Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A Quick Update

Mike & Cherie & their new home I'm still here! LOL My recent cross-country move from Massachusetts to California really chewed into my reading time and I only just finished the book I started back in July: Breathers: A Zombies Lament by S. G. Browne, a review of which will be forthcoming in the next few days.

If you followed my travels via Facebook and/or Twitter, you know that we just moved into our new house in California at the end of October, having spent the summer living out of our RV (and the last 4 weeks previous, in a furnished apartment as the lack of space was driving us crazy). Anyway, if you want to catch up on any of that now, you can find links to my Facebook profile, my Twitter feed, and my Flickr photostream in the sidebar links. (If friend requesting and I wouldn't recognize your name, please mention you follow my blog as I don't necessarily approve all friend requests since my Facebook friends list has grown quite large and somewhat unwieldy.)

So though we've still got half a garage full of boxes left to unpack and sort through, I feel settled enough to start resuming some of my former activities again. So watch for that review shortly. And in the meantime, feel free to find and friend me on any of the aforementioned social networks. :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

REVIEW: Dance Upon the Air by Nora Roberts

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would considering it's a romance. When I read a romance, the female lead needs to be a strong person. I get so frustrated over the swooning "I need a man" mentality. However, though Nell was weak in the beginning with her abusive husband, she eventually got past the mental block which often affects abuse victims and escaped the situation. That made me like her a lot more.

So after faking her own death, changing her name, and then fleeing to the other side of the country, she finds herself drawn to Three Sisters Island, where her destiny is calling her. But her scars from the past cannot be erased. Nell must eventually deal with the issues in order to move forward in her new relationship. Nell goes to work for a woman named Mia, a practicing Witch and Wiccan, who helps Nell to embrace the other half of her personality, the "witchy" side she never knew she had.

Of course, it's all happily ever after in the end. But what else would you expect from a romance. ;) The next two books in this trilogy are about Ripley and Mia respectively. Though I liked this one well enough, I haven't yet decided if I'm quite dying to read the others, simply because of the amount of other books I still have on my to-be-read pile.

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Sunday, July 05, 2009

REVIEW: Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand by Carrie Vaughn

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Kitty and Ben, now the dominant alphas of the Denver area, have decided to tie the knot and make it official human-style now as well. Despite her mother's objections, a big, expensive wedding doesn't appeal to either Kitty or Ben, so they've decided to elope to Las Vegas instead. But trouble seems to follow Kitty no matter where she runs off to, and beneath all the glitz and glamour of the Vegas strip lies a darker secret... one that will put the lives of both Kitty and Ben in grave danger.

This fourth book in the Kitty the Werewolf series is a bit lighter on the action than the previous books, but only slightly so. It focuses a bit more on Kitty and Ben's personal life and lets you see a bit deeper into that side of them, further endearing their characters to you. It may be the action which initially draws you in to this series, but it's the characters that will keep you coming back for more. Kitty and Ben rock!! :)

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Thursday, May 21, 2009

REVIEW: Kitty and the Silver Bullet by Carrie Vaughn

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

I love the Kitty Norville series! I'm terribly disappointed in myself for falling behind on this series, but I'll be remedying that now as I'm currently reading book five, Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand, and plan to read book six, Kitty Raises Hell, immediately or very shortly after that.

In this fourth installment of the popular series, Kitty has returned to Denver to deal with family issues. Unfortunately, the alpha and his mate of the werewolf pack she ran away from is not happy to see her back in town. To make matters worse, the vampires have their own power struggle going on, and Carl's werewolf pack is right smack in the middle of the action, leading him to believe that Kitty is secretly aiding the potential usurper of the (Vampire) Master of Denver. With Ben at her side, Kitty takes a stand. But you'll have to read the book to find out what happens next! ;)

If you haven't yet started this series, what are you waiting for? Carrie Vaughn delivers an action-packed urban fantasy with tough yet endearing characters you can't help but fall in love with!

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Friday, May 15, 2009

REVIEW: Unseelie by Meredith Holmes

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

When Alfhild was a little girl, her grandmother called her a fairy princess and told her all of her favorite tales. She'd never imagined they were real.

