Monday, December 28, 2009

Year End Review

Well it is the end of 2009. It has been one hell of a year. We have anew President, economy, and attitude about what is important in our lives. Personally, I have read a lot of books and reviewed only a fraction of them for this blog. I have worked hard making ends meet and had a lot of fun some of the time. I watched my youngest son graduate from boot camp and welcomed my oldest home from the army. I read through it all. My husband had a close call with his health last spring and I said goodbye to friends and family as they transitioned to the next life. I read through it all. I went cruising on Carnival with the girls and on the Harley with my husband. Yep, I read through it all. (Ok, I listened to books while on the back of the Harley.) I wrote 50,000 words for NANOWRIMO and now I am trying to figure out what to do with all those words. Reading a lot helped me write a lot. I have met some amazing people this year through the blogs and thanks to the BookSmugglers, Bookbinge, RamblingsonRomance and a dozen more like minded bloggers I have been inspired to read Patricia Briggs, Jessica Anderson, Lisa Kleypas, Susan Elizabeth Phillipssand a dozen or more new authors to me. I have doubled the number of my reviews and gotten about 6 more comments than last year so I guess at least 6 more people are stopping by and enjoying my reviews. Life has been challenging, interesting and crappy this year and through it all a book kept me company, distracted me, comforted and entertained me. I have never had more constant, or truer friends than the pages found between the covers of the books I have read or written upon this year. So I thank you 2009
for all your gifts. I bid you goodbye and turn and say hello to 2010 and adventures I have yet to have and the books I have yet to meet. Bring it on!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Jessica Anderson is a first time read for me and I liked it

I was at the library the other day and amongst my Laurell K. Hamiltons, Nora Roberts and Susan Elizabeth Phillips a new author caught my attention, Jessica Anderson.  She has started a series of paranormal novels based on the next doomsday prophecy of 2012.
According to the ancient Mayans Dec 2012 is the last day of their calendar and it will be the end of the world as we know it.  An alternative prediction is a new world consciousness will come to pass, kind of like the Age of Aquarius. A movie came out last month with the title 2012 so it has become a hot topic. 
Ms. Anderson's first book "The Nightkeepers" came out in June of 2008 before the movie hype which makes her a trendsetter in my book..haha get it?  my book...I make myself laugh.
Anyway, I found "The Nightkeepers and The DawnKeepers" at the same time which I took as the book reading god's signal to read them since I wouldn't have to back track or wait 2 years for the next installment.  Thank you book reading god for the guidance. 
The Nightkeepers are warrior descendants of the Ancient Mayans.  They are the protectors of the world from the demons who would destroy humanity and the world as a whole.  The story begins 30 years ago with a prologue which tells of an attempt by the Jaguar King along with the rest of the Nightkeepers, to permanently seal the barrier between our world and the underworld. By doing so it would prevent them from accessing the higher powers of their Gods but would keep the destruction of the demons from entering this plain.  The attempt failed killing all but a hand full of babies and their caretakers, called winikins.  These survivors scattered across the North American continent.  Flash forward 30 years later and the story picks up in 2008 at the spring equinox.  It is during this time when the barrier between the dimensions is its thinnest and the son of the Jaguar King comes into his power.  Strike, yes that is his name, is the heir apparent and with his inheritence comes the responsibility of protecting the world from the end times.  (Note:  I am not totally crazy about Ms. Anderson's naming convention. It was the one thing in the book that felt too contrived.)
The story moves quickly pulling in all the players to Mexico next to the ancestral home of the Mayans.  Enter Leah.  She is not a Mayan let alone a Nightkeeper but she is evidently the pre-ordained mate for Strike.  She will be integral to helping Strike and the Nightkeepers keep the world safe in 4 years. 
As in any great adventure there are great villains sooo...representing the demons is Zipacna.  He is the human embodiment of the evil demon Makol and he needs Leah to complete his demonic mission. While he seems like a charismatic and ingenious villain he is somehow too sloppy and even a little dumb to be the ultimate bad guy.
This book is complex.  A good 1/3 of the book is busy setting up the characters and the back story.  It got a bit confusing at one point but just as I was about to give up the story started to pickup.  The group of Nightkeepers come together and they fight to defend the world begins.  I wish I could be more specific but then I would spoil the story.
I will tell you Ms. Anderson draws very real characters.  I liked that Strike resented the responsibility foisted on him because of his birth.  I like that Red Boar, one of the only adult surviving Nightkeepers is a dark character and while on the side of good is not himself a very good person.  I loved that while sex was part and parcel of the magic ritual it wasn't the only part and there was more bloody sacrifice going on then group sex rituals.  I liked that I wasn't sure how the bloody thing was going to end until it did and I LOVED the fact that I immediately picked up the next book to see what happened next!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Charlie Bone and the Children of the Red King isn't just for kids

I have been on a kick recently reading children fiction. I love kid's fiction.  This genre is as wide in flavor as adult fiction but without all the baggage.  What I mean by that is there is no extraneous/over the top sex, language, or violence to get in the way of the story.  Take the Charlie Bone series by Jenny Nimo.  At first glance one might think this is a take off of another great children series, Harry Potter but it is really quite different and a most excellent story.
Charlie Bone isn't a wizard but he is "Endowed".  Being endowed means you have a special gift.  Charlie discovers his endowment when he turns 11. He can communicate with people in pictures. Being endowed only happens to descendants of the ancient royal Red King. There are good and bad factions of the Red King's family. I am sure you can guess which side Charlie is on.
Charlie lives with his mom, his Grandma Maise, Grandma Bone and his Uncle Paton.  This is one dysfunctional family.  Charlie's dad has gone missing.  Grandma Bone who is Charlie's dad's mom is suspected in his disappearance.  She along with her evil Yewbeam sisters are in cahoots with the owner of Bloors Academy, a special school for artistic and gifted children.  Bloors Academy is a creepy and gloomy place where the kids stay Monday through Friday and get weekends home.  The headmaster is the grandson of a very bad, creepy old man named Ezekial Bloor. He is searching through the endowed students to find those that would aid him in bringing back his ancestor Borlath.  Borlath was an evil man who could make and throw fire. Ezekial believes if he can bring back Borlath then together they will become the most powerful men in the world and his family will rule everyone.  Isn't the plan of all bad guys?   Charlie and his mom live with his grandma, mainly because they don't have any place else to go and Grandma Bone wants to hang onto Charlie in the hopes he has a powerful endowment and it can be used to help them take over. Uncle Paton is Charlie's paternal great Uncle and while his last name is Yewbeam he is one of the good guys.  He too is endowed with a special gift that makes going out at night very difficult.  Paton is often a major player in Charlies adventures and Charlie helps him realize he can have a full life even if light bulbs tend to explode around him. Charlie's mom and grandma Maise are good women but can't stand against Grizelda and accept living there until they figure out what else they can do.

