Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lover Avenged...and I Am Hooked

The seventh book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Lover Avenged, is the first to focus on a love affair outside the Brotherhood itself, though the character of Rehvenge has been central to almost all the other books. Rehvenge, of course, is the half symphath owner of ZeroSum, the club where the Brothers hang out, and also a major drug dealer in the town of Caldwell. He certainly wasn't looking for love when he visited Havers, the vampire doctor, for an extension of his prescription for dopamine, the drug that keeps his symphath side under control, but when he meets the nurse Ehlena, sparks fly and Rehvenge is unable to restrain himself. Ehlena, whose family circumstances have left her with money troubles, isn't looking for anything either, but Rehvenge sweeps her off her feet. This being the BDB, however, things can't go easily; Rehvenge lives in fear that Ehlena will discover all his dirty little secrets and Ehlena simply worries--about mostly everything.

Lover Avenged is filled with all the characters we know well and have grown to love, including all the members of the Black Dagger Brotherhood and their various mates, plus the younger set of John Matthew, Qhuinn, and Blay. Added into the mix is the tough girl Xhex, whose story with John ramps up considerably in this edition. Her loyalties are never in question but I had to question her treatment of John (which I'm sure will play out splendidly in a future book). Also making an appearance are Trez, iAm, and Payne, minor characters with more time in this book. Best of all is the reappearance of Tohr; his story is far from over as he works to avenge the loss of his beloved Wellsie; the best part is that Lassiter the fallen angel seems to be part and parcel of Tohr's rehabilitation.

I loved this episode in the series! From Rehvenge (whom I admit to having a soft spot for) and his difficult decisions to the dark and mysterious Xhex, I felt like I was knee deep in the action. The multiple story arcs work very well for me; just when I became immersed in Wrath's and Beth's story, I was jerked along into the horrors of Lash's world and then onward into the downward spiral that is John Matthew. I loved Ehlena's spirit and her ability to see the good in others, and Tohr's fight to survive made my heart ache. And the humor! V had me laughing on more than one occasion, especially while dealing with Lassiter. While I'm not a fan of the symphaths and their odd ways, I am pleased with how the story of Rehvenge's half symphath side is resolved, and there are enough loose ends left that I know I'll be eagerly waiting on the eighth book.

Naturally there will always be things in any series that could be improved upon, and the minor problems with this one include the fact that the cast has grown so large that not everyone can be front and center. Sometimes a few characters (read: the princess) are so over the top that they make me wince. But all in all, this is a great entry in the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and it's left me wanting more, faults and everything. Can't wait to see whose story turns up next--John Matthew's? Tohr's? Lassiter's? The possibilities are endless.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson isn't your run of the mill female protagonist; not only does she own and run her own car repair shop, she is what is known as a "walker"--she can shift shape into the form of a coyote at will. In her small town in the Pacific Northwest, she's one of a kind among witches, vampires, and werewolves. Comfortable in her own skin, Mercy's content with the way her life is until a young man shows up unexpectedly at her shop, looking for work, and Mercy, her animal instincts kicking in, recognizes him for a new werewolf in need of guidance. Unfortunately, the young man's not around long enough for her to make much difference in his life and when he turns up dead on her doorstep, a chain of events has been kicked off that will pull Mercy back into the world of werewolves that she thought she'd left behind years before.

With lots of plot twists and paranormal characters, Patricia Briggs's Moon Called is a terrific introduction into the series that finds a world of fey and other underground creatures existing just outside human knowledge. Mercy's ability to walk the line between the different creatures is her best asset, and her hard headedness holds her in good stead as she tracks down the killers of her new friend. Added into the mix is an old boyfriend to whom she must turn for help, and the local leader of the werewolf pack who seems to have some feelings for Mercy.

Ms. Briggs has an accessible, easy writing style that captured me very early in the book. Having previously set aside two different books that weren't engaging me, this one was a welcome surprise as I found myself intrigued by Mercy the tough girl from the first page. The story itself is interesting, piled high with pack politics and odd vampires with ulterior motives. I admit it; I'm hooked and I'll be looking for the next in the series as soon as possible.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Broken Hero by Anne Whitfield

Set in England during the final year of World War II, Anne Whitfield's Broken Hero is the deeply emotional story of Audrey Pearson and Jake Harding, two wounded souls trying to make the best of life as the war rages around them. Audrey's family has allowed their country estate to become a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers in the aftermath of her brother's death in the war, and Jake is the current doctor sent to take care of the men. Audrey has also lost her mother recently, and though she still has her wilder younger sister Lucy, her father is not in good health. Jake comes to the estate still trying to deal with the loss of his wife and baby a few years earlier, and determined to never allow himself to fall in love again. Naturally the two instantly have sparks, but what can be done with Jake's insistence on a lonely life and the future so uncertain for all?

