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 When she returned to the orphanage the second time after the sudden death of her adoptive parents she was withdrawn, depressed and the nuns feared for her health.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.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My first Reader Interview with Debbie R. discussing Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I admit it. I cannot read fast enough to post more than once every 7-10 days. I am reading in the bathroom at the office, listening to audiobooks in the truck, and listening to a book on my ipod while doing my rounds at the center. I have now begun to dream about characters from different books in the same dream. One of these days you could see a post about Stephanie Plum fighting off Jean-Claude while Joanne Walker teams up with Sookie Stackhouse to take on the Tri-City pack.
Then it hit me while I was chatting with my girlfriend Debbie R. about what she was currently reading, why not interview her and post her opinions about the books she’s reading. AHA! Eureka! I have several friends who are avid readers like me who constantly have a book going and best yet we all have different tastes in reading so I will be able to share with my readers a wider selection of reviews and commentaries.
Cool idea, huh?
Thanks Deb for the inspiration!
Soooo….welcome to the first book interview on the Besotted Bookworm:
Debbie R. discusses Susan Elizabeth Phiilips
I called Debbie on Sunday morning and over cups of cofffee, still in our pajamas Debbie talked about her current favorite author, Susan Elizabeth Phillips.
Mame: Hey Misss Deb. Do you have your coffee in hand?
Debbie: I certainly do and I am ready to talk books!
Mame: Ok I wanted to talk to you about your current favorite author. You have been talking about her so much lately, who is Susan Elizabeth Phillips?
Debbie: She is this great author that I am totally hooked on right now. She writes modern romance novels. She has written a serries called The Chicago Stars books as well as several other stand alone novels. I am currently reading my third Stars book called “Dream a Little Dream”. It involves this tragic hero, Gabe and Rachel, the widow of a theiving TV Evengelist who ends up dying before telling where he hid his illgotten gains. Gabe is mentioned in one of the earlier books. He was in South America grieving the death of his wife and child who were killed in a car accident. He returns to Salvation, North Carolina to pick up the pieces of his life and buys the mansion where the TV Evengelist and Rachel lived. Unfortunately Rachel, the widow and mother of a 5 year old son, had nothing to do with her husband’s embezzlement but the town blames her since the Reverend is now dead. She had left town to get away from the name calling and shunning she and her son were being put through but now she has returned to find the money and save her good name. The two characters get together when her car breaks down and she has no money to get it repaired so she takes a job with angry, reclusive Gabe to rebuild a drive-in movie theatre in town. He doesn’t want to hire her but he feels sorry for her because the whole town seems to hate her, including his brother the town pastor. I really like that even in the middle of a huge drama Rachel has a sense of humor and can break up the tension. That is as much as I can tell you since I haven’t finished the book. I will keep you posted.
Mame: Very Cool. I sense a possible showdown between the brothers. So what other books of Susan’s have you read?
Debbie: Nobody’s Baby but Mine, This Heart of Mine, and Kiss an Angel. I LOVED Kiss an Angel. It is very tender and poignant. It is about this spoiled rich girl who is a bastard and orphaned by her wealthy mother. Her inheritance is tied up in a crazy trust fund and she is left destitute. Her father comes into her life and tells her if she lives with a guy for six months he will give her the trust fund. The guy is a Dr. of Art by the name of Alex, who grew up in the Circus. He now manages said Circus. This is a very human book and displays the fear even strong men have when parental abuse happens to a boy. When she discovers she is pregnant and he wants her to have an abortion she runs away. He must come to terms with his past to save his love and future. I really enjoyed this book because the characters are honestly drawn with real emotions. Even though the circumstances like rich orphan might not be all that common. The relationship between these two felt like it could have been anybody. She deals with dysfunction and hurt like all the rest of us and still love triumphs.
Mame: So what makes Susan such a great author in your opinion?
Debbie: A lot of thing but mostly I think is her use of humor as a tool to be a tension breaker or to ease sadness in her stories and I love that! I also like that while she writes mostly about a celebrity or very wealthy character he/she is made human through tragedy/or challenge and must release their status in order to overcome.
I also like that even though the books seem to be about the men the the women are the real focus of the stories and they are very strong to the point of being stubborn and self centered and are in need of some important life lessons.
She will be one of my top 10 authors because she makes me feels things. I start to go to sleep but I am still thinking about the story and turn the light back on. She makes me laugh and she makes me cry. She always sets a good picture without getting bogged down in what the dresses looked like or how big the tree was. Her stories move. They span a lifetime not just a slice. I love that.
Mame: Wow! I am so going to have to get some of these books from you! Is there anything you don’t like or would like her to change?
Debbie: There is one thing I do find difficult and that is sometimes she adds too many characters to the story and makes the plot muddy. There are times when I think the minor characters are competing for dominance in the story. It gets a little confusing who the story is about but she always pulls them together in the end.
Mame: As usual Deb, I have loved doing the book chat thing. Thanks so much for letting me use our conversation for my blog.
Debbie: You are most welcome my friend. You know I am always happy to give you my opinion any time.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Queen's Bastard was DNF for me