The Charlie Bone series is right now at 7 books. The 8th and final book in the series is currently being released.  Each book is a new adventure with Charlie at the center working through a new mystery and defeating the evil Bloors and Yewbeams.  Charlie becomes friends with both endowed and non-endowed kids and they all take part in Charlies trials.  The cast of supporting characters is wonderful and as always, (in my opinion), make the story.  Fidelio, Gabriel, Olivia, Lysander are all endowed children like Charlie and they make up the courageous band who stand up against the evil plans of the bad guys. Benjamin Brown is Charlie's best friend and neighbor.  While Benjamin isn't endowed he is as much part of Charlie's adventures as the endowed kids. Then there are Mr. and Mrs. Onimus who own a pet cafe.  You can't come in if you don't have a pet.  They own the cats called the Flames.  These three mystical and magical cats are kind of like the guardians of the good endowed children.
No adventure would be complete without evil opponents and the bad guys are not limited to the elder Bloors and Yewbeams.  Endowments aren't just for nice kids.  There are enemies among the student body.  Manfred Bloor is Ezekial Bloor's great grandson.  His power to hypnotize is fading but he is developing his ancestor's fire power.  He hates Charlie.  Dorcas Loom who can enchant clothing, Joshua Tilpin who has a magnetic personality, and Dagbert Endless whose loyalty changes with the tides has the ability to drown people make for a gruesome crew with Manfred.
Over the 7 books Charlie discovers what happened to his father, beats the Bloors by  freeing a python with a magical bite that can turn someone invisible.  The now freed python gladly reverses his bite on an invisible boy who had been held captive in Bloors Academy. He  enters the portrait of an ancient magician only to find out they are related and Charlie has more skills than talking to pictures. He gets haunted by a ghostly horse.  He helps save his orphan friend from fiendish foster parents with the help of the 3 Flames. Interesting and fun characters fill every book.  Mystery, adventure, and excitement abounds in each episode.
Do yourself a favor and checkout the kids shelves at the library or bookstore for excellent adventures.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Last Bite by Nancy Verde Barr

I just closed the back cover on a really sweet novel. "Last Bite, A Culinary Romance" by Nancy Verde Barr.  Ms Barr was, at one time, the culinary producer for "Good Morning America and an executive chef for Julia Child.   She uses her experience and memories from morning TV, Julia Child and her family to create a delicious  romantic romp around the world.
The plot of this book is the romance between Casey Costello, an executive chef for morning show "Morning in America" and Danny O'Shea, the sexy chef owner of a hot NYC restaurant.  Their romance moves from the kitchens of their respective workplaces to kitschy, rustic locales in Tuscany.
I think I won't go much further into the plot because the plot is very loose and extraneous.  What makes this book so special is how I related to the characters.  Casey is half Irish and half Italian.  She has the crazy, lovable family down perfect. The family comes together every Sunday after church for dinner.  They drive Casey crazy but she wouldn't be who she is if not for the strong Italian women who raised her. No problem is so great that a cannoli can't fix it.  As they gather to make the gravy, meatballs and braciolle they discuss the family and resolve all the problems in their world.  I especially liked Aunt Alfonsa who was caught stealing change from the poor box to cover her gambling debt.  She got involved with her bookie through her weekly church bingo game.Over cannolli and coffee the family convinced the Father to just ban her from the church but not send her to jail! 
Danny is a sexy Irish transplant who worked his way through culinary school in Dublin to move to New York and take the restaurant world by storm.  While he is as hot as a guy can get he is also pretty human.  I liked that he was seriously interested in Casey but instead of grabbing her and sweeping her off to bed immediately, he wooed her and respected her issues coming out of a bad relationship.  Okay, maybe that makes him too good to be true.
The supporting cast was funny and interesting but the one thing that tied this story together wasn't what was happening with the people but what was happening with the food.  The people were really not all THAT special but when added with a great time cooking, eating, and shopping food they become fun, sexy and interesting.
This is a fluffy, take to the beach, sit in the airport, or doctor's office read.  Better yet, wait for a snowy day, make a savory stew or comforting chowder and snuggle up to "The Last Bite".  It will fill you up!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Knock Out by Catherine Coulter was anything but!

I was really disappointed with Ms. Coulter's last FBI series offering, "Tailspin." So much so that I stood at the bookshelf and really thought about picking up the next in the series, "Knock Out." I am sorry I made the decision to pick it up. I was pulling for Ms. Coulter, Dillon and Sherlock, I really was. Dang it! This story is so implausible, disconnected and unbelievable I am actually annoyed.
It seems as if I may be in the minority of opinions but I don't care. This story stunk! I know Ms. Coulter is a great writer. As I have said before I have read all of her books. I can no longer read anymore.

Dillon is in the bank when it is held up. Of course he is integral to saving the day. Three of the bad guys are killed and one who has been shot gets away in the getaway car. The one who got a way is a psychotic teenage girl and the driver of the getaway car is her boyfriend. Instead of running off and hiding she demands they hunt down a bank security guard and Dillon and kill them for killing her mom. Meanwhile Dillon has a telepathic conversation with a seven year old girl who is being persued by her evil paranormally gifted family.
The stories are completely separate and have nothing to do with the other. The characters, except for Dillon and Sherlock are less than one dimensional.
The teenage bank robbers are so inept and predictable except for the fact that they can sneak up on trained law enforcement officers and kill most of them like they are ninjas.
The guys chasing the little girl are a crazy family with one son who can hypnotize a person with a glance and the other one is a shape shifter while dad can influence slot machines....whatever! Of course Dillon is immune to the evil machinations because he is Superman, oh wait maybe not since he does get shot by the teenage Bonnie Parker.
The story ends with the predictable ending and the world is once more safe for children and families everywhere...blah, blah, blah..
Unfortunately, I have to accept that Ms. Coulter has lost something with this series and I will not be reading anymore in the future. Hopefully, she has something truly new on the horizon, I will wait for it.