From the first pages I was drawn into England during World War II; Ms. Whitfield does an exemplary job of describing the country and the people. The dialogue is relaxed and believable, and it is easy to see both Audrey and Jake longing for each other, yet unable to give freely of themselves. I loved that there were no easy answers for this couple; the tension created between them is palpable and gut wrenching. The secondary characters, such as the fun-loving Lucy and the dependable nurse Valerie, add greatly to the story by fleshing out the existence of the occupants at the house. I found myself smiling with Audrey's attempts to flirt with Jake, and my heart hurt when even more loss occurred for this strong heroine.

Broken Hero is the sort of story I love to treat myself to on a regular basis because I know I will remember the characters for a very long time to come. I had no difficulty hearing their voices in my head; I was practically out of breath myself when the bombs were falling all around and I was choked up as their stories came to light. My only rather nit-picky slightly anal complaint was the need for some editing--the English teacher in me wanted to add commas and check spelling a few times. But don't let that deter you from experiencing a truly magnificent tale! Whitfield has delivered a well-rounded story that will have a place in my heart always.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Review of Gertruda's Oath

Every time I read a book about a person who survived the Holocaust, I am amazed at the bravery of those involved in the survival of the hidden Jews. I wonder if I would've been so courageous, risking my own life to save those oppressed; I wonder at why sometimes rather ordinary people do extraordinary things without blinking. All of these thoughts occurred to me once more when I sat down to read Gertruda's Oath, the story of a Catholic nanny who not only saved her Jewish charge, she fulfilled his dying mother's wish that the boy be raised in Palestine.
Gertruda's Oath is the story of Gertruda Babilinska, a Polish Catholic who is hired by the Stolowitzky family to take care of their only son, Michael, right before the Germans invade Poland. The Stolowitzkys are very wealthy, and Gertruda comes to love young Michael as if he were her own. When the Germans come into Poland, however, Michael's father is in Paris on business and is unable to return to his family or bring them to him. Desperate, Gertruda, Michael, and Lydia, the mother, flee their home for the relative security of Vilna, but their chauffeur underhandedly takes all of their belongings and money, so the trio is forced into a small apartment with basically nothing. Lydia becomes sick and passes away, but before she does, she charges Gertruda with the life of her son, and Gertruda promises to be as a mother to Michael. As Gertruda fights to hide Michael's Jewish background, she must make life-changing sacrifices and rely on Fate to keep them both alive throughout the War.
Gertruda's Oath is also the tale of Karl Rink, an SS man married to a Jewish woman, who must make the gut-wrenching decision to send his only child to Palestine as he realizes what loyalty to the Nazi regime is going to cost him. Karl's story links to Michael's, and Oren moves back and forth between the two. Interspersed are also the stories of the local Jewish doctor and Michael's father, Jacob, who initially survives the German occupation of Paris with the help of a waitress named Anna. The story is also bookended with the grown Michael searching for his father's very large fortune known to have been left in a Swiss bank, making me want to turn the pages quickly to find out if restitution is ever made.
This is a well-written story, and the author obviously worked closely with Michael Stolowitzky in telling it. I learned about the illegal immigration to Palestine of many Jews after the war ended, something I had not known wasn't allowed by the British. There were times, however, while reading that I felt the author's style of writing was more suited to a younger audience than to an adult's; it felt a bit choppy occasionally and some of the dialogue seemed stilted. But this is not a child's tale, really; there is violence, loss, and deep emotion that might not be suitable for a younger audience. And this book does indeed deserve a wide audience, and Gertruda's love and sacrifices deserve to be told and celebrated. Definitely a riveting tale that gives true meaning to the triumph of the human spirit in the face of great evil.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Lover Enshrined Review

Having been warned that Book 6 of the Brotherhood of the Black Dagger series wasn't going to be a good read (but I needed to get through it in order to get to Book 7, Lover Avenged, which is supposed to be great), I confess my expectations were low. When the story opened on Phury and his addictions, I set my teeth and plowed on. Phury's not my favorite brother, and the whole Primale story grates on me. However, something happened as I kept reading; while I never really warmed to Phury and Cormia's "romance", I found the other stories going on around them to be absolutely riveting. Ward's way of jumping between adventures had me turning pages, reading far into the night. What a nice surprise!

Like others have stated, I never really bought into the relationship of Phury and Cormia, mostly because I couldn't see them attracted to one another. I really, really wanted to smack the "wizard" in Phury's head, so I suppose it makes sense that Phury felt he had to drown out the voice with drugs. The best part of the relationship for me was the self-growth Cormia experienced. Their story really wasn't one that made me feel they belonged together, though I like both individually.

The action going on around Phury and Cormia, though, really had me hooked. With John, Blay, and Qhuinn joining the Brothers in their fight, I wanted to know what was coming next constantly. Lash, that evil fiend, lets his true colors fly in Lover Enshrined, and he's a great villain, turning the vampire community on its ear and threatening the very life of it. I liked the glimpses of Z and Bella (but am wondering about her pregnancy timeline...), and any time the Brotherhood got together I was on edge. The unexpected return of a Brother has me all set up for either future revenge or redemption, and hopefully both.

