Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Mockingjay Experience

I have read Mockingjay. Yes, I have finally read the conclusion to The Hunger Games trilogy and I am reeling. I will not write a review for this book; I can't even wrap my head around what I might say about it other than these few things.
  1. As predicted I could not put it down once I started reading. 
  2. Also as predicted it shocked the hell out of me.
  3. I am satisfied by the ending. Do not mistake that to mean that I liked the ending and all that it entails.
  4. I need to read it again. I know I missed a good amount of detail in my haste to get to the end and so I will be rereading all three books, back-to-back-to-back.
  5. I have no idea what grade it should get. I was hooked from the first page and that generally means it's worthy of an A. There were a few things about the book that would make me give it a C. I don't think it's a B book though. 
What in the world will Suzanne Collins write about next? I learned earlier tonight that she's working on the screenplay for the movie adaptation of The Hunger Games. Will I see it, that's the question. For now, I'm happy I've finally finished this series and can, after a bit, put it to rest for a while. Here's a bit from Mockingjay that I wanted to share, one of my favorite parts, from pages 99-100.
..."I want to tell the rebels that I am alive. That I'm right here in District Eight, where the Capitol has just bombed a hospital full of unarmed men, women, and children. There will be no survivors." The shock I've been feeling begins to give way to fury. "I want to tell people that if you think for one second the Capitol will treat us fairly if there's a cease-fire, you're deluding yourself. Because you know who they are and what they do." My hands go out automatically, as if to indicate the whole horror around me. "This is what they do! And we must fight back!"

     I'm moving in toward the camera now, carried forward by my rage. "President Snow says he's sending us a message? Well, I have one for him. You can torture us and bomb us and burn our districts to the ground, but do you see that?" One of the cameras follows as I point to the planes burning on the roof of the warehouse across from us. The Capitol seal on a wing glows clearly through the flames. "Fire is catching!" I am shouting now, determined that he will not miss a word. "And if we burn, you burn with us!"

     My last words hang in the air. I feel suspended in time. Held aloft in a cloud of heat that generates not from my surroundings, but from my own being.

     "Cut!" Cressida's voice snaps me back to reality, extinguishes me. She gives me a nod of approval. "That's a wrap."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Review: Infamous by Suzanne Brockmann

In her first paperback original in more than six years, New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Brockmann delivers an unforgettable novel of contemporary romance and thrilling suspense.

When history professor Alison Carter became a consultant to the film version of the Wild West legend she’d dedicated her career to researching, she couldn’t possibly have known that she would not only get a front-row seat to a full-blown Hollywood circus but would innocently witness something that would put her life in peril. Nor did she expect that a tall stranger in a cowboy hat would turn the movie—and her world—completely upside down.

A. J. Gallagher didn’t crash the set in dusty Arizona to rub elbows with Hollywood’s elite. Unable to ignore ghosts from the past that refuse to stay buried, A. J. came to put an end to the false legend that has tarnished the reputation of his family. But when he confronts Alison, sparks fly. And when Alison is targeted by ruthless criminals, suddenly she and A .J. must face the intense attraction that threatens to consume them—and survive the danger that threatens their very lives.

I am a fan of Suzanne Brockmann's and have read almost everything she's had printed. She's a very popular romance writer that I look forward to reading each year and I was disappointed when I kept seeing negative reviews of Infamous. After reading it, I could see why people who are used to her Troubleshooters series didn't take to Infamous because it does have a supernatural element to it and isn't directly related to the military. It does, however, still have the entertaining Suzanne Brockmann style of writing and I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy this ghost story romance.

Dr. Alison Carter is in Jubilation, Arizona, a tiny little town in the desert to be a consultant for a movie about a sheriff from the Old West, Silas Quinn. Dr. Carter is an "expert" in the subject of Quinn, having published one book to start about him and how he singlehandedly took down a group of robbers and rescued his wife from a murdering kidnapper called "Kid" Gallagher in the late 1800's. Alison has been obsessed with Quinn since she was a young girl and so when handsome A. J. Gallagher shows up on the movie set, she mistakes him for the actor who is actually playing Kid in the movie. Turns out that A. J. has hunted her down to set the record straight about Kid, whose real name was Jamie Gallagher. A. J.'s story is that he is the great-grandson of Jamie and that the legend of Silas Quinn and Kid Gallagher is backwards; Gallagher is actually the good guy in the story and Dr. Carter's book is all wrong. When she questions him on the source of his information, A. J. tells her that Jamie told him all this when he was a kid but the truth is that Jamie has started haunting A. J., a veteran of the first Gulf War whose mental history is questionable.

Honestly, I was confused by the introduction. It took several pages to realize that the real narrator of this book is Jamie, a ghost. The reader also gets the perspectives of Alison and A. J. in third person but the only "I" in this book is Jamie. I was obviously expecting either Alison or A. J. so it caught me a little off guard. Otherwise, I had no problems here. I liked both A. J. and Alison and the unfolding of their relationship, which is fraught with perils like alcoholism and the possibility of insanity on A. J.'s part. The legend of Silas Quinn and Jamie's story were a good platform for the plot which had plenty of suspense to keep me reading. There is also a touch of Brockmann's SEAL-type comic relief present in the form of A. J.'s SEAL friend, Craig Lutz, that made me happy as I wait for Breaking the Rules, her next and for a while, last Troubleshooters book that won't be out until early 2011. There is even a Beavis and Butthead reference. That was definitely a surprise.

