Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Death of Kings by Bernard Cornwell

Bernard Cornwell, your Uhtred of Bebbanburg has utterly charmed me once again! With the latest book in The Saxon Tales, I am once again enthralled with the courage and pure chutzpah of my favorite warrior, and once again left waiting anxiously to find out what he's going to get up to next.

Death of Kings begins with Uhtred at home, but that doesn't remain the case for long. Never one to sit back and let events slide by, Uhtred soon finds himself chasing elusive Danes and Saxons who change loyalties more often than the wind changes direction, and he is never reticent to use his formidable battle prowess. The death of Alfred the Great, ruler of much of England around 900 A.D., sets the stage for many to try to take a throne; while Uhtred never particularly liked Alfred, he admired him and as a sworn man, vows to uphold his son Edward's claim to the throne. What follows is one of the greatest battles on English soil as men of varying degrees of integrity attempt to roust Edward, and Cornwell sews Uhtred seamlessly into the mix of actual events--so much so that I often forgot that Uhtred is a fictional character and could actually imagine him having led the armies just as written here.

Cornwell's research is awe-inspiring, and his use of language is authentic as well, if sometimes confusing. From a dark, often unchronicled period of history, Cornwell weaves a tale that is often gruesome, brutal, and yet ultimately thrilling. I will admit that a few times the story seemed to drag a bit as Uhtred--and the reader--waited for the "big" battle between Danes and Saxons. But Uhtred's genius and arrogance saves the day once again, and this reader always finds time spent with him satisfying. This novel rates a strong 4.5-4.75 stars and a deep loyalty among those of us who just cannot get enough of Uhtred and his pre-Conqueror swagger. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top 5 Things That Have Kept Me From Reading More in 2011

In the spirit of the old year, taking stock, planning ahead, etc., I figured it was time to analyze why my reading has fallen off so drastically this year in order to hopefully make changes in the coming days.  Though there's probably 50 sub-reasons under each of these top five, they really do represent what I feel my biggest issues have been this past year.

1. Television.  I admit it, I'm an addict. Not so much as some people (hello, other people living in my house!) but definitely worse than others. I love reality tv (I'm easily entertained) and shows such as Survivor, Amazing Race, and Pawn Stars have eaten into my reading time. Not sure what to do about it--I love both tv and reading, but a better balance should be struck in 2012.

2.  Game playing. I love online games--nothing too complicated, for sure, but Cityville, Castleville, Words With Friends...yep, I love 'em. Gotta curb some of that in 2012 or risk losing even more brain cells that peri-menopause has already stolen. That said, I will recommend the following link because it's mindless and yet fun. Play Mysteriez!2: Daydreaming - Play and Compete Online!

3.  School/Work/Job, etc.  Plan in 2012:  Become a kept woman. Not sure how to accomplish THAT, as I don't plan on getting rid of the husband (he's a keeper). Hey, I said it was a PLAN, not set in stone. But the job does eat into the reading time, whether through actual time or thinking about it when I'm not there. Responsibilities...sometimes it sucks to be an adult.

4.  READ FEWER REVIEW BOOKS.  I mean it. I'm a mood reader and my reading this year has been dictated way too much by my own greed at accepting review (free) books. I love reviewing, and I love books, but sometimes the mandate to get a review done within a certain time frame has resulted in less than stellar reads. I've made this resolution before but this time I'm very serious. I can't even walk by the side of my bed for all my OWN books there, and yet I kept accepting review books. It's a sickness, I tell ya.

5.  Too much running around--and not in a good way. Now I seriously don't begrudge Katherine all her activities, and I want her to participate in band, orchestra, Girl Scouts, whatever--but as of now, she's not able to drive so it's up to us to get her there. Plus the whole having to get her to school by 6:55 FREAKING a.m. every day makes for one tired, and therefore short attention spanned, mama. I wish I could fix this, but that's just how it is. She does turn 16 in April so maybe she'll be able to drive herself more, but then there's the whole worry thing that accompanies a child driving, so who knows? But this I can deal with because that's what you do when you have kids.

Sooooooooo....there you go. I hope and plan to change these things in 2012, but who knows about that, either? I just miss reading. I want to get back to it in a more engaged, productive way. And so I will continue to try to improve on those items I can and let go of what I can't.


Friday, December 23, 2011

I Promise...

...I will be a better blogger and reader in 2012! I've gotten myself sidetracked with too many non-book related things this past year and my reading really, really suffered. So I am pledging now to post at least 3 times a week and to devote more of my time to reading MY books I *want* to read.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Last Breath by Rachel Caine

Wait...let me catch my breath.

Okay, better now. In Rachel Caine's newest Morganville Vampires book, Last Breath, something dark and sinister has arrived in Morganville...and it isn't Bishop, Amelie, or any of the other vampires who have called the town home. Things have gotten so bad, with both vampires and humans disappearing, that when Amelie receives a note with one word on it--Run--she makes hurried plans to do just that...and to take the vampires with her. Which of course means that conflict is going to arise between the newly engaged Michael and Eve, who refuse to be parted. Claire is once again in the middle of the action, but she knows things are dire when even Myrnin seems worried. When she begins seeing things that no one else does, Claire tries to investigate...and that's when things go from bad to worse.

What I loved, loved, loved about this book: Ms. Caine is not afraid to take us into new territory, even killing off beloved characters if need be to move the story along. The depth of feeling is so real that it literally pulsates off the page, and the surprising revelation of just how much Myrnin cares is both touching and believable. I loved how the history of the series is woven into the book, making it all the more believable, and I loved how there is a determined refusal to give up. It's a page turner of epic proportions; I defy anyone to put the book down once Claire's "incident" occurs.

Nitpicking (and a bit of a spoiler): Still not sure precisely how Myrnin's "cure" of Claire worked, but I suppose it doesn't really make any difference, since it strengthens their bond and accomplished its purpose. I also think Michael and Eve are being ridiculously fast with the marriage thing, but that's a personal opinion from someone on the other side of being married for quite a while. Why antagonize an entire town and rub it in the faces of everyone by hosting an engagement event open to all? And I'm kinda over Eve's Goth look obsession. But like I said, that's just nitpicky. And the cliffhanger? Wow--I want answers and I want them now, but it's a smart move on Ms. Caine's part to mix things up and keep us salivating.

