Tuesday, December 16, 2008

#37 Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Taking a slight detour from her Nightcreature paranormal romance series, Lori Handeland tries her hand at urban fantasy in the first of a new series called The Phoenix Chronicles.

Elizabeth Phoenix is a psychic and former cop for the Milwaukee police department. Growing up in a foster home, her foster mom Ruthie was a no nonsense woman who instilled tough love in Liz and the other children she fostered, one of those other children being Jimmy Sanducci—Liz's first love and the man who broke her heart.

Now, Ruthie's been brutally murdered, and during her dying moments, she psychically calls Liz to her side. Her body mangled and lying in a pool of her own blood, Ruthie takes Liz's hand to depart some dying words: "The final battle begins now." A searing pain then erupts through Liz's head and she passes out. Upon awakening in the hospital, the police tell her that ex-lover boy Jimmy is wanted for questioning in the murder as his fingerprints were all over the house, including the bloody knife found at the scene.

With Jimmy back in the picture, and Ruthie's cryptic message not making much sense to her, Liz is looking for answers. Fortunately, she still seems to be able to converse with Ruthie from the grave, even if she can't seem to get a straight answer out of her. But apparently, these special powers she's possessed all her life are only the beginning of what's in store for her. For the battle between good and evil has been placed on her doorstep, and the fate of the world is truly in her hands! Talk about a bit of responsibility, huh?

I enjoyed this first book in the Phoenix Chronicles. It was fairly fast paced and engaging. Though if I must be honest, for a book that's billed as urban fantasy, I thought there was a bit too much romance and relationship stuff going on for me to really love it (and I found those parts kind of slow going). Perhaps I could detect the author's background as a romance novelist in the writing style, the terminology used in the sex scenes, etc. Lori Handeland herself has labeled this series as urban fantasy, while calling her Nightcreature series paranormal romances which is why I even mention it. But there were a few scenes where the style would go kind of romantic and I'd find my mind wandering and my eyes starting to glaze over. Yup, that's my built-in romance detector: space out! LOL Sex scenes? Not a problem so long as we're keeping it real and slightly raunchy! ;) But the flowery text and descriptions used in romances sets my mind a wanderin' every time! (For Ms. Handeland's interpretation on the difference between the two genres, see her blog post Paranormal Romance vs Urban Fantasy, written Nov. 5, 2008.)

But overall, I would have to say I did enjoy Any Given Doomsday. The story line drew me in and the ending left me looking forward to the next book, Doomsday Can Wait, which is due out April 28, 2009.

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Monday, December 01, 2008

CONTEST - Autographed Kelley Armstrong

Friend and fellow bookworm Amber is hosting yet another great contest and interview with one of my favorite authors, Kelley Armstrong!! w00t w00t!!!

Full contest details, including an interview with Kelley and how to enter the contest, can be found at this entry in Amber's blog. :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

#36 Cirque Du Freak #9: Killers of the Dawn by Darren Shan

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

The vampires continue to fight the ongoing war with the vampeneze, the War of the Scars as it is to be known. The vampaneze are an evil race of vampires who broke off from the Council hundreds of years ago and don't follow any of the vampire's rules of conduct; in particular, they have no respect for human lives.

As prophesied by Mr. Tiny, the three vampire hunters—Darren, Mr. Crepsley, and Vancha March—must defeat the Lord of the Vampeneze in one of four potential encounters. The fate of the entire vampire race depends on the outcome of this war; for if they do not manage to kill the Vampeneze Lord, then the vampires will perish, and the vampenze will rule.

The hunters, along with Little Person Harkat Mulds, have already let the Lord of the Vampenze slip through their hands once. So now they have only three more chances to defeat him. Unfortunately for Darren and the hunters, they don't even know the true identity of the Vampaneze Lord, and they have no idea what he looks like either, so their task is quite difficult! There's also several surprises and a few sad endings in store in this one....

Killers of the Dawn picks up right where the previous book, Allies of the Night, left off. With this series, there's sometimes be a little break in action between books; but at other times, you're left at a cliffhanger and the next book picks up right where the previous one left off, often at the very same scene. The latter has been the case with the last few books.

Like all the previous books, I really enjoyed this one too. It was quick and action-packed. Plus there's some really neat revelations beginning to come out! *shhh* LOL I really wanted to start on the tenth book, The Lake of Souls, right after I finished this, but for a change, there actually seemed to be a bit of a break at the end. So instead, I'm holding off while I catch up on some other reading, and then plan to finish the series with books ten through twelve all in one fell swoop, since I do have the remaining three waiting on Mt. TBR. :)

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

CONTEST - The Twilight Saga hardcover boxed set by Stephenie Meyer

Check this out!! Bitten by Books is hosting a contest to give away a complete hardcover boxed set of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga! This set includes all 4 books in the series—Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn—all in hardcover format.

For full details including how to enter, visit this entry at Bitten by Books. Contest closes on December 7th and is open to U.S. residents only. w00t w00t!! :P

Saturday, November 15, 2008

#35 Circus of the Darned by Katie Maxwell

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Circus of the Darned is the follow-up to 2005's Got Fangs?, the first book in the Goth series, and takes place in the same world as Katie MacAlister's Dark Ones series. The name Katie Maxwell is a pseudonym used by Katie MacAlister with her young adult titles.

Francesca "Fran" Ghetti has been traveling across Europe with her mom and the GothFaire for the last several months. Fran is finally beginning to realize that she'll never have a normal life she once craved. The traveling GothFaire and all the strange and mysterious people that work there, her Wiccan High Priestess mother, and Benedikt, a really cute Dark One (aka vampire) who claims she is his Beloved are just the start! She's also got to deal with her psychometry skills—the ability to read a person or object's past, as well as their thoughts and emotions, through touch—and try to integrate that into her life. But at least she's beginning to accept, perhaps even like, her new life.

However, just as things have started to look up, it all begins to fall apart. First, someone steals her horse Tesla, most likely the oddly curious man who had expressed an interest and offered her an amazingly large sum of money for such an old horse. Then, she accidentally manages to raise an entire battlefield of warring, Viking ghosts... who refuse to move on to the afterlife! Buggers! All this just in time to ruin her first "real" date with Benedikt on Saturday.

While this book had a good story to it, there were several things about Fran's character that bugged me. For example, I got tired very fast of all the teen-ish giggly, girly stuff going on. I had to laugh though because even Fran herself would admit she didn't like "going all girly". Too bad she can't listen to her own advice. LOL But it's not just this book really... I have the same problem with most of this author's characters—they're all too ditzy, girly, catty, or just plain stupid for my taste; she's never really written a character that has endeared herself to me. (For proof, just search for "macalister" on my blog to read my past reviews.)

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Friday, November 07, 2008

#34 Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

After moving from sunny Phoenix to bleak and rainy Forks, Washington, Isabella Swan is prepared to be bored out of her mind. But it's a sacrifice she's willing to make for the good of her parents, allowing her mom time to travel with her new husband, Phil. Once in Forks however, Bella becomes quite taken by the beauty of the mysterious Cullen family, and is pleasantly surprised when the gorgeous Edward Cullen begins to show an interest in her as well.

For a very long time now, Edward has held his family's secret close to his heart, no one in town knowing their true nature as vampires. But now that Bella has his heart, and falling for a human is completely new to him, it's her right to know... and his job to protect her from the others of his kind.

I was looking forward to reading this book due to all the attention it's been getting and because the movie is due out at the end of this month, November 21st to be exact. Based on the movie trailer, the movie would seem to follow the book pretty closely.

Unfortunately, despite all the hype, this book didn't quite live up to my expectations. For starters, it had a bit more romance than I usually care for. Besides Bella going on and on for pages on end about her feelings for Edward *gag*, the plot of the story itself was very relationship driven (thus marking it as a romance) as opposed to action driven, which is generally my preference in the paranormal and fantasies titles I read.

I've seen P.C. Cast's House of Night series (a favorite of mine) compared to the Twilight books several times, but in my opinion, the only thing the two series have in common is that they're both a series of young adult novels based in a world where vampires live among us. End of similarities.

