Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Crewel World

In the miasma of dystopian young adult fiction out there today, I admit I've become somewhat jaded. I was pretty sure I'd read it all and there weren't any new ways to take us eerily into the future. And then I read the blurb for Crewel and thought, that's different. And it certainly was in lots of ways, even if a little hard to follow at times. Set in the futuristic society of Arras, the country is run by the Guild--and everything is orchestrated by Spinsters who see the "weave" of everything. Much like the Fates of the myths, these Spinsters have control of all life in Arras--but the Guild has control of them.

In this society, children are given assignments (as well as marriage plans!) at age sixteen. All her life, Adelice's parents have striven to hide the fact that the she is special: she can see the weave without the aid of a loom. This means that Adelice will be taken away after her official testing, never to see her family again, so they work to help her learn to hide her talents. Of course it all goes badly and Adelice's family is torn asunder; she finds herself taken by the Guild, set up in a fancy room, given lots of things including a stylist, and told she will weave for the rest of her life. But Adelice is no shrinking violet, and she finds herself in trouble right off the bat--as well as the center of attention between two young men, Josten and Erik.

There's a lot to like in Crewel, including Adelice's rather ascerbic wit and the fast pace of the action. I do wish we hadn't found ourselves stuck between two gorgeous suitors because it's a little been there, done that. I also had some trouble figuring out just what was going on towards the end--I won't give it away here, but it is confusing as to how the main characters...did what they did. But I loved the idea of Crewel; its originality is a definite plus, and I'm eager to find out where we are going. I just hope we're not left hanging too long until the next installment.


Sunday, December 09, 2012

A Graphic Novel For a Change of Pace

Resistance is a graphic novel about three children in France during World War II who join the Resistance against the Nazis occupying their country. I say three children, but the eldest is a teen girl who is interested in local boys and is able to lead her brother and sister to Paris with a Jewish boy whose parents have escaped Nazi custody there. The youngest is Marie, a rather loud bossy youngster, and then there is Paul, her slightly older brother whose good friend Henri escapes being taken with his parents when he is away from home during the day. The two decide to hide Henri in a cave but also find out their sister and mother are helping the Resistance. With a rather scary train ride, the siblings must escort Henri to his parents.

I had high hopes for this novel but ultimately I was let down. While I could see it perhaps appealing to a younger reading set, I didn't find the story especially intriguing and Marie was downright annoying (as little sisters can often be). The graphics themselves are all right but not really anything special; I did find some of the scenes drawn by young Paul to be enlightening. I suppose I was expecting to be drawn into this world completely, and I did not feel the story was realistic in how easily the children became involved in the Resistance. However, if the goal was to expose readers to the role of children during the French Resistance, its mission was accomplished, albeit in a light manner. Could be read by an adult in a very short sitting, and might possibly bring younger readers to want to learn more about France's World War II history.


Saturday, December 08, 2012

Reached brings us to the end of Cassia's issues with the Society and her potential Matches, Ky and Xander. Now a member of the Rising, Cassia works undercover as a Trader while she waits to see if the Pilot will come to power. She knows both Ky and Xander are taking risks for the Rising so they cannot be together, but when a Plague epidemic strikes, she knows the time has come. Problem is, those who unleashed the Plague did not anticipation it mutating and placing those they love in great danger. This is where the trio become reunited and a race against time for the cure begins.

While Reached does not give on the edge of your seat excitement, it does move everything along to its ultimate conclusion well. There are lots of scenes where Cassia must interact with those she's either known in the past or has feelings for, and lots of mysteries are explained, though some take a while to get there. What I liked most is that Cassia's feelings for her family were never left out, nor did she put her feelings for Ky ahead of those for family. It's nice to see a heroine acknowledging her longing for her grandfather and the debt she owes to those who have gone before. There are some coincidences in the book, such as the identity of Lei, which probably stretched my imagination more than they should have, and a few times I felt as though some action was thrown in simply to pad the story. I did feel Indie got shortchanged, and I would have liked to have read more about upcoming changes to the communities and if the Otherlands existed. Perhaps that will all be answered in another book or two.

My biggest gripe with Reached, which I found interesting and intriguing overall, was the Pilot himself. He just was. That's it--I did not feel much about him one way or the other. What was the big attraction? How did he personally come into power? He seemed threatening at times and just bewildered at others. Though I could see him as figurehead for the Rising, I was ultimately let down by everything about him, including how he came to know about our trio. I really didn't understand why those three made an impact on him out of thousands, and I felt he treated them shabbily in expecting so much.

Reached isn't without its issues, but it definitely is deep on meaning and relationships, and those components alone kept me involved in the story. I felt Reached was a big improvement over Crossed, and I liked the ultimate resolution. I loved the idea that Cassia could have been part of something she didn't know about for so long, and I loved that these three relied mostly on brains rather than luck. A good solid ending to the trilogy.


Saturday, December 01, 2012

I've Said This For Years!

I am. not. a. jazz. fan.  I do like big band, but jazz?  Ugh, ugh, ugh. 
So when I heard Dwight and Angela's conversation on The Office the other night, I felt like someone had been channeling my thoughts. I think Angela replies something to the effect of:  "Yes, jazz is stupid. Just pick a note and play it."  


~taminator *not a jazz fan*  40

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Love Me Some Morganville Vampires!

First Observation: I absolutely adore Myrnin. Whew, glad to get that off my chest.

Second Observation: The Morganville Vampire series just does not get stale. Just when you think there is nowhere left to go, Rachel Caine takes us in new directions that seem utterly hopeless. This time, things are rocky from the start, with Amelie and Oliver as a couple (ewwww), determined to keep the human population in its place. That's bad enough, but the humans are starting to rebel, causing enemies to become friends and making targets of our four heroes, especially now that Eve and Michael have committed the ultimate sin--a human has married a vampire. Trying to walk the middle ground becomes next to impossible, and our beloved Myrnin sees the writing on the wall and decides to leave Morganville. Or does he? And what the heck are all these feelings going around? It's a tangled mess fueled by the undead undead Naomi, determined to bring her sister Amelie down however possible.