I had originally thought that I would avoid this book because at first glance it reminded me of Brockmann's Heartthrob, a self-contained book that she wrote a while back. It also revolves around the production of a movie with an actor who has alcohol and substance abuse problems. Having recently read Heartthrob I can tell you that those are really the only two things these books have in common. Infamous was an enjoyable read that I recommend to any Suzanne Brockmann fan.

It's Me! It's Me!

I'm on a short break from digging up a stubborn camellia stump in my front yard so I'll be quick about this. Tiger from All-Consuming Books has been featuring book bloggers during the month of August and today she's featuring yours truly! Go HERE to check me out (and Tiger) and see what I had to say. Thanks again Tiger!

Monday, August 23, 2010

We Are Going (mostly) Radio Silent

This is it folks! The week of Mockingjay has arrived but since Amazon.com won't be shipping my copy until Tuesday, I will be avoiding any book blog out there that will have a review. Based on the hype, this pretty much includes everyone especially since Scholastic wouldn't give out any advance reader copies. Party poopers :)

I've been very wishy-washy about what kind of copy I would get. For the same price that Amazon is selling the hardback of Mockingjay with their Super Saver shipping, I could pay for and instantly download an ecopy from B&N through my nook. There is quite a bit to be said for that since I am all about the instant gratification thing but I'll be getting the hardback from Amazon and I actually paid for shipping this time. *gasp* Yes, I am cheap but when you read as much as I do, you have to be.

Now, as I mentioned early this month, if you've read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire you're probably taking off work on Tuesday to stay home and find out what happens lest you get sent to the hospital for having the shakes. I know I won't let this one ride the bookshelf when I get my hands on my copy. I am proud to say that I have managed to browbeat convince Jen at Not Now...I'm Reading! to start The Hunger Games already. (More about her later.) I'm not usually this obnoxious about pushing a particular book/series on unsuspecting people (and please ignore the fact that I'm writing this on my book blog) but they are extraordinarily good and quite unconventional. If you haven't read them, you are probably either scrabbling to get copies of them or are just sick to death of hearing about it and if you belong to that latter group - just get over yourselves and read them already.

Now about Jen. Last month, I wrote a review for Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins. I loved this book and have thoroughly enjoyed all the Kristan Higgins books I've read so far and I only have two left of her backlist to devour. Anyway, Jen had a valid issue with a particular statement I made about the main character. I defended my review and after some friendly discussion I proposed a wager: if she requested a copy of the book through PaperbackSwap and didn't completely agree with me, I give her a credit, essentially paying her back. If she did, she would give me one. Hence, the Put Your Money Where Your Mouth is Challenge was born. Go check out Jen's blog to find out what happened. I really hope she likes The Hunger Games. Otherwise I know she'll shake her fist at me :)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Review: Veil of Night by Linda Howard

Jaclyn Wilde is a wedding planner who loves her job—usually. But helping Carrie Edwards with her Big Day has been an unrelenting nightmare. Carrie is a bridezilla of mythic nastiness, a diva whose tantrums are just about as crazy as her demands. But the unpleasant task at hand turns seriously criminal when Carrie is brutally murdered and everyone involved with the ceremony is accusing one another of doing the deed.

The problem is, most everyone—from the cake maker and the florist to the wedding-gown retailer and the bridesmaids’ dressmaker—had his or her own reason for wanting the bride dead, including Jaclyn. And while those who felt Carrie’s wrath are now smiling at her demise, Jaclyn refuses to celebrate tragedy, especially since she finds herself in the shadow of suspicion.

Assigned to the case, Detective Eric Wilder finds that there’s too much evidence pointing toward too many suspects. Compounding his problems is Jaclyn, with whom he shared one deeply passionate night before Carrie’s death. Being a prime suspect means that Jaclyn is hands-off just when Eric would rather be hands-on. As the heat intensifies between Eric and Jaclyn, a cold-blooded murderer moves dangerously close. And this time the target is not a bride but one particularly irresistible wedding planner, unaware of a killer’s vow.

Every summer I can be sure of two things:
  1. It's going to be hot outside. 
  2. Linda Howard, Nora Roberts, and Sandra Brown will all have new hardcover releases.
I start looking for my library to list the summer ladies' new books in their online catalog in January. Last year, I did not care for Howard's contribution. Burn wasn't plausible at all and the romance between the two main characters was utterly ridiculous. This year's book however, is Linda Howard at her best. Veil of Night has smokin' hot chemistry between the hero and leading lady who are both wrapped up in a whodunit mystery.

There is a television show on WE or Lifetime called Bridezillas and while I can honestly say that I have never watched a single episode I do believe that the victim here would have fit right in on that show. I do not understand that kind of histrionics and since I loathe people who live to manipulate I had absolutely no sympathy for Carrie, a bitch on wheels who was shish-kebabed to death. BTW, that is one of the most amusing methods of murder I have read in quite some time. Very creative. I didn't find the investigation/mystery part here all that creative unfortunately, though I don't think that was really the point. We are really meant to just watch Eric and Jaclyn fall in lust and love and that was fun and entertaining. For me, the best part of it was Eric Wilder. He is fabulous. This sexy, smart-ass detective was worth this read just on his own. I do believe I am jealous of Jaclyn :)

Other reviews:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Review: Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn

For Lady Julia Grey and Nicholas Brisbane, the honeymoon has ended…but the adventure is just beginning.

