Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Can't Say Much, But...Mark Your Wishlists!

I can't give a full review here yet since I'm reviewing this one for The Historical Novel Society, but I will say this much...mark your wishlists for The Virgin's Daughters by Jeane Westin, which comes out in August. Tudor fiction at its best!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

And Speaking of Witches...

Well, okay, maybe we weren't speaking of witches, but hey, why not? I've been fascinated with witches since I was a little girl watching Bewitched. I used to practice wriggling my nose like Samantha (but I never did understand her relationship with Darren, or why he felt she couldn't be a witch) but on some sub-atomic level, being a witch also scared me. Were there really witches in the world? How much power did they have? And if I had that power, what would I do with it?
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe has a very clever premise...What if at least one of the women accused of witchcraft in Salem in 1992 really was a witch? My first thought was...well, why wouldn't a real witch have saved herself? Howe, herself descended from two accused women, answers that question very plausibly in this novel. Well written and well researched, this is a novel about witches, but it will most definitely make you question your perceptions. I do feel as though I was left hanging about a couple of minor issues (Arlo? Wherefore art thou now and why didn't Connie place an APB for you?), but I really enjoyed this one and can recommend it without reservation. Below is my Amazon review.
Katherine Howe's The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane takes the Salem Witch trials of 1692 and asks the question: What if at least one of the accused really was a witch? With that intriguing question, she brings us into the academic world of Connie Goodwin, a grad student at Harvard in 1991, whose doctoral thesis takes a back seat when her mother persuades her to clean out and sell her grandmother's house in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Once she arrives at the abandoned house, Connie discovers an old key containing the name "Deliverance Dane" inside a family Bible, and with her curiosity piqued, she begins tracing an old "physick" book used by the accused witch. Along the way she encounters romance, an anxious and grumpy mentor, and a mystery that seems to grow the more she investigates.
Set mostly in 1991, Howe intersperses her story with chapters set in the past, giving illumination to what was going on before, during, and after the witch trials. Though the mystery is fairly easy to figure out, all of the characters are likeable and Connie's journey into the past is fascinating. I had an easy time imagining the settings, and the paranormal aspect comes out naturally through the course of Connie's work. There was a bit of a slow start, but once the story picked up, the pages flew by as I got caught up in the plot. Biggest complaint? Howe's need to have some of her characters speak phonetically to reinforce their New England accents, a totally unnecessary element that pulled me out of the story every single time it occurred. Still, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is a well-researched, well-written glimpse into a What If? scenario that I doubt many of us in modern times had thought to ponder. Excellent reading!

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Couple of Reviews


Short and sweet (like me! lol), two reviews of recent reads. I won't post the entire reviews here--you're only getting links to Amazon's reviews, sorry!--but both were very good in very different ways.

First up is Avi's Seer of Shadows, a book I'd been wanting to read for a while. Thank goodness for pbs since I could never seem to track down a copy in any bookstore around here. I adore Avi; his The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is one of my all-time favorite books (including adult books). This one had a few quibbles for me (interracial romance in the 1870s being accepted, no problem? Yeah, right) but overall it was definitely a good read. You can read more of my thoughts at

The second book is the fourth novel in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, Lover Revealed. Okay, yes, I love this series and I'm not ashamed to say so. :) Formulaic yet still fun, filled with sexy vampires and violence, I know what I'm getting when I open one, and I'm never disappointed. If that makes me low brow, well, who cares, really? Check out my fuller review on Amazon at


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ghouls Just Haunt to Have Fun

Ghouls Just Haunt to Have Fun finds MJ, Gilley, and Stephen back on the prowl for ghosties and things that go bump in the night--this time in California, where Gilley has signed MJ up to participate in a haunted antiques show. The trio barely arrive before they stumble upon a dead body at the swanky hotel where they are staying, and that's just the beginning of their troubles. More than one former spectral guest is hanging around, there is an assortment of haunted items about, and a few more bodies are found. Oh, did I mention that there's a demon on the loose?
Ghouls Just Haunt to Have Fun, while not breaking any new ground in the series, is still a fun ride as we find MJ using her medium powers to help stranded souls across and track down those who have chosen to remain grounded. The introduction of Heath, a fellow medium, adds a nice stir to the mix as well. The relationship between MJ and Stephen doesn't advance much in this installment, but it seems as strong as ever as it plays out in the background. The atmosphere is creepy, though I found the pace of the action to not be as quick as I wanted. And while I did enjoy the story, I felt the ending was told more than shown, particularly when it came to the demon aspect. I also felt the ultimate solution to the murders came a bit out of nowhere; while I didn't guess ahead of time who the culprit was, I was let down by the revelation. Still, I did enjoy my time spent with MJ and the gang, and will be picking up the next in the series when it becomes available. This one would actually rate 3.5 stars if given the option. Enjoyable.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Back With Sookie...and Life is Good