Glitter Baby is a Departure

I know, I don't post for a month or more and then you get multiple posts in one day. Well, that is kind of the way my life goes. I appreciate any of my friends and visitors who keep stopping by even when I have slacked off! On to my next review:

Last summer my friend Debbie introduced me to Susan Elizabeth Phillips and I am eternally grateful for the intro. I have loved getting to know all the Chicago Stars and the cast of delightful zany characters filling Ms. Phillips stories.
"Glitter Baby" is a departure from the lighthearted and funny story lines of the Chicago Stars. This is a deeper, sadder and might I say more suspenseful story. While there are definitely moments of humor and lightness, not all of the characters get resolved nicely. It was actually written prior to the Chicago Stars series. It is a little dated since it takes place in the 80's but given I was 20 then I enjoyed the nostalgic visit back.

Glitter Baby is the story of Fleur Savagar. She is the illegitimate child of young wanna be starlet, Belinda and aging swashbuckler star, Erroll Flynn who has a penchant for young girls. She isn't angry or resentful of the reckless and absent Flynn. He is a star. Regular rules don't apply to him. Belinda, convinces herself in order to protect her baby, marries a mysterious, nefarious and dark character, Alexi Savagar. He loves Belinda and sweeps her away to a mansion in France and lavishes her with gifts. When he discovers she is pregnant with the child of his rival he banishes the infant to a convent school to be raised and forgotten.

Fleur grows up knowing she isn't really loved. She doesn't know why this is because her mother visits her periodically and sweeps her away to glamorous places like Paris, the Greek Isles and weaves tales of glamorous stars and wants Fleur to have the same stars in her eyes. Then she is returned to the school and forgotten until the next time. This abandonment will be the cause of her lack of self esteem and lead her into situations that are not in her best interest. Fleur is used by her mother to enter the elite world of the celebrity. Her creepy stepfather wants to use her for less than fatherly reasons and she is almost seduced by the lure of finally being loved. Fleur does get a romantic interest but it has a very hard and twisted road. The story really revolves around her and her journey to finding out she really belongs to herself and not her mother, father, the public or anyone else. She is responsible for her life and her happiness.

Again, this is not a light read but it is a very satisfying story and I felt it ended believably and appropriately.

I was enchanted by Tanya Huff's newest offering

Wow! What fun! Tanya Huff brings humor, magic, mystery and a little romance to the sales counter in her newest book, "The Enchanted Emporium."

The story takes place in Canada and features an extraordinary family, the Gales. The Gale girls are fascinating and magical but fall short of calling themselves witches. I guess with a last name like Gale it would be a little weird to be a witch but be careful when eating anything baked by one of them.  When a Gale girl reaches a certain age she either finds a man, settles down and begins the next generation or she becomes an "Auntie". The men in the Gale family are mysterious and magical too. Not quite human and when they go into "rutt" ladies watch out.

"The Enchanted Emporium" features Allie Gale. She is a young Gale girl just coming into her own and at loose ends both professionally and personally when she receives a letter from her Granny. The letter starts off with the not unusual "If you are reading this I am dead" opening and goes on to leave Allie all of granny's possessions including her emporium in Calgary.  Granny is a sly and tricky Gale.  While most of the family accepts her demise Allie just can't believe granny is really dead and takes over the emporium with the intention of discovering what happened to her. 

The emporium is home to more than chatzkis and yo-yo's.  It is a place of magical artifacts like a monkey's paw and a magic mirror.  It is also the post office for a variety of magical creatures.  As Allie settles into the shop and begins her search for her granny she finds herself in the middle of a coming battle between the "Under Realm" and a sorcerer.  Then the fun really gets going.  Assasins, dragons, sexy guys and a leprechaun all come together to make "The Enchanted Emporium" a fast-paced, delight-filled read.  

This is Tanya Huff at her urban-fantasy best!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Laurell K. Hamilton and Anita Blake: Conflicted and Tired

Before I get to my review I have good news! The City of West Palm Beach just opened a brand new and gorgeous Library on Clematis Street. It has plenty of books, magazines and the usual library fare. It also boasts a ton of audio books, movies, music cd's and even video games in their new digital library section. Their teen section is killer and includes computer stations with research sites a click away for those pesky term papers. It even has a little coffee shop attached where I can get my favorite brew or a grilled cheese sandwich at lunch while I drool over my newest acquisitions. The new Library rocks and it is just a short trolley ride away from my office, woo hoo!!!!

While I was perusing the luscious written libations on all the shelves I came across Laurell K. Hamilton's newest Anita novel,
"Skin Trade". I have been shying away from this series for the last 2 books. I don't know if you remember my post on her latest Merry Gentry offering but I enjoyed it a lot and I thought maybe she would repair the problems with Anita's story the way she did with Merry. I think she still has a way to go to get her fire for Anita back but "Skin Trade" was more like the Anita I came to know and love. I applaud Ms. Hamilton for making Anita and the conflict the stars and not the sex. I have said it before I love a good sex scene but it has to make sense and be a part of the story NOT be the story.