In Twilight, the relationship between Bella and Edward takes center stage to drive the plot line forward. In the House of Night books, the plot is advanced by other action going on, not by the relationship between the main characters. Of course, the amount of romance one likes in their reading, and the presence or absence of a romantic plot or subplot is a highly subjective matter. I've made it known in several of my previous reviews that I don't particularly care for romance novels on the whole, unless the romance is more of a subplot of the main story.

Further, many of the characters in Twilight seemed very one-dimensional and even a bit stereotypical. Bella's new school friends, for example, seemed to be there for her convenience, to fill her time between that which she spent with Edward or otherwise pining after him; she didn't even seem to care for them all that much.

The Cullen family of vampires were all beautiful, ethereal, and exotic, typical vampire characteristics. But alas, I appreciate that here the author at least took a few liberties with some of the qualities these vampires possessed. For example, the fact that they don't sleep, or the way they sparkle in the sunlight, the latter bringing to mind images of faeries flitting through a garden. LOL

But overall, I thought the characters seemed pretty shallow and I wasn't particularly endeared to any of them. Perhaps this first novel lays a lot of the groundwork for the series and certain things will be better developed in later novels. I hope so because I have the rest of the books waiting on Mt TBR and I'd really hate to be let down by all of them in the same way.

In short, I'd still say that Twilight was a decent enough read, but it wasn't the "blow me away" novel I'd been expecting based on all it's hype.

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!!

Happy Halloween and a Blessed Samhain to all!!

There are a lot of great contests and book giveaways going on this weekend, sadly not any from me but a lot of my friends are giving things away so I'll point you to a couple of posts that'll get you on the right track.

Amberkatze's Book Blog - A Little Round-up!

Bitten by Books - Haunted Bloggy Carnival

On another note, if you're on Facebook, be sure to join the CheriePie's Books blog network to follow and support me out there too.

Have fun, and be safe! :)

#33 Vampyres of Hollywood by Adrienne Barbeau & Michael Scott

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

I'll be sticking with the author's convention of spelling vampyre with a y instead of an i throughout this review.

A serial killer is knocking off some of Hollywood's hottest celebrities in gruesome attacks worthy of a Hollywood horror set. Unfortunately, this is no set, and the slain celebrities all have one thing in common: their connection to scream queen and studio head, Ovsanna Moore.

Beverly Hills police detective Peter Moore is on the case. He has pieced together the clues which inevitably lead him to the sexy and seductive Ovsanna Moore. But what he doesn't know is that Ms. Moore is actually a 500-year-old vampyre, and the Chatelaine of Hollywood in charge of all the vampyres residing there: the Vampyres of Hollywood.

Despite her vampyre heritage, Ovsanna is actually one of the good guys, and very much wants to help Detective King and the BHPD find the killer that the tabloids have dubbed the Cinema Slayer. But can she do this while still keeping her true identity under cover?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which I'd probably place in the mystery or thriller genre, even though it was light-hearted and funny at the same time, all while still being paranormal due to the inclusion of vampyres. The dialog was quick, snappy, and very action-oriented, which kept me reading into the wee hours of the morning. ;)

Another unique element was the use of two different first person point of views telling the story, such that one chapter would be told in the first person by Ovsanna, while the next was told by Peter. Though you might think this would get confusing, it didn't at all. Besides staying consistent in the switch between characters, each chapter heading was also denoted with either a gun or a set of fangs. (Cute, huh?)

The ending did get wrapped up rather quickly, though I wasn't necessarily disappointed by it either. Actually, my only real disappointment was that it was the end of the book.... and I wanted more! This was a great read and I'd certainly love to read more like this from Adrienne Barbeau and Michael Scott in the future.

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Thursday, October 23, 2008

#32 The Princess Bride by William Goldman

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince in the world—and he turns out to be a perfect son of a bitch?

Well, you get a tale of high adventure, full of (in the words of the author) "fencing, fighting, torture, poison, true love, hate, revenge, giants, hunters, bad men, good men, beautifulest ladies, snakes, spiders, beasts of all natures and descriptions, pain, death, brave men, coward men, strongest men, chases, escapes, lies, truths, passion, and miracles". ;)

This book is a timeless classic that can be enjoyed by any age child or adult. Though I'd already seen the movie a few times, my friend Leilani insisted that I read the book and then watch the movie again, after which I'd appreciate it a lot more. Several others agreed and you know what? They were right! So thanks Leilani and other BookObsessors for introducing me to his fact. :)

As is the norm with most book to movie translations, the book goes into much more detail on the characters than the movie, so you get to know the characters a lot better than you would had you simply seen the movie alone. I particularly enjoyed the characters of kidnappers Inigo and Fezzik, played by Mandy Patinkin and André the Giant respectively, as the book really added a lot to their characters by fleshing out their background story. So they were actually very likable characters. Whereas their leader, Vizzini the Sicilian, was kind of a jerk, and the book reinforced that notion as well.

Overall, a very enjoyable read, and the humor in Goldman claiming to keep only the "good parts" in his version of the tale added to the overall fantastical and humorous tone of the book. :)

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Monday, October 13, 2008

#31 Pandora's Box by Alice Thompson

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Looked at from a literal sense, Pandora's Box seems like some kind of wild mushroom trip. However, when perceived from the allegorical sense from which it was intended, we see the myth of Pandora molded into a chilling and spooky tale, quite appropriate for the season too. ;)

One dark and stormy night—LOL don't you just love it when stories start that way?—Dr. Noah Close opens his door to find a beautiful woman standing within a circle of fire on his doorstop. As he discovers, though surrounded by fire, her skin is actually quite cool to the touch. She is without voice or any discernible history, but Noah takes her in, nurses her back to health, and performs the necessary surgery to regraft her skin, for even much of her facial structure was lost to the fire. He names her Pandora and she becomes his wife. Though mute, they communicate through actions alone, and Noah finally believes he has found true happiness and bliss.

But a year later things start to fall apart. Strange, mysterious letters begin to arrive in the mail for Pandora, each saying the same thing, a single sentence: Do not be afraid of what you want. So begins the downward spiral....

One night, several weeks after the letters stop—just as mysteriously as they'd started—Noah wakes to find Pandora's bloody corpse lying next to him in bed, her breasts cut off, blood running over and between her legs and all over the sheets. Noah leaps from bed to call for emergency services but upon returning to his bedroom with the police, he finds the corpse gone!

So begins Noah's search for answers. Leaving his ordered existence behind, he begins his life on the run, abducting a strangely odd private investigator with a penchant for mystic visions to aid him in his search. Pandora's uncertain past doesn't leave much to go on, beyond the odd murmurings of the psychic Venus, but their trip leads them from the city to the lush depravity of the desert and Las Vegas, where they meet an even stranger man named Lazarus: a sculptor who is able to mirror the features and expressions of others on his own face. And Noah is certain that Lazurus holds the key to Pandora's mysterious disappearance.

Though fairly short, this haunting story will will stay with you long after you've put it down. But I do recommend taking the time to understand the deeper meaning behind it. Yeah, it's pretty freaky at face value, but even more so when you relate the whole thing to the mythical Pandora of legend. :)

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Saturday, October 04, 2008

#30 The Dracula Dossier by James Reese

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Though this book may have fell a little bit outside my usual genre, I feel it will stay with me for awhile to come. In addition, I think I learned a thing or two about some significant figures in literary history to boot. ;)

The story takes place in the late 19th Century, during the Victorian Era in England, and is written in the form of journal entries and letters written by the late Bram Stoker, author of Dracula and a few other novels that never really garnered much recognition. Stoker tells the story of his employ with the actor Henry Irving, and his relationships with many other famous people of that time.