Last Breath is fresh and fast, and a rollicking good read. The four roommates are at their best, showing loyalty, unity, and determination when Morganville is in its death throes. At a time when most series start becoming tired and pale shadows of their former brilliance, Rachel Caine's Last Breath propels the Morganville Vampires books on to new places and deeper character development. This is how a series is *supposed* to be done.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fateful by Claudia Gray

First off, I must say that setting a young adult paranormal on board the tragedy of the Titanic is a fantastical idea. 

That said, there is plenty more to like about Fateful by Claudia Gray. There is the heroine, Tess Davies, a young ladies' maid hoping to change her fortunes once the Titanic docks in America; there is Alec Marlowe, the tortured first class passenger who harbors a strange, heart-breaking secret; there is Myriam, a third class Lebanese traveler whose friendship Tess comes to value in many ways; there is Irene, the young woman Tess cares for who has secrets all her own; and there is the Titanic itself, steeped in all the tragedy and grandeur of history. Tess is a young woman ahead of her time, determined to escape the life of a ladies' maid and live on her own in America, and her family's personal tragedy propels her to take chances she might otherwise avoid. Once on board the Titanic, however, her strange encounter with with a wolf on the streets of Southampton turns into an even deeper mystery when Tess finds herself stalked by the creepy Mikhail; her very life comes into danger when she realizes just whom--and what--she is dealing with.

I really enjoyed Fateful with its fast plot, evil villain, and paranormal aspect. The fact that Ms. Gray was able to weave her story among the great ship and its real life passengers was very enjoyable for this Titanic buff, and she explains her liberties fully in the author's note. If the characters are a little too cardboard caricature, it's all right since the story fulfills its purpose and ends on a particularly unexpected measure. My biggest issue was with the idea that no one would report or raise a cry when a rather large wolf escapes and kills a man; that particular scene was really unrealistic, even for a paranormal. And though I loved the "romance" between Alec and Tess, I seriously doubt his ability to fall in love with a ladies' maid, even one who knows his secrets and rescues him. But still, it's a young adult novel and it's a paranormal so I can overlook that little qualm because the ending makes up for every single issue I had. I'm hopeful there will be a sequel or two because this story certainly isn't over. Fun and engaging with a unique setting. 


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Because My Reading Is Slower Than Christmas This Year...

Stolen from Estella's Revenge:

Age:   Classified but it's going to increase in just a few days

Bed Size: Queen but still not large enough...3 cats plus a hubby=tiny tiny bed space.

Chore that you hate: Laundry. Neverending. When someone puts a piece of dirty laundry in the hamper after I think I'm done, moms everywhere feel my pain.

Dogs: Don't own one because I'd only want a German Shepherd or some other large creature and we just don't have a yard for one now.

Essential start to your day: Coke. Drink of the gods.

Favorite colors: Red.  All red, all the time. Oh, and black.

Gold or Silver: Gold.

Height: 4'11". My brother is 6'2". Go figure. Wacky genes in my mom's family.

Instruments you play: Does the stereo count?

Job Title: On my ID it says Technology Queen so that's what I'll go with. I teach Technology to grades 5-8 at a middle school. So actually my ID should say Nuts.

Kids: Two girls, ages 20 (gasp!) and 15. Not sure how they got that old without me killing them, either accidentally or on purpose.

Live: Yep, I'm alive. In NashVegas, with the country music people.

Mother-in-Law’s name: Linda, though I still feel weird calling her that since I've known her since I was 16.

Nicknames: Taminator.

Overnight hospital stays: Only when having my girls. Even having my gall bladder out didn't require an overnighter.

Pet Peeves: Micro managers.  Also lazy people.

Quote from a movie:  " 'Allo. My name is Inigo Montoya. You kill my father. Prepare to die."

Right or Left handed: Right, the hand of champions.

Siblings: Younger brother whom I fought with daily growing up but love to pieces now.

Time you wake up: 5:40 a.m. This time is very precise because it's the last.possible.moment. I can sleep to and still get my daughter to school by 6:55 a.m. I shower at night and everything. I am *NOT* a morning person by any stretch of the imagination and I never will be.

Underwear: Yes!

Vegetable you hate: Brussel sprouts and cauliflower. Vile, nasty weeds.

What makes you run late:  Playing on the computer.

X-Rays you’ve had:  Do mammograms count? Then yep, I've had those. Plus I had x-rays when my gall bladder attacked and also when I had bronchitis a few years ago.

Yummy food that you make: I don't cook so this is a pass.

Zoo animal:  Tigers...any big cat really.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Wherever You Go by Heather Davis

Wherever You Go has the potential to be a creepy paranormal young adult novel--teenager loses the boy she loves in a horrific car crash but he's not really gone; he's watching over her every move, unable to move on into the light because of his unfinished business on earth. And it is indeed a paranormal, but not in the typical sense that many young adult paranormals are today--there is the ghostly boyfriend watching over Holly, the survivor of the car crash that took his life. But it's so much more, layered so well and so heart wrenching that it transcends the typical novels out there today.

Six months have passed since the car crash that took Rob's life and yet he finds he can't move on into "the light", if there is even such a thing. So Rob spends his eternity watching over Holly, the girlfriend he loves but who never really fit into his popular crowd. Holly's trying to cope with her loss, but her problems are so much bigger than just losing Rob; her mother is working two jobs to try to make ends meet, so Holly must be surrogate mother to her younger sister Lena, cooking and cleaning and basically keeping their small apartment going. When Holly's beloved grandfather Aldo comes to live with them upon his diagnosis of Alzheimer's, Holly is stretched beyond her limits to cope. That's when Rob's best friend Jason enters her life, and together, they try to accomplish the items on Aldo's memory list while becoming more to one another. Complicating all of this is Rob's inability to be seen or heard by anyone...except Aldo. And his ramblings to Rob are mostly just the result of his Alzheimer's, right? So how can Rob make peace with his life and help Holly?

