Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lord Have Mercy

I adore Mercy Thompson. She's what I want in a heroine--she's loyal, she's vocal, she's determined, she's tough yet loving. She doesn't take crap from anyone, which is, of course, one of the reasons Alpha werewolf Adam Hauptman has fallen in love with her. In short, there's very little not to love in such a fierce, demanding, emotional character; yet it is to Ms. Briggs's talent that the other people inhabiting Mercy's world can often be just as compelling. With that in mind, I have to admit that I was exceedingly happy to see Stefan back in action early on, as well as the fact that I got to visit with Warren and Kyle and Jesse. Just wish I'd seen more of them as the novel progressed.

River Marked is different than the other books in the series in that almost 90% of it takes place away from familiar settings and among people we haven't previously known. Mercy and Adam have finally tied the knot (love the surprise wedding!) and have embarked on a perfect honeymoon camping in the woods not too far from home. But this being Mercy, things are of course complicated, and it doesn't take long for Mercy and Adam to realize that the loan of a camper and the offer of a free stay at the campground might have come with a hidden price. The problem? Seems there's a humongous river monster living in the local river, devouring pretty much everyone it comes in contact with. Its minions include some fierce fey known as otterkins, and once it gets a taste of Mercy, it knows high quality when it sees it. Mercy, a walker who can shift into a coyote at will, soon finds out that she is needed to fulfill an ancient Indian tale of a coyote defeating the river devil, something neither she nor Adam are happy about. Oh, and did I mention Mercy's father makes an appearance?

Like many other reviewers, I am so enamored of Mercy and her world that I still loved River Marked despite the fact that it isolated Mercy and Adam and introduced a slew of unknown characters about whom I frankly could not get excited. In a series filled with fey and otherworldliness, the river devil aspect sort of left me cold; I mean, would a town really not mark an area off bounds when families and individuals seem to be disappearing at a rather alarming rate? And while I loved Coyote and the whole mystery surrounding Mercy's birth, I found myself missing my good buddies Zee, Jesse, and even Stefan (though I'm very glad I got to spend a bit of time with him). The story itself is well done but I hope Ms. Briggs keeps things in the arena we've come to know and love in the future; there's a reason she has so many loyal fans, and she needs to have mercy on those of us who have developed such a strong relationship with her characters.

Still, I can't really say anything bad about the storyline, and Mercy is naturally her usual kick butt self. I love the relationship between she and Adam, and his exasperation with her is greatly tempered by the deep bond they share. The author can certainly use the power of words to make us understand the horror of the monster causing harm to small children, and the fact that the monster is virtually unseen until late in the story adds a creepiness factor. I can still recommend this installment and look forward to more time spent with Mercy in the future.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Afterlife by Claudia Gray

Afterlife picks up almost immediately where Hourglass ended--Lucas is in the final stages of becoming a vampire after his attack by the crazed vampire Charity; Bianca, now a wraith, cannot bear to part with him though she knows becoming a vampire would be something Lucas would never want. In the days that follow, things do not get easier for the lovers; Bianca's new powers don't include her being alive (though apparently the powers she now possesses more than make up for that minor issue) and Lucas struggles mightily with his newborn blood lust. Acting upon Balthazar's advice, Lucas seeks sanctuary at Evernight Academy in order to acclimate himself to his new "life", but being back within the walls of the school proves difficult for Bianca as she is unsure if her parents will now accept her new status as a wraith. Though surrounded by friends Balthazar, Vic, Patrice, and Ranulf (love that guy!), there is still something creepy about the ever present Mrs. Bethany, and there's definitely something going on with the other wraiths. How on earth could it all work out?