As the letters and journal entries which make up this Dossier indicate, it was Thomas Henry Hall Caine who first introduced Stoker to Dr. Francis Tumblety—the American doctor who later become known as Jack the Ripper. And it is to these relations that much of this Dossier relates. Upon meeting Tumblety, Stoker realizes that something is not right with the man, a fact later confirmed by Caine. And with the help of Lady Jane Wilde, mother to author Oscar Wilde, the three dub themselves the Children of Light and set out to catch Tumblety in the act and prove to the men of Scotland Yard who it is committing all these gruesome murders.

Though one might think this a paranormal book because of the title, that isn't really the case. Though there is much about "Jack the Ripper" that defies explanation, this novel is not a vampire novel, as a quick look at the title might lead one to believe. Instead, it's the notes, journal, and letters of the famed Dracula author, and at various points in the narrative, footnotes are given that point out similarities between the events taking place in Stoker's life at that time and characters and events in Dracula.

Overall, a very interesting read, well suited to literary fans, fans of historical, mystery, and thriller genres, maybe even horror fans too due to the violent and graphic nature of the crimes committed by the Ripper and described herein. (Though the author does go into explicit descriptions about some of the mutilated bodies, I found much of it to be somewhat clinical in nature so I didn't quite "lose my lunch" over it so to speak. LOL)

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Thursday, September 25, 2008

#29 Black-Headed Pins by Constance & Gwenyth Little

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

This was an entertaining little cozy that has definitely stood the test of time. Originally published back in 1938, the Little sisters were pioneers of the cozy mystery genre, though I'm not even sure if it was called that back then.

The story takes place in a drafty, old mansion, owned by a miserly, old woman named Mrs. Ballister. Living in the house with Mrs. Ballister is her cook, Doris, and her housekeeper and companion, Leigh Smith. It's Leigh who narrates the story, which is told from the first person point-of-view.

Mrs. Ballister has decided to call all her nieces and nephews together for a Christmas party at her house. Yet the night before everyone is to arrive, a strange dragging sound is heard coming from the attic up above. Mrs. Ballister is immediately on alert and tells Leigh that the noise portends the coming death of someone from the Ballister family who will meet with a fatal accident, and that if the body is not watched until it is buried, it will walk again! Unfortunately, with a number of relatives due to arrive tomorrow, this is not very welcome news.

And so the story goes.... One by one, several of the relatives begin to meet with unfortunate accidents around the house. And always the night before each incident, the strange dragging sound is heard up in the attic. With the help of Joe the cop and Berg's friend Richard, Leigh finds herself playing sleuth and stealing through the large house looking for clues. But will they be able to figure out who's behind it all before the mystery haunter strikes again?

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

CONTEST - Touch of Darkness by C. T. Adams & Cathy Clamp

Friend and fellow blogger Amber is hosting another great contest over on her blog, this time for an autographed copy of Touch of Darkness, the third and final book in the Thrall Trilogy by C. T. Adams and Cathy Clamp.

To enter the contest, and read the interview with author Cathy Clamp, see this entry in her blog for all the details. :)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

#28 No Rest for the Wicket by Donna Andrews

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Meg and her fiancé Michael are attempting to get settled into their new home in Caerphilly, or actually their barn more like as the house itself is still going through all sorts of repairs and renovations. Since they're also hosting Caerphilly's first official extreme croquet tournament, their home is swarming not only with the Shiffley family work men, but with all Meg's family as well, including countless cousins and second cousins.

Therefore, there's no shortage of suspects when Meg finds a dead body at the bottom of a small ravine, following the path of her stray croquet ball. The woman's head has been bashed in, and it would appear that a croquet mallet was the likely weapon. Of course, in addition to the sheriff and local police force, Meg must do her own digging, attempting to discover the identity of the woman and the reason someone would want her dead.

I totally enjoyed this 7th book in the Meg Langslow mystery series, and like it's predecessors, the wacky, zany antics of Meg and family make getting there half the fun. Whether or not you remember whodunit in a year's time is irrelevant as the journey will remain with you for awhile to come. :)

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Monday, September 15, 2008

#27 Dance with the Devil by Sherrilyn Kenyon

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

When it comes to paranormal books, I normally don't go in too much for the ones that are too heavy on the romance. Normally you'd expect this series to fall in that category, but the whole backstory with the Gods and Goddesses has gotten me totally hooked in!

Kenyon's 4th Dark-Hunter book (counting Fantasy Lover as book one) tells the full story of Dark-Hunter Zarek, who's been banished to the far reaches of Alaska. Zarek first appeared in the previous book, Night Embrace, when he was called to New Orleans to help out with the overabundance of Daimons that always infiltrate the city during the annual Mardi Gras celebration.

Unfortunately, Zarek's life hangs by a thread. The Goddess Artemis, creator of all the Dark-Hunters, wants him dead and has sent her executioner Thanatos to hunt him down and kill him. Zarek's sour disposition towards everyone around him—and towards life in general—hasn't helped his situation any. It seems that only Acheron, the firstborn Dark-Hunter and leader of their kind, truly understands his plight and is able to see the good that lies dormant within Zarek. In a final attempt to spare Zarek's life, Acheron requests that he be judged by Themis, and agrees to be bound by whatever decision the judge comes to. If deemed that Zarek poses a danger to society, then he will agree to the Dark-Hunter's death.

Now it is Astrid—daugher of Themis and sister to the Three Fates—who must determine Zarek's fate. Astrid, who herself has begun to feel despondent and emotionally bankrupt, and has never before proclaimed anyone innocent in the history of the world. Is he beyond redemption? Or can he be saved by the hand of Fate... or the heart of an impartial judge?

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Friday, September 05, 2008

#26 Ironside: A Modern Faery's Tale by Holly Black

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Ironside is the third book in Holly Black's Faerie Tale series, though it's actually a continuation of book one, Tithe. The second book, Valiant, takes place in the same world as books one and three but with different characters, some of which appear here as well. Kay and Roiben's stories however, are pretty much found only in books one and three. :)

Roiben is now King of the Unseelie Court, and against his wishes, Kaye has declared herself to him, thereby swearing loyalty to the Unseelie Court in the process... assuming that is, that she can complete the seemingly impossible quest set before her—find a faerie who can tell a lie. This book follows Kaye's adventures alongside her old friend Corny as they travel between the human and faerie realms, not necessarily keeping a low profile along the way. LOL

I enjoyed this third book in the series and look forward to more of Ms. Black's Faerie Tale universe.

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Monday, August 25, 2008

#25 Shakespeare's Counselor: A Lily Bard Mystery by Charlaine Harris

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

The fifth and final installment in the Lily Bard series wraps up Lily's story quite nicely.

In addition to finally settling down with Jack, Lily has decided to face her past and begin attending group therapy sessions. Of course, these sessions become the scene for yet another murder in cozy little Shakespeare. And as usual, Lily is right smack in the middle of the action.

As others have said, this wasn't the best in the series. I think some of that was because there weren't any loose ends to leave you craving the next book. But with Lily's settling down and everything, it did have a hint of finality to it. I for one am sorry to see her go... though I hear she may be making cameo appearances in some of Charlaine Harris's other books from time to time. :)

BookCrossing journal page for this book

#24 Shakespeare's Trollop: A Lily Bard Mystery by Charlaine Harris

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Lily returns in this fourth book in the Lily Bard (Cozy) Mystery series.

Another murder has taken place in Shakespeare, Arkansas. This time it's Deedra Dean, a well-known woman about town who's known for her somewhat promiscuous ways. Has her lifestyle finally managed to get her done in? And if so, it's not going to be easy for a small town police department to find her killer among the many men of Shakespeare who've been to her bed.

Of course, being the local cleaning woman to many Shakespeare residents, including the late Ms. Dean, Lily knows a thing or two about Deedra, and also comes across some evidence that just may help the police find the missing pieces they need in the puzzle of Who Killed Deedra Dean.