All of this is the tip of the iceberg for this wonderful novel that crept into my soul with every word and every page. Holly, Rob, Aldo, Jason...they are all so well written and so believable that the paranormal aspect is totally secondary to the depth of the story. The glimpses into Rob's parents' lives after the loss of their son, the generous way Holly attempts to hold her family together, Jason's growing feelings for his dead friend's girlfriend all round out this story fully. Moving between points of view--Holly's in first person, Rob's in second person, and Jason's in third--kept me reading "just one more page" until I was done. This one's moving, focused, and spirit-filled. Go read it now.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

You Need To Start Reading This Series Now

Book # 5 in the Soul Screamers series, If I Die, is a definite game changer. Kaylee and boyfriend Nash are both bean sidhes slowly working on restoring their relationship which was damaged by Nash's frost addiction and the appearance of Sabine, his former girlfriend. Kaylee knows her life isn't going to be normal, but she never expects the news she receives via Tod, Nash's dead brother (who is also a Reaper)...her death is going to occur in six days and there is absolutely nothing she nor anyone else can do to stop it. So what would you do if you knew you only had six days in which to live? Of course sex with Nash will be high on the list (or is it?), but Kaylee chooses to make her life count for something so she begins a battle against the new math teacher, Mr. Beck, who is also an incubus using teenaged girls as his sexual play toys.

There's a lot going on in If I Die, but the underlying theme is definitely Kaylee's impending death and her attempts to deal with it. Ms. Vincent handles all the issues with humor and determination, and I came away from this story feeling that it was about so much more than a teenaged paranormal experience. While Kaylee's time is running out, she's forced to face her feelings for Nash; to say that I am beyond elated at what happens is an understatement. And while the novel's focus is on the shortened timeline of life, it never loses sight of the fact that Kaylee and her friends do battle nefarious Netherworld beings and even human problems. Tod is a major force in If I Die, and this reader is seriously in love with his gallant decisions and his secret infatuation coming into fruition. And I don't think anyone will foresee just how this book comes to its climax.

I am so excited that this series is just improving with each book because that's often a rarity. Ms. Vincent's characters are conflicted and multi-dimensional; it's obvious they are coming to grips with their talents yet still wrestling with human feelings. There's not a weak character in the bunch, and Kaylee's bravery in the face of her demise had me cheering. I simply cannot wait to find out what happens next! Keep up the good work, Ms. Vincent. You've got a fan on the edge of her seat here.


Friday, October 07, 2011


There's a lot to like in Eve by Anna Carey; it's a dystopian young adult novel (very popular right now) with lots of action. Just as she's ready to graduate from School, Eve discovers a horrifying secret about not only her future, but the futures of all the girls she's known during her lifetime. Faced with an immediate urgency to decide her own life, Eve seizes the moment and escapes into the wild on a long, unprepared journey to "Califia" where she can hopefully be an agent for change in New America. Along the way, she meets up with another runaway, Arden, and Caleb, another young adult who has escaped his own nightmare existence. And like in most dystopian novels, Eve must decide if the trade off for freedom is actually worth the price it's going to cost in lives and relationships.

Side note: Did anyone besides me get sidetracked briefly by the names of the two main female characters, Eve and Arden? All I could picture at times was the actress Eve Arden, of Rydell High fame. Maybe it's just me.

Now for what there is not to like in Eve...As I've seen in other reviews, the background of Eve and the other orphan girls at School is fairly ridiculous, given what their futures hold. Why spend all that time and energy educating these girls and then basically physically use them up when they turn 18? I need some justification for the foundation of a story, and it's just not there in Eve. Eve is also so incredibly naive that I found it almost impossible to believe she is 18, no matter that she was so sheltered most of her life. She just doesn't seem to get any more mature as the story moves on, and that's irritating. And while this is the first in a series, I would like to have known more about New America itself and just what the King is hoping to gain by using up his best and brightest in such horrific ways.

Eve has a good premise but the characterization is lacking; Eve just isn't sympathetic enough for me to worry about what's going to happen to her. She's way too focused on herself, especially after all Caleb does for her. It's going to be a long haul to get her to think beyond her own feelings, and I'm not sure the way the author dragged her evolution out in this novel that it's going to get better any time soon. Still, it's not a bad novel by any means; I liked Caleb and I'm hoping Eve is able to be that instrument of change she's so longing to be. I will probably read more in the series, but I do hope I can stop thinking of Eve as a thirteen year old and get her mentally to the strong eighteen year old I hope she can be.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Hourglass is the first in a series by Myra McEntire that focuses on Emerson Cole, a teen with a problem: she sees dead people. The images began showing themselves to her shortly before she lost her own parents in a bus accident, and over time, she was committed to a mental hospital and drugged to rid her of her visions. Now seventeen, she's back in her hometown for her senior year after spending time at a boarding school, living with her older brother and his wife and trying to avoid the images that still exist around her. When her brother engages the Hourglass group to try to help Emerson, for the first time she feels hope because suddenly it seems as though she's not crazy and alone and there might be other people in the world with the same powers. But will all this new knowledge place her in danger?

Emerson is likeable enough right off the bat, and it's clear early on that she's not delusional when she sees not just ghosts, but entire scenes of images from long ago. The young man sent from Hourglass to help her, Michael, is just as mysterious as her visions, however; it remained unclear throughout the novel just how Thomas, Emerson's brother, found the Hourglass and why he'd feel comfortable letting her be "treated" by someone scarcely a couple of years older than she. Once Emerson begins to understand that she has the ability to use her "gift" to rectify a grievous wrong, though, she immediately feels compelled to help a group she's known for approximately a week; Michael himself is less than forthcoming about her gift and the danger she is in now that the secret seems to be out.