Anita has to go to Vegas in the line of her job as a Federal Marshall and Vampire Executioner. She believes Vittorio, the serial killing Vampire, is back in action after receiving a human head in the mail and a bloody invitation to "Catch me if you can" in Vegas. The first inkling of personal conflict for Anita is how difficult it is for her to leave Jean Claude and the St. Louis gang in the name of work and literally runs while they lay dead in their beds.
When she arrives in the City of Sin she is met by some of my favorite human characters in the Series.
Edward (Ted) Forrester: the baddest executioner in the business and is called "Death" by the monsters he kills.
Otto (Olaf) Jefferies: No nickname is necessary for the serial killer who, because he is a Federal Marshall, can legally be paid for his passion.....slashing and bashing.
A new hunter joins the crew, Bernardo who is a sexy Native American who can get any woman he wants but Anita.
These guys know about the ardeur. Olaf and Bernardo offer to be Anita's emergency meal. Edward abstains since it would be too much like doing his sister and Donna wouldn't understand.
The Vegas SWAT team and the Sheriff's office play important supporting cast roles as does the Vegas Master of the City's wife Bibiana and her tigers.
The first 80 pages or so had me glued to the story and I was looking forward to Anita kicking serious vamp/monster butt. Unfortunately, the story gets bogged down with, what has become the usual, Anita angst and how she is going to deal with the ardeur and her growing psychic super powers. The conflict stopped being about Vittorio, the Vampire, but once again Anita defending her life style to all the human men. In fact a good hundred pages or so deal with her proving herself to the SWAT team that she is worthy of getting the monster who killed 3 members of their team and put 7 of them into a magical sleep. This is the most successful Vampire Hunter in the world with more kills than anybody and yet she goes so far as out weight lifting the biggest guy on the team and still she is looked at like she is out of her league.
I have read some reviews that the Vegas police were treated unfairly because a third of them couldn't deal with Anita's reputation as a hunter, a vamp's girlfriend and all the men she has been having sex with. I liked how some of the anger at her were projections of personal baggage on the part of some like the
Under-Sheriff and I have to say if I met a woman who seemed to collect men the way some collect shoes I would be put off too. The problem is that Ms. Hamilton never let's Anita move past it. Anita demonstrates in several ways that she is badder than any of the SWAT guys could hope to be and yet even in the end she is dealing with snide, crude and honestly distracting bull-crap.
I did like the strange and curious Olaf. When last I saw him he was covered in gore and masturbating. I was completely grossed out and appalled. It was great creepy and disgusting writing. I don't like him but I like his story/character. Does that make sense?
I didn't like the throw in/throw away of Marme Noir. It was too abrupt, especially the bombing. I think I see where this might be leading but it felt awkward to me.
Jean-Claude and the St. Louis crew take a backseat in this installment and while I think it was an interesting change for Anita, I must admit I missed them. I didn't miss Richard. In fact, thank you Laurell, for leaving him wherever, (hehehee, get it...werever. I crack me up sometimes), he was. I would
Bottom line, I enjoyed "Skin Trade". I appreciate Ms. Hamilton's turn back to the story of Anita the Hunter. I would love to see more of her growing psychic powers. Sometimes I wonder if Jean-Claude might begin to be threatened by this growing power in his lover and servant, hmmmm....that might be an interesting arc to explore in the future. Keep 'em coming Laurell!

Comic Book, eh?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Deadlock by Iris Johansen

I tried to have a snappy eye catching title for this post and just couldn't come up with anything this morning but that doesn't mean "Deadlock" didn't catch me from page one and kept me turning pages until the end.  This was one of Ms. Johansen's best efforts outside of the Eve Duncan series.
Emily Hudson is an archeologist who works for the U.N. to retrieve relics and art treasures from threatened world locations like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and South Africa.
John Garrett is a mysterious mercenary with ties to MI6 and the CIA.
Staunton is also a mercenary but he isn't so discriminating in his employers or how he gets the job done.
As always a good story is not made on 2 or 3 characters alone.  Ms. Johansen has filled the supporting cast with a wonderful if not completely drawn batch of friends and cohorts in crime.
Irana is a former nun turned doctor who Garret rescued and setup in her own hospital.
Dardon is Garrett's mysterious side kick and can get any kind of transportation anytime, anywhere.
Pauley is a computer genius with a penchant for adventure.
Ferguson is the CIA agent with an agenda.

The story starts in Afghanistan at a little abandoned museum where Emily and her friend and co-worker Joel Levy are sifting through leftovers.  They are attacked leaving the area by a band of bandits who don't want what is in the truck but what they might know about a relic called the Zelov Hammer. Their kidnapping makes international news From this point the story races across the world and the page with only short romantic stops along the way. 
I loved this book because for the first time in a while I didn't want to put it down.  The story was the star.  Relationships and sex were second.  Emily and Garrett would escape a harrowing situation and then have raucus sex and on to the next race for the Hammer.  I am sure if I had a hunk like Garrett saving me I would want to thank him in the most intimate way possible.  Don't misunderstand, Emily is no shrinking violet and in the end she saves herself which I liked most.  She was strong and smart and not perfect.  Garret was strong and maybe not quite as smart as Emily which made him perfect to me....hehehehe.
I have seen some reviews where readers thought the plot was improbable or the story jumped around too much.  I didn't have a problem with either of those issues.  I did have a problem that the main characters, too often, predicted what another character was feeling or thinking.  It got really annoying.  Why have dialog if you already know what I am thinking and feeling.  Other than that I thought "Deadlock" was an exciting, fast paced and thoroughly entertaining read!  Check it out at the Library or pick it up at your favorite bookstore. You can also download it to your kindle!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs or Why does it always have to be cancer.

SPOILER ALERT:  This review gives away the ending!  Don't read any more if you are currently reading or going to read this book!

 I love chick lit. I look for Sue monk Kidd and Kristin Hannah regularly.  Really, I do but I do have an issue with stories that require the main character to die to move the rest of the characters forward.  In "The Friday Night Knitting Club" Kate Jacobs creates a lovely group of women from all backgrounds, education and ages and weaves them together in a lovely pattern of friendship.