I really enjoyed this book, and I really like Lily's character as well. She's dark, mysterious, and quite complicated... kind of how I like to think of myself. *grin* These books are really quick reads and I've already read the fifth book as well, a review of which should be coming up shortly. :)

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Thursday, August 21, 2008

#23 Dancing Above the Waves by Susan Walerstein

My Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

Jack McCalister is a wealthy businessman living his life between two homes—a sprawling estate on the fictional Cape Cod island of Clary's Cove and a grand mansion in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston. One foggy morning, while rushing to make the ferry from the island back to Boston, he accidentally hits a teenage girl who had run into the street right in front of his car. Scared and not knowing what to do, he flees the scene without stopping and doesn't report the accident to anyone, hoping no one saw what he did.

But someone else did see what happened... and they plan to use the knowledge to get what they want out of Jack...

This book was alright, though didn't really have me on the edge of my seat. Billed as a suspense thriller, it contained a little too much romance and drama for my liking which made the genre categorization seem a bit off; my idea of suspense thrillers being more Koontz-like. I feel this book read more like a general fiction title actually.

I immediately picked up on was the fact that this a first work for the author. I found the descriptions a bit over done and the storytelling a bit formulaic. The overly descriptive parts wouldn't have bothered me as much if there weren't so many of them in parts which had nothing to do with the story—who really cares how many cups of oil Erica uses in her salad?—or would go off into another time and place right in the middle of the current time line which sometimes made my eyes glaze over. However, this obviously didn't bother other readers as much as it did me, as evidenced by its several good reviews at Amazon.

As a matter of fact, there were times where the extra descriptions served the author well. A born and bred Boston girl myself (I live in the suburbs now), I immediately recognized the locations and landmarks, and even the local customs and mannerisms of the people, in the writing. Some things about New England are very distinctive, and in this regard, the extra detail employed here worked well to enhance the entire sense of place in the story, and give it that unique New England feel.

So despite my initial reservations, I decided to dig in my heels and continue reading, and I found things picked up after the first forty or so pages as the story began to sufficiently hold my interest. I can't say this was one of my favorite reads, and it was a bit outside my usual genre, but in the end it turned out to be a vaguely satisfying read nonetheless.

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

#22 Fendi, Ferragamo, & Fangs by Julie Kenner, Johanna Edwards, Serena Robar

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

This book contains three short teen stories that revolve around Vamp Modeling, Inc. Despite what it's Amazon entry says, this book is not set in the same world as the Kate Conner, Demon Hunter series.

In the Julie Kenner Story: Olivia is a straight-A student, smart and pretty, but always thought of herself as more of a brain than a beauty queen. But when her best friend and her boyfriend encourage her to enter a modeling contest sponsored by Hipster Chick magazine and Vamp Modeling, Olivia is super surprised to be one of the winners. Liv, as she comes to be known, soon finds out just how Vamp Modeling got its name...

The stories of Veronika by Johanna Edwards, and Sydney by Serena Robar are similar and take place in the same world. All three girls are actually winners in the same contest. The differences in the stories primarily being centered upon the differences in the girls themselves. (A fuller synopsis can be found at the BookCrossing journal page, linked up below.)

I enjoyed these stories, even though they were a bit too "happy ending" for my taste overall. Younger readers will definitely appreciate them, as will other more varied readers of the teen/young adult genre.

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Monday, August 04, 2008

CONTEST - 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover by Linda Wisdom

My super speed reader friend and fellow blogger Amber, of Amberkatze's Book Blog is hosting another drool-worthy contest over on her site, this time for a copy of 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover by Linda Wisdom.

See this entry in her blog to read the interviews with the main characters and enter the contest.

I'd wish y'all good luck, but I want to win this one myself! ;-)

#21 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Join Harry and his friends as they return to Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft for their fifth year.

Shortly before his return to Hogwarts, Harry and Dudley, his big, dumb muggle cousin, face a Dementor attack... right in the middle of Little Whinging! Harry ends up using magic to repel the dementors, but because of that offense—underage magic in the presence of muggles—he is forced to attend a hearing and face possible expulsion from Hogwarts! But just what were dementors doing in Little Whinging if not specifically sent to attack Harry?

So begins Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth book in the Harry Potter series. The Order of the Phoenix is actually a secret society of Wizards and Witches founded by Dumbledore, it's members being the same that fought against Voldemort last time. Unfortunately, with Cornelius Fudge and the rest of the Ministry of Magic vehemently denying Voldemort's return, and taking every opportunity they can to slander both Dumbledore and Harry through stories in the Daily Prophet, the Order definitely has their work cut out for them.

Starting with the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, these books have definitely gotten darker, and in my opinion have stepped outside the realm of children's books while still remaining in the young adult category.

I didn't like this book quite as much as The Goblet of Fire which seemed to have a lot more going on. Overall, it was still an excellent book as I rated it 8 out of 10; however I just couldn't help comparing it to Goblet of Fire, and in that regard, I didn't feel it quite measured up to that standard.

(I actually feel the opposite about the movie versions: Goblet left out so much from the book, missing a lot of key points and issues, that I didn't like it that much; while Phoenix was more complete to the book, and perhaps even a bit more flashy than its predecessor.)

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Friday, August 01, 2008

#20 California Demon: The Secret Life of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kenner

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

In this follow-up to 2006's Carpe Demon, we return to San Diablo, California, a small quiet suburb outside Los Angeles, where Suburban housewife and Level Four Demon Hunter Kate Conner is on the job. On one hand, she's trying to keep house for her husband, teenage daughter, and toddler son, while on the other, she's hunting down a demon who just took over the body of an old man and escaped the old age home!

But Kate's up against more than she can handle when it turns out that the special guest appearing at the high school surf competition is a Demon himself... and her daughter Allie is right smack in the middle of the action. With the help of her best friend Laura, and what may well be the spirit of her dead husband, Kate takes on the Demon and still manages to get dinner on the table in time. ;)

I enjoyed this 2nd book in the series. Even though I don't particularly relate to the whole housewife/soccer mom mentality, I have several friends who are in that phase of their lives, so I can appreciate it. ;)

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Sunday, June 29, 2008

CONTEST - Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready

While I'm putting the finishing touches on my review of California Demon, I wanted to let my readers know about a contest going on over at my friend Amberkatze's Book Blog. Amber is giving away a signed copy of Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready.

Visit this entry in her blog to read her interview with the author and sign up for the contest. Good luck!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

#19 A Dog Among Diplomats by J.F. Englert

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

The follow-up to last year's A Dog About Town comes out of the gate running. And it's a winner! Like the first book in the series (review here), this one is written in the first person from Randolph's point of view. But I was now used to seeing through the eyes (and nose) of a dog by this time! :P

In this installment, Randolph and Harry are still pining after the missing Imogen, but now there's been evidence that she's still alive and in New York City. Though why she was last seen fleeing the scene of a murder, and is now nowhere to be found again, has the police, as well as Harry and Randolph, a bit baffled. Randolph has even been asked to play a part, by playing the role of "therapy dog" to a visiting diplomat who will be staying at the Bed & Breakfast from which Imogen recently fled. Now as a few more dead bodies turn up, Imogen's involvement in this string of murders is questioned, though she still can't be found and brought in for questioning herself. Is this just some elaborate hoax someone is trying to pull? Or is there a reason for Harry and Randolph to be worried?

This was another fun cozy and I look forward to reading more about Harry and Randolph in future books.

BookCrossing journal page for this book

#18 A Dog About Town by J.F. Englert

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Are you sick of all those mysteries series which feature that snotty feline breed? Are you a canine lover like me? Well if so, then make way for Randolph! He's a fully cognizant—if a little pudgy—Black Labrador dog with a taste for fine literature and a nose for crime. He and his owner, Harry, have found themselves in the middle of a string of murders. If Randolph is going to help Harry steer clear of trouble, he must find a way to communicate everything that his nose is telling him. The solution will crack you up!

I enjoyed this cute new cozy mystery series which prominently features a dog instead of the usual cat. Randolph is a thinking—though not necessarily talking—dog, and the story is written from his first person point of view. This took a few seconds to get used to, being inside the head of a dog, but once there and settled it, I found it quite comfy. :P This is the first book of the Bull Moose Dog Run Mystery Series, and I look forward to reading more about Randolph and Harry in future books.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

#17 X-Rated Blood Suckers by Mario Acevedo

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

This is the second book in the Felix Gomez series, but for some reason, I didn't find it quite as entertaining as the first. A lot of the ridiculousness of some of the situations, that I found so amusing in the first book, were missing from this second book.