Emerson's a very real character, with emotions that resonate with a typical teen; it's not hard to understand how she'd fall quickly for Michael, though it is more irritating to see how he continually pushes her away. I kept thinking of the television show Heroes once Emerson actually meets with others who have these unusual gifts; that's not a bad thing, but it does make the premise less than original. But the author's style of writing is light and quick, and the story moves along rapidly as the danger builds. I liked the twist with Jack and if I felt that Thomas wasn't quite as diligent a guardian as he should have been, I could live with it because overall the story is quite entertaining. There's a lot of explaining in the final few chapters which does distract from the action, but this one's definitely fun and I'm looking forward to see where the story leads. Imaginative and captivating.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011


The novel begins with the introduction of Waverly and Kieran, two teens in love aboard a spaceship on its way to New Earth (we don't know what has happened to Old Earth, though a few allusions are given...and it's not good). They are among the oldest of the children finally born on board; there had been a serious infertility problem until a breakthrough was made. So when Kieran (at age seventeen) proposes marriage, everyone is thrilled because it's their duty to marry and reproduce; still, Waverly harbors a few doubts in the form of whether she's ready to be a mother and also in the body of Seth, a much more dangerous boy than the church going Kieran. None of this really matters when the sister ship to the Empyrean, New Horizon, pulls alongside the ship and a siege begins, only ending when all of the girls are taken to the New Horizon. The Empyrean is sabotaged, the adults exposed to radiation, and the girls are gone. 

From this point on, the story is told in alternating points of view in different sections; we see what's happening onboard New Horizon as the girls are separated from their former lives and also back on the badly damaged Empyrean. Kieran makes a couple of bad mistakes in his new role as successor to the captain and is roundly vilified even after he makes life-saving decisions; Waverly soon recognizes that the "kindly" pastor in charge on New Horizon is anything but, and her plans for the girls are creepy and invasive. The action is fast and fierce; I found my opinions changing very quickly as to whom was good and whom was evil. Ryan also isn't afraid to "go there"...there are really bad things going on, and no one is safe. Violence, heretofore unknown on Empyrean, becomes rampant with an almost Lord of the Flies feel. I was sucked in and entrenched from the first pages, desperate to find out what would happen next. Definitely one of the better, more well executed dystopian novels I've read recently, and I cannot wait for the sequel.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Where Have I Been?

Well, that's a good question, and I have an answer. In the past few weeks I have been:

  • Reading books for the Historical Novel Society.  Had 3 to get through in a short amount of time (my fault entirely). But I'm done now and ready to move on!
  • Starting school. Well, actually, school started August 14 but it's amazing the amount of time it sucks out of my life. With the new teacher evaluation system (don't get me started), this year is in overdrive already.
  • Band. K is a sophomore this year and we're knee deep in marching band season. Our first contest is this weekend and then it's 5 weekends in a row...I'm getting a migraine.
  • Band secretary. Yep, glutton for punishment, that's me. I'm the Band Booster secretary, which entails note taking for meetings (natch), and also upkeeping the band website (John Overton High School Band), and this year I've taken over the grocery store fundraising (about which our former president is SO MUCH MORE than 30 minutes per month).
  • Jury duty. This past week I did my civic duty and reported to be a juror. Didn't get selected (thank goodness!) but I did report. It could've been 3 days or more, but one was all right with me. I feel like a good citizen.
  • Learning the ropes as a new editor at the Historical Novel Society. It's fun but at times overwhelming. But I'm enjoying it! 
And my reading has sucked. Big time. I've been thinking I've been in need of a light, not much concentration required YA book, and I picked up Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan last night. I'm over 150 pages in already! Sometimes you just need brain candy. I'd like to think things are going to slow down a bit but I seriously doubt it. Oh well. Overall, things are good, if harried. Hopefully I'll get back to blogging more in the future.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Possession...Or Not

Possession has a great the Goodgrounds, people live by strict laws and breaking them can mean banishment to the Badlands or worse. Which is horrible news for young rebel Violet, who has been breaking rules repeatedly since first her father and then her older sister disappeared. The one constant in her life is Zenn, the boy she has been matched with for five years, but since he has become a member of the Forces, their time together has been short. So when Violet once again breaks the rules in order to go see him, it's not surprising that she is caught; but this time she is imprisoned with a boy named Jag who seems to be just as determined as she is to not give in to the Thinkers who control their lives. Like I said, great premise...but the execution is so poor, it was almost a struggle to finish the book.

This book started off strong and I was captured at first by Violet's rebellious spirit and the mystery of her disappearing family. I liked that she was devoted to Zenn, but intrigued with her growing relationship with Jag. Once the two escape the Greenies and go on the run, however, things begin to fall apart. Neither Violet nor Jag are very likable at this point, with each abandoning the other and secrets withheld at every turn. It's a lot of "I've got a secret; I hate you; no, I adore you; no, we're fighting again; wait, I've got a superpower!" sort of thing. I'm still puzzling over where the "powers" came from; if they were that strong, wouldn't Violet have had some sense of them before suddenly realizing she can control everyone? Both Jag and Violet just aren't very empathetic creatures. Jag betrays Violet so often that I truly wanted to smack him...and Violet kept falling for it. Ugh. And while I sort of liked Zenn, considering he was controlled and unable to fight against the Association, he was pretty much worthless as a boyfriend.

Once again, I'm wondering where the editors are. This story moves so quickly and confusingly among scenarios that I stopped rereading segments because, honestly, I just did't care. When Violet enters Jag's dreams, there's no warning and nothing to separate it from the rest of the least use italics or SOMETHING to let me know something odd is happening. The whole bit with the simulation, set up by Jag, was so preposterous and confusing that I skimmed it. Seriously, did no one read this part closely before going to print? And I still don't know why Violet's father was like he was and whether or not he even cared about her.

Saving this one from the deadly one star rating is the beginning, which was good and made me feel like Violet would somehow rescue her entire world on her own, and the last chapter, which was a surprising way to end the story. But along the way, we get so much techtricity, feelings, and uninteresting characters that I lost interest fast. I'm still puzzling how this one made it to print with its unlikeable characters and it's confusing plot. Not recommended.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Divergent is set in a dystopia of, we can only assume (by where it takes spoilers!) the future. Society has separated itself into five "factions" and all young adults choose their faction (for life!) at age sixteen. Raised in Abnegation, Beatrice has always felt like she didn't quite have the selflessness it took to remain in that faction, and inspired by her brother Caleb choosing the Erudite faction, she chooses Dauntless. Dauntless is only for the brave, those willing to put themselves in danger for both the protection of others and their own thrill seeking. Leaving her home behind, Beatrice changes her name to Tris and begins training with the other new recruits for the coveted ten spots as a new Dauntless. But Tris harbors a major secret...her aptitude tests didn't show she actually belonged anywhere...she's a Divergent. 