After eight idyllic months in the Mediterranean, Lady Julia Grey and her detective husband are ready to put their investigative talents to work once more. At the urging of Julia’s eccentric family, they hurry to India to aid an old friend, the newly widowed Jane Cavendish. Living on the Cavendish tea plantation with the remnants of her husband’s family, Jane is consumed with the impending birth of her child—and with discovering the truth about her husband’s death. Was he murdered for his estate? And if he was, could Jane and her unborn child be next?

Amid the lush foothills of the Himalayas, dark deeds are buried and malicious thoughts flourish. The Brisbanes uncover secrets and scandal, illicit affairs and twisted legacies. In this remote and exotic place, exploration is perilous and discovery, deadly. The danger is palpable and, if they are not careful, Julia and Nicholas will not live to celebrate their first anniversary. (from netgalley.com)

*Spoiler Alert! If you have not read Silent in the Grave, Silent in the Sanctuary, and especially Silent on the Moor then beware! I will be discussing goings on from those books in this review.*

Dark Road to Darjeeling is the fourth book in Deanna Raybourn's fab Lady Julia Grey series. Ever since I read the ending of Silent on the Moor and made that my girly *sigh*, I have been impatiently eagerly awaiting this story. It felt like I would be getting the "what comes next" after a happily ever after ending and I was excited. Julia and Brisbane marry at the end of Moor, but what was going to happen to their relationship? Would it change like a tv show that has given in and lost its sexual tension and sizzle? (I seriously doubted that one.) How would they handle working together if they even continued to do so? Would Brisbane still manage to stay mysterious, even to Julia? Would every aspect that I love about the first three books disappear now that they're married? Yes, I wondered all these things. I'm obsessive like that.

I wrote in the end of July that I bought a nook, my reason being that I had just received this ebook from Netgalley.com and was desperate to read it asap. I  proceeded to burn through the first ninety-four pages that first night and then...nothing. I stalled. I was shocked because I wasn't loving what was happening (I had hit a slow part) and Julia and Brisbane weren't together at the time (not good) and so I got a bit scared. Raybourn wouldn't dare split them up or something equally awful, would she? I left Dark Road to Darjeeling alone for at least three weeks while I stewed about it but today I took a deep breath and dove back in and I am so glad I did. Dark Road to Darjeeling is just as good as the first three and I am relieved.

Julia, Brisbane, Julia's maid Morag (love her), and two of Julia's siblings, Plum and Portia, head to India at the end of the Brisbanes' honeymoon to see Jane, Portia's former lover. Jane's husband has died suddenly and mysteriously, leaving Jane alone and pregnant in a remote part of India and Portia, believing that Jane is in danger, has beseeched her sister and Brisbane to go with her to investigate. Right off the bat we see that married life beyond the honeymoon is not going to be easy for Julia and Brisbane when he refuses to go with them, claiming that Julia just assumes that he will do as she pleases since she didn't consult with him before agreeing to go with Portia. He would rather attend to some business in Calcutta and will catch up later.

Julia and Brisbane both discover that they have quite a bit to learn about marriage. Hiding things from one another is not a good way to stay happily married. For Julia, she's still insecure because of her first marriage and much of her relationship with Brisbane involves his work. She wants to please him and more importantly, to impress him and be worthy and in doing so she loses her perspective on the kind of dangerous work he does. Julia wants to prove her mettle by being the first to solve this mystery so she doesn't tell Brisbane everything she learns. Brisbane has a clear motive for every action he takes but is sometimes careless with Julia's feelings when it comes to his methods. Nicholas Brisbane is not the sort of man to always worry about bruised feelings as long as the ends justify the means; for example if, in his endeavors to keep Julia safe he leads her to believe certain things while not outright lying to her, that would be acceptable even if she is humiliated as long as she's not physically hurt. (Note to Brisbane: women don't like to be managed.) These two obviously love each other and that's what's important. As is forgiveness. What I can't wait to see is the two of them in their natural habitat. That's going to be fun.

Again, Raybourn proves that she is still Clever. With a capital C. While I had problems with a lack of patience on my part, this was a decent mystery in a mysterious place. I was all about everything Brisbane :) I'm still digesting the resolution and guilty parties as well as the familial revelations. Good stuff there. There were several moments in this book where I was completely dumbfounded and I loved that! I was also at times angry or saddened but my favorite part of these Raybourn books is the humor, that intellectual dry humor that is always present in the scenes with the March family, Julia and Portia in particular. Julia's kooky family, in all their splendiferousness, is truly a "sight" to behold. We only get a small measure of it here but it's probably better in small portions anyway. Follow the link below to Angieville for an excerpt from early on in DRtD. I keep returning to it and it still makes me laugh each time.

Dark Road to Darjeeling will be out on October 1, 2010. Look for it a few weeks early. Book five, out next year I hope, should take place in London. I hope we get to see the hermit.