Now as a grown-up, Alfhild has changed her name and fled Louisiana, and the paparazzi that's been haunting her since her half-brother's murder accusations. She's now taken up residence in her grandmother's ancestral home in England, where all is well until the morning she awakens to find a naked man in her rosebush: a faerie prince by the name of Cadfael. And then the games begin....

All of a sudden, Alfhild is unwittingly drawn into the Faerie realm, becoming a pawn between the sparring Seelie and Unseelie Courts. And it seems her half-brother Gulliver is here too, playing for the other team....

Like me, you're probably thinking, oh no, not another faerie book! Aren't all these faerie realm books beginning to sound the same: young girl gets sucked into the realm, discovers her faerie prince, yada yada yada, and when all is said and done, lives happily ever after. This is what I was afraid of when I first started reading. But fortunately, this story had a few different things going for it to distinguish it from the standard "faerie tale" setup, and unlike many of the other faerie-based stories out there, this isn't a young adult book. For starters, we have Alfhild's half-brother, Gulliver, and her best friend, Jackie, both characters in the story who follow Alfhild from the human realm into the faerie realm. There are also several other interesting species besides human and fey, and several mythical beings from the old legends such as Jack of the Green and Jenny Greenteeth. Some very interesting characters to be sure! The unconventional methods by which Alfhild attempts to bring victory to the Unseelie Court in their never-ending battle with the Seelie is quite entertaining (she's such a ditz! LOL) and didn't follow any of the preconceived formulas of other stories I've read.

According to an online interview with Meredith, this book started it's life as a NaNoWriMo project which grew into three separate self-published novels. These three novels were then later combined to become the single book it is now. During my reading, I actually did find myself thinking this seemed to be quite a long book, though reading on my Kindle I couldn't quite give a specific page count. If I were to hedge a guess though, I'd have to say it would probably be over 400 print pages. The finished product could have done with a bit more editing before being released however as there were some incidents of bad grammar and awkward sentence structure, and even a few conflicting facts within the story itself which, for an obsessive reader like me, detracted a bit from the enjoyability of the reading. For future books, I'd like to see a bit more foreshadowing, allowing the reader to speculate a bit. Instead, it often seemed the facts were laid down as they happened, leaving little room for such speculation. But I truly believe some of these skills will come with more experience as a writer. And despite these minor drawbacks, I did enjoy the story overall, particularly for the differences cited above which allowed it to stand out from the crowd.

If you enjoy a good faerie story, you should enjoy this as well, and can pick up a copy for your Kindle from Amazon, or directly from Drollerie Press in one of several other ebook formats.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A quick "me" update

To all who follow my blog and/or book reviews, I wanted to take the opportunity to fill you in on what's been going on in my life and explain the lack of updates out here in case you weren't already aware.

Over the last year, Mike and I have been prepping and preparing to sell our house here in the Boston suburbs and move out west to the San Jose area of California. Once we get there, we'll definitely be living in a much smaller place—and possibly even living out of our RV for up to six months while we house hunt—so we've been working on a major downsizing by going through all the "stuff" we've accumulated over the past 40 years, deciding what to keep, sell, or just throw away! I can't lug all this crap out there with me. It's time to simplify and lighten the load!

Anyway, over the last six months, this effort has picked up steam and the clearing out process has taken away from much of my reading time. It's no wonder I've only managed to read 10 books so far this year! =:-o

I already have some family out there: my sister, mother, and two nieces, and we investigated neighborhoods and different areas when we were out there previously, doing a few drive-bys and such, though we weren't prepared to make an offer on any place without having sold our house here first.

So, as soon as our house here is sold, Mike, the bunnies, and I are hitting the road in the RV for a cross-country road trip, while the rest of our stuff is shipped out via movers and whatnot. We'll probably take about three weeks to travel from coast to coast, exploring many parts of the country we've never seen before. I'm actually really looking forward to that, and plan to take and share many pictures along the way. Keep an eye out for those... if I don't post them here, I'll definitely mention where they are. You can also follow me on Twitter, or friend me on Facebook, to keep tabs on me. I'm looking forward to the journey and hope you'll join me, at least virtually. ;)

On a side note, all this clean-up has obviously stirred up quite a bit of dust, aggravating the heck out of my allergies, already piqued due to the pollen. With stupid Blue Cross Blue Shield canceling coverage for my prescription allergy medication earlier this year, I've taken the opportunity to try out some all-natural remedies like Oregano Oil and Butterbur while switching my body over to Zyrtec-D. But what a pain in the ass all this is! Because the sale of over-the-counter decongestant is used in the production of crystal meth, it's sale is quantity restricted, and I'm only allowed a two-week supply at a time, presenting my license at the pharmacy in order to even get that! Grrr....

