point her family and the police in the right direction of her murderer. An old classmate Ruth, and former boyfriend Ray, become close, and Ruth is somewhat of a medium, able to communicate with spirits, a skill she doesn't realize she possesses until Susie brushes past her and actually touches her as her soul transcends to heaven. Ruth becomes important later in the story too with some of the things she can do.

Though I don't believe in the Christian concept of heaven, I do believe in a similar place where our souls go to await reincarnation. So I could still relate to this story just as easily as anyone else, especially since they didn't use Christian divinity concepts. As a matter of fact, Susy's heaven seemed much more like the Pagan Summerlands than what I've seen heaven portrayed as.

See the BookCrossing journal page for this book for more reviews and information.

#46 His Immortal Embrace by Hannah Howell, Lynsay Sands, Sara Blayne, Kate Huntington

My Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

“The Yearning” by Hannah Howell
I found this story super predictable and in my mind, kept swearing at the characters that they were so slow witted. I mean, I figured out how to end the curse the first time Rona had recited it so many years ago. And yet it took 364 years for these people to figure it out. Granted the actual words were hidden for many generations, but still… the rest of the story, though predictable, was fairly interesting, which is what kept me reading. Overall, I’d give it a 6 out of 10 because of the predictability and the actual story line was secondary to the romance. And I don’t care for stories too strong in romance.

“Bitten” by Lynsay Sands
Keeran and Emily… eh, somewhat better than the first story, but it certainly didn’t endear the author to me in any way. Though I’ve already got some of Sands’ books on my bookshelf to read soon so I hope they’re not as sappy as this story.

“Stranger in the Night” by Sara Blayne
My Goddess, this author knows how to ramble! She could talk for an entire page on something as simple as an amulet, while throwing a bunch of historical information, people’s names and relationships at the reader all in a single paragraph. The antiquated writing style, and the dialogue she used, not just with the speech of her characters, which I could understand based on the story’s time period, but she also used all manner of antiquated words which I’d never heard of. Beyond that, her constant use of terms like “Faith” and “The Devil” smacked of Christian evangelism. It got tiring real fast and after only two chapters I felt I couldn’t take any more and moved onto the next story.

“The Awakening” by Kate Huntington
I thought this was the best of the four stories. It wasn’t all that predictable like the others and it kept me reading, not wanting to put it down. Yes, like the others this took place back in olden times, 1814 to be precise, but the author didn’t try to write as if she were from that generation as well. A very good read indeed. :)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

#45 Beyond the Pale: The Darkwing Chronicles Book One by Savannah Russe

My Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Wow! This was an awesome book, and a debut from this author no less. No wonder NeedSun had to immediately buy/locate book two. If she hadn’t, I might’ve had to. ;)

This book is classified as a romance, and though I can see the romance aspect, it definitely wasn’t the primary focus of the book which made me enjoy it even more. I like books where romance, if included at all, is more of an afterthought than part of the main story line.

Daphne is a strong, tough character, the kind I like, and a vampire to boot. Plus she’s a Monkey in Chinese Astrology like me. :) In Beyond the Pale, Daphne, a nearly 500 year old vampire, is approached to join a team of vamps working for the US government to help catch terrorists. Vampires aren’t widely recognized and accepted here like they are in the Anita Blake books, instead only certain government officials, and the Vamps themselves, really know of their existence. And with their superhuman strength, Team Darkwing makes a great set of heroes!

Though I just finished saying I don’t care for the romance aspect, I’m curious to find out what happens between Daphne and Darius in the next book. Joanne, hurry up and read book 2 so I can be next! ;) LOL

See the BookCrossing journal page for this book for more reviews and information. See more progress on read 100 books in 2006.

#44 Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is a retelling of the Cinderella story which takes place in 17th Century Holland. While it retains a lot of similarity to the original story, at least more so than some of the other Cinderella stories we’ve read so far, most of the “magical” and otherworldly events have been given more real-world characteristics.

The cast opens with two sisters, Ruth and Iris, and their shrewd mother Margarethe, who are fleeing England by boat to Holland. Margarethe, originally from Holland herself, had moved to England when she married, and upon the death of her husband, assumed she’d be able to find family in Holland to live with until she could get her family back on their feet. Ruth, the eldest sister, is described as a simpleton: she’s rather large, learning-impaired, and somewhat mute. Iris, a few years younger, is very astute and smart, though rather plain looking. It is around these three characters that the story primarily revolves.

Since any remaining family Margarethe once had in Holland has all since passed on, the three are left to travel from house to house, seeking shelter in exchange for work. After a short stay with the Master, where Iris develops an eye for art, they’re taken into the van den Meer household, where we meet Clara, our Cinderella, a cloistered and coddled youngster whose forbidden to leave the house, and has since become too afraid to do so anyway. This initial portrayal of Clara, at least with regards to physical attributes, is not unlike the traditional Cinderella: she is a shy, beautiful girl with delicate features and golden blonde hair.

Shortly after Margarethe and her daughters have moved in to the van den Meer household, helping in the kitchen and with other household duties, Henrika van den Meer, Clara’s mother, falls ill and eventually dies. Margarethe, ever the shrewd plotter, instantly sees a way for her to elevate her position in the household and announces her upcoming betrothal to Cornelius van den Meer, Clara’s father. She then decides that housework is beneath her and assigns the majority of the household duties to her daughters. Clara, ever the spoiled little rich girl, initially refuses to help out, but once she realizes she can escape Margarethe for most of the day by working in the kitchen, she eventually resigns herself, discarding her beautiful dresses in favor of the rags of a house maid. She sleeps on the hearth and calls herself Cinderella, or Cindergirl or Ashgirl.