Afterlife is a page turner, if at times a bit puzzling. Bianca revels in her new abilities as a wraith, but Lucas's transition is met with struggles and depression at the loss of his former life. There were times it seemed as though Bianca had way too many powers, most of them self-taught and highly convenient; her anger at Balthazar is hammered home over and over, even when she knows she could not have done otherwise herself. I felt the trepidation with which Bianca approaches the reunion with her parents was very well done, and the heartsick way Lucas must deal with his Black Cross mother now that he is a vampire was heartbreaking. The friendship among the group--Bianca, Lucas, Balthazar, Ranulf, Vic, Patrice, and Maxie--was strong and supportive, and I loved the spots of humor supplied by Ranulf especially. In fact, all characters within this story were well written and credible, with perhaps the exception of Christopher (never really got into his characterization, though I understand his overall importance).

Afterlife ties up most of the loose ends, though there are still several questions I would like to have answered: What about Vic? What about Balthazar (though I hear he's getting his own novel...yeah!) What about Ranulf? Will Lucas and Bianca be able to remain together? There are possibilities for more novels and I'm hopeful we'll be able to see these characters again. If there are holes in this final tale, there is also excitement and emotion, even if I had hoped for a different outcome. Well written and interesting...I'll be on the lookout for more by Ms. Gray!


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Goodnight Tweetheart!

Let me declare myself a fan of Teresa Medeiros for ages, though I admit that I've mostly just read her historical romances. But when reading buddies I trust implicitly began lauding Goodnight Tweetheart, I decided I'd have to give it a go. I expected it to be light and fun, full of wit; what I didn't expect was to become so wrapped up in the lives of the two characters that I stayed up way later than I should have in order to finish this delightful story.

Abby Donovan is one of the "chosen": her debut novel was selected by Oprah for her book club a few years back, resulting in fame and fortune and incredibly high expectations for her second novel. Abby, however, finds herself filled with doubt about her abilities and cannot get past Chapter Five in her next book, but she gamely goes along with her publicist's idea to "get out there" by using a Twitter account. What she didn't expect was to begin a friendship with one Mark Baynard, a follower who offers to show her the ins and outs of tweeting. Mark's a professor on sabbatical, and through their 140 character interactions, Abby discovers the faraway places Mark is visiting and also how she's been allowing her fears to hold her back. Filled with flirtation and humor, the pair's tweets soon lead them to "date", but is it possible that all isn't as it seems?

I loved this book! What might have started out light and silly quickly evolved into much deeper, more complicated emotions as Abby and Mark begin sharing more levels of friendship. Once the "twist" was revealed, I was absolutely hooked. This book will have you laughing and crying, and breathlessly racing alongside Abby on her journeys of self-discovery. Loved it, loved it, loved it, and can highly recommend it.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

A Couple of Good Ones

Yep, I'm back...with two good ones to recommend! I'd love to say I've been in Hawaii or lounging in the Bahamas but the truth is, I've been battling the demons of middle school (otherwise known as our sixth grade) and spending way too much time playing on the iPad. Oh well. My two recent reads, however, are both so delicious, I'm anxious to share them with you.

First up is Outside In by Maria V. Snyder:
Trella, a former scrub in her world of Inside, has led a revolution for her fellow scrubs for more equality in their way of life. In addition, she's discovered Gateway, the door to "Outside"--(possible spoiler) which has turned out to be outer space. Now, in the sequel to Inside Out, Trella's ready for her life to resume and for others to take care of the daily running of their world. But it doesn't take long for Trella to realize that something is not only not right about the new system of governing; it's scarily wrong. What is actually lurking Outside?

Outside In grabbed me once again from the opening pages; Trella, Queen of the Pipes, is determined to discover the ceiling of Inside, but her position as leader of the rebellion keeps her in meetings and away from Riley, her newfound boyfriend. In addition, Trella finds herself spending more time with Dr. Gifford than she'd anticipated, with the possibility of of their being related hanging over them both. When bombs begin going off, Trella suspects members of the former leaders of Inside, the Trava family, and she finds her own life in danger when she tries to protect those she cares about. But when someone known as The Controllers takes over the computer system Inside, Trella and her friends realize that maybe the danger isn't just Inside...what if Outside wants in?