I love that the relationships between Shane and Claire, Eve and Michael, and Claire and Myrnin have continued to grow realistically, even if Shane does need a smack upside the head on occasion. There are some surprising connections made throughout the book, but nothing is out of character except what is being forced by the vamps in charge.The points of view continue to shift among the main characters, giving us good insight into their mindsets, and needless to say, I adored whenever Myrnin took his turn at describing his dire circumstances. Loved the conflicts, both inner and between the characters; loved that Claire has a backbone and knows what she wants. I'm going to be on edge waiting for the next installment to find out where she ends up.

Final Observation: Despite a bit of meandering into a ghost side story involving Miranda (well done mostly, though I never liked the film crew), Bitter Blood is just further evidence that there are some outstanding young adult paranormal series still going strong because their authors aren't afraid to take risks with beloved characters and situations. I would actually give Bitter Blood a strong 4.5 stars, marred only by an odd film crew and no real resolution (yet) for Jason. Minor, minor issues for a series that is head and shoulder above the rest.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rebel Hearts

Rebel Hearts is the second in the Dust Lands series, and Saba is back, trying to make peace with her actions from Blood Red Road. She's rescued twin Lugh, but he's just not the same since he was taken, and Jack has taken off, though promising to meet up with them soon. Along with Tommo and Emmi, the small group starts off on their journey away from the Tonton but soon run into a spiritualist named Auriel, who leads Saba to understand that Jack is in danger. So Saba being Saba, she sets off alone on a rescue mission, not realizing that Lugh and the others will not allow her to make the trek alone.

Action filled, Rebel Hearts is just that--what happens when a heart refuses to accept what seems like betrayal and does what it has to do. I love Saba's voice and her headstrong ways, even if at times I do want to yell and scream for some of her choices. It seems that everyone is constantly in danger throughout Rebel Hearts; Saba most of all when she makes some rash choices. I wasn't a fan of what happened with DeMalo and it was quite out of character for Saba, but I do think it's going to ultimately be an interesting twist. I absolutely adore both Nero and Tracker; I love how Saba's interactions with animals adds to the story; in fact, Nero has become as central to the story to me as any of the humans.

I'm giving this one 4/5 stars, which actually could be rounded up to 4.5, given that option. The frustrations I felt when Saba continually did things I knew she'd either regret or would place her in danger keeps me from bestowing the full five stars. But this is a strong sequel, leading us to more insight into the emotions of the characters, and setting us up for ultimate showdowns in the final book. Recommended.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Consider this Maze...Unraveled

Where to start on a review of The Maze Runner? First, a short synopsis: Sixteen year old Thomas wakes to find himself inside a box that lifts him into a world where teen boys must work on their own to survive (well, they do get weekly supplies) and run through a Maze in hopes of finding a way to escape. All memories previous to this awakening are erased; the large living community is surrounded by giant walls which close at night to keep out the Grievers--a hybrid mechanical animal with the power to both sting and kill. And these boys who are trapped in this community (the Glade) are angry, and doubly so when Thomas's arrival signals a shift in the routine. Follow that up with the arrival of a girl with the note that says she is the last one ever, and the need for escape intensifies.

Great, great premise. The idea that a moving Maze somehow must be escaped by boys with no adult supervision is genius. Lots of tension and the threat of danger and death that's real...awesome. There's a bit of gore but not much, and lots of unanswered questions, including why is Thomas so different? Why does a girl show up? What happens when a boy is bitten and goes through the Changing? Lots of good stuff there, and there are sparks of brilliance along the way. The chapters often end on cliffhangers that defy you to stop reading, and the idea of a Griever attack is creepy stuff. By the time I was halfway through, I knew i would have to finish the book because I needed to know how they got out of that freaky Maze.

And there goes the good news.

It was a struggle to finish this book, but I committed myself halfway through and I meant to keep it. But the characters...I really only liked Chuck, and mostly I just felt sorry for him. Thomas was meant, I think, to be a strong, mysterious boy, and yet he was just clueless and frustrating, as were most of the others. I never warmed up to the "leaders" Alby and Newt, and Teresa...well, if I knew who she was, I might've been intrigued but really she was a throwaway character because she neither added to nor helped the storyline. Biggest issues beyond those? Lots of the story was transparent including (spoilers....) the names of the characters and WICKED's signs in the Maze. But mostly it was the style of writing, which was supposedly geared to young adult but in actuality is much more for the younger end of that spectrum (perhaps twelve/thirteen). Thomas was said to be sixteen and yet he acted much younger; I never warmed to him because he just didn't seem to be real. And the substitution of "shanks", "klunk", etc., for the words we *know* they are saying was just odd and irritating and only led to the aura of a younger mind-set.

Worst of all, however, was that non-ending. If the author was trying to ensure that we'd go for the next books, he underestimated his intended audience, because of the five friends I know who have read this book, four of us will not go ahead to the next one simply because of that ending. I won't detail it here, but I will say that the lack of answers and the forced march into The Scorch Trials is a huge turn off.

I initially gave The Maze Runner two stars because I *never* take two weeks to read a book of this size, and for the reasons I mentioned above. However, upon reflection, I decided it warranted 2.5 stars (there are some gems in there, and the excitement, when it's good, works well) so I'm allowing that to round up to 3 stars. Consider yourself gifted, Mr. Dashner.


Monday, October 08, 2012


The world's gone to hell, and our heroine Alex has been left outside the community of Rule to face the zombie teens, the Changed, in the fight of her life. Meanwhile, Tom, her partner/friend, has disappeared and survival seems unlikely. So begins the second book in Ilsa Bick's Shadows trilogy, and from the word go, the action is fast, unexpected, and gory. Did I mention gory?

