Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Friday, December 31, 2010

And Finally...One More Review!

The third (and possibly final) book in the Darkest Powers series, The Reckoning, takes up with Chloe, our heroine, safely ensconsed in supernatural friend Andrew's house. Along with her fellow runaways Derek, Simon, and Tori, they've been on the lam from the Edison Group, the people responsible for genetically altering their supernatural genes in order to "make them better". But for once it seems as though things will slow down and allow the quartet to catch their collective breaths and form a plan on how to return to the laboratory and rescue Chloe's Aunt Lauren and their friend Rae. But things couldn't be quite so easy, could they? Of course not...especially with an evil poltergeist living in their new home, Derek's final Change into a werewolf iminent, romantic issues, a missing parent, and the ultimate betrayal by those who are supposed to be protecting them.

The Reckoning is just as well written as the previous two books in the series, yet I couldn't get over the feeling that we'd never be free from the running going on. Chloe's powers are terrifyingly shocking; the scene in the cemetery is particularly gruesome. I loved the scenes where Derek finally changes, and Tori's growing maturity is a welcome change over her bratty behavior earlier. And yet, though those pages kept turning rapidly, I can't help but feel there will be more to come with these characters since there's way too much left unexplained. I would welcome another entry in this series in order to clear up some of the mysteries left dangling (which several reviewers have enumerated far better than I could). Even with the irritations of stories left unresolved (or not resolved satisfactorily), I would still continue to read this series and recommend them to all who love young adult paranormals. Armstrong writes with a sense of urgency that made me continually say "Just one more page...just one more chapter..." until I had to force myself to put the book down. Definitely addicting.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong

The Awakening, the second book in the Darkest Powers series, picks up almost immediately after The Summoning ends: Chloe wakes up, basically imprisoned, at the mercy of the Edison Group. This group is responsible for the genetic engineering of several supernatural babies' DNA; now that the group has reached their teens, their powers are increasing and sometimes out of control. And if the Edison Group cannot get a handle on the teens...well, let's just say that problems are eliminated. And it's this truth that Chloe's awakened to.

The Awakening moves quickly and it's not a spoiler to say that Chloe and Tori (her nemesis) escape the supervision of the adults from the Edison Group and meet up with Simon and Derek. No one's particularly excited to have Tori along, but the other three make the best of things as they go on the run. There are no pretty surprises about running for your life, and Chloe's necromancy is a constant source of terror as she accidentally raises the dead. Unsure of even where they are headed, the foursome only want a sense of normalcy to return to their lives.

While it's clear that The Awakening is ramping up the action so we can get to the final showdown with the Edison Group, it also stands up to expectations. There is literally almost no stopping place once the escape happens, and Chloe's terror at her growing supernatural manifestation is palpable. I did wish there was less bickering among the characters, but that only makes it more realistic since they are teens. I also wondered at how Chloe could instinctively know what to do with her powers when she only recently discovered them. But in general this book is a welcome addition to the teen paranormal genre because it's different from the run of the mill love/angst/horror stories so prevalent. I'm on to the next one!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

And Now, Finally, A Book Review

And now for something completely different...a book review!

Seriously, I've been reading and reviewing, but nothing I could post here yet. Many thanks to the Historical Novel Society for keeping me in books and well entertained, but I cannot post reviews for them here until they've appeared in publication, so...all that equals the videos I've posted below.

Plus, if I'm being devastatingly honest, I've been a bit of a slow reader lately. Now, granted, I had an excuse: DH, Katherine, and I went to Hawaii the week of Thanksgiving (that's right, feel badly for me now) and school came to its limping first semester conclusion last week. Well, sort of. We had two snow days (in December!) and two half days, wreaking havoc on our schedules. Anyway, I can make all the excuses I want but I'm hoping to get a few more books finished before the year officially ends. Looking forward to an awesome 2011 which includes seeing U2 in July! Yes!

So, here's my first Amazon book review in pretty much forever. Short and sweet, if not all Christmasy like I'd thought it would be. Still good, however.

What are you reading?

I picked up Richard Peck's A Season of Gifts after it had languished in my TBR pile for quite some time because its cover seemed to indicate the season in question would be Christmas (my copy has an old car traveling down a road with a tree tied to its roof as its cover). Turns out the "season" is an entire first semester of school spent in the small town where Mrs. Dowdel, the fiery grandmother heroine of A Long Way From Chicago and A Year Down Yonder, lives. And that turned out to be all right, too.

As a long time fan of both A Long Way From Chicago and A Year Down Yonder, I was pleased to discover this little companion book. At only 164 pages, it can easily be read in a sitting and its chapters echo both of the other books. This time our stories are told from the point of view of P.K. (preacher's kid) Bob Barnhart, whose family has moved next door to Mrs. Dowdel. Taking place around 25 years or so after the last book, Bob is also a misfit; his dealings with some of the characters are humorous, mischievous, and troubling at once. Mrs. Dowdel, the wild figure that she is, says she "doesn't neighbor" but in truth, her eye is on the family next door and she knows how to set things to rights far better than most.

While the stories are set into sections roughly by months, the common theme is survival, and humor, as always, plays a major part in helping the story along. There's nothing deep to the plot, and Mrs. Dowdel is as lively and delightfully bossy as ever. This book's a slender gem and takes you back to an era when Elvis was king and a boy's remembrances could be more wishful nostalgia than anything. Good clean fun and well written.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Two More For Your Reading Pleasure

Seems like I can't get myself caught up these days, but I'm finally getting around to posting a few new reviews. Both are paranormal, both are part of a series, and both are worth the read! Keep going...

Book 9 in the Morganville Vampire series, Ghost Town, finds our quartet of friends--Claire, Shane, Eve, and Michael--in hot water once again, naturally. Just when it seems some relative normality may settle into their lives, Eve becomes involved in an out of control party in which vampires are killed. When the others arrive to help, Claire herself kills a vampire--and in Morganville, it's a life forfeited whenever that happens. But luckily (?) for Claire, Amelie sentences her to a non-stop session with Myrnin to restore Morganville's damaged defense mechanism, a task almost sure to fail. And it does, of course...but not quite in the way imagined.

