Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

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.