Divergent is gritty and violent, and Tris spends quite a bit of the story being beaten up and injured. Still, she's determined to persevere, and her quest is made more determined when she finally admits her attraction to Four, one of her trainers/leaders. But it also becomes clear that those in charge of Dauntless no longer share its high ideals, and Tris will have to decide if she can let her forbidden Divergent side lead her into uncharted territory in order to save others. Does she have the courage? And what will be the cost? 

Loved Divergent--it's well written, with many on the edge scenes and characters I with whom I could easily identify. Tris's loneliness and determination are remarkable, and the ultimate choices she must make left me very eager for the sequels. I loved Four; I'm glad he could see that special something in Tris that went beyond her looks and into her soul. Though much of the book seems to be a set up for a showdown in the society, there is enough action to keep the pages flying. I would actually give this one 4.5 stars as I sit here impatiently waiting on the next book in this trilogy. Well written, well plotted, intriguing...this one's a keeper.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hmmmm...Where Have I Been?

Wish I could say I've been sitting on a beach drinking margaritas and reading, but that'd be a big fat lie. No, I haven't been doing anything other than drowning in the sea of Back To School and one great big humongous novel, which was a great read but took me freaking forever to finish. So now I've got a backlog of reviewing to get through...first up is the Mother of All Summer Reading...


Yep, all caps. You don't wait 5 years for something and not over celebrate, people.  Review below.
Contrary to many, I am overall pretty satisfied with George RR Martin's A Dance With Dragons. Does it have problems? Well, yeah, and some of those are huge. But is it the worst book of the series, deserving of the derision and vitriol that's been heaped upon it by lots of reviewers? Certainly not. Allow me to elaborate.

I won't recount the plot here (if plot is even the right word...meandering at times, achingly slow and then devastatingly wicked at others); there's entirely too much going on. Most of the chapters are Tyrion's, Jon's, and Dany's points of view, but others surface as well, including Theon, Davos, Jaime, Cersei, and Arya. There were a couple of POVs I must admit to being puzzled by, but I have to hope that ultimately Martin will bring them to a satisfying intricacy with the main characters. Would I have loved to know what Brienne and Sansa were up to? Sure, but it's all right. We're moving along, however slowly, and lots of Tyrion is always worth it.

Biggest complaints? Well, the pacing is off in the first two hundred pages or so, with way too much detail given to traveling woes and feasting items. In any other series, these would be deal breakers. Do I think Martin's editor was snoozing? Probably. Just because you are uber successful doesn't mean you should be allowed to enumerate every food on a table. My other big, huge complaint is that it had been so long since I'd read A Feast For Crows, I was LOST for a hundred pages. That's my own fault for not rereading, but I also lay some blame on Martin, since five years between books is inexcusable.
What I liked? Lots of things.The dialogue is perfect and the intrigue is thick. We got vintage Martin with double crosses, lots of gore, and set ups galore. Loved, loved, loved Theon's comeuppance and what he does later in the novel; loved Barristan Selmy's honor; loved the twist with Rhaegar's son. I found what happened with Dany and her dragons distasteful, yet entirely plausible; I know that the bloodletting has only barely begun after Cersei's humiliation. And poor Jon Snow...always trying to do the right thing, but it's usually at the wrong time and with the wrong people. Martin's world is convoluted, overblown, and nasty, much like the world we live in today. His writing, however, while needing editing, still draws one in and builds suspense, causing me to continue turning pages and luxuriating within the boundaries of the Seven Kingdoms and Beyond. Personally, I'm invested for the long haul, even if A Dance With Dragons pales when compared to A Storm of Swords. It's not the comparison I try to keep in mind, it's the journey.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Forever is the final book in the Mercy Falls trilogy, and it's just as gripping and filled with emotion as the first two, Shiver and Linger. Beginning a few months after Grace has shifted into a wolf, we find Sam and Isabel waiting for her return as the weather warms, and Cole still intent on discovering a cure. Meanwhile, suspicion has turned on Sam due to Grace's disappearance, and Isabel's father is determined to rid Boundary Woods of all wolves, no matter the cost. When he gets lawmakers on his side, Isabel knows time is running out and she has to do something.

I love Cole St. Clair. I just had to say that. He is comic relief, determination, arrogance, and romance all rolled into one character, and while his story is secondary, he's actually the one I felt closest to throughout Forever. I loved the banter between he and Isabel, and the scene in her mother's clinic is perfect. Don't get me wrong, I love Sam as well, but Cole...he's the most three dimensional figure in the series.

Forever runs mostly on emotion, with the love and longing of Grace and Sam taking center stage. I love how these two work together and I swear I could feel the longing between the two when Grace kept shifting. Both characters have a lot of childhood issues to deal with in Forever, and things don't always work out as planned. It's during those times that both Isabel and Rachel shine; I would want both of these girls on my side in a crisis.

Possible spoiler...While I loved Forever, and feel it's a strong finale, I am disappointed in the ultimate ending. For the last of a trilogy, it's just too open-ended. I can imagine what I hope will happen, and the title of the book gives me a clue that perhaps I'm right. But to leave things unsettled really bothers me, to the point that I took a star off my final review. I felt as though, rather than making a statement, the ending was almost a cop out; perhaps the author had originally intended for either Grace or Sam to die and then just couldn't do it herself so she left the possibility? And if she wanted them to live, why not just extend the book a bit more or add an epilogue? It just doesn't make sense in a series that has been carefully plotted and developed so well up to that point. Don't get me wrong, I loved Forever and will recommend this series to others. I just will always wish the author hadn't left it up to me to decide the ultimate fates of two people I'd grown very close to over the course of three books. One way or the other, I needed more closure than was provided, and that mars my overall enjoyment (slightly) of this book.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lover Unleashed (Or Why I Love the Black Dagger Brotherhood)

Lover Unleashed, Book 9 in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, is ostensibly the tale of Vishous's twin, Payne, and her troubled love life with surgeon Manuel Manello. The book opens with Payne unable to feel anything after her accident in book 8, and Doc Jane revealing herself to former boss Manny in order to get him to agree to treat Payne. Naturally, sparks fly (even though Payne is paralyzed from the waist down), and Manny's not allowed to recall the surgery or Payne once he leaves the Brotherhood Compound. And of course he can't get over the feeling that *something* happened during the missing hours of his life, and it affects his work to the point where he's asked to take a leave of absence. Still, it's not apparent that he will be able to stay with Payne, even after her deeply scarred brother retrieves him once again to treat his sister. Throw in the fact that Manny feels something has been missing from his life, an injured race horse, and sex as a way of healing, and you've got the basic plotline...well, sort of. 