Ghost Town is another spectacular entry in the series, with the fearsome foursome battling forces within their borders that threaten to not only destroy Morganville but their relationships as well. Caine does a terrific job of keeping the storyline moving, throwing us twists and building danger until I literally could not put the book down. I love the relationship between Claire and Shane; their honest, loving encounters bring new dimensions to both characters while giving us enough romance so that it's not all just about the sex. I admit to getting angry with both Oliver and Amelie; they have always been many shades of gray but this book takes their deviousness to new levels. And favorite! Poignant and funny, I just want to spend more time with him. And from our cliffhanger ending, it looks like I'm going to get my wish. A lot of fun and highly recommended!
And then there's Entice...
Ever felt yourself torn between what you should do and what you want to do? How about between two equally appealing love interests? Or maybe even between becoming a pixie or staying human? Well, probably not that last one, and Zara White's decision on that issue was settled toward the ending of Captivate, the book previous to Entice. Still, there's a lot of back and forth in this sequel, with Zara knowing she needs to get to Valhalla to bring Nick back from the dead, yet realizing she's placing herself and those she loves in grave danger by doing so. Having to rely on Astley, her pixie king, seems a burden on some levels but as time progresses, time spent with him seems less and less problematic and more...normal. And that's scary for Zara; almost as scary as crossing a rainbow bridge into the hereafter in search of a boy who very well may hate her upon learning she's chosen to become a pixie in order to save him.

To say there is conflict in Entice is to be a master of understatement. Naturally there's still the major conflict of pixies preying on humans, but there is also conflict between Zara and Astley, Zara and Betty, Zara and the pixies, and Zara and herself. Becoming a pixie was what Zara felt she needed to do in order to rescue Nick, but she now must also assume the role of queen to Astley's king, which complicates things. There is a lot of trying to decide what to do in order to rescue Nick; there is a lot of running around chasing false leads, which honestly got a little irritating after a while (the whole Iceland bit? Could seriously have done without that). The story really picks up when Zara places herself in grave danger and the arrival of her mother, a woman who hates pixies with all her heart.

I myself felt torn when I sat down to write this review because I loved Need and enjoyed Captivate, but much of Entice fell short for me. The idea of Zara longing for Nick sometimes felt forced when she took herself off to a dance at school (seriously?) and to a bar (where no one threw high school kids out?). The false leads almost wore me out; I felt at times that perhaps the author was struggling to pad this book out with unnecessary side trips. The storyline has also taken an odd turn with the trip to Valhalla; in my mind, it leaves behind the meaning of the first two books by adding in Norse gods and quests. I want my action logical and in Bedford! But the scenes where Zara is injured and her emotions toward the end of the book made up for my lack of enthusiasm early on, and I am hopeful that the ending is leading us back on track, even if I don't want the Twilight-y twist of loving two guys equally. I'm rounding up from 3.5 stars and looking forward to the next in the series.


Saturday, November 06, 2010

I'm Baaaaack...With Reviews, No Less

Well, here I am.

I really haven't been anywhere, actually; just knee-deep in marching band season with youngest dear daughter. The reading's been slow but good when I've been able to snatch a few pages, but the ability to review has been wayyyyy yonder on the backburner. But finally band season's done (we came in fifth in the state, thank you very much! Check us out at and we're headed off to Hawaii on November 19 for a week. I'm already plotting which books to take (definitely Elizabeth Chadwick's newest, To Defy a King, and possibly Torment by Lauren Kate). Don't look so shocked...I know you fellow book readers plot what books to take on vacation just as early as I do. I also know you take two or three extra books *just in case* you start to read something and it doesn't take. Don't look away. I know your secrets.

Anyway, I'm in the process of catching up on my reviews, and here are two of my recent reads. First up is The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong.

Things are fairly typical for Chloe Saunders; she's a regular 14 year old with her circle of friends and she's very into films. Though she misses her mother who died years earlier, she's got a father and a trusted aunt who care for her. So what if she's a bit of a late bloomer? It's all good--until the day she sees a terrifying ghost. Suddenly she's no longer normal; she's diagnosed as schizophrenic and shipped off to the Lyle House, an in-house treatment center so that she can learn to cope with her illness. The problem? It's not really an illness; it's fact, and Chloe's going to have to convince herself that she's got a special power she's going to have to learn to deal with, despite the adults who are trying to get her to believe otherwise.

The Summoning is engaging right from the opening pages and doesn't let up throughout. Once Chloe figures out she's not schizophrenic, you know she's going to have to get herself out of Lyle House, but it seems next to impossible. Her friendships with Liz, Derek, Simon, and Rae provide Chloe with the realization that perhaps she's not alone in her gift, but none of them seem to know what's going on...and it's obvious as the mystery grows that things are much darker and deeper than any of the kids had suspected.

Finding a stopping point was a big problem for me while reading The Summoning because Ms. Armstrong often ends chapters on cliffhangers. I kept thinking "just one more page...just one more chapter..." and before I knew it, fifty more pages had flown by. If at times Chloe seemed a little naive, it was understandable, given her background and the work the adults had done to ensure that she was kept in the dark. The Summoning had lingered for quite a while in my to-be-read pile, but it's a sure thing that its sequels, The Awakening and The Reckoning, certainly won't. Great fun and highly recommended.

Next up is The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller.

Ever have the feeling that you've lived before? Haven Moore has; in fact, she's been feeling that way since she was a very small child and could give details about New York City and Rome that there was no way she could have known. In her small East Tennessee town, under the scrutiny of her judgmental grandmother, Haven is seen as odd and out of place. The fact that her best friend is a gay football player who helps her sew dresses doesn't help her outsider status, and her susceptibility to "visions" which cause her to faint frequently is seen as possibly even demonic by her church. But when Haven discovers a box of notes written by her deceased father wherein he ponders the idea of Haven's having lived past lives, she knows he's right. And when she sees handsome playboy Iain Morrow's face plastered in the papers, she knows in her soul that he's the "Ethan" she's been looking for since her last life ended.

The beauty of The Eternal Ones is that you're never precisely sure what's going on, and who the good guys are. Haven's susceptible to the feelings and visions she experiences, but she also listens to just about everyone she meets, casting doubts and raising red flags constantly. She allows Iain to sweep her off her feet and then abruptly decides he's using her, but his presence and assurance that they are meant to be together throw her into even more turmoil. Iain remembers all their lives together, and while Haven believes him, she begins to wonder when it becomes obvious he's keeping big, big secrets. Then there's the Ouroboros Society, a group that tracks people who remember past lives. Just what part does the Society play in Iain's life now, and what part did it play in the deaths of Haven, once known as Constance, and Ethan, many years before?

The Eternal Ones is wonderfully layered and mysterious, and Haven and best friend Beau are vivid and believable. The biggest issue I had was the wishy-washiness Haven experiences once she follows her instincts and goes to meet Iain; should she believe in him or was he really the cause of her death in the 1920s? Come on, make a choice and stick with it! But the seamless way Miller weaves reincarnation with Christianity and the slow unveiling of Haven's past life as Constance more than makes up for any dithering she may do along the way. This one actually rates a strong 4.5 stars...and I'm hopeful there's a sequel already in the works.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Okay, I Know It's Blurry...