But on the good side, I've been quite happy with the Oregano Oil. It hasn't completely replaced the Zyrtec-D (or the Nasalcrom and Naphcon-A which I also take), but it has supplemented it quite nicely. I haven't had nearly as many migraines as I usually deal with this time of year, especially with all the dust and pollen coming into my system at once. Sometimes I even forget that my 12 hours are up and it's time for another pill, something I never experienced before when I used to start getting stuffy again after about 10 or 11 hours. For the Butterbur, I haven't been taking that long enough to form an opinion one way or the other yet.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kindle 2 skinified :)

Pictures of my Kindle 2 with it's sexy, new Paper Cut skin from DecalGirl. :) You can view the slideshow below, or for larger images, my Kindle photo set at flickr.

The Zombie Chicken Award!

Many thanks to Lori at Pure Imagination who awarded me the following Zombie Chicken Award. w00t w00t! :)

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all...

I shall now pass on the award to 5 more worthy bloggers as charged:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Finding Creatures & Other Stories by C. June Wolf

Author C. June Wolf was kind enough to send me a copy of her first published collection of short stories for review. Finding Creatures & Other Stories is a collection of stories that spans the various sub-genres of fantasy, science fiction, and speculative fiction.

Though I haven't yet read it in full, I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce this book now since I plan to savor it slowly, reading a few stories here and there between my full-length reads instead of cover-to-cover. This is similar to how I read my last fantasy anthology, Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears, though I certainly don't plan on taking that long with this particular book. :) I also got the impression that this particular collection of stories was best enjoyed this way anyway, allowing time for the nuances of some of these remarkable stories to settle with you before moving on to the next. I can already see this book taking up permanent residence in my bookcase, to be shared among friends and family throughout the years.

I'll return to post a more thorough review of this book once I've finished it. But if you'd to grab a copy for yourself now, you can follow the links above to purchase from Amazon, and check out the amazing reviews it's already received, or purchase directly from the publisher here.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

REVIEW: Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears by Ellen Datlow & Terry Windling

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears is an anthology of short stories inspired by classic fairy tales from cultures around the world. The collection, like the five other volumes in the series, was compiled and edited by fantasy authors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. It's not necessary to read these in any kind of order as each volume, as well as the stories within each volume, stands alone.

The twenty-two stories in Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears encompass a wide range of styles within the fantasy genre, from naughty to nice, sweet to cruel. We've got speculative fiction, a bit of sci-fi, and some straight out fantasy, with a bit of naughtiness thrown in to spice things up. Unfortunately though, because I kept this book on my nightstand and read it over the course of several years, I don't recall much detail about some of the earlier stories, other than that I liked most of them, and there were only a couple that I didn't really "get". So instead, I'll refer you to this LibraryThing review by Rhinoa where she gives a story-by-story rundown. Good job Rhinoa! :)

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

CONTEST - Lucinda's Web by Dorothy Morrison

Rachel at Bitten by Books is hosting a contest and interview with Pagan author Dorothy Morrison. (I have several of Dorothy's non-fiction books on my magickal bookshelf.)