Bick doesn't waste time recapping the storyline, but a helpful hint for those who've forgotten anything would be to visit the author's website as she has a great page to refresh your memory. Instead, we're launched into Alex's predicament, surrounded by Changed...and it's not a spoiler to say that while she lives, the situation is one of constant danger and vividly horrible positions. While we are dealing with Alex's dilemma, we are also bounced through the points of view of Tom, Chris, Peter, and a few others, making it hard at times to keep the action straight. But that's a minor quibble in this excellent, action filled sequel.

Bick is a master of keeping the reader on the edge of his/her seat, and I'm no exception. Many of her chapters end as cliff hangers, making the "just one more chapter" bit an almost constant issue. There is a point midway when the action slams back and forth between Alex and Tom that literally left me exhausted as the pages flew between life threatening situations. That segment alone would be worth the price of the book, but Shadows is so much more than "Chuckies" eating people; it's about relationships, fear, survival, and the degeneration of humanity. Just when it can't get worse, it does, and Bick succeeds in breaking our hearts more than once. When Jack entered the story, I nearly lost it.

I absolutely loved Shadows and one of my particular joys while reading is that Bick does not write down for the reader: her vocabulary is extensive and well used, and her knowledge, particularly of old mines, traps, and the depravity of humans, shines through. I'm impressed that Bick expects the reader to infer so much and that she's able to tie so many threads together so well. This is what young adult writing should be.

Big warning though: While I adored Shadows, it is filled with gore, to the point that I even skimmed a few passages to avoid the mental picture. And while I applaud Bick for not shying away from situations that bring the terror of the zombies to life, I do think those with a weak stomach might want to consider before reading. I'd recommend this one for those at the older end of the young adult spectrum, but adults like me will definitely find much to love. Highly recommended.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sapphire Blue

Sapphire Blue picks up where Ruby Red left off--Gwen and her time traveling partner Gideon are making regular trips back in time to meet with Count Saint Germain and others to work out the mystery of why they are the last time travelers and why their distant cousins Lucy and Paul have stolen the other chronograph to keep the Circle from closing. Gwen is seen as a poor replacement for her cousin Charlotte and Gideon keeps giving her mixed signals. Despite all this, Gwen begins investigating on her own, running into a young version of her beloved grandfather who decides to help her. Danger lurks; Gwen suffers humiliation; people aren't who they seem to be. This middle book sets the stage nicely for the final book, Emerald Green.

I love Gwen because she's such a real character who puts up with a lot of nonsense from those who should be most supportive. She's tough and she doesn't play by the rules, but her weakness is obviously the hard to read Gideon. He was quite irritating throughout this book, never giving clear vibes as to his intentions and what he knows about the Circle. The real surprise for me was that I liked the appearance of Xemerius, a ghost demon only seen by Gwen; usually these types of characters make me lose interest in a story because they seem silly, but Xemerius is actually funny and helpful in ways almost none of the humans are. In general, I'm pretty irritated by the secrecy and arrogance of the adults and Gideon, and will be glad to see if Gwen can take them all down a few pegs as she solves the mystery.

Sometimes a middle book in a series suffers from lack of action and the addition of non-essential information, but Sapphire Blue seems to have transcended those issues and gives a good story that furthers the overall plot well. I love Gwen and can't wait to see where all this time traveling ends up...but it looks like I've got a year to wait until the final book comes out.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Son by Lois Lowry

The fourth book in Lois Lowry's The Giver series, Son begins at roughly the same time as The Giver but from the viewpoint of Claire, a young birthmother. Claire gives birth to a boy but something goes wrong and she must have a c-section, thus ending her days as a birthmother. She finds herself reassigned to work in the hatchery, but somewhere along the way, she realizes something is odd...she misses the "product" she gave birth to. With just a few clues, Claire is able to track her son down in the newchildren's care giving center--and we, the long time readers, realize it's Gabe, the baby Jonas took with him at the end of The Giver. It's a good way to begin the book Son; it gives us another perspective on the community in the days leading up to Jonas's flight.

Son is mostly about Claire and her years long quest to find Gabe after Jonas leaves with the toddler. Claire winds up in an isolated village, the victim of a shipwreck, and spends a good deal of time training to climb a very steep cliff that will lead her on. Along the way, she is befriended by Einar, a lame young man who also once tried to escape the village, and while there is nothing explicit between them, the reader definitely gets the sense that if Claire stayed, there would be a relationship. Once she completes her mission, she runs into the mysterious Trademaster from The Messenger, who exacts a massive toll to reunite Claire with her son.

There is so much to love in Son but most of all the writing is engulfing and captivating. I experienced Claire's despair and her determination; I could feel the narrowness of the village where she lives, and I lived her loneliness after encountering the Trademaster. The story is obviously allegorical and full of symbolism that will not be lost on long time readers. It's not that the story is action packed or even new in its approach, it's that it flows so well and is so human that we can all identify.

Now, that being said, I did have some problems with the book that were overridden by the wonderful writing style. I understood the need for Claire to train for years but I found it frustrating that the story didn't move along farther in that time period. And I'm still dissecting how I feel about the ending...there didn't seem to be much lead up to the how of what happened, if that makes sense. I get it, really...but that doesn't make it any less abrupt. But overall this book is a fitting ending to a quartet of stories that ignited the fire of today's post-apocalyptic story boom.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Happy Blogiversary to me!

I so meant to keep an eye on the calendar so I'd know when it was August 27, but naturally it sped on by without my noticing. But if I had, I would've been excited to let you know that it's been SEVEN years since my first posting to Under a Blood Red Sky! And that hardly seems possible.
While I'm not a faithful poster, I do enjoy posting; mostly about books and book reviews, but sometimes silly stuff, sometimes touching stuff, sometimes just stuff. It's fun and it makes me happy...mission accomplished!
And just in case you are wondering where the title comes from:  It's from U2's "New Year's Day" because you can never have too much U2 in your life.
Thanks for being here! 

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Of Ramblings and Readings

Well, well, it is, September, and I've finished two books in the past month. It's not that I haven't been reading, it's that what I've been reading has been slow going, and most of that blame can be squarely laid at my feet.