...but it's me meeting Rick Springfield Friday night! He was doing a book signing for his new autobiography, Late, Late At Night, and he did a signing at our local Davis-Kidd Booksellers. What a hunk he still is! And very friendly as well. I never got the impression that he was in a hurry or that he just wanted to get us through. I didn't take my good camera because originally we'd been told there'd be no posed photos, but they changed that policy when we arrived. So I was stuck with my BlackBerry camera. Arrrrgh. Anyway, it was a great evening that I'll remember for a very long time. Be still my heart; I've been in love with him for eons! Totally worth it to finally get to meet him.

Bright Young Things

Bright Young Things is the first book in Anna Godbersen's new series set New York during the summer of 1929. Full of gossipy drama, Bright Young Things is just what we've come to expect from Godbersen, following in the tradition of The Luxe series. Anyone who enjoyed that series (and I certainly did), will find just as much to enjoy in this one.

BYT opens with small town girls Cordelia Grey and Letty Haubstadt hopping a train for the bright lights of the big city; each has a past she is more than eager to leave far behind. Once they arrive, however, of course things don't go smoothly, and their situations diverge when they have an argument that causes them to split. Letty takes on the new last name Larkspur and aims for the spotlight as a singer, but she soon finds that just surviving is going to be work. Cordelia is determined to find her long lost father, whom she believes is the famous bootlegger Darius Grey; needless to say, her poor beginnings take a major upturn when she does indeed discover that her father wants her back in his life. Along the way, she becomes friends with the popular and beautiful ingenue Astrid Donal, who is the girlfriend of Cordelia's newly found brother Charlie. Swept off her feet by the dashing young Thom Hale, Cordelia's entry into society turns her family upside down and puts everyone in danger. And no one's life will ever be the same again.

This book is a fast read and it's just the sort of story that carries you away into another time period, into the lives of people you could never be. These girls aren't necessarily blameless in what happens; they're definitely real characters making mistakes and feeling betrayed. The main thing is that you'll feel as though Cordelia, Letty, and Astrid are your friends and you'll want to be there every step of the way with them as they face their trials. Loved it and cannot wait for the next one!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Not Really a Party Until Someone Brings the Surprise Zombies"

Great line, huh? Nick may be a demon who doesn't experience human emotions, but he can deliver one liners that will crack you up throughout The Demon's Covenant. It's just one of the many reasons that this book is more than a worthy sequel to The Demon's Lexicon.

The story picks up not too long after The Demon's Lexicon leaves off; Mae becomes worried about her brother Jamie being targeted by magicians from the Obsidian Circle, so she contacts magician fighting brothers Alan and Nick to come help her pull him away from the evil influence. Along the way, we discover that Nick wants to learn about human emotions and he enlists Mae to help him; Alan, frightened of what his brother is capable of, decides the wiser course might be to betray him; the Goblin Market becomes the scene of many confrontations; and Mae finds herself torn between Alan and Seb, a boy at school. There are no easy choices in The Demon's Covenant.

Rant time: What is up with that cover? Besides the fact that it features a minor character, it's just plain ugly. It makes Sin look like she's in her forties, not to mention those big feet. Whoever okayed that one needs to be pummeled repeatedly.

The rant aside, I was pleasantly surprised that a sequel could maintain the intrigue and depth of the first book. With its devastating wit and action, its relationship issues and the magic, The Demon's Covenant works on so many levels. I loved seeing the relationship between Jamie and Mae, and I loved that Jamie knows who he is and doesn't shy away from it. The world Brennan has created is intricate and compelling, and I'm already on board for book number three. Dark and disturbing at times, there's gore and menacing situations that put everyone in peril but will keep you turning the pages quickly. This one garners a solid 4.75 stars, kept from the full 5 by a couple of chapters that meandered just a bit. Excellent reading!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Blah, Blah...

I'm not a good sick person, and that's just what I've been for two days now. Woke up yesterday feeling like I'd been hit by a truck, but bravely decided to go ahead to work in the hope that I would miraculously feel better. Wrong. Took me less than an hour to request a sub and take myself on home where my stomach rumbled and my head floated among the clouds for the better part of the day. Feeling better by dinner time, I attempted to eat the veggies Jeff brought home from Cracker Barrel...that did not sit well. But hope continues to spring eternal, so I got up and got dressed for work again this morning. Again, it took about 20 minutes for me to decide that was not especially a good idea, either. So here I am, nursing my rumbly tummy and thinking that it might possibly be on the mend. We'll see. I hate being out from work because it's just a pain. And sickness seems like weakness somehow.

On the upside, I finished A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris yesterday and The Exile by Diana Gabaldon last night. Today's been a napping, tv, computer sort of day, but I did start The Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan. So if there's an upside to feeling yucky, it's spending time doing nothing much and feeling no guilt because, hey, I'm sick.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

More Sookie

I figured I could pass on this compilation of short stories based on the the Sookie Stackhouse books because 1) I'm not a fan of short stories, and 2) I didn't think there'd be much substance there. But based on the recommendation of two reading buddies (Hi, Steven and Karen!), I decided that maybe I was missing something after all, so I picked it up. It turns out that A Touch of Dead is the perfect light companion to the fuller stories, and fills in some of the gaps as well. Mission accomplished!

There are five short stories contained in A Touch of Dead, and each takes place at different stages of the Sookie adventures. While all of them are fun, my favorite was One Word Answer because it seemed to give us the most background into Sookie's relationship with her cousin Hadley. Fairy Dust focuses on Sookie helping Claudine and Claude find out who murdered their triplet, Claudette; Dracula Night finds us at Fangtastia awaiting the arrival of the Count himself; Lucky is a bit a of throwaway story where Sookie and Amelia help out a local insurance agent; and Gift Wrap details a rather interesting Christmas Eve.

It would, of course, help to be very familiar with Sookie's stories before reading A Touch of Dead, and to keep your expectations low as far as plot advancement goes. But if you're as eager to spend time in the fun-filled life of our Sookie, A Touch of Dead more than fits the bill.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Vlad Tod #5

The final book in The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series picks up where #4 left off; Vlad thinks he's seen his dead father after battling his friend Joss, who happens to be a Slayer sworn to kill Vlad. Vlad's also still going to be put on trial by Elysia for his "crimes" against other vampires and his life is on the line. All in all, things aren't looking too good for our favorite high school vampire senior. Will Vlad be able to recover his father's lost diary in time to use its secret code to exonerate himself? Will Joss find a way not to kill Vlad? Will Vlad ever graduate?

Okay, that last question was a bit silly, given all the action packed into #5, but amid everything going on, Vlad still attends school, even if he never expects to graduate. Vlad spends much of this book searching for answers to whether or not he's the Pravus and whether or not his father is indeed still alive (and what that means if he is). It's not a pretty tale, and Vlad's losses are huge. In addition to girlfriend Snow, Vlad's uncle Otis and aunt Nelly are in constant danger, and Vlad's frustration at not being able to stop events fuels much of the action.

