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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