Fifteen lucky winners will receive a copy of Dorothy's debut fiction novel, Lucinda's Web, plus a goodie bag with plenty of other magickal treats. :)

Head on over to this entry at Bitten by Books to enter. Good luck!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

REVIEW: Joker's Wild: Call Me by Lena Matthews

My Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

Publisher's Description
Anything can happen when jokers are wild. When Kayla Martin tries to revolutionize the sex toy industry she calls on the one person she's grown to count on more than anyone else, her best friend and downstairs neighbor, Dylan Thompson. When Kayla approaches him about being a test subject for her newest invention, an anal toy, Dylan is intrigued and aroused. That is until he finds out that The Walnut Wand is an anal toy for men. Kayla's sure that a prostate stimulator will be a hit, all she needs is a willing participant. Far from willing, Dylan flat out refuses, but that's not enough to deter Kayla. After their monthly poker game, Dylan and Kayla decide to make a risky bet. Kayla wants a test subject and Dylan wants the one thing's he's being craving for years. They'll risk it all on one hand, but anything can happen when jokers are wild.

My Thoughts
I purchased this book for my Kindle anticipating a nice steamy erotica read. At only $2, and a subject matter I've expressed keen interest in of late, I was expecting to get myself all worked up over it, butt [sic] unfortunately, the delivery was a bit of a letdown and the sex scenes barely came to a boil.

I can't criticize too much however as this was at least a fairly decent read for what it is, a slightly erotic romance novel. (Is that where what the term romantica means?) I'm sure I would've enjoyed it a bit more if a) I liked the (standalone) romance genre to begin with, and b) I didn't go into this thinking I was getting more than what was delivered. Despite all that, the characters were kind of cute and funny and at least somewhat believable, and the writing was decent. I liked Kayla's character even if she was a bit ditzy, and Dylan even if he was a bit pig-headed. Dylan's colleague Chris however, seemed like a real ass. So even had I had liked this a bit more, I probably wouldn't be picking up the next Joker's Wild book since it focuses on Chris and his relationship, if you want to call it that, with his secretary, both of whom are minor characters in this book.

Should you read it? Well, for light romance with a little bit of kink, this would fit the bill nicely. But if you're looking for a hot, steamy erotica read, then move along.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I got my Kindle 2 !!!!!

w00t w00t! I got me a Kindle 2 from Amazon!!! It arrived on Tuesday, and I'd meant to post something out here earlier, but I had all these grand designs about taking pictures and such. All of which never happened *giggle* simply because I was just too busy playing with it!! So here's a quick video from Amazon for those who haven't yet seen the sleekness of this sexy thang! :P

Sunday, February 22, 2009

REVIEW: Demons of the Past: Book One of the Damewood Trilogy by Erin Durante

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

I had the hardest time writing this review. I'm not sure why exactly. Perhaps because this story is so multi-faceted, and every time I thought I'd finished, I'd proofread and find that I completely left out something else I'd wanted to mention. In this regard, it reminds me a little of the review I wrote for Witch Ember below which was also quite long for that same reason. Though Demons of the Past was only about half as long as Witch Ember, I felt the same way in that there were so many layers to the story, I could just ramble on in so many different directions without even realizing it. LOL :)

So with that disclaimer out of the way, here we go....

Modern Civilization has disintegrated and the technological advances of mankind have been suppressed for centuries. Society has regressed to a medieval state, and an ancient ocarina imbued with faery magic is the only thing standing between a civilized society and one overrun with demons. Unfortunately, the secret of society's past is known only to a select few, most of them belonging to a group of radicals known as the Ordi who would very much like to see society brought back to it's technologically enhanced roots, no matter what the consequences.

Damewood is just one of the many kingdoms in the area currently under siege, presumably by the Ordi or another group with a similar agenda. The "bandits" have stolen the magical ocarina, which has been protecting the lands, from the nearby Pearl Isles Kingdom where it was under guard. If it cannot be recovered, and it's magic renewed, then all the demons which have been held in check for the last 400 years may suddenly be unleashed upon the world!

Nadia, the eldest princess of Damewood, has been sent into hiding while her lands are under attack. But being the skilled demon fighter she is, she knows that she'd rather be on the front lines fighting for her kingdom and her people, instead of being tucked safely away doing nothing. Disguising herself as a Knight in full armor, she joins the group of men from the nearby kingdoms on a rescue mission to recover the magical ocarina. But Nadia's got more than one secret to keep. For no one else knows that the big, black, beautiful stallion with the strange, light eyes that she's had since she was a young girl is actually a demon himself! A Kelpie to be exact, who can shapeshift between man and horse. But no matter what Vestro knows (or doesn't know), Nadia's convinced he's not like the other demons. And keeping both of their identities a secret on this mission is going to be as challenging as the road to Ferrington Pass.

