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!