In similar vein to book 1, Felix Gomez, still a private eye, has now been called to Los Angeles to investigate the death of porn star Roxy Bronze. Upon arriving in LA however, he finds that the person who visited his office only the day before to hire him, one Ms. Katz Meow, has joined the ranks of the missing herself. But Felix has been given a secondary, and perhaps even more important, assignment while in LA. The Araneum, the governing force of the Vampires, has asked him to look into suspected collusion between vampires and humans, since it's forbidden for the vampires to reveal their true identity to any human other than those who provide them blood, conveniently called chalices.

I definitely liked this book enough to want to read the 3rd in the series, The Undead Kama Sutra, which was just released this past March. I only hope that this series doesn't begin to take the "sequel spiral". I'd prefer to see it get better instead. ;)

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

#16 The Nymphos of Rocky Flats by Mario Acevedo

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Felix Gomez is a private eye... who went to Iraq as a soldier and came back a vampire. To blend in with the rest of humanity and keep their identity a secret, he and his fellow vampires must hide their unique vampire features behind makeup (for their translucent skin) and special contact lenses (for the mirror-like hypnotic reflection of their eyes). However, there's one vampire custom which Felix hasn't much embraced—the drinking of human blood; he drinks animal blood instead. It makes no difference that the blood comes from blood banks, and no humans need be harmed in the taking. Yet Felix still very much lives with the guilt of the innocent Iraqi family he and his platoon accidentally gunned down over in Iraq.

Unfortunately, this failing of Felix's is causing him to slowly but surely lose his vampire powers. And though it hasn't much hampered his current investigation within the Department of Energy (DOE) of tracking down the source of the recent nymphomania outbreak, it is putting him at a slight disadvantage against the vampire hunters who are actively hunting him!

Part paranormal mystery, part Koontz-like thriller, and a sprinkle of the nonsensical, this was a wonderful first novel from Mario Acevedo, the first in the Felix Gomez series. Felix reminded me a little bit of Harry Dresden, from Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series, except that the problems Felix is hired to investigate aren't necessarily supernatural in nature. And Felix presents himself as human to all but other supernaturals, while Harry openly admits to being a wizard. But I have to say that based on my enjoyment of this first novel, this series looks quite promising and like it could be nearly as good as The Dresden Files.

Though a first work from the author, I'd have thought he was already well established as he wrote quite well and in a style very much suited to the genre. I had absolutely no complaints about the dialogue, the writing style, or anything else for that matter. The pace of the story was quick and punchy and the chapters short which added to that fast-moving action. I already had the second book, X-Rated Bloodsuckers, here on Mt. TBR so I started on it immediately after finishing this one. I'm looking forward to another fun ride!

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Saturday, April 19, 2008

#15 The Scot, the Witch and the Wardrobe by Annette Blair

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Victoria Cartwright is a hereditary witch who prefers to deny her heritage rather than embrace it—until the day she opens her grandmother's locked wardrobe and discovers a carousel unicorn inside. From that point on, her carousel dreams, which previously starred her and a sexy Scot in kilt and full Scottish regalia, become even more vivid until Scotsman Rory McKenzie showed up on the doorstep of her little Salem, MA antiques shop a few days later, having traveled all the way from Caperglen, Scotland. What happens then is both unimaginable as well as magical. Are they doomed to repeat the mistakes of their ancestors? And just how are the two connected anyway since they've been featuring in one another's dreams so often....

This story was cute, if not exactly funny IMO. Because I don't really like romance, I didn't particularly care for the dream sequences as they were a bit too flowery for my taste. But the rest of the story wasn't too bad, and certainly entertaining enough to keep my interest. Though I remembered previous characters from The Kitchen Witch and My Favorite Witch, I remembered very little about Victoria, on whom this story was based, I think because I'd found her the least interesting (and most prudish) of the three friends: Melody, Kira, and Victoria. LOL

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

#14 Beneath a Mountain Moon by Silver Ravenwolf

My Rating: 1 out of 10 stars

This book, supposedly a mystery with a witchy background, wasn't grabbing me at all, and after only 30 pages in, I was having a hard time staying focused and keeping my mind from wandering. I picked it up at least 4 different times throughout the course of the day, just in case my disinterest was caused by my mood at the time, but try as I might, I simply couldn't get into it.

Now, dare I say this publicly, but in the real-life world of Witches, Wiccans, and others practicing the Craft, we refer to Silver RavenWolf as a "fluffy bunny" and her practice as "fluffy bunny wicca". Yes, being the bunny lover I am, I hate to use what to me is such a wonderful creature in conjunction with such a derogatory term, but since that definition has pretty much been adopted worldwide, and can be found at the Urban Dictionary, it's much easier to just adapt and use it myself rather than to try to come up with my own term and explain what it means. :P (See also the article "What makes a Fluff-Bunny?")

Anyhoo, because Silver RavenWolf lives in the fantasy world of Wicca, I thought perhaps I could get a kick out of her fiction; perhaps her delusions would translate well into the fiction realm. But sadly, such is not the case, and again, besides just being super bored with it, I was actually starting to get a bit angry as well!

Okay, so these are not your fantasy type of Witches at all. Too bad, as I think maybe I could have been able to enjoy this a little bit if they were. Instead, at only 15 pages in, she has the main character, Elizabeyta, proclaiming to the small town minister who's just declared his undying love for her that she's a W-I-T-C-H! A hereditary Witch who practices the old religion. Okay, that's all well and good. She's obviously trying to bring some validity to the religion, so you're thinking that she'll be treating the Craft in an honest and straightforward manner, but then the minister finds himself wondering if she can possibly be serious, and if he can suspend his disbelief of "ghosts, murder, and witches" (the author's words, not mine) long enough to listen to what she has to say. Give me a break! Major lame-o! Are we still living in the dark and unenlightened times where witches must practice secretly for fear of persecution? Apparently so because Elizabeyta's whole family lives at a secret covenstead to which no mere mortals know the location! =:o And they use the address of a safe house run by "non-magickal people" to act as their go-betweens to the rest of the world. *sigh* If she hadn't just finished trying to lay down a bunch of "facts" about our religion, I might've believed this was supposed to be based on fantasy after all. But at this point, the minister dude is really pissing me off with his attitude of thinking witches can't possibly be real! How trite!

Now, if you want to read a good fiction mystery which revolves around a real-life (non-fantasy) practitioner of the Craft, in the real sense of how they live and act in today's world, and integrate the Craft into their day-to-day life, then pick up M. R. Sellar's Rowan Gant Investigations series. He treats the Craft in a much more realistic way, doesn't try to sensationalize, and writes a darn good mystery in which the main character, a Wiccan High Priest, uses not only his divination skills but many of the other qualities and characteristics embraced by Witches and other practitioners. He truly understands what it's all about. If however, you prefer a lot of nonsense and rambling, and some half-truths and misinformation about a very valid religion, then by all means, read Beneath a Mountain Moon. Personally, I have too many other great books waiting on my to-be-read shelf to waste my time on this rubbish!

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Monday, April 14, 2008

#13 The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Atticus "Tick" Higginbottom thought himself to be just your average thirteen-year-old boy... until the day he received a mysterious letter from someone who signed himself simply "M.G.". Little did Tick know that from that point on, his life would be forever changed. For all of a sudden, Tick is exposed to things that he never knew existed, things that were previously hidden from him. He's visited by people from "alternate realities" who refuse to tell him too much, only that he must solve the 12 clues that he will be receiving to proceed to the next step, and that if at any time he wishes the "madness" to stop, he need simply burn the very first letter he received from M.G.

But Tick is determined to see things through to the end and solve all the clues he receives, despite the difficulties constantly being thrown in his path. Because in all honesty, this is one of the most exciting things that's happened to him in a very long time!