This was a fascinating and spell-binding debut novel from new author Erin Durante which I found difficult to put down. I was actually a wee bit disappointed at the end since there wasn't yet a sequel I could pick up immediately and start reading. Though the author has a few short stories to her credit, this is actually her first full length novel, though you'd not know it since she writes with such a seasoned pen.

The pacing of the story was just right, neither rushing along nor dragging things out. I often found time slipping away while reading as I was totally immersed in the world that is Damewood. The lush and vivid descriptions transported me right into the middle of the action and I didn't want to leave.

Though all of the story's major plot lines got wrapped up by the end of the book, things truly come around full circle. And by the time you get to the epilogue, you've got a new twist to look forward to in the sequel. I don't want to give too much away, but suffice to say, the author knew exactly how much to let out, and when to pull back in the telling of this story. And at the end, I was left with my tongue hanging out, panting for more! LOL

For more information on Erin Durante and the world of Damewood, visit the website: Enter Damewood.

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

REVIEW: Witch Ember by John Lawson

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

And so the story goes that in the days when gods walked the Earth, a Stone of Power was stolen by Trickster Man. To conceal his crime, he smashed the stone into tiny pieces and baked it into a bread he made for his friend, First Ancestor. Later, when it came time for the God Wejwej to create the first people, they were created from the various parts of First Ancestor. And because First Ancestor had consumed a Stone of Power, a little piece of that stone, along with it's accompanying power, was contained within each person. Most people carry just the tiniest speck or grain, while others like powerful sorcerers and wizards have one of the bigger grains, or even a pebble.

And then we have Esmeree...

We're introduced to Esmeree at around six years of age as a young homeless girl forced to work in the mills for her survival. The world in which she lives is hard and cruel, and most similar to medieval England or Tolkien's Middle Earth, or possibly some combination of the two, with Fey creatures, trolls, night stalkers, and other warrior-like creatures thrown in. The author did a terrific job of creating this fantasy world, with enough description and detail to really pull you in and make you believe you're standing right in the middle of it.

Esmeree has her own piece of stone residing within her as well, a rather large one within her chest. And though she doesn't yet fully comprehend the power lurking there, she feels it's constant tingle and knows enough to keep it secret as she learns more. Through the teachings of various people in her life, she eventually comes into her power and becomes a powerful witch herself. But unfortunately, once that power is brought to the attention of higher ups in the church and government, they will attempt to use it to their own ends.

The Medianist Church—which controls the magically-barren lands of the Seven Kingdoms and the Palpi city-states including Cliffs Reach where Esmeree lives—believes that only men have the mental capacity to carry these sacred embers, and that any female possessing them has surely gone mad or turned to a life of evil and witchcraft. They look upon witches in the same way they look upon the hostile Fée invaders from the magical lands beyond, and both are treated to torture and execution at the hands of the Inquisition, sometimes even at public displays held on festival days. This is definitely patriarchal dictatorship at its worst!

But upon reaching puberty and attaining her goal of becoming a sellaria, a paid mistress to the richer men of the city, Esmeree has unknowingly become a pawn in the Church's plans to discover others with stones. Everything Esmeree has learned so far in her life is in defiance of the Medianist ways, and headstrong as she is, she's not about to start conforming now, even if it means her life is on the line!

Witch Ember is a rich and fulfilling fantasy novel which takes place in an alternate universe. As mentioned above, the world crafted within these pages is extremely well thought out and detailed, as is Esmeree's character, who we follow for about 12 years of her life. The author manages to pull you into this world with his vivid descriptions of both time and place. And the action and violence, which at times captures the worst of human cruelty, can be quite brutal, but fortunately stops short of gore. In creating this unique world, the author also created its own slang and dialect local to the various regions, so you'll find many unfamiliar terms scattered throughout. Fortunately, these new terms appear in italics and their definitions can be found in a comprehensive glossary at the back of the book.