"The Friday Night Knitting Club" was a lovely story.  I looked forward to finding out what Derwin was up to or was Anita going to finally go out with Deli Shop owner.  Was Peri going to get all her purses done for Bloomingdales?  It was pleasant and entertaining.  Their stories made me grin. Then there were conflicts in the story like Derwin's separation from her husband or Cat finding out that there is more to life than shopping at Saks or planning parties. I wondered how Lucy was going to deal with unemployment, being an unwed mother and the fact that she never told her lover she had gotten pregnant.  I cheered for Georgia as she protected her daughter from her ex lover/absentee dad until she knew what his intentions were and I loved it when they first kissed again.  All that was great.
Then Ms. Jacobs kills off the main character and of course it is cancer of the female variety.  Georgia Walker had paid her dues and was turning a corner in her life.  Her knitting business was getting noticed.  Her daughter, Dakota,  was growing strong and smart.  She was rekindling the lost love who was father to her little girl.  Her friends we moving along in their lives too.  Then it was just too good, life was going along just too nicely, people were succeeding so of course the only thing we could do was give Georgia ovarian cancer.  OK, I can deal with that.  It was wonderful how each of the women dealt with her illness and applied it to their own lives and made commitments to be more aware of what made them happy.  Yeah!!!  Very Life affirming.  So why couldn't Ms. Jacobs let Georgia live?  Why is it, to be a great female bonding novel someone must die of some dang cancer?  Why can't we get the lessons and affirm ourselves and the go on and live some more? 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Argeneau Series by Lynsay Sands makes a great light snack!

I haven’t posted in a while. I feel bad about that but life has an annoying way of getting in the way of doing other stuff. Not posting doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. I don’t know about any of you, my friendly visitors, but reading is my sanity and life line during crazy times. Now I have to get busy sharing with you what I have been reading.

Lynsay Sands’ Argeneau series which includes A Quick Bite, A Bite to Remember, Vampires are Forever, The Accidental Vampire and Bite Me if You Can are some of the best fun I have had in a while. The Argeneaus are a close knit, wealthy, Canadian family and they are all vampires. These are not bad vampires, they aren’t even blood sucking ones. Ms. Sands has removed any nastiness from the classic evil creatures and turned them into just another powerful, wealthy, Canadian family trying to make their way through the centuries. She has set up an entirely interesting plot line that explains the whole vampire story which begins in Atlantis. Nothing is as we have been told from the story of Dracula. In fact, it was a drunken Argeneau who gave Bram Stoker the story for the Evil One. The family has never forgiven him for spreading such lies. Since the creation of blood banks the Vampire community has banned biting and the Argeneaus have their own blood bank service.
I found these books to be light, frothy and fun. Ms Sands has a lovely tongue in cheek style that kept me grinning through every book. Each story focuses one of the family members as they discover their life mate. (Life mates are people who cannot be read or controlled by a given vampire which makes them extremely attractive to the vampire). Yes, the term life mate has been used before by other authors and I did find this to be a small flaw in the story.

In "A Quick Bite" Lissiana Argeneau faints at the sight of blood and that prevents her from using bagged blood so she has to eat “off the hoof”. Enter Greg Hewitt, hunky psychologist; Lissiana’s mom has hired to help her daughter overcome her fear of blood. Lissiana can’t control or read him and he sure is tasty.

In "A Bite to Remember" private investigator Jackie Morrisey is hired by the Argeneau family to help Vincent discover who is sabatoging his stage productions. Yes, Vincent discovers that Jackie is his life mate but Jackie, who is aware of vampires, isn’t crazy to join their ranks. Figuring out who is making his cast anemic and convincing Jackie to be with him forever makes for a fluffy funny read, kind of like watching “Pillow Talk” with Doris Day and Rock Hudson.

“Vampires are forever” takes us around the world in a search for Marguerite, the matriarch of the family. No one else in the family is available for the search but young Thomas. He is fun, easygoing and never really taken very seriously. Everyone treats him like he is 18 even though he is 200. He is a very accomplished songwriter and has written most of the music for Vincent’s shows. Since vampires are not at their best during the day Inez, a vice president at the London branch of Argeneau Enterprises is tasked to assist in the search. You guessed it, she is his life mate. The hunt is on and so is the love and the laughs.

“The Accidental Vampire” brings Victor Argeneau and Elvi Black together. The family hears that a vampire is openly living in a small town in Canada. She is biting the locals and now has put a personal ad in the paper looking for another vampire to make a love connection. Victor is the family “enforcer” and goes to investigate. When he arrives he discovers Elvi and a town who loves her just the way she is, or do they? Someone is trying to kill her. Victor must solve the mystery to save Elvi, his life mate.

In “Bite Me if You Can” Lucian, the family’s rogue hunter, is tracking an elusive vampire who is turning humans to create a Vampire army. During a raid, he and his team rescue a young woman, Leigh, who is in the early stages of being turned. They can’t punish her for being attacked so they take her to a safe house to go through the change. Going through the change is horribly painful and scary. No one else is available to babysit except for taciturn and gloomy Lucian. You have guessed it already, yep, they are lifemates. I think this story was my favorite. Lucien has spent centuries being an alpha male and is a fish out of water when he has to show understanding to another and be a care-giver instead of a life-taker. Watching Leigh make Lucian human while she gets used to being vampire is delightful. Oh, and then there is the little problem of the rogue wanting her back to give the story that little extra bite, hehehehe.

There are 9 episodes in the series at this time. They don’t have to be read in order but I think you would enjoy them more if you did. Whatever the order is, if you enjoy light humor and romance then sink your teeth into the Argeneaus. You will be glad you did.

By the way, checkout Lynsay's website! Not only do you get the low down on the next Argeneau episode but her other books as well. Her bio page is too funny! Her blog is a hoot! She is a very funny lady!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cruising and Reading: Book 2 – Night Shadow by Nora Roberts