First I read The Twelve by Justin Cronin (see review below) and that sucker was HUGE and INVOLVED. Very, very well done but it took quite a while to move through all the layers and story lines.

Next I've been tackling:

I've been reviewing it for HNS so I can't post a review here yet. I will say that ultimately I loved it and I'll recommend it for those who love good historical fiction with a solid mystery.

Mostly, however, I've just been:

That's right, just plain old distracted. School started up August 1 and it's been a rough start with teacher evals, Core standards, and an eighth grade class shipped in from hell every day to give the devil a break. Plus high school band season is rolling and with youngest daughter in her junior year, we're as busy as ever with all that stuff. I've also become involved with an online group that writes fan fic and I am loving the opportunity to get back to writing! It's been good for me to be complimented on my writing skills and just plain fun interacting with the others in the group. 

Next up I'm going to enjoy

for review for HNS. I missed the first in the series so I hope that won't be detrimental to figuring out what's going on. This one looks super good! 

Finally, I took Thursday off to accompany K to the Country Music Hall of Fame where we went to an intimate interview with Keith Urban! You guys know I love me some Keith and he did't disappoint. Very down to earth answering the 400 high schoolers' questions and interacting with the crowd. 

That's it, that's all from me for now. What's up with you?


Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Twelve by Justin Cronin

Here's what I've been reading since August 11...yes, that would mean more than two weeks spent with one book, but...oh, what a book.

The Twelve by Justin Cronin is the sequel to The Passage (review here), the post-apocalyptic tour de force released in 2010. I became completely immersed then in the America that suffers an attack by a group of escaped virals, men (with one notable exception) who had been on death row who were used for a military experiment that went horribly wrong. The Twelve picks up five years after the ending of The Passage, and our band of fighters has scattered, with its members either joining the Expeditionary, taken, or fighting separately. The virals are as prevalent and deadly as ever, and even after the death of Babcock in The Passage, no one is closer to finding and eliminating any other of the Twelve. It's almost as though time has stalled for Peter, Michael, Alicia, and Amy...until Alicia's determination to discover the hiding spot of Martinez brings momentum back to the survivors of the First Colony. Meanwhile, there is some time jumping as we are introduced to Lila and Guilder, two characters who will play extremely important roles almost immediately after the initial disaster began; Lila, a pregnant doctor, is traumatized enough by an emergency room attack that she in essence becomes convinced that *nothing* happened, and Guilder, a man suffering from ALS, survives an attack on his own, transformed into something I never saw coming. How these two lives' mix into that of Lawrence Grey from The Passage is both heart wrenching and horrifying, and leads directly to the main action climax of The Twelve.

There is SO. MUCH.  in The Twelve, and I'd recommend a reread of The Passage if time permits because it is all so intricate and complicated. There is time movement between the initial attacks, then forward about seventy-five years to another disaster that became known as The Massacre in the Field, and finally, we are led back 100 years post-apocalypse to our First Colony fighters and their determination to destroy the Twelve. The discovery of a settlement with echoes of Hitler's concentration camps leads Peter, Michael, and Alicia northward while Amy is drawn separately to the same place. There are echoes of Brad Wolgast and his deep connection to Amy; there is the hint that not all of the Twelve have lost all traces of humanity in Carter's ability to speak with Amy; there is the appearance of a mysterious woman who leads virals to not only attack, but to take some select humans alive. And through it all, we meet and re-meet people and we're given tantalizing hints of what might happen until it all goes to hell.

I feel as though I'm not doing justice to this novel which has totally enveloped me in the past two weeks; I want to say so much more but yet saying one thing would lead to another and I don't want to possibly spoil anything. I will say that much like The Passage,  there were moments and sections in The Twelve when I was so confused and there was so much going on I couldn't keep it all straight, and then there were pages when I just wanted the story to move ahead. But when the action hits, and it hits often and hard, it is next to impossible to put this book down. And you don't know where you're going, and you don't know if a beloved character will make it...and I have to say that the final 50 pages or so are probably some of the best action sequences I've read in quite some time. 

I want to talk about what happens to Amy, to Lila, to Grey, to Guilder (the bloody bastard), to Peter, Michael, Alicia, and Hollis...I want to bounce ideas against someone who has read the final 50 pages to see if they interpret a few things as I do. The writing is so detailed, so deep that I feel as though it washed right over me at times; I was riveted, repulsed, and spellbound. I *need* someone else to discuss this book with me! 

The Twelve is a worthy sequel to The Passage, and Cronin's writing is both grand and gripping. When I think back over the 500+ pages, I almost feel as though I'd read two or three separate books that somehow weave together to form one momentous story. Amazing and awesome. I suggest you pre-order it now for it's October 2012 arrival.

I received this ARC from a friend who attended BEA earlier in the summer. I'm not being paid for this honest review, but my imagination has surely been stretched and hammered through its reading. LOVED IT. Seriously, seriously loved it.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

All You Desire

In All You Desire, the story opens with Haven and Iain living, they think safely, in Rome, away from the Ouroboros Society and the horror of past lives lost. Having been quietly in Rome for a year, things begin to change when Haven starts to suspect someone is following her, then the money she "inherited" upon Iain's faked death is cut off; but most disturbingly, Haven's best friend Beau travels to New York and ends up missing. Trying to draw on a past life to help Beau, it doesn't take long for Haven to realize she must go to NYC herself in order to save her friend, and Iain, though it will place him in danger, must follow. Once there, she comes face to face with Adam Rosier once again, but is it possible that he's changed? Does he really intend to leave Haven alone in this lifetime and to cleanse the Ouroboros Society of the greed that has overtaken it? And should Haven be having the feelings she is for him?

What I Liked: I love the relationship between Haven and Iain. Even when there is friction, you can still feel the deep emotion these two share. I also liked the introduction of new characters Owen and Alex, and I adore Leah and her visions. There are lots of twists and turns in All You Desire, and I love that I'm just not sure whether Adam has changed. The idea that Haven and Iain could go from living relatively normally to being pulled back into the OS was well handled, and I'm anxious to see how everything is going to play out in the next novel. After being taken on an exhausting ride in AYD, I can only begin to imagine where we'll finally end up.