At 480 pages however, this book is not for the faint of heart. Taking me just over four weeks to complete, not counting the few weeks I had to put it aside so I could get a few other things out, I found myself happy to return to it, having grown quite fond of Esmeree. A word I like to use when describing books like this is "dense", referring to the fact that the reading is rich and detailed, like a thick, heavy syrup, which you tend to slowly savor, as opposed to light and fluffy, like a souffle, which goes down quicker. When reading these dense books, I definitely find myself reading slower than I would otherwise lest I miss something, and my one criticism of this book to that end is that there were many times I found the use of the new words, and having to look them up, counterproductive to its reading. Because of the richly detailed world that was painted before me, and the way I found myself pulled into it while reading, coming across a bunch of unfamiliar words would often disrupt that flow and yank me back out. I'd then look up the words in the glossary at the back and reread the relevant passages, replacing the foreign words with their English equivalents so that I could get back the same flow from it. Even if some of the words were discernible by context and didn't require looking up, I still found it disrupted my flow to have a foreign word inserted in the middle of all the English.

To this end, I thought it might help if the author introduced new words for the first time via a footnote at the bottom of the page, while still including the glossary for later look up. Though as another reviewer pointed out, the new language may not even be necessary. Sure it added a little bit to the feel of the place, each place having slightly different words for various common people and things, but I really felt that the created world was so richly drawn anyway that it wouldn't lose all that much without it. At the very least, the author might consider lessening its use in future books if I'm not the only reviewer who felt the overall delivery could be slightly enhanced without it. It would also make it a much easier read when attempting to read in bed or on the eliptical machine. ;)

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Monday, February 02, 2009

REVIEW: Poppy Done to Death: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery by Charlaine Harris

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

This was a very satisfying conclusion to the series. As we did in Last Scene Alive, we continue to see a gentler and more personal side of Aurora, and her budding and promising relationship with Robin. After Roe's mother, Aida, married John Queensland earlier in the series, we didn't hear very much about his family or children, just a brief mention here or there. But in this book, we now learn that Roe has begun to feel close to her extended family: John, his two sons, Avery and John David, their wives, Melinda and Poppy, and their kids, who call her Auntie Roe. :)

Unfortunately, it's one of these new relations, specifically Roe's stepsister-in-law Poppy who winds up dead on the floor. And it's Roe and Melinda who find her there. But the incident brings forth a whole lot of dirt on Poppy with regards to the fact that her and John David's marriage was anything but monogamous. And for that reason, there are actually several suspects to her death, which was most definitely murder.

Roe is determined to save her stepfather from further grief, and a possible relapse of his earlier heart attack, so she's doing everything she can to help the police piece together the necessary clues to solve the crime as soon as possible, with the least amount of upset to the family as possible. Though sad and touching in that this death directly affects Roe and her family, from the darkness comes the light, and some things are learned that will help everyone in the long run. And so the series ends... *sniff sniff* I will certainly miss Aurora, and hope to see her make a cameo appearance now and then in some of Charlaine Harris' other series.

NOTE: Fans of Charlaine Harris who haven't yet read the Aurora Teagarden series will be happy to know that they are being re-released by Berkley. So they should no longer be so hard to find. Look for them at Amazon or wherever you buy or trade books.

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!

The link to this blog article was sent to me by author John Lawson, whose novel Witch Ember I will be reviewing shortly. The thought of combining Jane Austen with Zombies was just too hilarious not to share!

Jane Austen fleshed out with zombies? Aaagh! Help!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

REVIEW: Last Scene Alive: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery by Charlaine Harris

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

This is the 7th book in the Aurora Teagarden cozy mystery series.

Several months have passed since the events of the previous book, A Fool and His Honey, and Aurora "Roe" is beginning to feel the weight of the world slowly being lifted from her shoulders. She's starting to accept her new life as a widow, albeit with the occasional emotional outbreak now and then.

But there's no time left for healing or contemplation as the little town of Lawrenceton, and Aurora herself, are pushed into the spotlight as by the movie crew that's moving into town for the on-location shoot of Whimsical Murders, the TV movie based on the grisly serial killings which took place in Lawrenceton ten years earlier. The book and screenplay were written by none other than Aurora's ex-love interest Robin Crusoe, who along with Aurora, was a major participant in the events that took place back then. Though Roe has already refused to allow her name to be used in the movie, Lawrenceton is a small town where everybody knows everyone else's business, and no one has forgotten the events which took place those so many years ago right here under their very noses.