As the ship pulled into Half Moon Cay I was reading the opening pages of the second book of the cruise, Night Shadow by Nora Roberts.  I can’t say I loved this book.  Usually after reading a Nora Roberts I feel very satisfied like after eating a good dessert; not too sweet, good texture and filling.  "Night Shadow" just misses the mark.  (The book was first published in 1994 and it has been republished in large print in 2008).  I have a feeling it was a time when Ms. Roberts was beginning her transition from historical romance to modern romance/mystery.  The book is an interesting mix of paranormal, mystery, and romance. 
Gage Guthrie is a fantastically wealthy man who has a secret alter ego called Nemesis.  Deborah O’Roarke is a beautiful tough assistant district attorney.  They live in the very sophisticated and crime ridden city Urbana, located on the East Coast, (New York City).  The two meet one night when Deborah is attacked heading to her car and Nemesis rescues her from being assaulted and possibly raped.  They meet again at a swank political fund raiser for the mayor’s re-election and Gage finds he hasn’t been able to stop thinking of her since he rescued her.  There is a big drug ring operating in Urbana without punishment and unbeknown to the other both Deborah and Gage/Nemisis are working to bring it down.   They both want justice in the world but they disagree on the system and how justice should be dispensed.  Gage is a secret vigilante and Deborah is a public crusader, just opposite enough to attract.
The story was ok.  I was more intrigued with the story concept.  Reading "Night Shadow" was a little like watching an author in transition.  I can see JD Robb show up in the writing.  There are a lot of similarities between Gage and Deborah and Dallas and Roarke, right down to names.  Roarke is fabulously wealthy with a murky past.  Gage is too.  Both Roarke and Gage are really good with computers and hacking.  Deborah is a District Attorney committed to cleaning up the streets and representing the under dog.  Dallas is a cop with the same beliefs.  Both women make each victim their responsibility.  They are by the book tough women who have something to prove to themselves and the world.  
I think "Night Shadow" falls short because Ms. Roberts is still writing a romance so the mystery/suspense aspect of the story is lacking.  She really becomes a good writer of the mystery after becoming JD Robb even when writing as herself.  The romance is still important but takes a respectful backseat to the suspense. 
It was a good beach read.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cruising and Reading: Book 1 - Men of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong

I was away for a week or so recently on a cruise in the Eastern Caribbean. It was a superb vacation! Myself and 7 other women from work all took off for 7 days withouth spouses, boyfriends or kids. We call it the "Sisters NO Misters Cruise." We visited St. Thomas, San Juan, Grand Turk and a little private island called Half Moon Cay. Besides eating really good food, a little gambling, dancing, snorkeling and sight seeing, I got 4 books read. Like I said, this vacation was most excellent.
Heading out of Miami I was reading Kelley Armstrong’s “Men of the Otherworld.” Ms. Armstrong has written a series of novels called “The Otherworld.” This series revolves around different women who have paranormal abilities. Obviously “Men of the Otherworld” deals with their men. In this first book of the new series Clayton and Jeremy Danvers are the featured characters. The book fills in the back story of these two very important characters in the first series. Jeremy has always been an enigmatic and mystical kind of pack leader who seems to have clairvoyant abilities. In this book we discover who Jeremy’s mother was and why his father hates him so. Clayton is Jeremy’s adopted son and enforcer who has his own strange story. He was bitten by a werewolf at the age of 6 or so then lived as a wild child in the bayou until Jeremy learned of him and brought him home. We also find out how Jeremy became pack leader and why there are now two packs in the U.S.
Ms. Armstrong is a fine writer. She knows how to build and hold tension. I kept turning pages just to see what the next trouble was going to be. She is also very good at creating believable characters. While it is hard to believe a five year could wonder off and get bitten by a werewolf she has made it very plausible. I guess, too, with some of the strange things CNN and local news report these days maybe it isn’t so far fetched. I know this may sound strange since the book involves werewolves but I connected with the theme of family that tied all these characters together. Jeremy’s relationship with his father is angry and sad but like so many of us he creates his own family with other pack members and then with the foundling pup, Clayton. Clayton who seemed to know he was better off as a wild child than stay in the scary environment that was his human family becomes the best son Jeremy could have ever hoped for.
Men of the Otherworld                            This book is not without violence or even a little sex but nothing was over the top. There is a part in the story where Clayton decides he has to kill a mutt, (a mutt is a werewolf not in the pack), in a most graphic and awful way in order to protect Jeremy and the pack. It is chilling in its premeditation and my eyes were glued to each page waiting to see what would happen but nothing of the actual act was gratuitous or over the top. Clayton is a psychopath with a heart.
I am looking forward to more books from Kelley Armstrong and her Otherworld.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reader Interview: Barefoot by Elin Hildebrand is a Summer Story