Recounting the plot would give away too much, so I will say that this is a fitting ending to the quintet, if a disturbing one on many levels. Vlad's got to solve some big problems and he's unsure of where to even begin. While all this is going on, Vlad's dealing with the normal angsts of being a teenager--old loves, new loves, friends, and oh, yeah, a blackmailer. Well, all right, that's not typical, but still...Vlad's got problems. Ms. Brewer does a terrific job of capturing a teen's emotions as she explores his vampiric issues.

Rant time: You know how I feel about editors these days, and this book has a few items that should have been caught. Right off the bat (pun intended) on page six, there are two instances of "had drank". Once I could overlook; twice and it's a problem for this reader. It also occurs later in the book so someone should have been paying closer attention. Also, there's an instance where Vlad "slunked" down the hall. Slunk is past tense itself. And yes, I know this is picky, but I care. Someone should.

This final book is well written and engaging, if a little rushed toward the end. There are no pretty little bows to tie up everything (and I'd have been disappointed had there been). And that ending? Let's just say I don't think we've seen the last of Vlad. I'll be looking forward to it.


Monday, October 04, 2010

Rinaldi Back In Form

Fourteen year old Tacy Stryker is frustrated; the youngest and only girl of the family, she's left in the care of her mother and older brother David as she watches her other two older brothers and her father go off to fight for the Union. It's not that Tacy is a bad person, but she chafes under the close scrutiny of David, who is himself frustrated because an old injury keeps him from joining the Union Army. So when the battle of Gettysburg begins, Tacy's already frayed nerves take an even larger beating as David cracks down on her sassiness as the bullets fly by their home. Mix in keeping an African American friend and her mother safe, a fight with an old friend, and losing her beloved horse, and you have a young woman with very identifiable problems in a horrendous historical setting.

Rinaldi's been hit or miss with me for a few years now, but The Last Full Measure is a return to form for the author. Relatively short (just over 200 pages), the book focuses less on the actual fighting than it does on the relationships and feelings of the Stryker family. Expecting Rinaldi to gloss over events, I was pleasantly surprised at how well she described what was going on while still keeping the focus on rebellious Tacy. There is a shocker toward the end that had me glued to the pages until I could see how Tacy was going to survive; there are lots of emotions involved in these short pages. My only argument would be that I would have liked to have seen the book be a little longer, but that's a minor issue. I can now say I have lived through Gettysburg through the eyes of a young woman experiencing devastating loss and courage. Recommended.


Friday, October 01, 2010

Jennifer Donnelly, You Never Let Me Down

In Jennifer Donnelly's exquisite new young adult book, Revolution, there's a juxtaposition of two young lives, lived two hundred years apart, and the idea and reality of Revolution. In modern times, Andi Alpers is a high school senior at the exclusive New York school St. Anselm's, and while her life should be one of ease and comfort, she's haunted by the sudden, tragic death of her younger brother Truman two years before. During the French revolution, Alexandrine Paradis is a teen whose very life depends upon her ability to be a convincing actress and spy. Brought together by Alex's diary, the two young women are on different paths to self-discovery, yet neither one may survive.

Andi's a tragic figure in many ways, and her story isn't a pretty one. Never very close to her father, a Nobel Prize winning scientist, the death of Truman drives a wedge further into their relationship, particularly once he leaves Andi and her mother for good. Andi's mother retreats into a cloud of painting and depression until Andi's father is forced to place her into a mental institution; her pain is echoed in Andi, who also finds that popping prescription anti-depressants numbs her to the guilt she feels over Truman. In a life filled with drugs and soul-rending pain, Andi considers repeatedly taking her own life; the only force of good she feels is when she can retreat into music. It is this force that draws her to Virgil, a young man she meets when she's forced by her father to go to Paris with him while her mother is institutionalized. It is there that she finds Alex's diary, and her journey back in time begins.

There is so much to this story, so many layers revealed, often slowly; yet getting inside Andi's mind is difficult because she puts up defenses that make it hard even for the reader to get close to her. The adults in her life have let her down so often that there is no hope for her there, and yet she's isolated herself from almost everyone in order to squelch the pain she feels over Truman. When Virgil appears and offers her something to hold on to, it almost makes you want to scream at her to grab him and never let go, yet Andi's tenuous hold on life is so fragile it seems possible that she will not make it. It is only as she loses herself in the pages of Alex's diary that she can discover what it is she needs to do in order to make peace with her losses.

Donnelly's writing is rich and full of depth, and the parallel lives of these two young women are both equally engaging. There is so much feeling among the pages, and Andi's self-destructive behavior makes your heart hurt as you are forced to experience her life. Donnelly weaves history effortlessly into the story, and I was particularly impressed with her grasp of historical music. The voices of Andi and Alex are going to be with me a very long time and I cannot recommend this one highly enough. Jennifer Donnelly, your writing never lets me down. Five plus stars.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I'm Soooooooo Psyched!

Going Ape

Ape House, the new novel by Sara Gruen, is actually two stories revolving around the bonobo apes which are a part of the Great Ape Language Lab. Dr. Isabel Duncan has dedicated her life to her apes, which she considers family; John Thigpen is a struggling reporter assigned to write a story about them. When an explosion destroys the Lab and Isabel is gravely injured, the worst calamity that can happen does: the apes are sold to a man whose sole objective is to create a reality television show based on their lives and antics. Isabel's recovery becomes as much about retrieving her "family" as about physical healing; John, while battling his own career, finds himself caught up in the resulting media circus as he investigates just how the apes were acquired for Ape House.

There's a lot going on in Ape House, and it's usually inter-connected. Isabel's fiance, Peter, is a shady character from the start, and his actions only get murkier as the story unfolds. John's wife Amanda, also a writer, succumbs to the pressure of Hollywood's superficiality when she moves alone to L.A. to pursue her career. John's integrity is questioned; Isabel's life falls apart. Things degenerate and the apes very survival becomes unknown. And perhaps upon reflection, this is the biggest issue I have with Ape House: focus. Are we most worried about the apes, Isabel's recovery, John's marriage or his career?

Ape House is engaging, fun, and well written, and I really enjoyed the characterizations, even if a couple (Ivanka? Celia?) were over the top. John and Isabel are both entirely believable, if terribly gullible. It's a fast read and the bad guys are never really in question. The ending, however, is very rushed, with a couple of plots (Isabel's love life; John's jail stay) glossed over irritatingly. The true stars of the story, however, are the apes themselves. Gruen's research is impeccable and she's a master at writing animals. I just would like her to stick with a theme and play it out to its ultimate conclusion without throwing in the kitchen sink along the way. Still, I'm rounding up from 3.5 stars for overall enjoyment and my delight in the bonobo apes.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Iron Daughter

Still not sure precisely what the title The Iron Daughter refers to since the main character is the daughter of the Summer King, not the Iron King (and the Iron Court is the "bad guy") but whatever. This is still a fun series, well written and page turning. I'm looking forward to the next in the series, but until then, here is my review for your perusal.