So Robin comes pulling into town along with the movie crew and his supposed new flame, Celia Shaw, as reported by the tabloids. The seriously overdone Ms. Shaw is playing none other than the lead role in the movie, the part of Aurora herself. As if that weren't enough, Barrett, the cool and aloof son of her recently deceased husband, has a starring role as well! Aurora finds herself wondering if things can get any worse... just as she thought she was beginning to heal. *sigh*

The ensuing story has the usual elements longtime readers of the Aurora Teagarden series have come to know and love. Aurora is wonderfully quirky, and the small town folk are nosy but nice. But we are also starting to see a side of Roe that has only been briefly peeked at in past books. She's becoming older, wiser, and more introspective. And as I noted this subtle character shift, I picked up on it even further in the next book, Poppy Done to Death, the eighth and final book in the series, which I will also be reviewing in the next few days.

In terms of Roe's personality and emotional standpoint, this book is truly the Six of Cups of the Tarot. Roe is picking up the pieces after a major, heart wrenching upheaval, rebuilding, looking inward, and moving on. I realize not all my readers read the Tarot, but the imagery of the Six of Cups was so strong for me personally while I was reading that I just had to bring it up. I found myself really reaching out and relating to Roe on an emotional level that I haven't necessarily reached in past books, or if so, only briefly. But Tarot reader or no, this book definitely marks a major turning point in Roe's life which is probably all you need to realize.

But look at me! I've gone on and on about the emotional and interpersonal side of things and not said a thing about whatever murder or mystery is happening within these pages! LOL Well, with all the movie folk in town, you can bet there's gonna be trouble down at the OK Corral. ;) And it's none other than Ms. Celia Shaw who turns up dead. Going out with a bang! To the head that is... her recent Emmy all bloodied and lying next to her on the couch! But as it turns out, Celia and Robin haven't been an item for awhile now. And while Robin's been putting the moves on Aurora much to her delight, her stepson Barrett has been slipping it to the late star. Even though there are plenty of people who wouldn't have minded seeing Celia dead, Barrett is not one of them! But he's moved to the top of the suspect's list anyway. And no matter whether he likes her or not, Roe is going to do her damnedest to protect Martin's son and prove his innocence!

NOTE: Fans of Charlaine Harris who haven't yet read the Aurora Teagarden series will be happy to know that they are being re-released by Berkley. So they should no longer be so hard to find. Look for them at Amazon or wherever you buy or trade books.

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Thursday, January 08, 2009

REVIEW: Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah & James Howe

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

A spunky little tale of a vampire rabbit, as told by Harold, the Monroe family dog who lives with him. Yes, you heard me correctly, this particular rabbit is also a vampire! He sleeps all day (well, so do my own rabbits! LOL), and when he wakes at night he sneaks out of his cage and drains the juice from all the vegetables in the house.

Bunnicula, thus named because he was found in a movie theater during a showing of Dracula, has already managed to endear himself to the whole family—Mom and Dad Monroe, kids Pete and Toby, and of course Harold the dog. Unfortunately, Chester the cat isn't quite warming up to the little guy, and he resolves to do his darnedest to prove the truth to the family: that this cute little bunny is actually a threat to their very existence. "Today vegetables... tomorrow the world!" Chester exclaims.

This book is actually the first in what was later to become a successful children's series. Though it wasn't until after the death of Deborah, co-author of the husband/wife team, that the Bunnicula books were published.