Ms. Snyder has written a terrific sequel to the compelling Inside Out, with Trella once again at the center of circumstances beyond her control and expectation. While Trella is battling unseen and unknown forces, she's also battling herself and her relationships with Riley, Dr. Gifford, and her friends as she comes to grips with her role Inside. Toward the end of this novel, I literally could not put it down, though I was a little disappointed with the tying up of the threads very quickly. But the terrific storytelling with its twists and its uncertainties of whom to trust more than makes up for the rushed ending. Ms. Snyder brings you Inside and makes you experience the sensations Trella experiences while managing to keep Trella real and thoroughly believable. I am very hopeful that Trella's story isn't at an end because I've come to love the world of Inside and its inhabitants. This is one fan who will be searching out more works by Ms. Snyder and hoping fervently to go back Inside once more.

Additional note: Outside In is a young adult book, and a well written one at that. The relationship between Trella and Riley is both emotional and physical, and always tasteful. The physical relationship adds depth to the characters and Ms. Snyder does not shy away from it. I found it a natural extension of their feelings and can recommend this book without hesitation to those who are ready to read about this aspect.

Now for book number two, one I'm sure you are going to hear a lot about in the coming days: Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult.

Zoe and Max Baxter have struggled with infertility for years, going thousands of dollars in debt and experiencing all sorts of trauma as they undergo IVF. At long last, Zoe becomes pregnant and seems to be carrying to term when an unthinkable tragedy occurs. In the aftermath, Max decides he just cannot do this anymore; he walks away from his marriage to Zoe, leaving her alone to pick up the pieces of her life. To add insult to injury, Zoe discovers she has cancer and must undergo a hysterectomy; without her friendship with new friend Vanessa, Zoe feels certain she would not survive. As the two women grow closer, however, it becomes evident to both that their relationship is much deeper than they had realized, and while Zoe can no longer carry the frozen embryos left behind from her marriage, Vanessa can. All that is needed is Max's consent for Zoe to use the embryos.

Max, on the other hand, finds himself struggling on his own after his divorce; a recovering alcoholic, he turns back to the bottle to cover his feelings of loss and inadequacy. When an accident causes him to re-evaluate his life, he turns to his older brother Reid and Reid's church, Eternal Glory. Eternal Glory is very conservative yet loving, and Max easily slips into its tenets and literal interpretations of the Bible. When he receives Zoe's request to use the embryos with her lesbian partner, Max just cannot feel this is God's plan and instead comes up with one of his own: he will take custody of the embryos and give them to his brother and his wife, who are also struggling iwth infertility. The court case that ensues is ugly, dragging all parties through the mud in an attempt to determine what will be the best family for the potential children.

Picoult knows how to select a hot button issue, and once again, her writing is compelling and her characters real. Having Zoe as a music therapist gives the story a unique perspective; will her stability be better for the children despite her turn into lesbianism? Picoult explores all the common ins and outs of gay issues: Are gay people born that way? If so, how is it that Zoe has not been gay before she met Vanessa? Will the children be ostracized by having same sex parents? Are church going people better options than two loving parents, one of whom is biologically related to the embryos? What is fair? Told in alternating points of view, we get to know the inner reflections of the three main characters, making judgments of their failures all the harder.
My biggest issue with Sing You Home is that it seems Zoe's side is all good, and Max's side, particularly the religious aspect, is all bad. Max himself is conflicted and at the mercy of his brother and his church, while Zoe only wants to work with troubled patients and be a mother. Much of the story is fairly predictable, with Max's legal team as over the top as any in today's headlines. Though we do find that Zoe and Vanessa have some skeletons in their respective closets, it still seems as though Ms. Picoult has gone out of her way to make conservative Christians seem foolish and gullible.

Beyond my gripe written above, however, I have to say I found the pages flying by; my sympathy for both Max and Zoe tugged at my heart because I was able to see both sides of the issue. Picoult has a gift for capturing legal scenes and the drama therein; she has obviously done her research and is able to breathe life into the human spirit. I'm not sure I buy into the final twist, but it's classic Picoult. Her writing is definitely encompassing, and her ability to anger, enthrall, surprise, and even betray the reader will keep me reading her books. Sing You Home is well written and straight out of today's headlines.