What Annoyed Me: Haven is *still* too naive and gullible and I seriously wanted her to grow a spine at times, especially when dealing with Adam. The Horae, the mysterious sisterhood woven into the OS and Beau's disappearance, was full of mean-spirited, hateful women and I wish Haven could have stayed away from them fully, though I know they were central to the story. Doesn't mean I have to like them. And the speed at which Haven solves the mystery occasionally felt times she became too sidetracked with Adam and Beau became lost in the shuffle.

I was concerned that this installment would be a letdown from the excellent The Eternal Ones, and I was pleasantly surprised that this edition built soundly on the original story. Very complex, All You Desire was every bit as good as The Eternal Ones; I cannot imagine how it's all going to play out and that's the beauty of the story. And that ending? Killer cliff hanger! Well done and absorbing.


Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Hallowed Ones

Katie is Amish and has lived her entire sixteen years as a member of her church community, helping her family and raising golden retrievers, looking forward to her upcoming Rumspringa that she will spend with her sort of boyfriend, Elijah. Pretty normal for a Plain girl...until the day in late September when the ravens began to act weirdly and the people Outside, including some of the Amish, disappear. Katie and Elijah leave their community to go in search of his missing brothers and find...nothing. No trace of them or much of anyone else. And when they return, all within the community are forbidden to leave, and while Katie understands (better than some) that it's for her safety, she still feels cheated of her youthful wandering time and pushed into a world that she's not ready for.

There is so much more to this novel than the post-apocalyptic story of the survivors of a bio-terrorist attack, and it's a page turner for sure. Katie is headstrong and rebellious while at the same time a dutiful daughter with a kind heart, and you can just feel her pain and disappointment at the loss of her freedom and the shift in Elijah that comes as a result of the loss of his brothers. It's these feelings that lead her to defy the Elders and rescue an Outsider; it's these feelings that lead her into a truly terrifying encounter with what's Outside now. And it's her spirit that leads her to do what's right.
The Hallowed Ones is well written and gripping and I spent a very late night finishing it since I literally had to know how it played out. Katie's reality doesn't stop her from taking risks despite the sheltered existence the Bishop wishes to keep on his flock; she's feisty and determined with a clear voice that gets you inside her head. The action is almost non-stop and at times heartbreaking: Ginger, Katie's customer who finds herself stuck and cut off from family brings the truth home to Katie in ways her Elders refuse to see. But mostly this book is horrifyingly creepy, with dark, dark images and atmosphere that pulls you into the scary settings. It's gory and disturbing but yet it's human in a world gone mad. This book is different than many of its genre with its Amish connection and ties to ancient evil. If you don't mind gore and a strong creep factor, pick up The Hallowed Ones...I doubt you'll be ale to put it down. I've rarely been so deliciously scared.

I received this novel from the Amazon Vine program.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Scorch, following on the heels of Croak, picks up with heroine Lex still feeling guilty over the death of twin sister Cordy at the hand (literally) of fellow Grim Zara and knowing that she has to do something to stop Zara from Damning people wildly. The upside? Lex can still visit Cordy in the Afterlife (even though Cordy's taken up with a very impressive historical personage). The downside? Too many to mention actually, but the biggest is that the entire town of Croak has turned against her (with a few exceptions)...and also against Uncle Mort, the mayor. With the knowledge that she must stop Zara torturing her, Lex is further dismayed to learn that Zara's also looking for a mysterious text known as the Wrong Book, and the consequences will be very dire indeed if she finds it.

Scorch is just as quick a read as Croak, though it's more violent at times. Lex is still a moody teen but the loss of her twin has only made things worse; her relationship with fellow Junior Driggs continues with lots of physical encounters (that Uncle Mort tries repeatedly to discourage). Lex is a great anti-heroine; she's rude and angry, but she also wants to make things right in whatever way she can. Though there's a lot action, there are also lots of secrets which aren't revealed until we're far into the book. The final two chapters throw major kinks into the story and it's going to be interesting to see how everything plays out. The writing, while at times a bit silly, still engages and captures the imagination. I'm hooked and I can't wait to see what happens next.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Beautiful Days

Beautiful Days takes up the lives of Cordelia, Letty, and Astrid--three young women living the glamorous life in the 1920s. Cordelia's brother Charlie has taken over the bootlegging business upon the death of their father, while Astrid, as Charlie's girlfriend, continues with her superficial life of parties and drinking. Letty, meanwhile, has moved in with Cordelia and is still hoping for her big break as a singer. As the story progresses, all three end up far from where they began at the start of this novel, and that's not necessarily a bad thing at all. Along the way, Cordelia and Astrid come to realize just what a dangerous occupation Charlie has, and Letty discovers that her desire to be in the spotlight may trump her newfound feelings for writer Grady. No one is safe from heartbreak and danger.
Beautiful Days started off a little slowly for me; I felt as though I was spinning my wheels, waiting for one of the girls to actually make up her fluffy little mind and get on with her life in a meaningful way. And as far as that goes, it's still a ways into the book before more mature decisions are made. But the emotions are strong, and I especially loved reading about the nightlife of New York during Prohibition. I admit to feeling frustration with Astrid particularly; she seems so shallow, and I'm not sure Godbersen intends for her to gain much depth. The action is good once the story picks up (probably a third of the way in), and the very unexpected complication in the relationship between Max and Cordelia is going to be fun to explore. Godbersen's writing is descriptive and detailed; occasionally I got tired of reading what everyone was wearing but in general I felt as though I was smack in the middle of the Roaring Twenties. Good characterization and an engaging storyline makes this a winner of a sequel and has me ready for the next book. Recommended.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wanna Know What It's Like to Teach? Ask Tony Danza

This slim (less than 300 pages) book is the story of the year Tony Danza (yes, that Tony Danza) spent as a high school English teacher in Philadelphia. Finding himself at loose ends after the cancellation of his talk show, Danza decided to put his teaching degree to use as well as develop a television show around his experiences. After searching nationwide, Northeast High School in Philadelphia agreed to take him on, with many stipulations: He would be treated as a real teacher with the same responsibilities as the other teachers, he would have a one-on-one mentor, and he would only be given one 90 minute class to teach (Dang, where do I sign up for that gig? lol). He agreed, the camera crew arrived, and the adventure began.