Many of the scenarios Tick encounters throughout the story actually present important lessons to the reader, which is great for a young adult book. And even better when you're an adult and don't even realize it's being done. ;-) But one of the strongest lessons which overlaid much of the story's premise is how the actions you take in the here and now have far reaching consequences that affect the rest of the world around you, often without your even consciously realizing it. It's the pebble in the water theory, where the waves or ripples caused by a single event (the pebble thrown in the water) reach out to affect all of the surrounding area as well. Or as it's applied in this story: every choice a person makes can lead to drastic changes in other Realities.

The whole pebble in the water theory is a concept wholly embraced by Pagans, something we build our lives around, so I really liked the subtle emphasis on it throughout the story. It just made me feel very connected to the story in a way... if that makes sense. ;)

To sum up, this was a very interesting take on the theory of parallel universes. From that standpoint, it may even be partially science fiction and not simply fantasy as it was originally labeled. But whatever the exact genre—probably a mixture of both—I found this to be a satisfying read and a great start to The 13th Reality series. More detail on Tick and this fascinating new series can be found at The 13th Reality website.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tipping the Velvet (the movie)

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

I know I don't usually do movie reviews, but the other night I saw the BBC made-for-TV movie of Tipping the Velvet, a book I previously read and reviewed by Sarah Waters, so I wanted to talk about it here. I thought it was really good, though I still think the book was slightly better. (Isn't that always the case? LOL)

At nearly 3 hours, it was fairly thorough and consistent with the book, though some parts of Nan's life, like when she was working the streets and living with Grace and Mrs. Milne, was made a wee bit shorter as if to gloss it over a bit. You never really got the impression about how close Grace had grown to her, and they left out the part where she returned a few days after she moved in with Diana to get her outfits and let the Milne's know she wasn't returning. Though they did sort of allude to it because DH turned to me and said, "How'd she get her outfits back?" Didn't she leave them all at the Milne's?" So I explained that in the book, she did return a few days later to pick up her stuff and let them know she was leaving. They also changed the circumstances surrounding Nan's initial meeting with Florence, before she hooked up with Diana, though that didn't really affect the movie all that much.

I'm glad this was made in Britain as opposed to the U.S. because Americans are way too hung up on sexuality and I'm sure they would've definitely complained about the sex scenes. Personally, our society's hangups over sexuality are a huge pet peeve of mine so it was refreshing to see a movie not shirk away from the subject of girl-on-girl love.

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie, and was glad that I supplemented my reading of the book by seeing it as well. :)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

#12 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling

My Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Harry is starting his 4th year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and already the mischief has started before he's even arrived at the school. It starts with Harry having strange dreams—or are they visions?—of Lord Voldemort, which leave him with a scorching pain in his forehead scar. And at the Quidditch World Cup, someone conjures the Dark Mark, Voldemort's sign, right in front of Harry and his friends. Do all these signs point to the imminent return and rise to power of Voldemort? Or are they just coincidence?

Well, it just so happens that Hogwarts will be hosting a very special event this year, a competition which hasn't taken place for several hundred years—the Triwizard Tournament. Perhaps that'll take Harry's mind off his problems. Or maybe it'll just make them worse since someone has decided to enter him as a Hogwarts Champion, an honour normally reserved only for older students with more experience. But since the Goblet of Fire has given his name, he is obliged to compete, whether he wants to or not. And perhaps someone is hoping that Harry just may die for it!

After finishing Goblet of Fire, I immediately wanted to see the movie again because I felt I understood so much more than when I saw it initially. Many of the new characters and some of the things that happened in this one seemed rather random to me when I saw the movie, but after reading the book, I see how everything (and everyone) all fits together. Since Goblet of Fire was a hefty 734 pages, whereas the previous three books were quite a bit shorter, I can see how a two-hour movie might not quite do this book proper justice. I'm glad to hear that the movie deal made for book seven is going to be done in two parts instead of trying to squish it all into one.

So though I was initially thinking this was the weakest one so far, after having only seen the movie, I now have to retract that thought after reading the book. There is some additional depth given to many of the characters here, and we learn a few new secrets about some of them. A lot of it is very mysterious and dark. We also start to see hints of a burgeoning romance between Ron and Hermione....

I really enjoyed this one a lot, so much so that I immediately wanted to start reading Order of the Phoenix right away. (And I'm holding off on seeing that movie until I read the book first.) Unfortunately, I have a number of other books I really need to get read before the end of the month; this was my short, quick detour to read one of my personal collection books that has been sorely neglected because it doesn't have an agenda after, or I don't owe a review for it, or something like that. ;-)

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Saturday, March 29, 2008

#11 Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Living in modern day Moscow, the "Others" are an ancient race of humans with supernatural powers. Each Other pledges allegiance to either the Light or the Dark, and each side has a Watch—Night Watch for the Light and Day Watch for the Dark—whose responsibility it is to maintain the balance between the Light and the Dark, Good and Evil, verifying neither side has an unfair advantage.

An uneasy truce has existed between the two groups for several thousand years, but all that could soon change due to an ancient prophecy predicting that one particularly strong Other will rise up and tip the balance, resulting in a catastrophic war between the Light and the Dark, one that could bring about the end of the word as we know it!

I had a bit of a difficult time with this book because the language didn't flow quite as smoothly as if it were written by a native English speaker. The version I read is an English translation from the original Russian, so at times the paragraphs would just go on and on and make little to no sense, or else not fit in with what was going on in the story, and I'd find myself thinking, "Just what the heck is he talking about??" In similar fashion, I'd find he sometimes went off into these way too philosophical discussions in his head for far too long—sometimes for up to two pages or more!—which was enough to put me right to sleep.

Despite the problems I had with the writing, or the translation, or whatever... underneath it all, the story itself was good, and the whole concept of the Others living among us to maintain the balance between Good and Evil, was enough to keep me reading.

I don't have the 2nd book in this series, Day Watch, but I do have the third, Twilight Watch, which I picked up for a couple bucks at Half Price Books while I was in Columbus. So I'll probably try to get my hands on the second one in the hopes that some of the translation issues have been resolved and I can enjoy it a little bit more without the language and style detracting from it.

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

#10 A Fool and His Honey: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery by Charlaine Harris

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

This is the sixth installment in Charlaine Harris's now defunct Aurora Teagarden mystery series, which go up to book number 8. In A Fool and His Honey, we meet a few new members of Roe's husband Martin's family, including Martin's niece Regina who has shown up on their doorstep with a new baby in tow, not even a month old yet.

Unfortunately, when Regina's new husband Craig turns up dead on the doorsteps leading to the garage apartment, and Regina suddenly goes missing, leaving baby Hayden behind, Roe and Martin need to head up to Regina's hometown in rural Ohio to find answers, and return the baby to... someone... anyone!

For some reason, this particular installment in the Aurora Teagarden mysteries seemed a bit more shallow than the previous ones, though it's hard to put my finger on exactly what was missing. By the end, I was left feeling a little bit empty, and I wonder if maybe that was done on purpose. You've got Roe's whole back story about how she can't conceive children, the fact that Martin was previously married and has an older son who doesn't really acknowledge Roe as his father's new wife and didn't even bother to attend their wedding, and then an even more jaw dropping surprise at the very end.

Overall, a quick and interesting read and definitely a pivotal point in the series. I believe many of the events that happened herein will be fairly significant for the last two books of the series.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

#9 Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

From the publisher: This delicious, steamy debut novel chronicles the adventures of Nan King, who begins life as an oyster-girl in the provincial seaside town of Whitstable and whose fortunes are forever changed when she falls in love with a cross-dressing music-hall singer named Miss Kitty Butler. When Kitty is called up to London for an engagement on "Grease-Paint Avenue", Nan follows as her dresser and secret lover, and soon after, dons trousers and joins the act. In time, Kitty breaks her heart, and Nan assumes the guise of a butch roué to commence her own thrilling and varied sexual education—a sort of Moll Flanders in drag—finally finding friendship and true love in the most unexpected places.