Other reviews:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Review: Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

When Andie Miller goes to see her ex-husband, North Archer, to return ten years of uncashed alimony checks, he asks for one final favor: A distant cousin has died and left him guardian of two orphans who have driven out three nannies already; will she take the job? Bribed with money and a need for closure, Andie says yes, but when she meets the two children she realizes things are much worse than she feared. The children aren’t any run-of-the-mill delinquents, the creepy old house where they live is being run by the worst housekeeper since Mrs. Danvers, and something strange is happening at night. Plus, Andie’s fiance thinks it’s a plan by North to get Andie back, and since Andie’s been dreaming about North since she arrived at the house, she’s not sure he isn’t right. Then her ex-brother-in-law arrives with a duplicitous journalist and a self-doubting parapsychologist, closely followed by an annoyed medium, Andie’s tarot card–reading mother, her avenging ex-mother-in-law, and her jealous fiancĂ©. Just when Andie’s sure things couldn’t get more complicated, North arrives to make her wonder if maybe this time things could be different…. (from jennycrusie.com)

It's nice to know Jennifer Crusie still has it. According to the back of this lovely ARC that I got from LibraryThing and St. Martin's Press, this is the first solo novel Ms. Crusie has written for six years, when she published Bet Me. For those of you who don't know, Bet Me is one of my absolute favorite novels of ever and ever amen. It was the book that introduced me to Crusie and it was love at first sight.

Maybe This Time is a little bit different than Crusie's other solo novels; this is a ghost story. Not just any ghost story but, according to Crusie's website, it's a modernish adaptation of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Maybe This Time is set in an English manor (or something similar) that has been relocated to southern Ohio, stones and all. It even has a moat. Andie is a teacher and in a weak moment agrees to relocate for a month from Columbus to get the children ready to attend public school and to rehabilitate this pair of kids who have gone through nannies like Kleenex. Her ex had inherited the children from a distant relation but after a disastrous attempt to send the older boy to a boarding school, hasn't had much contact with them other than to provide them money (he's actually not a jerk, just a lawyer). When Andie gets there, she finds the house and property to be a wreck, the housekeeper to be creepy, and the children strange and antisocial at best. She also soon finds herself questioning her belief that there's no such thing as ghosts and are the conversations she has at night in her bedroom with a young woman who claims to be a younger Andie real or is she dreaming? Why are the children so determined not to leave their house and why do they keep nannies running for the border? Most importantly, why did Andie agree to do this for her ex-husband North?

Andie is a typical Crusie female protagonist - practical yet unconventional with a great sense of humor and a screwy love life. North is also consistent with Crusie's main men - an intelligent man who has a job with some authority, usually a cop or someone who owns their own business, and who is stumped by the woman he has picked to love. Andie and North married within twelve hours of first laying eyes on each other in a bar. They divorced a year later when Andie left him and have spent the last ten years subconsciously pining for each other. We don't get to see any of their marriage, pity that, but it amused me greatly that Andie, after getting a marriage proposal from her current boyfriend, visits North at work to return ten years worth of alimony checks. One a month for ten years, she didn't cash a single one, claiming that it was his way of reminding her of him.

Also present is the supporting cast of oddballs and weirdos. Crusie isn't stingy this time either: there's an obnoxious tv reporter and her cameraman; a medium who curses like a sailor; North's younger brother, Sullivan a.k.a. Southie; two mothers-in-law; an expert on the paranormal who doesn't believe in ghosts; the ghosts; a private detective. No animals though.

The paranormal aspect of Maybe This Time is better handled than the demons were in Wild Ride and the ghosts here make the story better, not worse, even though they brought a measure of malevolence not usually found in Crusie's books. I would have expected them to be there for humor, not malice, but I've never read The Turn of the Screw. The trademark Crusie humor is here, of course, and made me laugh out loud several times. I really enjoyed reading Maybe This Time but I didn't love it like Bet Me. I became worried when I read Wild Ride earlier this year but I'm okay now because Jenny Crusie is back! Upcoming next year is a murder mystery series and here's the description from jennycrusie.com:

Liz Danger Mystery Series

First two novels scheduled for release in summer 2011.
A four book limited romantic mystery series about ghostwriter Liz Danger who goes back to her home town, Birney, Ohio, and finds love and crime. Complicating everything is Vince, the new cop on the local beat, who makes Liz think twice about her aversion to Birney in particular and commitment in general.

A reissue of one of the last books in her booklist that I have not read, Trust Me on This, will be out on October 26, 2010. Maybe This Time comes out on August 31.

Go HERE if you're like me and you want to make Andie's banana bread :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Review: Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione

In a place where ecstasy can cost you your life…

She’s a demon-slayer who hungers for sensual pleasure—but fears it will always be denied her. Until Tayla Mancuso lands in a hospital run by demons in disguise, and the head doctor, Eidolon, makes her body burn with unslakable desire. But to prove her ultimate loyalty to her peers, she must betray the surgeon who saved her life.

Two lovers will dare to risk all.