This is, as I said, the story of Payne and Manny, but then again, they are only part of the show. This book is every bit as much about V and his coming to terms with his abusive father and absent mother, as well as his feelings for Doc Jane and Butch, as it is about the "star" couple. V and Jane's story may have been told a few books back, but there were some loose threads that Ward ties up in this novel. Not sure if she just felt she needed to pad the story since neither Payne nor Manny were characters to which the readers had any long attachment, or if she wanted to bring the original six Brothers to the forefront again, or what. I was glad to see a focus on V, though; he's one of my favorites and his story did need more completion. The relationship he has with Butch is unique and deep and is dealt with brutally here; V's dark side is in full evidence. So while I may not have felt as vested in Payne's story, having V there to flesh his out was a welcome addition. 

What I still don't get is the inclusion of two side stories, though I have to feel that we are being set up for more ahead. The first set up is about Xcor and his band of fighters and their need for revenge and a challenge to Wrath; it's an all right story, but honestly, I don't get how easily at least part of that was solved. The second side story involved a serial killer and a local cop who used to work with Butch--lots of lurid sex and nastiness to be had, but still, what was the point? Though I wonder as well if maybe Ward is seeing a spinoff series? It was an unnecessary distraction, honestly. 

My moaning and groaning also extends to the love at first sight between Manny and Payne; I mean, really? And as another reviewer has pointed out, Layla needs to take her Chosen rear far, far away and stay there. 

BUT...all said and done, I loved this book. I adore the world of the Brotherhood, and any time I get to spend with my oversexed, volatile, humorous guys is a good time. I love the side story of Qhuinn and his longing for Blay; theirs is a story that I can see going in so many different directions. I love the brand-dropping, the music naming, and most of all, just the relationships. The Black Dagger Brotherhood is never going to be high literature and frankly, I'd be sad if it was. I love the impossibility of it all because that's what fantasy is supposed to do. I'm here for the long haul.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Original Sin by Lisa Desrochers

Original Sin, the second book in the Personal Demons series, picks up just a few weeks after Frannie and Luc (a former demon) have been tagged for Heaven, hopefully putting King Lucifer behind them. Luc in his newly human form has never been happier, and Frannie is delighted with both her boyfriend and her relationship with her dead twin, Matt, who is now her guardian angel. Even though Gabe has left, things seem to be going well until new demons arrive in town, still determined to get Frannie and her Sway, and a mysterious young woman moves into the apartment next to Luc's and begins to infiltrate their lives. Suddenly Frannie's final summer before college is not so easy; Luc must defend Frannie and himself against demons determined to take them both to Hell; and Matt just wants Luc out of the picture.

Original Sin is gut-wrenching and very, very dark; we get first hand looks at Hell and Lucifer, and the demons who come after Frannie will stop at nothing to get to her. Luc's admission for how he feels about Frannie is an absolutely stunning moment, but what comes next is even more heartbreaking. I love that Frannie and Luc are not living in a vacuum; the community at large is reeling from what they've done and how far Lucifer is willing to go to get his hands on Frannie's Sway. Possible spoiler...My one issue is how Frannie falls apart later in the book, though with all she goes through, it's understandable. I just want her to remain strong at all times, unrealistic though it might be. And while I can understand her attraction to both Luc and Gabe, the waffling gets a little irritating, but not enough to distract from the overall storyline.

I am amazed at how well done Original Sin is; I love that Ms. Desrochers is not afraid to go wherever her characters lead, however dark it may be. I'm impressed that much of what she writes seems based in biblical fact, and the depth of feeling she evokes with her writing is astounding. I wasn't expecting what happened, but I'm totally on board with it. This is a young adult paranormal series that is head and shoulders above most of what's out there right now. I'm just ill that I have to wait so long for the third installment!


Thursday, July 07, 2011


Ingenue, the second book in Jillian Larkin's Flapper series, picks up a few months after Vixen left off, but it thrusts us full force back into the lives of the four main characters. It's now summer and Clara has followed Marcus to New York City, looking for a new start in the place where she was formerly known as the wild child flapper. Also in New York is Lorraine, who finds herself running a speakeasy due to Ernesto Macharelli's influence, rubbing elbows with the Mob and still out for revenge against former best friend Gloria. That leaves Gloria and Jerome, who are still having to sneak around for their forbidden love affair, living in poorer circumstances than either has ever known, and desperate not to be found. When Jerome's younger sister Vera discovers that Jerome's life is still in danger from the vengeful Carlito Macharelli, she (and friend Evan) hightail it to NYC to find Jerome and Gloria and let them know about the danger.

Lots and lots of action fills Ingenue: secret Mob dealings, romance, deception, betrayal, and flappers galore abound. I loved how Clara starts to come into her own, but suffered right along with her when she struggles with her relationship with Marcus. Gloria and Jerome's story is well done but I still feel that, for the times, it is unrealistic and cannot possibly end well, but we'll see if love triumphs. Lorraine? Well, I've never warmed up to her, and her ridiculous vendetta and uber-foolishness really sent me over the edge this time. But if there's someone I really felt was extraneous, it was Vera, at least for the first 3/4 of the book; it wasn't until Evan's life is threatened that she finally comes to life. She spends way too much time wandering around and when she finally sees Gloria, she disrupts an entire ballroom? But she does manage to make up for it later on so I suppose I can forgive her earlier traipses around NYC.