As a teacher myself, I have to say I was skeptical of Mr. Danza at first, much like his colleagues must have been. He came in with lofty goals and had reality smack him in the face repeatedly: kids with bad attitudes, parents who were no-shows, fights, unengaged students. Danza persevered, despite the odds, and something happened as he did: he became a *real* teacher, one who strove to come up with lessons that excited his students, one who looked past the academic and into the lives of his kids, one who saw through the standardized testing into the concern of his students actually learning. Did he make mistakes? Oh yeah, and sometimes they were huge (hello, drinking on a field trip!), but he was able to forge relationships that he maintains to this day.

This story of a year in the life of Tony Danza is well written and a reliable look at the state of education in public high schools today. While I feel that a few tales may have been glossed over, I believe fully that Danza put his heart and soul into this job and that he gained as much as his students during his tenure. His stories are real and he feels he needs to let the world know the reality of the situations teachers face on a daily basis. This is a good read and one that should be read by all of us with a vested interest in the education of our young people today.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Don't you just hate it when you wait and wait for a sequel to an exciting book, and then you find it so underwhelming? That's how I feel about Meg Cabot's Underworld, the sequel to the very fun Abandon. So bummed.
Underworld picks up the story of Pierce and her undead boyfriend, John, as they try to escape the Fury currently possessing her grandmother's body. Pierce awakens in the Underworld where John has taken her and where he works as a lord of the dead, sorting souls so they can pass on to their ultimate fate. Pierce quickly realizes John has done this to protect her, but she's worried about her family back in the living world, and her fear only multiplies when she receives a strange video on her cell phone of her cousin Alex trapped inside a coffin, in danger of dying. So she convinces John to take her back to rescue Alex, but of course the mission doesn't go smoothly and Pierce's life--and Alex's--are on the line.

First I'll say I loved Abandon; the pages flew by when I read it and I couldn't wait for the sequel. Unfortunately, the intriguing story of Abandon isn't found in Underworld. Pierce is reliant on John most of the time, and he spends most of the book keeping dark secrets from her, which she excuses. The entire story takes place in about 24 hours but most of it is spent with Pierce trying to decide what she wants...and then changing her mind. The fact that she decides she can't face her parents, knowing if she stays with John she will never be with them again, just left me feeling cold, and her conversation with her uncle was just odd. And while much of the storyline centers on the likeness of Pierce's situation to that of Persephone, a lot of time was spent trying to show just how they were different. I just couldn't get past the fact that John was making the decisions while withholding important information. So not okay...and Pierce comes off as immature rather than independent.

There are good things in Underworld; Cabot's writing, as usual, is fast and fluent and her secondary characters are entirely charming. Kayla, John's crew, and even the dove Hope all shine whenever they are involved, and Mr. Smith and his partner are very delightful. I just felt like I spent 300+ pages not really going very far and watching Pierce go backwards in her personality. What should be a love story is starting to feel like a control story, and I want Pierce to step up and take charge. This is not a bad book, but it is lacking in spirit and personality, in my opinion. Not sure if I'll be back for the final book or not.


What's Happening to My Summer Vacation?

This is me...being pulled ever closer to the start of school. Sigh.

Thanks, ICHC. 


Monday, July 09, 2012

My Black Dagger Brotherhood Fix

Lover Reborn is mainly Tohr's story: Our heartbroken Brother is having a hard time letting go of his beloved shellan Wellsie, who was killed by the Lessening Society a few books back. Normally that would be understandable and forgivable, but Tohr's inability to move on has trapped Wellsie and their young in the In Between, neither dead nor alive nor able to go on into the Fade. Resident Angel Lassiter accepts the mission to unite Tohr and No'One in order to both save Wellsie and redeem himself. But none of this goes as planned; Tohr likes No'One, but doesn't love her, and No'One still suffers from the rape that produced John Matthew's shellan, Xhex. Lots and lots of sex ensues, but Tohr resists his emotions. Come to think of it, there's more than one Lover doing some resistance work in Lover Reborn.

There are multiple stories going on in Lover Reborn besides the main focus of Tohr and No'One (hate that name, btw). We also have Xhex and John Matthew being hard-headed and stubborn, and we have Qhuinn still watching Blay from afar. There's also the stories of the BoB, with Xcor and Throe given attention and the Chosen Layla being pulled into the mix. Lots of action, lots of fighting, lots of misunderstanding.

Lover Reborn grabbed me early on when Tohr, suffering from his loss, takes Wellsie's mating gown to his bed, only to realize she'll never fill it again. Such a heartbreaking scene, one filled to the brim with emotion. I felt as though I wanted Wellsie back as much as Tohr did, and I wasn't certain that a romance with No'One was going to work. Still, Ward was able to show how sometimes there are different loves for the different stages of our lives, and Tohr was able to point out, quite rightly, that he wasn't the only damaged soul. Definitely real and gripping, and I bought it all. In fact, there wasn't a scene with Tohr that I wasn't emotionally involved in, even if I felt that No'One was a bit of a wash-out as far as personality goes. But she's so different from Wellsie that I can see how the relationship might work, and I think that's the beauty of Ward's world...people change, but they can become better.

The idea of being reborn is given much attention, and while this is ostensibly Tohr's tale, it's also Xhex and John Matthew's tale, and Layla's tale as well. I enjoyed the movement among the characters, and I am able to see how Ward is setting us up for future stories. While I missed the interaction among the Brothers, it definitely wasn't totally gone, and I understand that their stories can only be told once in full. And Lassiter? He's definitely moving towards becoming one of my all-time favorite characters. Where else are you going to find a cursing, reality-television addicted, drinking angel?