I get kinda pissed at people who review on Amazon sometimes. You'd think they'd been personally offended just because an author *did not do* precisely what they felt should have been done in the next installment of a series. I swear in some of the reviews they nitpick a novel to death so much I just want to scream! Authors simply cannot make everyone happy by a)including every character ever introduced, b) making their characters do something because of what was done in the past, and c) make the book longer/shorter/less sexy/more sexy/, etc., etc., etc. I think some people simply delight in finding issues with a book and then blasting them; this seems to happen most frequently with books in a series.
I personally loved Dead and Gone, the 9th Sookie Stackhouse book. I raced through it, even with a sick child and work, kicking myself frequently because now I'll have to wait a year for the next one. After I'd closed the book and moseyed on over to Amazon to begin my own review, I was simply amazed at the recent reviews that gave one, two, or three stars. You'd not believe some of the problems some reviewers had; I don't have a problem with a negative review when it's based on something solid, but when it's just a rant because the author didn't include character A or had character B do something the reader didn't like, it becomes about the reviewer wanting to direct the author's words and ideas. One reviewer had the nerve to mention her own upcoming vampire book and how she would never do so-and-so...well, good for you, honey. But Amazon's not the place for BSP (blatant self-promotion) when writing reviews for others' books.
Below is my own personal review of Dead and Gone, and if you don't agree with it, that's okay. But I refuse to blast an author because of the direction she's taking her characters. Poor story, yes; poor writing, an even bigger yes. This book was delightful, and I stand by that opinion.
The ninth entry in the Southern Vampire Mysteries, Dead and Gone, opens with Sookie Stackhouse back at work at Merlotte's in Bon Temps, Louisiana, and the world being rocked with the revelation of were-creatures. Sookie, telepath extraordinaire, has known of the existence of not only the weres but all sorts of other supernaturals for a while now (even having dated the weretiger Quinn), but those who haven't aren't necessarily thrilled with the news. Even her boss Sam's stepfather doesn't react well to the announcement, so Sam must leave the bar temporarily in Sookie's care while he travels home. Unfortunately, Sookie's erstwhile sister-in-law Crystal turns up mysteriously crucified in the parking lot, and that is just the beginning of her troubles. Her great-grandfather Niall, a fairy, turns up long enough to tell her she's in danger because of his politics, and Eric, her sometimes lover/vampire friend, tricks Sookie into becoming "his"...and Sookie's not sure if that means they are married, bonded, or simply stuck with each other.
There are a lot of characters in this book, from Sookie's roommate Amelia to sadistic fairies to vengeful ex-friends intent on harm. Sookie's more serious than in the past, but there is a lot to deal with with her own life in danger and the death of Crystal. Sookie's confused: is Bill really such a bad guy? Is a relationship with Eric what she truly wants? Should she trust her brother Jason? All of these events combine to a good deal of action that is often bloody and violent, even with Sookie doing her best to stay on top of things.
I am not disappointed with this installment of Ms. Harris's series, though of course I would have liked more story to flesh out some of the action. There are a couple of convenient explanations that seem to come out of nowhere--seriously, Mel?--but there is an air of plausibility to Sookie's actions that certainly follow what she has done in the past. The push/pull between Bill and Eric is intriguing and believable, and while I desperately want her to end up with Eric, I can see how hard it is to banish an old flame. I did at times feel that the canvas was too crowded, and had to stop and think about who a character was and what his/her place was in Bon Temps, but I don't have a good solution as to paring things down. It would be easy to pick apart the book if I sat and pondered it too much, but honestly, you can't please everyone by adding in everything they want in one novel. Ms. Harris did a fine job of weaving action and emotion into Dead and Gone, and I am looking forward to more in this series.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