In this sequel to The Iron King, Meghan Chase, daughter of King Oberon of the Summer Court, is being held by Queen Mab of the Winter Court. Ash, prince of the Winter Court and the love of her life, is distant and cold (in more than one sense of the word) and she doesn't know if fellow faery friend Puck is recovering after his brush with death. In this uncertain, lonely world, Meghan witnesses the exchange of the Sceptre of the Seasons between the Courts, and when the Sceptre goes missing, the Courts are pitted against each other, putting Meghan and Ash even more in the middle than usual. Add in some Iron faeries, a bunch of mythical creatures, and yes, Silicon Valley, and you've got The Iron Daughter.

With the characters loosely based on A Midsummer Night's Dream, there's a whole lot of action and deception going on in this book; Meghan's still desperately in love with Ash, but Ash is doing the noble thing by trying to remain aloof. The two are thrown together, however, by the need to retrieve the Sceptre from the Iron Court and of course they can hardly fight their attraction. With Puck's admission to Meghan that he loves her, the Summer Princess finds herself torn between the two, both of whom she loves in different ways. But will any of it even matter if the a war between the Summer and Winter Courts cannot be thwarted?

Ms. Kagawa's writing is fun and action-filled, and while the story is naturally fairly predictable, it doesn't take away from the enjoyment of the tug-of-war between the Courts and Meghan and her loves. With the addition of some odd quirks, Meghan's beginning to realize that she's not just a Princess of the Summer Court but a force to be reckoned with, and she's going to have to make some serious decisions. The mooning over Ash does get a bit old at times, but such is young love that it's entirely believable. There's lots of blood and gore and a pretty big cliffhanger ending that has me already looking up the release date of the next in the series. It's not high literature but it is good, exciting fun which more than fulfills its purpose. Bring on the next!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Good Daughters

Next up...a Vine review from the fantabulous Joyce Maynard. I suspect she could write the phone book and I'd be enthralled.

Born on the same day, Dana Dickerson and Ruth Plank actually seem to have very little in common. Dana's parents, Val and George, are free spirits who move their family frequently and cannot seem to hold on to anything; Ruth's parents are the latest in many generations of Planks who have farmed the same land in New Hampshire for over 200 years. Dissimilar in looks and temperament, the only reason the two remain in any sort of contact as they grow up is that Ruth's mother maintains a yearly trip to visit the Dickersons wherever they might be living, almost as though it's a sacred pact that only she knows about. The one good thing about these trips is the opportunity for Ruth to see Dana's brother Ray, a boy she maintains a crush on throughout the years.

Told in chapters that alternate between the lives of the girls as they grow up, Maynard foreshadows the major plot point along the way so often that it's easy to see what tragedies will unfold as the stories play out. Ruth's an artist who doesn't fit in with her four older sisters and who feels distance from her mother; Dana is a lesbian with a kinship for all things agricultural. As their lives march on through the 60s and into the 70s, both experience love and loss as they come to the awareness that sometimes what makes a good daughter is not what we are but what we do.

Maynard's writing is always a joy to behold, and The Good Daughters is no exception. Relatively short at under 300 pages, the inter-connectedness of the lives of these two young women play out against bigger cultural events and smaller familial actions. While I would have liked for there not to have been so many obvious hints at what the twist would be, it didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of Maynard's gift of words and her ability to bring life to her characters. Scenes of emotional loss so deep that it physically hurt brought tears to my eyes and yet this is not a book without hope and understanding. Maynard has a rare talent and The Good Daughters is yet another example of her complex layering. As long as she's writing, I'll continue reading.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Well, I'm back! Actually, I've been reading and reviewing, but mostly for HNS in the past month. This is the first book (purchased through Amazon) that I've been able to post a review on my blog for in a while, and it's a doozy! I'm noticing the polarizing reviews over on the big A; amazing how some people get so bent when a book/trilogy doesn't end precisely as they'd planned for it to. Don't these people realize THEY don't own the characters, no matter how much they love them? Guess not, judging from some of  the poor reviews Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins has received (though I am pleased that it's not been totally panned, unlike Breaking Dawn). Anyway, FWIW, I'm posting my own review below.

It took me nearly a week to read Mockingjay. Not that it's an overly long book, or so dull I couldn't stay with it, but because I wanted to luxuriate inside its pages for as long as possible. And once I did finish, I felt an overwhelming sadness to leave Katniss and her world behind, though much satisfaction at how it all played out. Maybe it wasn't precisely as I'd pictured, but it certainly felt right after fighting alongside Katniss through two Hunger Games and the start of a revolution.

Just to sum up Mockingjay's major points: We pick up the story as Katniss has awoken in District 13, lifted out of the arena by Haymitch and Co., leaving Peeta behind to face the devastation wrought when the arena exploded. Katniss, frail in both body and spirit, must come to terms with her unwilling abandonment of Peeta and the new life she must face as the symbol of the fight against the Capitol. Known as the Mockingjay, she now has the power to rouse the other Districts, yet she continually finds herself at odds with those around here and always aware of how Peeta must be suffering because of her deeds. Along the way, Katniss must also come to terms with her feelings for Gale and the loss of lives that can be laid at her feet. It's almost more than she can handle.

I loved every page of Mockingjay, though this Katniss is somewhat removed from her earlier incarnations. However, I found that in itself realistic: just how much can a teenager be expected to endure before she shuts down or cracks? Katniss is still, at heart, the Katniss we've known and loved, yet she walks a thin line between doing what's right and knowingly placing herself and others in danger. And when it comes down to it, she's still no good at following rules or even listening to authority.

It's exceedingly hard for an author to end a beloved series in the way everyone hoped because we all have our visions for how we'd like to see it end. However, Ms. Collins takes us into unexpected territory with Katniss; we see a softer, fragile girl who once again rises to the occasion against all odds. I confess to shedding a few tears when the major loss came to Katniss, though other losses were almost as devastating. My most minor quibble is the amount of time Katniss spends unconscious and recovering, but I can forgive the author that because I came away with a feeling of resolution that felt...well, just felt right. Along the way, I came across moving scenes that made my heart wrench and fevered chases that made it race, and I ultimately feel as though Katniss and her world were done justice. Highly, highly recommended for those with an open mind to all possibilities.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Yep, that's my nephew...

...dancing wildly to Katy Perry's "California Grrls". This is what the MTSU trumpets do for entertainment during band camp. My daughter Hannah was laughing hysterically (dressed as someone from Jersey Shore) while watching her cousin strut his stuff. Your tax dollars at work, folks! (Both are on full scholarships...thank God!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

There's a Reason For No Posts...