Lover Reborn wasn't perfect, but it certainly kept the pages turning as I dug into this engaging world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. I made myself slow down so I could savor the stories; gotta get my fix until 2013, and this one was a big improvement in spirit and involvement over Lover Unleashed. If Tohr doesn't break your heart, you're not alive. Loved it.


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Endure is the final book in Carrie Jones's pixie series, and it winds things up with a major bang. Zara and Co. are still fighting the evil pixies which are going to start the apocalypse, and they are in search of answers wherever they may be found. Betty, Zara's grandmother, has allowed her grief over the death of her best friend to keep her in weretiger form, more people are disappearing, and Nick is back from the dead, but is unable to deal with Zara's transformation into a pixie, which she only did for him. But what is Zara developing feelings for pixie king Astley? And another trip to Iceland? All right, let's see how it well it plays out.

Actually, this final book does a very good job of tying up the story lines, with Zara discovering her true strength and coming to terms with her feelings. While I've always been a Nick fan, I have to say he let me down with his all too (semi) human response to Zara's sacrifice, understandable as it was. The characters are all well developed, and Zara's learning to rely on herself is refreshing and well written. Unfortunately, my belief was suspended--even for a YA paranormal--when the entire town of Bedford became involved. It just seemed too unrealistic, even if it was a way of possibly defeating the evil pixies. I also felt a sense of deja vu when there was yet another trip to Iceland in search of a place which may or may not exist (even if I loved Hel herself). Impressive as the use of Norse mythology was, I felt like the story was getting away from Zara and her band of friends, and that was a bit of a letdown for me.

Overall, Endure was indeed a good read, and a fitting ending to the series, even with the problems I've stated. Ms. Jones has fashioned a fascinating look at a different sort of paranormal character, and the strong family ties only add to the reality. Definitely a recommended series!


RIP, Andy Griffith

Jeff and I were faithful fans of Andy Griffith, particularly during our college years. Behind Seinfeld, it is the television show we quote most around our house.

A few years ago, our church Sunday School class spent a summer watching episodes of The Andy Griffith show, using it to teach Bible themes. It was one of the most enjoyable, and educational, times I have ever spent in a church.

RIP, Andy. It's like losing a family member, but heaven is having a great reunion today.


Monday, July 02, 2012

Before I Wake

First, let me say I love this series by Rachel Vincent! It certainly has some of the most interesting, most flawed characters in YA fiction, and the storyline is developing well with lots of action and excitement. This entry is another good one, but there are a couple of issues that kept me from giving it the full 5 stars...nothing major, but still things that bugged me. But mostly Vincent's writing is growing and this series is going to be so hard to give up when the next (and final!) novel is out.

What I Loved: I LOVE Tod. He is the single best character, with his wit constantly shining and his utter, complete devotion to Kaylee a true heartwarming relationship. The way he tries to protect Kaylee, the way he works with her and values her, all make him probably one of my favorite YA characters ever. Also, Vincent handles their decision to go physical in an adult, responsible way that shows how deeply they care for one another. I also love that Kaylee's relationship with Nash isn't just resolved so quickly and that we can feel his pain. I love that her dad is still a dad, regardless of her dead status. And speaking of that issue, I love how Vincent is portraying Kaylee's abrupt adjustment into the land of the dead: it's a learning process, with both benefits and problems, all of which are overwhelming. Kaylee's a great character herself, but she is a conflicted one. I also like the central problem with Avari: he's found a way around the Netherworld Rules, and he's just pure evil, and right now, no one's sure how to deal with him. Great story telling amid all the fighting (both the relationship kind and the physical kind). I also like that hard decisions have to be made and there are consequences for those choices.

What Bugged Me: Surely someone, somewhere is going to notice all these deaths in a high school and in a community, most of which have some sort of tie to Kaylee. It's almost too much to believe, that the school is still open and operating with students and teachers dropping left and right. I know that shouldn't bug me, but it does. But what bugged me more was the idea that the group is so in peril that they must not go to school, must all sleep together and keep tabs on one another...but they go to the lake on an outing to celebrate Kaylee's the woods...and the couples break up into pairs and disappear on their own. There is no logic whatsoever in any of it, other than to set up the fight with Avari, and it just bugged me too much that the over-protective adults make this move. It was a big "Huh?" moment in an otherwise well written, smartly plotted book.

Final Impressions: Before I Wake is another really good novel in the Soul Screamers series, and Vincent knows how to keep you on the edge. She definitely has a handle on her characters' reasons and personalities, and I'm still not able to figure out how Kaylee and Co. will defeat Avari ultimately. Definitely a great read and I'm ready for the final book!


Saturday, June 30, 2012


Insurgent, the second novel in the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth, begins with heroine Tris and boyfriend Tobias trying to make sense of their world now that the Erudite faction has staged an assault on the Abnegation faction using mind control simulation. Tris must come to terms with the loss of her parents and also her shooting of friend and fellow Dauntless faction member Will. Meanwhile, her status as a Divergent is becoming known, and it's going to place her faction and her loved ones in danger. That's the general set up for Insurgent but that short synopsis barely touches all the action and emotion that takes place. It's indeed a sequel that meets and exceeds the standards set up by Divergent.

There's so much one could talk about in Insurgent, but I'll boil it down to what worked so well: the depth of emotion. Whether Tris is involved in action packed savagery or sharing an intimate moment with Tobias, her feelings are on display fully and the reader is experiencing them. Roth's writing brought me into the cell with Tris, making me understand how her split-second decisions worked for or against her, and I found myself unable to put the book down. I love that the relationship between Tris and Tobias is totally real, totally believable, and I love that Tris's intelligence saves her again and again. This is a heroine for the ages; this is a heroine you can believe in and want to be. I love that there is a sad, soft side to Tris, and I love that others hold her accountable for her actions. She's a kick-butt leader with integrity and determination, and right or wrong, she's out to do what's right.