Eidolon cannot resist this fiery, dangerous woman who fills him with both rage and passion. Not only is she his avowed enemy, but she could very well be the hunter who has been preying upon his people. Torn between his need for the truth and his desire to find his perfect mate before a horrific transformation claims him forever, Eidolon will dare the unthinkable—and let Tayla possess him, body and soul… (from larissaione.com/blog)

I don't remember where I first saw these books but I do remember hearing my mother's voice in my head telling me that I'm not old enough to read them. They look pretty naughty all around; with Pleasure Unbound, the first in this series, the cover, the title, the little tagline all suggest that you'll definitely get an education if you read it. That would probably be true if I hadn't been reading paranormal romances for a while now but you know what? If you manage to skip over the many sex scenes, it's a better than average book for its genre. In fact, it can hang with the big dogs like J. R. Ward, Lara Adrian, and Nalini Singh.

Obviously with a series name like Demonica, you can figure that demons are going to be pretty prominent here. There's lots of different demons, different races of demons, and that's interesting. There's also different religious beliefs here too; not all demons believe in Satan but instead worship God and yet others are atheistic. Our heroine, Tayla, is a demon slayer for an organization that considers themselves protectors of humankind. She's also got a personal vendetta against them and so when she discovers that demons are not all the slavering baby-eating types she thinks, her world gets turned upside down. She and Eidolon's, um, compatibility, makes it much more confusing. Tayla has had a pretty lousy life and she has devoted herself to the Aegis, the protector-people group, and holds on that much harder to her beliefs. Lots of angst and pain here.

Eidolon, on the other hand, is a surgeon. Trained at Harvard's med school no less and has his own preconceived notions about the Aegis and it's murderers. Saving Tayla's life was a difficult choice for him because of all he and his forty-odd brothers have suffered at the hands of the slayers. Eidolon is also facing some hard changes up ahead; he's a Seminus demon and he's reached a point in his maturity where it is time to either find a female demon who he can take as his mate forever and ever or become a serial rapist. Apparently Seminus demons are all about the nooky. Who knew? Eidolon doesn't want to lose his identity but doesn't want to be with just anyone - he wants love. He wants the HEA along with his mate and their children but is running out of time and the more he gets to know Tayla, the better she's looking to him as a woman, not just a slayer or a potential mate.

I liked both Tayla and Eidolon. I could have lived with less of the sexual innuendos from Eidolon and his brothers. I liked the hospital too; picture the tv show ER but replace everyone with demons, wargs (aka werewolves), vampires, etc. Decent plot too with lots of deception and revelations, betrayals and uncomfortable truths. I'm hoping to read the second book, Desire Unchained, very soon. Eidolon's brother, Shade, has a starring role in Desire, as well as a love-curse. Should be interesting.

I've had this book for a short while and have managed to collect the first four in the series over the last few months but what made me pick it up yesterday was something I recently saw on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Go HERE to read the article Sarah wrote about ebooks and customer service. As someone who recently bought a nook, it had me gnashing my teeth. Check out the comments and you'll see what I saw: one classy writer chick. Larissa Ione impressed me there that day and made me happy that I paid cover price for my copy of Pleasure Unbound. Larissa's fifth book in the Demonica series, Sin Undone, comes out on August 24th.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Review: "A Questionable Client" by Ilona Andrews in Dark and Stormy Knights

If you are an Ilona Andrews fan in need of a Kate Daniels fix, you're in luck. In this impressive anthology, we finally get to see how Kate met Saiman. YES! Ever since Saiman was first introduced, and I can't remember exactly which book it was (Burns? Strikes?), I have wanted to know more about him and why he's so fixated on Kate. Not that it's that big a surprise, right?

The plot of this short story feels like a secret to me, one that I'm just dying to tell. All I'll say is that Kate is sent to him to be a bodyguard. What she finds when she gets there is something that is a stretch, even for the dynamic duo of Ilona Andrews. It's a typical Kate story and even though there's no Curran and it's too short it is still a treat.

Review: The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

Half Summer faery princess, half human, Meghan has never fit in anywhere. Deserted by the Winter prince she thought loved her, she is prisoner to the Winter faery queen. As war looms between Summer and Winter, Meghan knows that the real danger comes from the Iron Fey, iron-bound faeries that only she and her absent prince have seen. But no one believes her. Worse, Meghan's own fey powers have been cut off. She's alone in Faery with only her wits for help. Trusting anyone would be foolish. Trusting a seeming traitor could be deadly. But even as she grows a backbone of iron, Meghan can't help but hear the whispers of longing in her all-too-human heart. (from juliekagawa.com)

This is my first ebook review for NetGalley.com. The Iron Daughter picks up right after The Iron King, repeating a bit from Kagawa's short story, "Winter's Passage." Meghan is on her way to the Winter Court, to face Queen Mab and the unknown. What will the Winter Queen do to Meghan and how long will she make her stay? It's part Romeo & Juliet, part Labyrinth, and part any coming-of-age teenage flick. It's got a high school formal dance and everything.