Seriously, I've been reading the same damned 300 page book since LAST SATURDAY, people. That can't be a good sign for either the book or my mental outlook. The school year's started, people are nuts, and I'm on edge. What more could you ask for?


Sunday, August 08, 2010

Maybe This Time

Andie Miller hasn't had contact with her ex-husband in ten years, except to receive her monthly alimony check, which she never wanted and didn't cash. But now she's getting married, and she feels it's time to sever the ties once and for all, so off she goes to visit her lawyer ex, North Archer, and return the checks. But once she gets there, of course things don't go as planned; North needs a nanny for one month for the two orphaned children of his cousin, and Andie, a teacher, fits the bill. Plus she could use the $10,000 to start her new marriage debt-free. What would be the harm?

If you are at all familiar with Jennifer Crusie, you know her books are usually light romances with a touch of mystery mixed in for good measure. Maybe This Time is no exception; when Andie meets the two children, twelve year old Carter and eight year old Alice, she knows she's got her work cut out for her. They live in a castle that was moved brick by brick to Ohio with an austere old housekeeper and their lives have been devoid of routine for ages. Andie takes matters into her own hands, thus putting her continually in contact with North...and the three ghosts which also haunt the home. An unbeliever at first, Andie quickly changes her mind when she finds herself face to face with the kids' recently deceased Aunt May; and good news travels fast as word of the hauntings spread and a film crew, a medium, a parapsychologist, Andie's former mother-in-law and brother-in-law, and her own mother all arrive to help. Oh, and of course North, who has never forgotten his ex.

This book is engaging from the first page; the attraction between Andie and North is evident, and the presence of the paranormal is fun yet mysterious at the same time. Set in 1992, the music mentioned and the atmosphere both enhance the story, and Crusie writes sexual tension like few authors can. There did come a point when everyone is arriving on Andie's doorstep that the story was a bit of a farce, but the fierce way Andie protects the children and the presence of North kept it from going over the top. I read this one following a deep, dark book, and it was the perfect antidote to lift my spirits and keep me entertained. Fun, fun, fun.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Passage

For some bizarre reason, I cannot copy my review from Amazon on here. Dang. Anyway, in light of the fact that the reviewing gods are against me, I'll post a link to it and hope you'll take the time to pop over and take a look.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


In Linger, the sequel to Shiver, Sam is beyond excited that he's stayed human through the cold months of winter, which means he's cured of his werewolf nature. He's looking forward--cautiously--to being with Grace forever, though the loss of Beck and the other wolves still hurts. Grace, meanwhile, has begun to worry her parents with her devotion to Sam, and when they catch him in her room one night, the hammer of doom descends. Which would be bad enough, but there's something wrong with Grace, something really awful, and she is beginning to realize she's not going to be around for much longer.
Linger is captivating from the first chapter and doesn't let go with the last page. Mixed into the deep connection between Grace and Sam, we also get the stories of Isabel, Grace's friend, and Cole, a newly turned wolf who also happens to be a rock star looking for a way out of his life. The viewpoints shift frequently in Linger; while I might not have been enamored of Cole especially in the beginning, I came to care equally for all four by the time the book closed. It's that good.
There are lots of emotions packed into Linger, and a sense of forboding surrounds almost every page. The stress Grace feels and the doubt that continues to permeate everything Sam does is palpable, and I actually liked the dynamic that Cole brings to the wolves. There is desperation, denial, and hope all wrapped up in Grace's life, and a sense of urgency kept me turning the pages. This one lived up to my expectations fully, and I'll be waiting eagerly for the final installment, Forever.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Winter in June

Rosie Winter's not one to say no, and when she hears her ex-boyfriend Jack has gone missing while stationed in the war time South Pacific,she's determined to get answers. Rosie talks best friend Jayne into joining a USO show going to the area, and while Rosie's not sure what she's going to find once she arrives in Tulagi, she certainly wasn't expecting a murder. Or even two for that matter.

The third installment of Kathryn Miller Haines's superb WWII mystery series, Winter in June, is just as riveting as the first two. Filled with characters that leap off the page, the series loses nothing when it shifts to the South Pacific. Rosie's still fiery and headstrong, and she and Jayne once again find themselves smack in the middle of several mysteries. This time they share the USO stage with famous actress Gilda DeVane, whose own personal scandal has put her career at risk. While balancing the demands of the show, Rosie searches for any sign of Jack; meanwhile, supplies are disappearing and snipers are taking shots around camp. Oh, and remember Peaches? Somehow he manages to turn up in the islands as well.

I just love this series! Rosie is a perfect sleuth who doesn't know she's a sleuth; her tough mindedness and sharp mouth make her one of my favorite characters ever. While the mysteries aren't particularly deep, they are well plotted, and the mix of romance into this one was pitch perfect. I could picture WWII Tulagi and the sacrifices made by the Allied soldiers and the USO both. Entertaining and wildly fun, Winter in June had me hooked from the first words. Do yourself a favor and pick this series up now.

I've read the fourth (When Winter Returns) already but can't review it here until it shows up in the Historical Novel Society's newest edition. Suffice it to say that it's just as wonderful...and ends on a cliffhanger.


Monday, July 19, 2010


Shade is the story of almost seventeen year old Aura, born after the Shift: when for some unknown reason, all children suddenly became able to see and interact with ghosts. Which is a pain, of course; until Aura's boyfriend Logan dies unexpectedly of a drug overdose. Then Aura embraces being able to still see and talk with Logan, but the trouble is, Logan no longer wants to "go into the light" or cross over into heaven; he wants to stay with Aura. And that possibility means he might turn into a Shade, trapped in darkness forever. Complications also arise when her new school partner, Zachary, begins to arouse feelings within Aura...and Logan reacts.

I really wanted to like Shade much more than I actually did. It's got a terrific premise and Aura is a believable character. There's a lot going on, with Aura's family issues (her mom's dead; her father's unknown), the Shift (what is it?), and the relationships between Aura, Logan, and Zachary. It just felt as though it took a very long time to get to the action--at page 140, I felt as though I was still waiting for the book to take off. And though there was a lot happening, none of it felt very focused; were we more concerned with Logan, Zachary, or the Shift? I can see the appeal of this as a romantic paranormal tale, but I just was expecting...more. It's not that it's poorly written, but I wasn't feeling the connections. Shade ends on a cliffhanger but I doubt I'll pick up the next in the series.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Black Dagger Brotherhood Strikes Again...