At 472 pages, this book took me a bit longer to read than I'd anticipated. I can't say I didn't enjoy it however. Only time will tell if it "stays with me" the way many other great books do. I do enjoy this particular time period, late 19th Century, the Victorian era. Back in those times, for a woman to dress as a man, in "trousers" was quite against the accepted norms. I suspect that could be part of the reason that this book appealed to me in the first place, despite being outside of my usual genre. Because it tells the story of a girl who went against society's norms in every possible way. Hmm, kind of reminds me of someone else I know... *whistle*

Nan was a lesbian at a time when society wasn't sure how to handle such "atrocities". Being bisexual myself, I'm always intrigued reading about lesbian girls because they are so very different from bisexuals and travel in completely different social circles. Even back then, it seemed that lesbians usually only hung around with their own kind. Similar to how it's all depicted on the Showtime TV series The L Word, we don't really have these social groups intermingling. Lesbians have lesbian parties and 95% of the guests are lesbians; it's as if they're their own clique. Whereas if you're a woman who prefers both men and women equally for her sexual partners, but perhaps your established living arrangements or life partner happens to be male, then you're kind of outside the lesbian social circle. So that's a whole other aspect of this book that added to it's appeal for me. I don't think I'd read a contemporary lesbian romance novel and enjoy it nearly as much. Yet I truly enjoyed this one because of all the other stuff going on, the time period in which it took place, and simply because the author is a very good writer, and I truly felt I was able to "see" England through the eyes of a young lesbian woman in Victorian England. And that was quite a treat for the senses!

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

#8 Chosen: A House of Night Novel by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

My Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

In this third book of the House of Night series, Zoey's adventures at the vampyre finishing school have taken a mysterious turn. Her best friend, Stevie Rae—now truly undead and more like a zombie than a vampyre—is struggling to maintain her tenuous hold on humanity, while Zoey tries to figure out what she can do to restore her friend to her former self. Zoey also finds herself saddled with not one, but three boyfriends. And all these secrets she's having to keep from her other friends at the House of Night, who truly believe Stevie Rae gone, and know nothing about Zoey's secret rendezvous with her human ex-boyfriend and the sexy Professor Loren Blake.

But truly things are not as they appear when up is down and left is right! For some strange reason, the only one Zoey can turn to for help is her arch-nemesis, Aphrodite, while her real friends must be kept in the dark. And Dark forces are most definitely at work here now that several Vampyre professors have been murdered and set up to be found in suspicious positions, pointing to the People of Faith—Zoey's own zealous stepfather's religious group—as the most likely suspects!

Wow, talk about your cliffhanger ending. I had to check and make sure I wasn't missing the last few pages because I was dying to know what happened next! I think I may simply DIE waiting for the 4th book to come out! And I can't even find a definite date yet. I suppose it'll be sometime towards the end of the current year, though I'm not positive on that. I'll have to go scour PC's Blog to see if I can find an answer. *giggle*

In any case, I loved this book as much as it's 2 predecessors, if not more so because I'm really beginning to really like these characters a lot. Even the ones I'm not supposed to, like Aphrodite. Though I suspect Ms. Cast is doing that on purpose. ;) I really like that though this is a young adult book, it's not very predictable or "dummied down" for a younger audience. I think I'm going to pick up copies of all 3 of these for my personal collection. :)

House of Night series

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Friday, February 15, 2008

#7 The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

The Somnambulist is a dark fantasy sort of mystery that takes place in turn-of-the-century Victorian England. It follow the adventures of Edward Moon, stage magician and part-time detective, and his loyal sidekick the Somnambulist. When a series of bizarre murders and strange disappearances starts taking place throughout London, the Directorate turns to Moon to help them figure out what's going on. But as the investigation proceeds, and the cryptic messages from medium Madame Innocenti start to make a scary kind of sense, Edward realizes that there's something much deeper going on here... something that extends down into the very bowels beneath the city.

I received this as an Advance Readers Edition from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers Group, and unlike most ARCs, this one was actually a velobound manuscript copy with full-size 8.5" x 11" pages. It was a bit unwieldy to handle, especially trying to read in bed, but the story was good enough to keep me wanting to read on despite the uncomfortable binding format. I also found my copy was missing page 71. But because it was the first page of a new chapter, and a new section started at the top of the following page, I couldn't figure out anything important that was missing, so perhaps it was intentional. And finally, I found it odd that the date at the bottom of the pages was 6/28/07. Since this was first published in the UK in Feburary of 2007, and later in the US in Feburary of 2008, I was left wondering if I might actually have a copy of the UK manuscript, and wondering if there might be a slight difference in language and localisms between the two.

Now enough about the format and on to the story itself. It's told from the point-of-view of an outside party, one who's observing the events from the outside. Because of this, the reader doesn't get a lot of deep insight into each character's feelings and thoughts. In a way, this makes the story seem a bit cold and distant, which may in fact be the intended result. But an unfortunate side effect was that I had a more difficult time remembering some of the more personal facts about each of the characters. I felt I didn't know them as well since the author didn't really allow us to see inside their heads. *shrug* By the end of the book however, it became a bit more obvious why it was written that way, and who the person is who's telling the story. But I found it a bit disconcerting at the first in any case.

Because of my few complaints above, I couldn't give this book a perfect score. However, I really enjoyed the action, the mystery, the dark horror, and the whole wackiness of it, which made for a very enjoyable story overall. And thus, despite its few shortcomings, a book I would wholeheartedly recommend to others.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

#6 Undead and Unpopular by MaryJanice Davidson

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

With her 31st birthday right around the corner, and plans for her upcoming nuptials chewing up so much of her time, Vampire Queen Betsy Taylor really doesn't have the time or patience to deal with the faction of European vampires that have decided to finally come and pay their respects to the Vampire Queen and King. Not only are they snotty and stuck-up, but one of them is also responsible for the death of fellow vampire and friend Dr. Sophie Trudeau. And Sophie's definitely holding a grudge since Alonzo simply drained her blood and left her for dead in a dark alley in Paris back in 1892. So now, on top of everything else, she's expected to decide the fate of this arrogant ass too?! With her brother BabyJon pooping up a storm, Betsy's definitely got her hands full!

It's been nearly a year since I visited Betsy because I wanted to catch up on her Wyndham Werewolves, who start to make appearances (as minor characters) in some of the Betsy books now. So I read the 2 short stories in the Secrets 6 and Secrets 8 anthologies, the short stories in Dead and Loving It, and the full-length novel Derik's Bane, all within the previous year before picking up Undead and Unpopular.

Like the previous books in the series, Undead and Unpopular was a quick, light read. You feel as if the whole novel could have happened in a single day or two, and in fact, I think it probably did, or a week at most. *grin* If you're looking for a wonderful story and intricate plot line, don't look here; this series is pure fluff! But the characters are likable and funny—not quite hilarious, but certainly chuckle-worthy—and the action is never dull. I'll be looking forward to Undead and Uneasy, the next in the series, which I hope to squeeze in soon so I can be fully caught up on this series. :)

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

#5 The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory

My Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

It's 1558, and Elizabeth, daughter to King Henry VIII and 2nd wife Anne Boleyn, has just been crowned Queen of England. After the brief but strict reign of her Catholic half-sister Mary, what is England to expect from the Protestant Princess who wants to abolish the Catholic ways? In a country full of turmoil, Sir Robert Dudley, longtime friend of Elizabeth since their days growing up at court together, seeks to better his position and maneuver himself into a position of power at Elizabeth's side.

But what of his wife: the forgotten Amy Dudley who doesn't come to court but instead remains back home in the country, forever waiting for her husband to put aside his ambitions and return home to her, for the love of a good woman. Unfortunately, the only love Dudley's seeking is the Queen's. But to what lengths will he go to achieve his means?