Welcome to another reader interview.  As chance may have it another friend named Debbie has been chosen as victim, eh, I mean, guest.
Mame:  Hey Deb.  Thanks for taking some time out of your day to talk books with me.
Debbie V.:  Can you untie me now?
Mame:  Ha Ha!  You are such a kidder.  I will untie you when we are done with our little chat, hehehe…. Seriously now, what are you reading these days?
Debbie V.:  Ok, I just finished “Barefoot” by Elin Hildebrand.  It is about these 3 women, 2 of whom are sisters, who are facing a life changing situation or decision.  They decide to go to Nantucket for the summer to get away from the pressures of the everyday and figure out what to do with their lives.  Vicki is a mom of two and has cancer.  Brenda, Vicki’s sister has been fired from her professorship for unethical behavior.  She had an affair with a student even though the student was her age.  Melanie is pregnant and has discovered her husband is cheating on her.  There is a fourth supporting character.  A young man named Josh who is home from school for the summer.  The ladies hire him to be babysitter for the summer.
Mame:  This sounds like classic chick lit. You know sit on the beach or on the sofa with a box of tissues and cry.  How was the read?
DebbieV.:  I enjoyed it.  It is chick lit.  I didn’t cry but it is definitely a beach read.  She really captured Summer.  I could smell the sun tan oil and feel the sand under my feet.  I knew what that beach house looked like.  It took me back to the Jersey Shore when I was a kid.  I wanted to go over to the beach and build a sand castle.
Mame:  It sounds like she makes great word pictures and can set a scene.  How was the story though?  I mean did you enjoy the story of the women?
Debbie V.:  Yeah.  I liked the way she introduced each character with a little blurb and one story triggers another for a different character.  They’re like foils for each other.  These ladies are dealing with some heavy stuff.  Vicki is so tired of being sick but she is afraid of what will happen to her girls if she quits fighting.  Her sister, Brenda wants to be there for her but she is self centered and wallowing in her own tragedy of the demise of her career.  Then there is Melanie. She is struggling over how she might have to raise this long awaited baby without a father and the betrayal of a cheating husband.  Somehow Josh who is just working through growing up and not following his father’s footsteps becomes confidante.
Mame:  This story sounds like it could have happened anytime.  Do you think there was a reason she used Summer as the backdrop?
Debbie V.:  Oh sure.  Life happens.  Summer passing becomes a metaphor for these women’s experience.  Life passes like the seasons.  Summer feels like it will last forever but like everything else it passes away to allow Fall to come. Each woman spends time looking back on her choices and what happened to her life while she was busy.  It made me think about how hard you work for something and then when you finally give up and it happens but something else has to be sacrificed.
Mame:  What would you say was the overriding theme of the book?
Debbie V.:  At first I would say death because Vicki’s cancer is a huge deal but really I think the overriding theme is Letting Go.  Letting go of what you think your life should be.  Letting go of control and maybe you never were in control and it is ok.  And love.  It may not always be wrapped in a pretty little package but in the end the only thing that matters is love. 
Mame:  Wow.  Are you sure this is a beach read?  I think I would want to read this while PMS’ing and eat chocolate.
Debbie V.:  HaHaHa!  I loved the Summer Story aspect of it, being at the beach, playing in the sand.  Reality is serious enough and if I could go back to the beach when I was 12 that’s where I’d want to be.
Mame:  On a scale of 1-10 how fast would you buy another Elin Hildebrand novel.
DebbieV.:  You know…..hmmm…I don’t think I would buy another book by her BUT I would definitely buy another “Summer Story” again.
Mame:  Ok, I get why you would buy another Summer/beach themed book again but I am curious.  You said you liked this book then why not buy another Hildebrand novel.
Debbie V.:  She set a great scene but I never really connected to her characters.  I didn’t really care about them.  I felt like I had read the girlfriends and heartache story before and it had been done better than this.  I wanted a big moment like in “Fire Fly Lane” by Kristin Hannah or a deeper connection like in “Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd.  She just didn’t connect for me.
Mame:  So what I think you are saying is this book didn’t feel personal to the author.  She wasn’t connected to her characters and you felt that absence. 
Debbie V.:  Exactly.
Mame:  Ok, I get you and I loved both of those other books!  Well lunch hour is over and it is time to get back to work.  Thanks for the chat and I will catch you later.
Debbie V.:  You are most welcome.
Mame:  Bye
Debbie V.:  Wait!
Mame:  What?
Debbie V.:  Untie me now.
Mame:  Ooops.  Have a great day Deb!
Debbie V.:  You too.  Now get out of here you nut!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz

Goldens, Angels, Children, Oh My!
What does a golden retriever, down syndrome child and 3 psychotic killers have in common? The answer: Dean Koontz. "The Darkest Evening of the Year" had me on the edge of my seat one moment, thinking about the divine in the next and crying over the cruelty of humans toward other living beings including themselves. With help of the Divine Mr. Koontz tells the story of hope and love that transcends the tragedies of this world.
This story is amazing. I finished it last night and I dreamed of golden retrievers and angels. I could feel the passion of the author for his story. The subjects of child and animal abuse are important to Mr. Koontz. The book was sometimes hard to read, especially when Moon Girl/Vanessa is torturing her unwanted child.
Let me tell you a little bit about the story and then I can get back to raving about what a terrific writer Dean Koontz is.
Amy Redwing is a young woman who was orphaned as a baby and then again as a small child and ended up being raised in an orphanage, Our Mother of Mercy. When she returned to the orphanage the second time after the sudden death of her adoptive parents she was withdrawn, depressed and the nuns feared for her health. One day a stray golden retriever shows up at the orphanage and Amy makes an immediate connection to the animal. She helps the sisters get the dog cleaned and settled and convinces them to keep the dog . She gives the female dog the name Nickie. For the next 10 years or so Amy and Nickie are inseparable and are almost legend amongst the other children. Shortly before Amy goes out on her own Nickie gets sick and dies in her arms.
Fast forward another 10 years and Amy runs Golden Heart, an animal rescue shelter for golden retrievers. One night she gets a call for a rescue and with her boyfriend Brian goes to a house to help a woman save her dog from her abusive husband. In the process Amy rescues not only the dog but the mother and her two children from the drunken, angry, violent man. She also discovers a strange and wonderful connection to the new retriever. Instead of setting the dog up for a “forever home” she adopts the dog herself and you guessed it, names her Nickie.
Brian, the boyfriend, is an up and coming architect with a past of his own which involves a short affair with a beautiful but manipulative girl who is crazy. He gets her pregnant and she demands he signs away his rights to her so the new man in her life, a very wealthy but sterile businessman, can adopt the child. At first he is relieved to not be burdened with a baby but as the birth approaches he realizes that it wouldn't be right to not be there for his child. When the baby is born and discovered to have down syndrome the businessman drops her like a rotten potato. Even though Brian tells Vanessa he would be more than happy to take on the burden of the baby girl, crazy girl makes it her mission for the next ten years to torture both Brian and the baby.
Both Amy’s and Brian’s stories are deeper and more horrible than my short blurb can say. These separate and unrelated pasts converge into one very long evening in a violent confrontation. I will tell you the good beats out evil but the question you have to ask is, at what cost?

Dean Koontz is, in my opinion, an extraordinary author. His ability to create horrible situations and not only make them feel real but to make me, the reader, feel such compassion and empathy for the characters is equaled only by Stephen King.
I couldn’t put this story down. I was at times smiling, other times grossed out and angry. Mr. Koontz made me feel. I didn’t just read the emotions of the characters, I felt them. I was pulling for the good guys and I wanted the bad guys hurt, in the words of Vanessa, “Hurt Hard”. "The Darkest Evening of the Years" is 5 stars, 2 thumbs up and an angel on top good.

The adjoining picture is of Dean and his Golden, Trixie.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cry Wolf is a real good tale!