Lots to like about Lover Enshrined, even if the central romance is a bit of a letdown. If Ward does go heavy on the slang and pop culture references, I've come to expect it and can gloss over it in my reading because I know I'm going to have a good time. It's going to be interesting to see how the changes that have come to the Brothers and the vampires in general are going to play out, and I'm ready for Lover Avenged to take me through them. Still good fun, and still engaging.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Creepiness in Louisiana

I became interested in the Myrtles Plantation after seeing a Ghost Hunters episode on Sci-Fi a few years ago. Apparently this Louisiana plantation was crawling ghosts, and the ghost hunting team did in fact have some success in uncovering some odd happenings. So when a friend suggested this book, I jumped at the chance to find out a little more about this mysterious place deep in the south.
Written by Frances Kermeen, owner of the Myrtles Plantation during the 1980s, we are told the history and the alleged ghostly encounters that have taken place there. Frances felt compelled to purchase the Myrtles after a brief visitation in 1980, and she and her then husband spent a good deal of time renovating and updating the plantation. Almost immediately upon taking possession, Frances began hearing unexplained noises and seeing strange lights and even faces. During the decade in which she owned the Myrtles, the odd events were almost a daily occurence, with many of the guests also having weird things happen. Though Frances loved the house, eventually her life fell apart (whether or not it was the house, as she hints), and she sold out and moved away around 1990. Fifteen years later she decided to write this rather dramatic tale of what went on while she lived on the property.
This is a good book, with lots of action and plenty of "evidence" that ghosts do indeed haunt the Myrtles. Frances admits to being dramatic (she even hosted several murder mystery weekends at the plantation) and this comes across throughout the book. The writing itself is a bit choppy and amateurish, but the book does flow and you can feel her enthusiasm for the place. I admit to being highly skeptical of some of the things Frances described (she really lost me with the "crying portraits") but I don't doubt for a second that she endured constant demonstrations of ghosts during her tenure at the Myrtles. My take is that some of the stories may have been embellished somewhat, but with so many people visiting the plantation and experiencing much the same activities, there must be something to the tales. This is a fun read and it did give me some interesting background into a fascinating home that's indeed alive...with history.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Tenth Grade Bleeds

Vladimir Tod, growing vampire and probable Pravus, knows things aren't going to be easy when he begins his tenth grade year, even if he does have a wonderful girlfriend, Meredith. For one thing, his uncle Otis is leaving, just when Vlad thinks he's most needed; for another, his best friend Henry seems to be slipping away as a friend. Most troubling of all, though, is the increased thirst for blood that Vlad is constantly fighting. Oh, and yes, D'Ablo, his archenemy, is still after him, even slipping into Vlad's room to demand Vlad's father's journal. So when does that leave a fifteen-year-old time to study?
The third book in The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series follows the standard formula of a school year in the life of Vlad. But things are becoming more difficult on several levels for Vlad. He realizes he's not the most popular kid around, but with Henry wanting distance from being his drudge, and other kids teasing Meredith about liking him, Vlad suffers in silence. Otis is MIA for most of the book, and Nelly begins to realize that raising a vampire isn't an easy task. At least half of the book is teenaged angst, which of course makes sense, but when the action does pick up, it's fast and furious.
Like the other two, I liked this installment well enough, even if I did get tired of Vlad's insecurities at times. There were times when I felt the writing definitely was more childish than young adult, making me wish that the author would adjust as the character grows older (much as JK Rowling did with the Harry Potter series). And speaking of HP, I really did get a sense of a very Harry Potteresque ending when Vlad was facing D'Ablo for the big ending. Though not all of the final action made sense as a fight scene, I did enjoy it in general. I also feel that the final chapters really set the stage for major conflicts for Vlad in the future, and that makes me anxious to see how it's all going to turn out. Recommended for those who like books of the vampirish flavor.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Young Adult Fiction--Which Ones Have You Read?

My fellow blogger at posted the following, and I found it interesting, so I'm shamelessly borrowing it for here. I will color the books I've read blue and the ones I've never heard of in red, those I fully intend to get to before I die in purple...all others will be left in the dull boring black from which they were lifted. I'm interested to see what others have read from this YALSA list (


YALSA has come out with their “Ultimate YA Bookshelf” which has 50 books, 5 magazines, and 5 audiobooks. The premise behind it and a link to the pdf can be found here.

Here are the 50 books- I am interested in how many of them I’ve read- and whether most of them are specifically YA lit or just books that Young Adults might enjoy…

Acceleration by Graham McNamee
Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
All Things Great and Small by James Herriott
American Born Chinese
Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Beauty by Robin McKinley
Black and White by Paul Volponi
Blizzard! The Storm that Changed America by Jim Murphy
Bone series by Jeff Smith
The Book Thief by Mark Zusak
Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Chosen by Chaim Potok

The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition by Anne Frank
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going
Feed by M.T. Anderson
Fruits Basket series by Natsuki Takaya
The First Part Last by Angela Johnson
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Guinness Book of World Records
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
The Killer’s Cousin by Nancy Werlin
Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff
My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar
Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher
Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block