This was another great read in the Tudor series! Though the work itself is considered fiction, the author bases the stories themselves on fact. Of course, we cannot truly know everything that went through the minds of Elizabeth, Robert, William Cecil, and the others as not as much was recorded in the way of diaries and actual day-to-day events. But despite that, Ms. Gregory is able to take the facts from numerous sources and build a very real feeling story that draws you right in and makes you feel as if you were right there in the Renaissance period, experiencing everything firsthand along with the rest of the court. It's as if she's reconstructed history right before your very eyes!

I was never much for History in school; it was always one of my worst subjects and I could never garner enough interest to retain the facts that were constantly drilled into my head. However, the way these stories are composed by Ms. Gregory, I enjoy them so much that I actually find myself easily retaining all the information I so easily forgot before, even long after I finished the book. My high school history professor would be so proud! LOL

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

#4 The Dead Girls' Dance: The Morganville Vampires, Book 2 by Rachel Caine

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

This is the second book in the Morganville Vampire series and it picks up right where book one leaves off. By now, we've learned a bit more about all the inhabitants of the Glass House, where Claire is currently living off-campus while attending Texas Prarie University. Her roommates—Eve the Goth girl, sexy hunk Shane, and mysterious Michael—have been having to fight off the vampires that rule Morganville because situations beyond their control have really pissed some of them off. It certainly doesn't help when Shane's vampire-hunting father comes to town either, with a plan to take care of all the vampires of Morganville once and for all.

If I hadn't read the first book so recently I think I may have been lost for the first several pages as this book picks up mid-scene from the events of book one, with very little reminder cues. I really don't like when authors do this, particularly since these books are published several months apart and most people aren't going to read them right after another, but instead would read a number of other books in betweeen. Therefore, with this particular series, you might be better served picking up the first two or three books and then reading them all in one go.

In comparison to the other young adult urban (paranormal) fantasy books I've been reading, specifically the House of Night Novels by P.C. Cast, these seem a bit slower paced and not nearly as exciting. I remember thinking something similar about the first book of Ms. Caine's Weather Warden series, Ill Wind, when I read that. Certainly an interesting enough story, but it didn't have that wow factor for me that makes it a favorite. *shrug*

That said, the story is still interesting enough to keep going, and does pick up the pace more as things progress. Though written in the third person, you really only see into Claire's head most of the time, not any of the other main characters, so the inclusion of a few excerpts from Eve's diary at the end of the book is a welcome addition which lets you learn a bit more about what makes her tick.

I certainly plan to keep up with future books in this series, and already have Midnight Alley, the third in the series, waiting on my bookshelf. I'll just have to remember to read it sooner rather than later for the reasons stated above since I'll be passing this second book along and won't have it to refer back to.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

#3 Betrayed: A House of Night Novel by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

In this follow-up to Marked, Zoey has begun to settle into her life at the House of Night, a vampyre finishing school for fledgling vampyres. She's taken over as leader and High Priestess in training of the Dark Daughters and Sons and is greatly admired by her friends and many other students in the school. Yet something is itching at the back of her mind; a strange darkness surrounds the school that somehow feels wrong. Zoey wonders if it has anything to do with the ghosts she's been seeing, or if it's all just her overactive imagination...

But when a couple of her old friends from Broken Heart go missing, and then later turn up dead, Zoey is inclined to start listening to her instincts. And they're telling her that perhaps the strange feelings and dreams she's been having might just be some sort of vision. For someone is definitely not what they appear, and betrayal can lie in the most unlikely of places.

I totally loved this book! It was a great follow-up to Marked. It even works well for readers who may have missed the first book as the author brings up any important points from the previous novel as necessary. In a few cases I found it kind of redundant, but probably because I'd read Marked right before Betrayed. But readers who went several months between reading the two books, or those who didn't read Marked at all, will greatly appreciate the reminders. Though as is usually the case with series, and especially here since I felt a real affinity for Zoey, I do think that reading both books will give you a deeper appreciation for the characters.

The 3rd book in the series, Chosen is not actually due out until March. Though I just happen to have an Advance Readers Copy waiting here on my shelf, which I owe a review to LibraryThing Early Reviewers for, so I will be reading that very soon. :)

House of Night series

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

#2 Marked: A House of Night Novel by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

The House of Night is the perfect Vampyre Finishing School for fledgling vampyres like Zoey Redbird. Unlike most vampire novels however, Cast's vampyres are not created in the usual manner such as being bitten by another. Instead, a fledgling is Marked simply by biological changes going on in their body. The Change occurs over the course of 4 years, during which time the vampyre attends school at the House of Night, learning everything they need to know to prepare for their new life. Unfortunately, many of the weaker students do not make it through the Change, their body succumbing to the changes going on within them. Therefore many students, particularly the younger ones, live in fear of never making it to adulthood.

After Zoey was Marked, her parents freaked, and she ran away to the home of her Cherokee Grandma, where she had an intense epiphany: a vision of the Vampyre Goddess Nyx speaking to her and telling her she had a special purpose. When she awoke from that, the Mark on her forehead—the dark blue outline of a crescent moon—was completely filled in, as it is usually only on adult vampyres.

The integration of Goddess worship into the vampyre culture was very unique, and forces you to see Cast's vampyres in a completely different light, one that is a lot gentler than you come across in many paranormal novels. Though they do drink blood, they do so in a completely non-violent way and without harming their donors. The portrayal of rituals, circle casting, calling the elements, all the way down to the herbs used to cleanse, purify, or draw spirits to you, were all extremely accurate. This is the first book I've read by this author, but I would suspect that she's a Pagan or follows some other form of Goddess worship herself as she didn't try to sensationalize any of it but dealt with it very accurately and beautifully.

Taking everything as a whole, I really, really liked this book a lot. So much so that I was very happy to have the sequel already waiting here on my shelf, which I started on immediately.

House of Night series

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

#1 Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

In this follow-up to 2006's Moon Called, Patricia Briggs pens an exciting and fast-paced urban fantasy story about walker Mercy Thompson and friends. In this installment, we're reintroduced to characters we met in the first novel, though Ms. Briggs fills in the blanks a bit as necessary, for those who may have picked this up without first reading Moon Called. But if you've already read Moon Called, you'll appreciate the character development as you grow to like these characters even more!!

In Blood Bound, we learn a lot more about Stefan, and I swear, every girl should have a friend like him—dangerous yet sexy, mysterious yet honest... I've got to say next to Mercy, he's probably my favorite character now. ;-) This time around, the vampire seethe is in trouble from a rogue demon-ridden vampire. And for some reason, Mistress Marsilia feels that only Mercy's unique talents as walker can get them out of this mess! But Mercy wonders... is it just that she's more expendable??

The 292 pages of this book are jam packed with lots of action, such that I've have read only 7 or 8 pages, yet looking back, would be surprised at the amount of action that's happened. I love that in a book, not a lot of long descriptions, yet Ms. Briggs is still quite expert at letting you get to know a character well, without having to get wordy about them. Now how's she do that? ;-)

I have Iron Kissed, the third book in this series, on it's way to me now. Even though I have so much other stuff owed, I know I won't be able to wait to dive into that one as this series just keeps getting better and better!

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

#73 Cirque Du Freak #8: Allies of the Night by Darren Shan

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Allies of the Night picks up right where Hunters of the Dusk left off. Mr. Crepsley, Darren, and Harkat are back on the road after their visit with the Cirque Du Freak and unexpected scuffle with the vampaneze. Vacha is heading back to Vampire Mountain to inform the Princes and Generals of their new information. But where to now? Well, since Mr. Tiny has told them they should "follow their heart", it is to Mr. Crepsley's home city, the very place where they defeated the mad vampaneze Murlough thirteen years earlier, that they return.

Once there, it's as if someone were expecting them... odd! Someone has enrolled Darren in school, and the school inspector who shows up at their hotel produces the school enrollment forms with the false names they've used to register at the hotel!! Obviously, someone has set them up, though they're not sure who. But if anything, they now realize this is definitely where they're supposed to be.

I enjoyed this book just as much as previous ones, perhaps even more so, because now, as certain events are coming to pass, it's making way for the final confrontation between the vampires and the vampaneze.

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