Verily, I am heartily tired of the word verily. And conversating? What the heck is that? It's conversing; it wasn't even used as slang so it can't be excused. Nope, it's full on used in regular descriptive paragraphs.
Other than those two minor points, I am utterly in love with Lover Mine. I love John Matthew and I love how focused he is with his mate, Xhex (even if she's the one unsure of the relationship). I could feel the tension leaping off the pages; I pulsated with anticipation whenever those two were near one another. And as much as I love those two, it was Ward's trademark humor and writing style which kept me riveted. I know what I'm getting when I pick up a BDB book, and I'm never truly disappointed because Ward delivers with her pacing, her twists, and... let's face it...her sexy encounters of her Brothers and their mates. I *know* there's going to be product placement and references to current events (though even I was surprised at the Lady Gaga mention). That's all part and parcel of the series and you can choose to allow it to bother you, or go with the flow because the storytelling is so good.
I won't recount the whole plot of LM here because if you are up to book #8, you know the basics: John Matthew, our mute warrior, is desperate to find Xhex, the object of his desire once she is stolen by Evil Incarnate, Lash. The whole Lash storyline is icky (in more ways than one) but provided a good drive for JM and X to get together. Along the way the storyline veers off in many directions, the only one of which I could have done without was the Tohr/Darius plot (though it was necessary, as I came to see later). I really dislike the speech pattern used by both the "older" storylines and those on the Other Side; verily, it drives me up the wall. The glimpses into Qhuinn and Blay, however, were superb and heart-wrenching, and Payne's side story is setting us up for more drama in future books.
As this series grows, it is sad to not be able to spend time with the other Brothers and their shellans, and I missed them heartily in this book. But I realize that there's only so much that can be included at a time, and Ward honestly seemed to include as much as possible already. But in a series as fun as BDB, those are small issues when overall Lover Mine comes in as yet another great installment that provides the perfect escape. As a loyal reader, I know what I was asking for when I opened Lover Mine: a good story, strong feelings, Brotherhood banter, action, conflict, and a happy ending. Ms. Ward delivered superbly on all counts, so I'm rounding up from 4.5 stars despite my tiny quibbles.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Rosie's Discontent

The Winter of Her Discontent is the second book in the Rosie Winter series by Kathryn Miller Haines and it's a winner for sure. Rosie, our intrepid heroine, finds out early on that her friend Al has been fingered as the murderer of a fellow actress but she's not buying it. In typical Rosie style, she's unable to let the subject go, and her investigation takes her into the black market world of the Mob, the machinations of some local actresses as they search for wealth and publicity, and the famous Stage Door Canteen. All of the adventures take place against WWII New York City, with Rosie's acting career placing her in the midst of the action; her heart, however, is still with ex-boyfriend Jack, missing in action somewhere in the South Pacific.
Haines does a dynamite job bringing the details of the era to life and paints pictures with her words that make you feel as though you are in Rosie's shoes as she investigates with her trademark smart mouth and bullheaded fortitude. Though the book is heavy on the slang of the times, it really adds a film noir feel to the plot. The mystery is deeply layered and Haines does a good job of not making the culprit(s) obvious. There is a problem throughout where the names Donald and George are used interchangeably, which is confusing (and should have been caught by an editor). But other than that minor misstep, The Winter of Her Discontent is a fun mystery that will keep you turning the pages. I've got book #3 lined up and ready to go!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

I'll Mature When I'm Dead

I love Dave Barry. For years now he's made me laugh so hard that I often found myself crying, and I'm always happy whenever I see that he's got a new book out. I originally bought I'll Mature When I Dead "for my husband", knowing full well I'd pick it up the minute his back was turned. Of course I did, and of course it once again had me in stitches; ever try reading a Dave Barry book late at night while your spouse is asleep? It's dang near impossible to stay quiet when the laughter is bubbling up and spilling out.
I'll Mature When I'm Dead features 18 essays by the incomparable Dave on such mature themes as dance recitals (nailed it!), technology, the healthcare crisis, colonoscopies (okay, I'll get one eventually), and dog ownership. All but the essay on colonoscopies are brand new, and it's very apparent that Dave hasn't lost his irreverent, slightly wacky sense of humor. What makes him so funny, though, is how identifiable he is; we've all been there, done that, and oftentimes it's as though he's writing the thoughts we only wish we could share. His "novella" parody of Stephenie Meyer's Eclipse is a riot and dead on.
Even had I not loved Dave Barry for eons, I would be more than happy to recommend this short book. If you can read all the way through without spontaneously bursting out in belly-felt laughter, there is something wrong with you. Seriously. It's a guaranteed pick-me-up with Dave in rare form. So what are you waiting for?

Monday, July 05, 2010

Dracula in Love by Karen Essex has potential as the story of Bram Stoker's Dracula from Mina Harker's point of view. And in fact, the first part of the novel is well written, with a definite feel for the original as it traces the steps of Mina through her engagement to Jonathan Harker and his absence on the business of the mysterious Count. The atmosphere is right, the setting is right...and all explodes in a confusion of lust, myth, reincarnation, and insane asylums. Did I mention lust? Because that's probably not the right word...more like prurient sexual escapades that do nothing to advance the plot but everything to leave the reader feeling icky.

Possible spoilers ahead...The title Dracula in Love is a misnomer; Dracula himself only appears in small glimpses until around page 250, when there he is, obsessed with Mina and becoming her savior, her lover, and her cruise director all at once. While the story up until this point has its moments, it is when Dracula appears that the whole thing goes south. Lots and lots of myth, reincarnation, and immortal beings suddenly arrive, and none of them do anything to enhance the storyline. Mina transforms from the do-gooder Victorian we've known for much of the book, and it's not a good transformation. At this point I might've wall-banged the book had I not invested so much time into it. And while I'm certaily no prude, the author's attempts to shock the reader with wild no holds barred sex felt like just that--an attempt to shock, nothing more.

Dracula in Love is not all bad news, with the first two hundred pages, while devoid of the Count himself for the most part, ripe with atmosphere and fairly true in spirit to the original. Once the "reunion" between Mina and the Count occurs, however, it's as though Ms. Essex had no idea how to reconcile her world with Stoker's and started throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the mix. The more I think about it, the more ludicrous the story becomes (and that's saying something since we're dealing with vampires here). Maybe I'd best stop this review while I'm still rounding up from the 2.5 stars I'd decided upon. My generosity can only extend so far so I'll just say this is one to avoid.