Ingenue isn't high literature by any means, but it is good, gossipy fun set in the decadence of the twenties. The girls may be in the big city, but they are in way over their heads and it's gonna be a bumpy ride yet. Enjoyable, light, and engaging...what more can you ask?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Elizabeth Chadwick's Lady of the English

I'm always faced with a conundrum whenever I read a new Elizabeth Chadwick novel; I want to inhale it because I know how good it's going to be, yet I also want it to last as long as possible so I can luxuriate in the story. Let's just say that with Lady of the English, I managed to make the novel last nearly a week so I could continue to spend time in the magnificent world and lives EC has re-created. In fact, days after I finished, I'm still thinking about the story and marveling that Ms. Chadwick was not only able to stick to the historical facts but to bring them to life so vividly that I feel as though I actually know these characters.

Lady of the English might be more aptly titled Ladies of the English, in that it focuses not only Matilda, daughter of Henry I and rightful heir to the throne, but also Henry's wife Adeliza. While the majority of the action centers on Matilda's abusive marriage to Count Geoffrey of Anjou and her bids to attain the throne that her father had made his vassals swear to uphold for her, Adeliza is no minor character. Her barren marriage to Henry and her piety, as well as her friendship for her headstrong step-daughter give a perfect counterpoint to the often unlikeable Matilda. Matilda herself is brought to life in a way that keeps her from being the shrew she's often portrayed; while it's evident that she could have done many things to ensure her position, it is also just as evident how strongly she felt for her country and her family. Ms. Chadwick does a very credible job with both women, as unlike in temperament as they were. Added to this story is the unbelievable actual history which occurred (constant side changing, incredible escapes, daring raids) and you've got an epic adventure.

Lady of the English is everything I'd hoped it would be, and my appreciation for Ms. Chadwick as an author who successfully uses true historical fact to create high quality fiction is unbounded. While I'd known something about Matilda, I definitely feel as though I've been brought closer to an elusive woman whose tenacity and courage still comes through across the centuries. I'm glad I chose to luxuriate in this story because my knowledge is richer for it. Bar none, Elizabeth Chadwick is writing the best British historical fiction today, and Lady of the English is highly, highly recommended.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Not That The Demon's Surrender is Bad...

...Not that The Demon's Surrender is bad, or poorly written, or even boring. It's just that, as the final book in the trilogy that had focused on the Ryves brothers, it would have been nice to have somehow felt more of what those two were experiencing, rather than having the decidedly overwhelmed Sin as a narrator. Which also doesn't mean that I disliked Sin, or even that I didn't like her narration. It just seemed an unnecessary perspective for a finale that had Sin as a peripheral character in the previous two books.

The basic plot remains the same: the Goblin Market is in danger from the magicians, and the Ryves brothers are still struggling with the fact that Nick is actually a demon seemingly incapable of human emotion. Given that Sin is narrating, we learn a lot about her responsibilities and her abilities, and the fact that she feels entitled to run the Market after Merris leaves. But there is the stumbling block of Mae, a "tourist" who has shown herself equally capable of running the Market, and Jamie, Mae's brother who is a magician. Both sides know the ultimate showdown is coming between them and the one who captures the Pearl necklace will be the one in charge of the Market. But will new romances also survive? What will happen to Sin's younger brother and sister? Will Nick ever escape his demon past?

Like I said, I liked this novel but felt that it was padded out with Sin's dramas. I loved Nick's sense of humor and the bond between the brothers, and I felt what happened to Alan was a good twist. I've never been a Mae fan but I did enjoy how she stepped up to the plate and actually made things happen; I also appreciated the action sequences, particularly the one with Sin on the magician's boat. I would just have liked there to have been more focus on the brothers since that was how the series began. It's not bad by any just left me feeling like the heart of the story was missing.


Monday, June 27, 2011

The King's Speech (and I'm Still Smiling!)

It's been 24+ hours since I watched The King's Speech, and I am still smiling whenever I think about it. What a tremendous movie! Funny, touching, inspirational, richly acted, soul name it, and any positive adjective you can think of would apply to The King's Speech.

This movie is so much more than just the chronicle of the speech impediment of King George VI. Beginning before he ever thought about assuming the throne, Bertie (as his family called him) struggled mightily from childhood with a stammer that kept him on edge at all times. His beloved wife Elizabeth finds one more possible therapist, a Lionel Logue, whose methods are unconventional and who insists from the word go that Bertie will do things his way if he expects to see results. And there are results indeed, but a major setback strikes when Bertie's older brother David abdicates the throne. Not only must Bertie take over, he must now live his life very much in the public eye, and all this in the shadow of an increasingly volatile Hitler.

Colin Firth has long been a favorite of mine, and he absolutely shines as the shy Bertie. His is an Oscar so well deserved, but there is not a performance in The King's Speech that is sub-par. Helena Bonham Carter is superb as the loving Elizabeth; Michael Gambon is both regal and imposing as King George V; and Geoffrey Rush is so wonderfully perfect as Lionel Logue that words simply fail me. Rush can convey with a simple look so very much and his chemistry with the stammering Firth is both touching and hilarious.

Filled with awkward and funny moments, this movie is beyond wonderful. Even the soundtrack is perfect,with the stunning denouement both rousing and ominous. I simply cannot recommend it highly enough.

As an aside, it is helpful if you know a little about British history, including the relationship between Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, but it is not crucial to the enjoyment of the film. I just felt that it helped me to flesh out the relationships among the royals, but I would still have enjoyed this glorious movie nonetheless.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Not Just Another Angel Story

Unearthly *could* have been just another entry in the rampant paranormal young adult genre...good angels (blah, blah, blah)...bad angels (blah, blah, blah)...impossible love story (yada yada yada). But almost from the get-go, I felt something was different; it felt more, well, real, than in a lot of the books similar in description. Though we know almost immediately that Clara is of angel blood, that she's pretty and fast, etc., we also learn that she's insecure, worried about her "purpose", and feels left out in her new school. Still, she's determined to follow the vision of her purpose and somehow rescue super hunky Christian...though from what or even how, she doesn't have a clue.

For much of the novel, Unearthly follows Clara as she slowly learns more about being of angel blood, though not from her mother (which becomes a source of irritation), and her quest to find out what she's supposed to do. The fact that she ends up with orange hair adds to her ordinariness; the fact that she's often tongue-tied and even a bit clumsy makes her endearing. And yes, I admit I loved that she had good banter with her best friend's brother, and I hoped that somehow, those two would find their way to one another.