It Happened in Italy by Elizabeth Bettina

Through a series of coincidences and a lot of curiosity, Elizabeth Bettina, author of It Happened in Italy, discovered that Italy, ally to Hitler's Germany, also contained concentration camps in which Jews were interned. Though she had summered with her Italian grandparents for years growing up, it took a random photo showing a Jewish rabbi alongside a Catholic priest on the steps of a convent during World War II to spark Bettina's imagination: What was a rabbi doing in Italy during the war? What was a Catholic priest doing, smiling alongside him? Thus was born a journey that would take Bettina into Italy's past and forge friendships that would celebrate a shared heritage.
Elizabeth Bettina's discovery that Italy had concentration camps near her grandparents' hometown fueled her desire to get to know some of the Jews who lived in them, and through her research, she came to know several of the survivors quite well. Italy, though one of the Axis powers, did not persecute the Jews in the camps like the Germans did; many of the Jews were allowed to visit interned family and to even walk around the villages during the day. As Bettina further delved into the story, she came to realize that it was the decision of most of the Jews to move to Italy as the war began that actually saved their lives; their treatment was much gentler, and the local Italians not only helped them, they hid them when necessary. Bettina eventually brought the survivors to the notice of the Catholic church,which had sheltered and helped many of them, and was instrumental in having them visit with several high-ranking officials at the Vatican, including Pope Benedict. She escorted several of the survivors on trips back to the camps; her experiences often border on the fantastic when connections are made from random remarks and old photographs.
Elizabeth Bettina's book sheds important light on a facet of World War II history that is often overlooked. I personally had not realized that Italy housed concentration camps, but I was immensely relieved to realize that, as one survivor said, there were good people alive in bad times. Bettina's writing style is a bit repetitve at times, and though I truly believe she loves the survivors and their stories, she does make sure to give herself credit for their recognition. But honestly that is a minor fault in a well-told story that found me learning so much about an area I previously knew nothing about. I can recommend this book as a great way to get to know Italy's role in the Holocaust; the survivors' stories will make you realize how much they lived through and triumphed over.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Some Reading...a Review...a Rejection

It's been a bit since my last post, which doesn't mean I haven't been reading; it just means I've been busy, pre-occupied, whatever. Let me catch you up to speed.

Firstly, let me say I just finished a review of Pharaoh's Daughter by Julius Lester for the Historical Novel Society. I can't say much here, but it's definitely a good read I could recommend. Very quick and good.

I spent over 200 pages trying to will myself into liking Figures in Silk by Vanora Bennett. I wanted to get into it, and at times I mostly succeeded. It's a very different take on Richard III; I could've gone along with it more easily if I'd liked the voice of the narrator. It just never seemed to have much of a focus for me. Hate it when that happens: a story with promise becomes an epic fail in the end. See my full review at

Finally, though, I have a novel I recommend without reservation: Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr. I'll admit I almost didn't pick this one up since I found the second novel in the series, Ink Exchange, a less than riveting follow-up to Wicked Lovely. This one, however, just knocked my socks off for 95% of the book. The one problem I had would be a major spoiler to write here, but let's just say it involves Seth and Sorcha. There seems to be an unnecessary addendum to their relationship and that's all I'm gonna say. Below is my full review; let me know what you think.

I read Wicked Lovely a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it; Ink Exchange was a bit of a letdown for me when I picked it up last summer. So I almost didn't give Fragile Eternity a chance when it came out recently, but decided that since it was focusing on Aislinn and Seth, I'd see if the series had picked back up. I'm so pleased that now, four days after closing the final page, I'm still thinking about this one! It definitely marks a return to form in the series.

Picking up not too long after Ink Exchange, we're back watching Aislinn, Seth, Keenan and Donia balance their delicate relationships in the world of the faeries. Keenan, true to form, is obsessed with having Aislinn as his "true" queen now that she has indeed become a faery, but Aislinn and Seth have vowed to make their relationship work. Seth sees the Courts from a human's viewpoint, and he has begun to realize that Keenan isn't going to accept Aislinn's refusal to take their alliance to the next level, nor does he fail to understand that Aislinn's resistance is slowly being worn down. Even though Seth's been given a charm to help him see the faery world, his outsider status begins to wear on both he and Aislinn, and when his faery friend Niall refuses to help him, Seth sets out to find a way to join the faeries permanently.

Peopled with familiar characters, Fragile Eternity explores the conflicting emotions among the Courts, giving us more insight into personalities and faery manipulations. Donia is revealed to be a jealous lover; Bananach is the ultimate stirrer; Sorcha brings depths unsuspected as she interacts with Seth. What might have been silly and unimaginative is instead a tale filled with intrigue, longing, and unexpected turns as the pages fly by. I will admit that I was less than thrilled with the events surrounding Seth's plea to Sorcha; the conversations between those two as the book progressed actually detracted from my overall enjoyment as I felt we'd gone beyond the teen relationship at its core into something vaguely...well, icky.

Marr has given us a truly creative world and her focus on the depth of Aislinn's and Seth's feelings help to keep everything grounded. At times I felt sympathy for the despicable and outrage at the heroic; Marr never gives us the straight and simple path. Despite my problems with the Sorcha situation, it's rare for a book to make me think about it during work and after I've closed my eyes for sleep. This one merits a solid 4.5 stars, but I'm rounding it up because of the enjoyment I received from 95% of it. I can hardly wait for the next one.