Friday, July 02, 2010

Countdown by Deborah Wiles

Imagine that you're eleven years old and your best friend suddenly seems to hate you, your older sister is obviously keeping secrets, the boy you have a crush on returns to your neighborhood, and your beloved great-uncle who lives with you is delusional. Now set all of that against the turbulent era of the early 1960s when schoolchildren are taught to duck and cover and everyone is on edge because who knows when the atomic bomb will be dropped on the U.S. There you have the premise of Deborah Wiles's Countdown, a powerful young adult novel that deposits you squarely amid the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.
Countdown tells its story through the eyes of Franny, whose father is a major at Andrews Air Force base, and whose life seems to turn upside down during the pivotal week when Russian missiles are found aimed at America from Cuba. Franny wants everything to be normal, but beyond her own family trials, the world seems to have lost its mind. Constantly composing a letter to Chairman Krushchev, Franny feels life spinning out of control on all levels, and she feels invisible and powerless to do anything about it.
This is a quick reading novel, and it's brilliantly written. Franny just leaps from the pages with her worries and growing recognition of just who she is. Interspersed throughout the book are actual photos, headlines, song lyrics, and speeches from the times; these add so much to the recreation of the world as it was in 1962. The author establishes the setting perfectly, and wrenches your heart with Franny's desperate longings for normalcy and acceptance. This is a strong tale that is going to stick with me for some time. Do yourself a favor and read this book. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Carrie Diaries

The Carrie Diaries chronicles the senior year of high school of one Carrie Bradshaw (best well known from Bushnell's Sex and the City: the book, tv show, and movies), and her quest to find out who she is and where she's going. This is 1980 something, and Carrie's pretty sure she wants to be a writer, but is very sure she doesn't know precisely how to get there. Along the way, Carrie experiences her best friends and their dramas, a father doing his best to raise his three daughters, and a serious relationship with Sebastian Kydd, hot boy in school. In other words, it's not all that different from what many seniors have always experienced. And that's the beauty of the story and its ultimate kinship with the characters created for television: it's something we can all identify with.
This novel is thoroughly young adult in tone, and as such, works very well. There's nothing in it that's not in any number of popular young adult books today, and it is fairly realistic for the times. Told from Carrie's point of view, we are actively engaged in her life and the lives of her friends; there are definite allusions to the Carrie she will become in just a few short years. My biggest distraction was how the story slid around through the 80s (songs played not from the same year, clothing from different seasons worn side by side) but maybe the author did it purposely so that those of us who were seniors in the 80s would recognize something of ourselves in the details.
No, this is not the Carrie backstory we know from the television series, and as a devotee of said series, that is disappointing. But once you put that aside, you are sure to find a story that flows smoothly and speaks to all of us who experienced the highs and lows of senior year. There's enough of the Carrie we think we own in this tale to satisfy anyone, and it's plain ole good fun in the process. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rosie Strikes a Chord

Set amid the theatre scene of war-time NYC, The War Against Miss Winter introduces us to the irrepressible Rosie Winter, an aspiring actress looking for her big break but forced to work as a file clerk in a detective agency to make ends meet. As 1942 ushers in 1943, Rosie finds herself about to be thrown out of her working actresses only boarding house and her boyfriend shipping out for the war. Things take another turn for the worse when she discovers her boss's corpse, leading her to try to find out who murdered him and made it look like a suicide.
Rosie's a busy girl, but she is also tenacious, sarcastic, headstrong, and determined, so she begins following clues to find out what might have gotten her boss killed. Along the way, she meets some unsavory characters and uncovers traces of a missing play at the root of the act. With her best friend Jayne, Rosie goes full tilt toward solving the dangerous mystery while suffering through humiliating rehearsals as an understudy in a not very good play.
While I wasn't particularly surprised at the mystery, I will say that the setting and the characters are truly the heart of this novel. Rosie is just wonderful with her subtle manuevers and her fierce loyalty, and the people she encounters in both her professional and personal lives are just as interesting. I could feel the war coloring everything as it must have done, and I could easily picture the burgeoning theatre community of the times. This novel is so much fun and the beginning of an intriguing series. I can't wait to get to the next one!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

You'll Be Sor-ree!

I'll admit right off the bat that I'm biased--I just love these sorts of books. I love it when World War 2 vets share their experiences in a time I can only imagine; I love reading the "inside" stories of deprivation, hardships, camaraderie, and pranks that the Greatest Generation lived through. That said, it wasn't hard for me to fall in love with Sid Phillips' remembrances, originally published for his family; Sid does an outstanding job of bringing a young Marine in the Pacific to life for those of us who can only imagine how brutal the times were.
This is a short book but it's filled with fascinating tales. Sid, only seventeen at enlistment time, trains as a Marine and is assigned to, among other places, Guadalcanal (in a time when very few even knew where/what that was). He never sugarcoats the experiences, and I grew to love all the men he wrote about while marveling at just how young they were. Sid's remarkable memory helped me to feel as though I were sleeping in a hammock in the jungle, riding a transport ship, and hitchhiking through the south to spend a three day furlough with my family. This is amazing stuff.
There are only a couple of things that bothered me about this book. As a casual reader on World War II, I had a hard time following some of the technical jargon when it came to units and weapons (and I am positive it's crystal clear to those who understand both). Sometimes Sid overexplains things such as the word "scuttlebutt" but neglects to remind the reader what an 03 rifle is. I also didn't care for the excerpt of With the Old Breed that Sid included, only because I felt like it was a promotion of his best friend's work (and I doubt that was the true intention of its inclusion). Despite those small issues, this is a strong book that will propel you into the jungle, foxholes, and mess halls of the Pacific theatre. Extraordinary and actually merits a strong 4.5 stars.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sister Wife

One thing I left out of my review for Amazon is the fact that I adore the cover art for this book--it speaks volumes without saying a word. Love it! Now on to the actual review of a book I couldn't put down.
Shelley Hrdlitschka's Sister Wife is actually one story told from three points of view, and what a riveting read it is! Fifteen year old Celeste, raised in the fundamental polygamist society of Unity, knows her time to be married to a man chosen by the group's Prophet is rapidly approaching. It's how she's been raised and all she's ever known, and her only way to achieve the highest celestial glory in heaven. So what's the problem? Her heart skips a beat whenever she sees Jon, another teen, though she knows she'll be forbidden to be with him. Added to that is her pregnant mother's scary health condition and the removal of a friend from the community by the Prophet, and Celeste finds herself questioning the teachings of her way of life.
Moving deftly between the points of view of Celeste, Taviana (a runaway adopted into Unity and subsequently forced to leave), and Nanette, Celeste's younger sister, Sister Wife showcases the angst and frustration of feeling an outcast in what should be a safe haven. Celeste is sure that she doesn't want to become a plural wife to a much older man, but her headstrong disobedience can only result in that happening all the sooner. Nanette cannot understand Celeste's reluctance to accept the lifestyle; Taviana finds herself needing to start over in a safe house after she is dismissed. All three young women face crises of faith, perseverence, and conscience as they determine what's really important in life.
I was riveted from the first pages of Sister Wife, and I loved how the author moved among the personalities, weaving a tale that was heart wrenching. This book doesn't make it easy to know what is right and wrong because as the young women come to understand, those concepts can vary from person to person. If the ending did seem a bit rushed, I can forgive it because I was totally engrossed by the emotions invoked and the ideas created in this fascinating tale. Highly recommended to readers of all ages.