While there really aren't major surprises in Unearthly, I found myself quickly turning the pages and reading past my bedtime in order to get through so I could satisfy my curiosity. I really wish I could pinpoint precisely what it is that had me so intrigued about this story; I think it's mostly that Clara, despite her unearthliness, is very real and easy to relate to. It's a thoroughly engaging story that manages to mix the paranormal with the everyday with neither going off the deep end. I'm hooked.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Passion by Lauren Kate

Passion is the third book in the Fallen trilogy, and it's chock full of answers for all those burning questions we've had since the first book. Luce is determined to find out just what it is that has kept Daniel chasing her through centuries and centuries, across time zones and continents; she must know if it's really love or just part of the curse cast on Daniel at his Fall from heaven. Once she steps into an Announcer, she's on her way back through time and all the lives she's shared with her angel, on a mission to end the curse once and for all, one way or another. Hard on her heels is Daniel, desperate to find Luce before she irrevocably messes with history and destroys everything.

What I Loved/Liked: I loved getting glimpses into Luce and Daniel's shared pasts. I loved that we progressively went further and further back in time until that cataclysmic moment when we finally find out how it all began. I liked that it's obvious that Ms. Kate has done her biblical research and has given careful thought to how to make the story come together. I liked that we learned the back story to Daniel and Cam, and I liked that the Nephilim played a role (however small) in helping Daniel. I also liked the set up for the final book. I liked that each lifetime she experienced brought her closer to the final answers she so desperately seemed to need. Which brings me to...

What I Didn't Like: I wanted to scream at Luce more than once when she continued to question Daniel's feelings for her over and over and over...what? Did she think he was doing this for kicks? At times I felt she was just too slow on the uptake and too quick to blame Daniel. And even though she *knew* that she shouldn't mess around with events, that didn't always stop her meddling...really? I also didn't like how Luce seemed to lose herself whenever she was in Daniel's arms. If she thinks that is all there is to love, she's going to have a midlife crisis of epic proportions.

What I Hated: Bill. While I could see why Ms. Kate included him (heaven knows...haha, get it?...Luce needed guidance), he was too comic, adding way too much of a comic book feel that was diametrically opposed to the tone of the previous two books. It was almost a Cinderella and the mice scenario--a good way to get Luce into costume but surely she could have thought of something herself. Or let her meet up with one of her traveling angel buddies to help? And I know what his ultimate goal was, but I think it distracted from the final scenes in the long run.

However, all that being said, I did like Passion very much and I felt it was a necessary addition for us to understand through experience what everything was really about. Luce needed to know first hand and so did we. The final scenes were absolutely worth any slow spots and I'm psyched for the final book. I think it's gonna be worth the wait.


Friday, June 17, 2011

The Golden Prince

Rebecca Dean's The Golden Prince weaves a fictitious tale of young love around the future Edward VIII (he of the Wallis Simpson fame) and a sweet girl he accidentally meets in the summer of 1911. The way the story is laid out, it is entirely plausible that such a relationship occurred, and especially with what we know of Edward's later life and love, almost likely that something of this magnitude happened somewhere in his early years. David (as he's known here and was known in his family) falls head over heels for Lily Houghton when he's involved in a motor car accident with her older sister; it's almost as though the freedom he finds with she and her family are the perfect antidotes to an overly scheduled and complex life in the spotlight. But will his father, King George V, allow him to marry a commoner, even if she is of good family?

The Golden Prince is a fascinating tale, filled with real historical figures and well developed fictional ones. Though their love is swift and all encompassing, almost too good to be believed, Dean gives us plenty of reason to suspect that such a clandestine affair took place, giving David solace and emotion in a life lacking both. While they are, of course, the focus of the story, there are subplots involving all of Lily's sisters: Rose, the suffragette, holding herself back from love; Iris, the staid traditionalist; and Marigold, the wild, scandalous young woman desperate for attention. These subplots weave themselves through the main storyline and flesh out all the characters.

I really enjoyed this novel, with its insight into the private lives of the future Edward VIII and those around him, even if the love affair between David and Lily seemed a bit immature (but of course they were both seventeen). Dean gives a very realistic view of the world before the Great War, and the seamless way she incorporates real world events into her story makes it all come to life vividly. I'm still not sure I totally like the ending, but in Dean's world, it works. Certainly I know I'll never look at the romance between David and Wallis Simpson in the same way again.


Tuesday, June 07, 2011


Torment, the second book in Lauren Kate's Fallen series, picks up with Luce leaving Sword & Cross and moving (without her parents' knowledge) across the country to the exclusive Shoreline School where she will be supposedly safe from those enemies who want to see she and Daniel parted forever. Luce finds herself being kept in the dark as Cam and Daniel combine forces to fight the Fallen, and she doesn't take it lightly; but when she discovers that Shoreline is a haven for the Nephilim (offspring of a human and an angel), she feels less alone. With the help of her roommate Shelby and new friend Miles, Luce begins to take control of the shadowy Announcers that have plagued her, and also begins attending exclusive classes designed to educate the Nephilim. But the biggest change? Luce becomes unsure of her relationship with Daniel after all his secrecy and the constant bickering between them.

For the most part, I absolutely loved Torment. I especially love that Luce has doubts about her eternal, undying love for Daniel; that makes it so much more realistic than many of the other young adult books out there. I love that Luce is taking charge of her life, making her own decisions, trying to find out more about those mysterious past lives that she shared with Daniel. I loved the new characters, including Miles; while as a romantic I naturally want to see Luce end up with Daniel, I can see the appeal of Miles and I like that I'm torn between the two. Shelby is too much fun, and I also enjoyed the additions of Francesca and Steven as teachers (but do I detect something more sinister in those two? Hmmmm....).

What works in Torment works really, really well. There is quite a bit of bickering between Luce and Daniel, and the frustration between them is mounting. But when they work as a couple, they truly work. There were moments when I wished the action would move on a little more quickly, but I was enthralled with the Announcers and the way they can take Luce into the past. As with any sequel, I also have to remind myself that I'm not in charge; it's all up to the author and where she wants to take us. And so far, I'm right along for the ride. Passion, the next in the series, is already pre-ordered and I'm revved up for it.