I realized something early on in The Iron Daughter - even though I like her, Meghan can be annoying at times. I had to keep reminding myself that she's an innocent and naive yet brave teenage girl who has been sucked into Faery politics and that you can't help who you fall in love with because she was getting on my nerves with all her boo-hooing over Ash. Her emotional rollercoaster over Ash got old pretty quickly. After I got past that, this book was a fun read because once it got rolling, I couldn't put it down.  This time, instead of searching for her little brother, Meghan and her group are searching for a scepter, a powerful relic that Winter and Summer pass back and forth to bring about their seasons. The scepter is stolen by some Iron fey to start a war between the Winter and Summer courts and to bring power to a pretender trying to become the new Iron King. Along the way we meet Leanansidhe, who hides a connection to Meghan in her household. Ironhorse is back too.

I loved the ending and couldn't see it unfolding any other way (I'm such a sucker for endings like this). Meghan's choice between Ash and Puck is no surprise but it makes me wonder what will happen to Ash if Meghan ends up becoming the Iron Queen? It seems like that will be a certainty as the third book is titled The Iron Queen. Will Puck still help her or become her enemy? I can't wait to see Meghan stand up to her father as a powerful individual in her own right. The Iron Daughter comes out on August 1, 2010.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

My First Award!

Thank you to Jen from In the Closet with a Bibliophile AND to Jane from moydrook reads for my first Blogger Award! If you guys hadn't been the ones to give me this award I would definitely be sending it to you both :) So here's the deal:

The Rules
  1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
  2. Share seven things about yourself.
  3. Pass this award along to fifteen bloggers you have recently discovered and think enough of to bestow them with this awesome award.
  4. Contact those lucky bloggers and give them the good news about their new award.

My Seven Secrets
  1. I used to play the trumpet.
  2. I can't read at the library or in a bookstore because it's too quiet.
  3. I have the same birthday as Mary Poppins, Dumbledore (the first one), and Mark McGwire.
  4. I never liked English classes in high school or college. I always preferred science.
  5. My favorite tv show is The Golden Girls. I would say Friends as I am in my early thirties but the last few seasons weren't all that good. I don't watch reality tv except for Project Runway. The current season is going to be a dud, I think. I'm not liking any of the designers so far.
  6. My favorite color is purple.
  7. I love flowers and plants in general but tend to kill everything I bring home. 

The Fifteen Eleven Bloggers

Friday, August 6, 2010

Best Book of July 2010

I read a decent number of A- or higher graded books in July so this is going to be a tough call for me. At first I thought I would pick Friday Night Bites by Chloe Neill, an urban fantasy series that is so great it's a total kick in the ass :) Twice Bitten, the third book in Neill's vampire series, is sitting on my coffee table waiting to be read. (Um, yeah. Started this post about a week ago. Oops.) You can read my review HERE.

Then I thought I might pick Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher. This astonishing book is YA at its best; Crutcher manages to attack just about every social issue there is and not be preachy or too heavy (no pun intended). It shocked me and made me laugh out loud at the same time. We could all learn quite a bit from Eric, the one who stayed fat for a friend. You can read my review for this one HERE.

Heck, I even thought about Scandal by Carolyn Jewel. This was probably the best romance I have read in some time, definitely the best historical. I didn't write a review because I knew I wouldn't do it justice when I read this one by Jessica at ReadReactReview.com. Jessica is one of the smartest book bloggers out there today. (Read her adult-themed review of Passion by Lisa Valdez HERE if you want a good laugh but I warn you, either wear some Depends or take care of your business beforehand.) Anyway, having read other romances by Carolyn Jewel led me to think she'd be going in a different direction with Scandal but I was way wrong (anyone who has read her PNR series may understand). Scandal is full of flashbacks, which usually I find irritating, but here I can't imagine the story unfolding any other way. I will definitely be looking for Jewel's other historicals.

So what did I come up with? A reread, actually. Fables by Bill Willingham, is a comic book series about fairy tales with a twist. Willingham is a genius, people. He has taken public domain characters like Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf, Prince Charming, and Goldilocks, and turned them on their ear.

See, the Fables have all been exiled from their homes by a Fable they call The Adversary, a wholly unknown foe (at least to the readers until much later in the series), and now live in Fabletown, a secret community living in plain sight in New York City. Snow White is the deputy of Fabletown and the leader is Old King Cole. The Big Bad Wolf, aka Bigby Wolf, is its detective. Snow White and company have been brought into the 21st century and so have their problems: Snow White and Prince Charming are now divorced. Prince Charming, an unrepentant cheater and mooch, has also married and divorced Sleeping Beauty and whored himself to countless other women, fairy tales or not. We are also introduced to Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk, who is dating Snow White's sister, Rose Red, who may or may not be dead and/or engaged to marry Bluebeard. That's just in the first book.

I've only gotten through the first three volumes of Fables so far and I've been so impressed. Willingham has taken old characters and made them new and relevant again. This series is fresh and funny but most importantly, doesn't read like a comic book. And there's cursing! Lots of cursing and even a little nudity too. In one word: fun! If you've never tried a comic book series before or just want to read something a little bit different, try Fables. It was started in 2003 and is still a monthly comic though it's most popular form is in graphic novel. The newest volume, no. 14, will be out this coming December. To find out more, go HERE to see the wikipedia page or go HERE to Vertigo Comics, where you can download the first issue for FREE.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Title? What Title?

It's just after noon on Thursday and I'm still in my jammies. I am parked on my favorite spot - the couch - and have absolutely no plans to move anytime soon. It's hot today, fog up your glasses and scramble your brains hot, and so I've decided that no parts of me will be going outside today. I keep yawning because I was up until three last night, finishing up some reviews and reading Julie Kagawa's short story "Winter's Passage." Let's hope I don't scare the UPS man too badly later on.