I was recently over at Desert Island Keepers where I enjoyed reading the posts by Joanna Wylde, (she is the author of The Price of Pleasure), especially her list of auto-buy authors. I didn't include Patricia Briggs on the list since I just started reading her work and one book doesn't an auto-buy author make, as far as I am concerned. After finishing Cry Wolf I will have to amend my list and add her. She is a fresh voice in the paranormal genre. I like her believability in the midst of the impossible and strange.
Cry Wolf is a spin-off from the Mercy Thompson series and it looks like Cry Wolf is the first in a series Ms. Briggs is calling the Alpha and Omega.
I met the main characters in this book as secondary characters in Moon Called. The Marrok, Bran, is the leader of all the werewolves in America. Samuel is the firstborn of the Marrok and a doctor. Charles is the second born and the Enforcer for his father. He is the one Bran sends out to quell uprisings and kill rogues. The only main character I hadn’t met yet is the woman Anna. She was attacked, had the Change forced upon her and for the last three years been tortured and abused by the Alpha of the Chicago pack. In some ways this story feels like it should be the sequel to Moon Called since it picks up at the end of the battle to take over Adam’s pack and the death of Dr. Carter Wallace and his son Gerry. I found out there is a short story out there from an anthology called On the Prowl. It fills in the missing pieces. In it Charles is sent to Chicago on behalf of the Marrok to take care of a pack that has become nothing more than a ruthless gang terrorizing the city. When he arrives in Chicago he meets Anna and discovers she is a rare personality called an Omega. While the Alpha is the strength and aggressive power of the pack, the Omega is the nurturing and calming aspect. As an Omega Anna can bring peace to even the most aggressive of the dominant weres. An Omega is very rare and treasured except Anna was used to control the wolves in the Chicago pack so Leo could keep them doing the vile and destructive things he wanted them to do. Charles’s wolf realizes that Anna is his mate and wants her to come home to Montana with him. Anna, who is still suffering from all the trauma and abuse at the hands and orders of Leo is frightened to go.
Cry Wolf begins with Charles fighting to recover from silver bullet wounds he received in the fight that killed Leo, the screwed up and rotten alpha of the Chicago pack. Bran, the Marrok, is overseeing the packing and moving of Anna. He has manipulated, cajoled and convinced Anna that Charles needs her and it would be in her best interest to go to Montana. Upon their arrival they are faced with the sad duty of attending the funeral of Dr. Wallace. He was in Moon Called and failed to successfully “Change” and had to be put down. Anna displays her Omega ability when she calms one of the wolves who tried to provoke a fight in the church. Assil has been trying to get the Marrok to end his life but the Marrok won’t do it and Assil thought the tension in the church would be the catalyst to finally getting his wish. Instead Anna lays her hand on his and with a few words brings him a peace he hasn’t felt in centuries.
After the funeral Charles, who is still healing from the near fatal wounds he incurred from the Chicago fight, is sent up to the mountains to track and kill a suspected rogue wolf who has been killing humans. The Marrok sends Anna with him. He has two purposes with the request. One is the hope that Charles and Anna will complete the mating bond and the second is by having the Omega there the rogue can be brought in without blood shed.
What they don’t realize is there are two rogues in them thar hills.
Assil has been keeping a secret from the pack. Centuries ago a crazy young black witch killed and trapped his mate’s essence for her immortality and has been tracking him ever since through the bond he has with his now dead mate. Now Mariposa has found him and is using the rogue wolf and his bond mate to lure both him and the Marrok out to take over the pack. What happens in the mountains is for you, my dear reader, to discover for yourself. I think it will be worth your read.
This is only the second novel I have read by Patricia Briggs. I didn’t know until researching for these posts that she is such a prolific writer. I don’t know about her other series but in the Mercy series and now the Alpha and Omega I find her writing to be action packed, filled with energy and believable. Her characters are sexy, strong and interesting and she refrains from using the “Sex” tool to move the story. I LOVE THAT. I think there are several authors who over use sex scenes because their plot is too thin and they don’t know how to fix it. (I am stepping up on my soap box), As I have said before, I enjoy sex scenes and I enjoy good erotica but don’t tell me this is a who dunit, love story or suspense novel and then be a bad version of the kama sutra. (I am now stepping off my box).
Patricia Briggs is now on my find all her older books and catch up list. I will have to cut out sleeping in my schedule.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I got Moon Called

I saw a great post about Patricia Briggs on the Book Smuggler blog and I said to myself: “Self, you must get this author and read her as soon as possible.” Here I am 3 months later and I have just finished “Moon Called” and I now know what all the excitement was about!

I am not going to bore you with a full synopsis since her books have been out for a while and odds are you have already read her or at least know of her stories from other blogs like Smugglers. Mercy Thompson is regular girl. She changed her major in college from Engineering to English and upon graduation becomes a mechanic in a small shop in a little town outside Seattle. She is a tough girl with a big heart and a talent. She is a special kind of shifter called a “Walker”. She can shift, at will, to and from her coyote alter ego and she is giving Anita Blake a run for her vampire hunting money. Like in Anita and Sookie Stackhouse series some of the creatures of the paranormal sort have begun to come out of the monster closet. In Moon Called the lesser fae are out and the other preternatural crowds have been waiting to see how the human community treat them. Unlike Anita and Sookie, Mercy is used to living among the other paranormal beings. Mercy, being “other” herself, is aware her neighbor is a werewolf, the guy she bought the garage is a gremlin and the guy she is rebuilding the VW van for is a vampire. On a normal day none of this would bother her but when a young newly made werewolf male shows up at the shop looking for help she gets sucked into a strange political coup that turns deadly.

I like Mercy. I like that she is pretty normal, considering. I like that she isn’t looking to be part of anyone’s pack, coven, or gang. She wants to live her life and fix VW’s. I like also that she has skills, she can kick bad guy ass like Anita but unlike Ms. Blake she has nothing to prove. Well she might have something to prove but it isn’t that she is as bad as the monsters she hangs with. Another cool thing about Mercy is she obviously is good looking and very sexy but she isn’t wearing spike heels and push up bras. She has a sarcastic sense of humor that she uses like a shield. She is very human. I like Adam. He is an alpha male of the were kind but he isn’t totally macho and unable to appreciate Mercy’s talents. I like Samuel. I even like that Warren is a gay werewolf living in a pack. He is actually third in command after Adam. I like that all the characters in this series feel possible. Not the paranormal stuff but the people themselves, their emotions and relationships all feel so normal which makes the rest of the story believable.

I have “Iron Kissed” in my possession but not “Blood Bound” so I am off to Barnes and Noble tomorrow to pick it up. I don’t want to read these out of order.