The action is amazing throughout this book, and the character development is phenomenal. Even the secondary characters resonate; no one is fully good or fully bad and histories of relationships can make or break the future. Roth's got me captured completely inside her world and I'm ready for the gates of imagination to open in the final book. Awesome action and credible characters equals one of the best YA series out there now.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to Dante's Inferno...

I believe a high temperature of 105 qualifies as one of Dante's Circles. 

107 tomorrow. Heaven help us.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Last Rite...A Fitting Ending

Last Rite is the final book in the Personal Demons trilogy, picking up with Frannie and Luc leaving Haden to escape the forces of Hell which are after Frannie for her Sway (her ability to get others to do what she wants). The three hop a plane after a wild chase and end up in Florida where Gabe hopes to help Frannie refine her skills and Luc attempts to push her away so he can regain his former demon powers (in order to help save her). Of course things do not go as planned: Luc cannot stay away from Frannie, Gabe finds himself in danger of losing his wings because of his love for Frannie, and Lucifer sends fallen angel Matt (Frannie's twin) to track her down. When Frannie discovers that the family she left behind in Haden is in danger, she decides it is up to her to save them however she can.

For all that's going on, the first third of this book moves a bit slowly, with Gabe and Luc both spending too much time lusting after Frannie rather than coming up with a viable solution to keep her from Lucifer's clutches. In fact, though there is some necessary set up during the time Frannie is in Florida, it's not until she arrives back in Haden that things begin to move with a capital M. Frannie's entire family becomes involved in the ultimate battle of good vs. evil, and no one is quite sure what Frannie should do or how she should do it. There are some family secrets revealed, all of which are surprising and welcome, and some intense moments as souls are bargained for and decisions are made. I literally could not put the book down for the final 100 pages...I had to know what happened next!

Still, there are some issues I have with all the final threads, and this is a spoiler warning...

I had to wonder Why Frannie? If all her sisters and brother had special powers, thanks to her dad and grandfather, then why should the third daughter of the family be the One? I also had to wonder why Frannie found it so hard to trust the two men who had only been trying to help her for so long. I also felt the entire sub story with Faith was sorta odd...she just didn't seem necessary to the story. And only under the guise of Free Will do I understand what happened with Luc and Frannie and the hospital scenes...really, was there a decision that had to be made?
Last Rite is a fitting ending to a great trilogy, despite its minor flaws. The characters are compelling and the ties of family permeate the entire story. I loved this series and look forward to reading anything and everything Ms. Desrochers writes in the future.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

George RR Martin...Write Like the Wind!

Oh, so true! Stolen from the ever fabulous Sharon Kay Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick!


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Queen's Vow

The Queen's Vow is the story of Isabella of Castile, the Isabella of FerdinandandIsabella fame, the mother of Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Told in first person, author C.W. Gortner brings this fascinating woman to life from the time she was a young teenager until she sponsors the man we know as Christopher Columbus. Isabella begins her life as the almost forgotten younger sister of Enrique, King of Castile; once remembered, however, her life is never the same as she begins years long battles for a throne that would eventually be hers. Isabella is always strong, if often beleaguered by the men in her life, but her one constant is the love she shares with Ferdinand (known as Fernando in this novel).

The writing in this novel is quite strong, and Gortner is able to share Isabella's feelings very well. The descriptions of the places, people, and era often place the reader directly inside the action; in particular, his descriptions of the sea and Isabella's faithful friend Beatriz are well done, making both sparkle with life (in different ways, of course!). I was amazed at how plausible Gortner was able to make many of Isabella's decisions seem, almost as though he had experienced the travails of ruling himself. I also loved the actual vocabulary Gortner uses; he chooses words that stretch the reader and imply that an intelligence is required for understanding. While I don't necessarily accept Isabella's initial tolerance of the Jewish population of her country, nor her reluctance to implement the Inquisition, I was willing to give credence to Gortner's explanations simply because they are so well written. This is a novel to be savored, both for its rich historical tale and also for its written beauty. 


Monday, June 18, 2012

Sookie and What Needs To Happen

I won't waste time recounting the plot of Deadlocked, other than to say a girl turns up dead on Eric's lawn a few minutes after Sookie catches him drinking from her. From there, Sookie and Co. are harassed by the police until the mystery is solved. The mystery itself is actually pretty good, with enough unanswered questions and diversions to keep me interested in finding out whodunnit. And there is a reasonable solution that involves Sookie having the veil lifted from her eyes about certain fae she knows very well. So on that front, I would give Deadlocked a solid 4 stars.

What else I liked: I liked the fae and Sookie's interactions with them. I liked that we met up with Niall again and there was some resolution to the relationship between Niall and his son Dermot. I liked the mystery; I liked Pam and I liked how Bill still seems smitten with Sookie. And I liked what Sookie does with the cluviel dor. It made sense and showed Sookie's true character.

What I disliked: Sookie and her relationship issues. I've always loved Eric, and he and Sookie together were dynamite. However, I am sick to death of the situation with he and Freyda and the fact that he and Sookie were hardly together at all in this installment was awful. I can see the handwriting on the wall and it doesn't look good for them, which makes me ill. But geez louise, if that's the case and she's going to end up with Sam, GET ON WITH IT. Stop making these two intelligent people dance around the situation and make a break.

I also dislike what ultimately happens with the fae in this novel. While I suspect Harris felt there were too many characters and the story was getting away from her, I still don't like it because we are taking away characters who have been important. And while I"m on the subject, while I like the townspeople of Bon Temps, there was too much time spent updating us on them.

In short, we need more Sookie and the story needs to move along, preferably over a longer period of time than a couple of days. Sookie needs to stand up and declare her intentions with Eric, and we need her seeing into heads more often, not just getting pieces of brain signatures.

Was this a bad book? Nope. I sped through it, and liked it. But the whole situation with Eric and Sookie must be resolved or else the entire series will flounder. I need focus for my favorite characters! I'll still be reading, but I hate to see things dragged out so long. There's still good stories in there; I hope Ms. Harris isn't turning off her loyal fans by ignoring what we loved in the first place.