If anyone has been paying attention to my Read in 2010 page, they would be able to tell that even though I have Dark Road to Darjeeling as the book I'm currently reading, I've been reading other things instead. Obviously, I've pretty much stalled with that one. I read ninety-some pages last week and none since and I'm starting to get a little scared of it. It's not grabbing me like the first three did and I find that upsetting. I will finish it within the sixty days I have before it expires but for now, I'm leaving it alone.

I am really starting to get excited for NYCC in October. I trolled through the sites of my favorite authors and learned that not only will Jim Butcher and Sherrilyn Kenyon be there but Seanan McGuire will be too! Woot! Anton Strout too although I've only read (and really liked) the first in his Simon Canderous series, Dead to Me. I plan to take beaucoup pictures and get as close as I can to James Marsters and Katee Sackhoff without getting arrested. I also plan to take my laptop with me to NYC so that I might do writeups on the con each night instead of leaving it until I'm home and have thus forgotten everything I did and/or saw. *snort* Yeah, we'll see about that one.

I'm starting The Iron Daughter today and me being me, I had to read them in order. I really liked "Winter's Passage" and thought it was the perfect length to fill in any gaps between books one and two, thereby removing the need to start Daughter off anywhere but the Winter Court. "Winter's Passage" is all about Meghan and Ash and their journey from Meghan's home at the end of The Iron King where she agreed to leave with him in order to fulfill her promise that she would go to the Tir Na Nog, the Winter Court, and keep her end of their bargain that they made in King. Ash is reluctant to take Meghan there at best but orders are orders and if it's not him, then the Queen would send someone else who may not be so nice. Meghan is still trying to figure out what's going on between her and Ash, who goes from being really hot to icy cold in a blink. Does he actually care for her or is he just playing with her for fun? Let's hope I find out in The Iron Daughter.

One last thing. The other day, I bought the blu-ray set of the first six Star Trek movies and have since watched them. They are some of my all-time favorites but I can't believe I'd forgotten how utterly horrible Star Trek V - The Final Frontier is. Looking at some of the reviews on Netflix for this steaming pile of crap, I was amazed how many people defend it and Shatner, the genius director. It has a completely different feel from all the other original crew movies and reaches a whole new level of cheesiness. What a difference a director makes, eh?

Review: Twice Bitten by Chloe Neill

Merit, Chicago’s newest vampire, is learning how to play well with others. Other supernaturals, that is. Shapeshifters from across the country are convening in the Windy City, and as a gesture of peace, Master Vampire Ethan Sullivan has offered their leader a very special bodyguard: Merit. Merit is supposed to protect the Alpha, Gabriel Keene—and to spy for the vamps while she’s at it. Oh, and luckily Ethan’s offering some steamy, one-on-one combat training sessions to help her prepare for the mission.

Merit must accept the assignment, even though she knows that she’ll probably regret it. And she’s not wrong. Someone is gunning for Gabriel Keene, and Merit soon finds herself in the line of fire. She’ll need all the help she can get to track down the would-be assassin, but everywhere she turns, there are rising tensions between supernaturals—not least between her and a certain green-eyed, centuries old master vampire. (from chloeneill.com)

Man. This series just gets better and better. I feel pain every time I think about the whole stinking year that has to pass before I get a new Merit read.

Friday Night Bites was about Merit and her internal struggles; Twice Bitten is about her external ones. Merit's finally getting a grip on her vampire and is training to actually be one (her blood requirements notwithstanding). She's working solely with Ethan now to hone her skills. Merit also gets wrapped up with the shifters after Gabriel Keene, Alpha of the region, requests her help as a bodyguard during the upcoming Shifter Convocation, a gathering of all shifters under Gabriel's jurisdiction. The shifters are facing a decision like The Clash: should they stay or should they go? Do they want to get involved with the vampires and their war looming on the horizon or will they leave and go to their territory in Alaska and stay uninvolved? The shifters also toss a mystery to solve in Merit's lap. It was a bit of a relief to see the vampires and their machinations take a back seat here. Merit definitely has enough on her plate.

Merit broadens her familiarity with other vampires in Cadogan House this time. She's still feeling like an outsider but is starting to become more accepted. There's less of her non-vampire friends, like Mallory and Catcher, but with all the new people Merit meets here, I didn't miss them all that much. Nice Poltergeist reference by Mallory though.

The best part of Twice Bitten is Merit's relationship with Ethan. Ethan Sullivan reminds me an awful lot of Eric Northman from Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series: They are both incredibly handsome yet relatively old vampires who hold a measure of power in a bigger scheme. They are both involved with women who they desperately want but don't want to let themselves have. They are both good leaders who will use whatever and whoever they need to be successful. They are both decent and well-meaning but are frequently thoughtless. They have both chosen women who are appealing on their own but possess talents that make the men look better. Eric has his mind-reading Sookie and Ethan has his ass-kicking Merit.