My friend Leilani sent me this book because it was about a bunny, and she knows how much I love bunnies, as well as paranormal books. It's very much a children's book, even more so than the Darren Shan books I think, but it was entertaining to me nonetheless, and the pictures that go along with the story were so adorable! I know this book can really be enjoyed by another bunny lover like myself so I have just the person in mind. Actually, I have more than a single person in mind, but alas, it is to my BookObsessed birthday partner to whom it's traveling next. As a quick, light read, I hope she's able to pick it up soon and enjoy it as much as I did. :)

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

REVIEW: Charmed & Ready by Candace Havens

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

And so with the new year, the book count shall start anew at #1. :)

Bronwyn is a Witch, and Charmed & Deadly is the second book in the Bronwyn the Witch series featuring Bronwyn herself. This time around, Bronwyn, who regularly does security detail for the Prime Minister, has now been asked to take this next job as a favor to him for a friend. And what a delicious flavor... ahem, I mean favor, it is. ;) Rock star and heartthrob Zane is getting zapped by creepy Goth guys with strange eyes and black cloaks at his concerts, in addition to some other weird things have been happening to him. So now Bronywn's on the job. Zane's really a great guy though, and quite fun to be around, on the A-list at all the hottest clubs in London and LA. So now Bronwyn is trying to keep her client from getting killed while also trying to keep her boyfriend Sam from getting too jealous, especially since she seems to showing up in all the tabloids on Zane's arm!

I really enjoyed this book, and wonder why I waited so long after reading the first one, Charmed & Dangerous, to pick up this one. Most likely just too many other commitments and I forgot how much I enjoyed it. I really like Bronwyn and relate well to her character on so many levels, the least of which is her potty mouth. LOL

Charmed & Deadly, along with the other books in the series, is written in journal format. I feel this sometimes hinders the progress of the book at times however, particularly when Bron is telling the story of something that's happening in the here and now, but because it's supposed to seem like she's writing it in her journal after the fact—or in some other instances when there's a bit of a time warp—you have to assume she's writing these entries no matter where she is. But that's probably just me being overly picky with things. Because I can also see how the author might be using the journal outlet to allow Bronwyn to express herself in ways that might be more difficult to do otherwise. So I suppose it's a give and take. In that regard, it doesn't really detract from the story line, and the action just keeps on going non-stop, but it may cause some readers to say hmmmm.

This book is actually classified as a paranormal romance, but it's more of the MaryJanice Davidson chick-lit classification, or even urban fantasy possibly, as opposed to Christine Feehan. More chick lit and kick-ass girl than mushy, gushy, you are my hero crap! LOL Overall, a most excellent read and a definite thumbs up! :)

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Monday, January 05, 2009

2008 the Year in Review

Hi everyone! And Happy New Year!! I hope you're all having a wonderful 2009 so far.

2008 was an especially slow reading year for me as I only managed to read 37 books! =:-o That's less than half of what I usually read, which is generally somewhere in the 80s. Granted, five of those 37 were "chunky" books, chunky books being those over 350 pages. And it would've actually been six chunkies if I'd managed to finish Witch Ember, which itself is 489 pages. But alas, with all the house stuff going on, prepping in preparation for putting it on the market, plus going through 40 years of accumulated "stuff" (I never used to throw anything away but I am NOW!)... all that really hasn't left as much time this past year for reading.

I suspect I may still be a bit slow for the beginning part of this year, depending on how quickly the house sells and whatnot since it's now officially on the market, but I hope to get back into the groove of things once I get settled out west. :) We're actually planning to drive our RV cross country—3000 miles Boston to San Francisco—while the bulk of our belongings will be shipped and held in storage. But we figured this would be an ideal time to see all those parts of the country we've never seen before as we're primarily a coastal tribe. ;) And this way the bunnies, who also like to go camping, can join in the fun along with us as we become a gypsy caravan for a month or so (longer if we can't find a place to live once we get there)! LOL

Speaking of Witch Ember which I mentioned above, I'd been reading that since the end of November, but long book that it is, I had to temporarily put it aside so that I could squeeze in a few other things I owed and needed to get read in a particular time frame. Fortunately, I left off at a major break point—the beginning of Part 3—so it shouldn't be too difficult to pick up again soon. But for now, I'll be bringing you a few reviews on some books I needed to read for... well... ummm, I can't rightly say right now, but suffice to say, someone will be blowing out birthday candles this month and these books will be joining in the festivities. ;)

Alrighty, so now that all that's outta the way, I can get back to the review I was working on for Charmed & Ready, and update my Currently Reading list with the other book I'm reading now. So look for all that later today. Ta ta! :D