Of course, we eventually have the infamous ball. And like in the traditional story, Margarethe wishes to promote one of her daughters, Iris in this case, to the attentions of the Prince. Besides, the family has fallen on hard times due to market crashes, and Margarethe sees dollar signs with the possibility of Iris’s marriage to the Prince. But Iris is convinced of her dour looks, and would instead prefer to see Clara attend the ball, if only to cheer her up a bit. She also figures that Clara has a much better chance of snaring the Prince than she herself. All this can only help the family, as both Iris and Margarethe realize, and we see how Iris is very much like her mother, but in a much less ruthless way.

Clara finally agrees to attend the ball if she can go with her face veiled, as if in mourning or penance. And as expected, she catches the attention of the Prince on her arrival. The two eventually retire to a back room with a bottle of champagne while the party goes on out in the main room. When a fire in one of the rooms of the Pruyns estate breaks out, all the guests flee, including Clara, Iris, Ruth, and Margarethe. The Prince, knowing Clara not by her true name but by Clarissa of Aragon, is unable to locate her again and sets out on his quest the following day to find who fits the slipper Clara has left behind in her haste. The slipper is made of soft white kid leather (not glass), originally Margarethe’s who hasn’t been able to wear them since her eyes have started to go. But once at the van den Meer household, the Prince also accuses someone in the house of starting the fire at the Pruyns mansion the night before. It is here he finds his Clarissa, who begs the Prince to shield her family from harm, no matter their faults or wrongful actions.

And they live happily ever after… ;)

Of course, there’s a whole back-story to this tale too, with the Master and his paintings, and an attraction between Iris and the Master’s apprentice, that adds a lot to the traditional story. And I really thought it went a long way towards enhancing the story too, making everyone and everything seem more “real” and less like a fairy tale. On reading this story, one could easily imagine that everything could very well have happened as was told here. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t yet read it, whether they’re Cinderella fans or not.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

#43 Hot Blooded by Christine Feehan, Maggie Shayne, Emma Holly, Angela Knight

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

For an anthology, all of these stories were surpisingly good and well-written.

“Dark Hunger” by Christine Feehan
This story takes place within Christine Feehan’s Dark series and tells the story of Riordan de la Cruz and his lifemate Juliette. But Juliette has a secret identity of her own, as well as her own agenda protecting her sister and cousin. Definitely a romance but enough other action going on to hold my interest throughout.

“Awaiting Moonrise” by Maggie Shayne
Jenny Rose is a university professor who travels to the bayou of Louisiana to research tales of a possible unknown, and as yet undiscovered, species of mammal. But she meets up with the town’s sexy (and single) doctor, whose interest in her is more than just academic. I enjoyed this one even more than the Feehan story.

“The Night Owl” by Emma Holly
This story takes place within Emma Holly’s Midnight series (Catching Midnight, Hunting Midnight, Courting Midnight) and if you like to read series in order, is best read after Hunting Midnight since it tells the continuing tale of Bastien and Emile who first appear in that book. It was a good story, though I probably didn’t like it quite as much as Shayne’s contribution.

“Seduction’s Gift” by Angela Knight
Grace Morgan is a Latent, she has the Gift of the Mageverse but would rather live in the real world serving and protecting fellow humankind in the role of a deputy police officer. But her grandmother, Morgana le Fay, sends Lord Lancelot du Luc to seduce her and bring her over, activating her Gift with the act of lovemaking, at least 3 times.

This is the second short story I’ve read by Angela Knight that takes place in the Mageverse series, the first one being “Galahad” which appeared in the Bite anthology, though that one actually takes place later in the series. I didn’t really care for “Galahad” all that much as I couldn’t get into the whole Knights of the Round Table as Vampires thing… but for some reason, I liked this one a little better. Perhaps because it’s actually the first story in the tale. But because so many others thought it was great, I didn’t want to judge the series by a short story and I’ve since acquired the other books of the Mageverse series. If anything, this story has forced me to move Master of the Night closer to the top of my TBR pile.

See the BookCrossing journal page for this book for more reviews and information. See more progress on: read 100 books in 2006.

#42 The Penis Book by Joseph Cohen

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Apolonia handed this off to me during one of the meetings at the 2006 Toronto BC Convention. It was passed around the table and a good time was had by all! :) At one point, I held up one of the centerfold pics with tongue pretending to lick one of the sexy guys and SandDanz snapped a pic with her non-digital camera, so I've yet to see if that came out or not since everyone at our and surrounding tables had me cracking up laughing by that point!

Though I looked through many of the pics in this book there, and read a bit of the text, I definitely want to share it with some of my other non-BC friends, and since this coming weekend is a Pagan holiday (Beltane, which actually falls on Monday the 1st), I'll have a fun group around to laugh over it some more with. :)

And then later... since I still had it into July...
I'm sorry I've had this so long... I've been reading the articles, I swear! ;)

Actually I have... plus I wanted to have it here during the few get togethers we've had at my house over the summer. I was planning to buy my own copy to keep in the RV and bring to Starwood with me. Since I haven't sent it out yet, and I'm heading off to Starwood next week, I'm going to bring this with me. (I promise if a bunch of wacky Pagans get too excited over it and make a mess, I'll keep this one and replace it with the new copy I was going to buy anyway. LOL)

See the BookCrossing journal page for this book for more reviews and information.