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.