Because I enjoyed the "Walker Papers" so much I was really ready to sink into another C.E. Murphy novel.  I was intrigued by the idea of this great urban fantasy writer taking on the historical genre with "The Queens Bastard."  Ms. Murphy uses the court of Elizabeth I as the inspiration for this new series.  We have a beautiful redheaded "virgin" queen. Then there is the devoted Spymaster and the glittering court who clamour to be near her.  The countries and cities are all fictionally labeled but I saw England in Aulun, France in Gallin and Scotland in Lanyarchan.
The queen of Aulun,  has a bastard daughter in secret who she turns over to the father, the queens Spymaster and lover.  How the heck a queen manages to keep the bastard a complete secret is hard to believe but ok, I will go with it.  The child is raised to be one of the queen's best spys/assissins and she is sent all over the land to infiltrate castles and courts to gather information and remove challenges to the queen's throne.  When making her first visit to court at ten years old, Belinda realizes Queen Lorraine is her mother.  It is during this visit that the young girl commits her assassination on behalf of her parents.  The next chapter and she is grown and poisoning the lord of some castle. All through this are hints of some kind of power she has but these are fleeting and annoying.  I want her to get to the point and move on.  I know she can't throw the whole story into this one book since she is writing a series and this is the first one but that doesn't mean to not move the story along.  I am halfway into the story, literally 200 pages in,  and I am still waiting for something to really happen.  I feel teased but not informed of much.  So far the story is couched in innuendos, suppositions and inferences.  This party might be after that while that party might be planning this and all the while the main character, Belinda/beatrice/rose/rosa is navigating the treacherous paths of court politics.  If you feel I have used a lot of words to say very little that is exactly how I feel about this book. 
There maybe some readers who revel in working through all of the parts of convolutes stories, alas, I am not one of them.  What I loved about the "Walker Papers", the constant movement toward the end even if there were twists, turns and a couple of pauses to get there is missing in "The Queen's Bastard."  With regret I place it on my DNF list.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Stella Cameron keeps it steamy on the bayou with Cypress Nights

Well dang! It isn’t only the temperature rising on the bayou. In Stella Cameron’s latest offering in her bayou series, Cypress Nights, the sensual heat is burning hot. St. Cecil’s needs a new school and Bleu Labaeu has come to town to do the fund raising for the building. Max Savage’s, (A Marked Man), twin brother Roche has moved to Toussaint to take up his psychiatric practice there. Both Bleu and Roche have personal secrets that keep people and love at arm’s length but the chemistry between them will change all that. Roche is determined to control his nature while Bleu commits to overcoming her fears and let this amazing man into her heart and body.

On the night when a devout parishioner planned to make a major surprise announcement to benefit the new school project he is brutally murdered inside the church while saying his evening prayers. Some say the murderer was his southern belle companion and others say it was a serial killer sending a message to not continue with the school. When the killer focuses on Bleu, Roche takes the school project and the killer to heart and Roche decides to get the girl he will have to solve the crime.

There was enough suspense in this story to keep me turning pages and enough erotic romance to keep me dreaming some very interesting dreams. How does someone really do it while standing on their head?

Monday, April 6, 2009

C.E. Murphy: Trilogies are her thing

I lucked out at the library last week when I found not just one but three C. E. Murphy novels. I didn’t realize she wrote in trilogy when I first picked up Winter Moon. The book flowed and I didn’t miss anything by picking up the middle book. In fact, I think I liked Urban Shaman, (the first book in Walker Papers), more because I already knew Joanne, Gary, Billy and Morrison.
While “Urban Shaman” is in the paranormal genre I really consider it to be more of a classic hardboiled detective novel. The bad guy might be a demon, or a demi-god but doing the leg work and getting caught on a red herring make for a great, keep me guessing and turning the page who dunnit. The main character is Joanne Walker, aka, Shiobahn Walkingstick. She is born of a fling between an Irish woman and American Indian man. Her mother abandons her to be raised by her rambling father. She has always had an afinity with cars and after college realizes becoming a mechanic is really the dream job for her . She gets a job fixing cop cars with the police department. The only catch to the job is she must go to the police academy so her supervisor can show ethnic diversity on the force by having a Native American on the books. Her mother appears in her life again with a summons to Ireland because she is dying. It is upon her return from the Green Isle when she sees a young woman fleeing “The Hunt” from the airplane descending to land that her life takes a crazy, creepy and most definitely celtic twist. There is a lot in this story and the characters in it. It makes total sense that three books were needed to tell it.
I like the side kick characters a lot as well. Gary is my favorite. There is more to meet the eye with this aging mountain sized taxi driver. A guy just doesn’t know how to beat a mystical meditation drumbeat on the first try without being pretty special. Billy Holiday, (not related), becomes her partner because his own background of seeing dead people makes him more open to Joanne’s emerging abilities. Morrison is the semi-good looking Captain and new supervisor that makes Joanne assume her cop duties, not mechanical, when she returns from the mourning the death of her mother. I really appreciate Ms. Murphy’s touch of attraction between the two without acting on it or detracting from the main theme of the story. Finally, there is the talking coyote, who reminds us coyote’s are not dogs. He is Joanne’s spirit guide. Sometimes he turns into an American Indian but mostly he delivers his enigmatic and cryptic assistance in canine form. He has a dry wit for a coyote. Ok, I have never talked personally to a coyote or a spirit guide for that matter but this guy had me chuckling. The other two installments in the Walker Papers are: "Winter Moon "and "Thunder Falls".

I then moved onto “Hands of Flame” but put it down less than 50 pages in because unlike the Walker Papers, the Negotiator Series can’t be read out of sequence. This is the 3rd installment in the series and I didn’t get all the connections and I really needed the backstory to understand. I am intrigued though of the relationship between Magrit, the human lawyer and her gargoyle lover, Alban. (I keep thinking of Goliath from the Gargoyles cartoon series.) This is a temporary DNF because I will be getting the first and second installments , “Heart of Stone” and “House of Cards”. I will keep you posted on them.

The third of her books is, thankfully, the first book in the Inheritor Series called “The Queens Bastard”. I haven’t started it yet but I am curious to see how this very modern Urban Fantasy writer applies her talents to historical stories. I have to say, I think this is the first writer I have met that has started in the present or future and moved to historical. Anyone think of someone else who has done that?