I wish I could say that Merit should just dump Ethan for good since he breaks her heart in all three books but I can't because Ethan and Merit are good together. I just wish he wasn't such a putz each time. There are some awesome scenes in this book between Merit and Ethan and I loved every word in them. I have a feeling that Merit won't make things easy for Ethan in book four, Hard Bitten (working title), coming next July.

I just love this series and have been kicking myself for giving away my copy of Some Girls Bite last year. There is no ebook available that I've been able to find anywhere but amazon so I bought a new paperback copy again. I never do that - buy books twice - but I wanted a set of the three to keep. By next summer, I'll probably have to reread them just to remember what happened but there is one thing I won't forget - Merit's first name :)

Other reviews:

Review: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

the longing.

Once Grace and Sam have found each other, they know they must fight to stay together. For Sam, this means a reckoning with his werewolf past. For Grace, it means facing a future that is less and less certain.

the loss.

Into their world comes a new wolf named Cole, whose past is full of hurt and danger. He is wrestling with his own demons, embracing the life of a wolf while denying the ties of being human.

the linger.

For Grace, Sam, and Cole, life is a constant struggle between two forces - wolf and human - with love baring its two sides as well. It is harrowing and euphoric, freeing and entrapping, enticing and alarming. As their world falls apart, love is what lingers. But will it be enough?

I would like to first mention something that is totally superficial: I loved loved loved the green print used in this book. It's one of those little details that seems like it shouldn't be a big deal but when I first opened Linger and saw the green ink, I was delighted! What a nice touch.

I'm kind of relieved that I've finally read Linger. It had a LOT to live up to, didn't it? I wondered what would happen in this book; would it be as awesome as Shiver or would it disappoint, a la Eclipse? What would happen to Sam and would he stay a boy or go back to the wolf? Would he and Grace stay together? On and on and so forth. Well, don't worry because I was not disappointed.

I think the biggest focus in this book was about Sam and his learning to cope with being a REAL LIVE BOY. He keeps testing himself to see if it's still true that he's no longer a wolf - jumping into snowbanks or standing outside in the frigid Minnesota temps in just a t-shirt just to see if anything will jump-start a change. Sam now has a future where he can do almost anything and he can't believe it. Maybe it's more correct to say that he won't let himself believe it. He also is having difficulties figuring out his place in the Pack; he's become Beck's heir-apparent and he's not ready. He's also no longer a wolf but he's now their caretaker, the one the werewolves come to when they need some help. Sam has reluctantly inherited Cole, a new wolf that Beck made at the end of Shiver. Cole is a handful and Sam has no idea how to deal with him.

On the Grace front, Sam has more worries. There's something wrong with Grace, something really wrong health-wise. Her parents have now decided to be parental and are putting their foot (feet?) down when it comes to Sam. Parents of teenage daughters tend to get a little touchy when they find their daughter's boyfriend in bed with her. At night. Under their noses. Being apart from each other takes a toll on Sam and Grace and drives a wedge between Grace and her parents.

Maggie Stiefvater manages to cram lots of story into 360 pages. She also manages to make the relationship between Sam and Grace sweet and loving without being icky. I love Isabel as well and without her, Linger wouldn't be nearly as good as it is. Sarcastic and snarky to the core yet totally vulnerable, Isabel brings along a breath of fresh air and a captivating subplot relationship with Cole. She's become the voice of reason and reality too.

I'm not going to spoil the ending other than to say that I wasn't all that surprised by it (but not unaffected) and thought that it definitely complicates things. While that last part isn't all that astute it's a whopper of an understatement for what's to happen in book three. I was proud of Cole for stepping up the way he did. I do like to see a boy use his brain :) Sam and Grace seem to have an undeniable fate and I will be very surprised if they get their HEA. I don't believe that Stiefvater is the kind of meanie to split them up Romeo and Juliet style, but I just can't see them growing old together as humans.

I have to say, I'm pretty much in love with Sam. He writes songs that are full of love and hope and sadness but he's not emo. He works in a bookstore. He's insightful but not snotty or pretentious. He's kind but not a saint. Plus, he's cute. *sigh*

I spent the better part of an hour this evening reading Maggie Stiefvater's blog, Words on Words by Maggie Stiefvater, and LMAO. I can't wait to see what this chick comes up with next. The third and final installment in the Shiver trilogy, Forever, won't be out until July 2011.

Other reviews:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Our Most Anticipated Books of August

The first of August is here, readers, and that means that it’s time for Jane and I to be picking the books that we are most looking forward to this month. There are so many great books coming out in August I can hardly believe it and here is what caught our attention the most...

Jen’s picks:

There are actually five books I want BAD this month but don’t worry because I will get them. Oh yes I will. But the one I want the most, have been truly wanting, and will most definitely actually read this month is Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.

Could there possibly be anyone on this planet who has read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire who is not positively quivering because there is less than thirty days before this book is published? I may go back and read the two just for a refresher because it has been a while since I read them but I know what I’m dying to find the answers to here. This is the end to this wholly captivating trilogy about a society that, as punishment for seeking liberty, sends their young to fight for their lives and is forced to view it as entertainment. I can’t wait to see Katniss kick some ass :) Mockingjay comes out on the 24th.

Jane’s picks:

I’m right there with you Jen! There are a handful of books that are coming out this month that I NEED (lol) to get my hands on too. I’m not usually a fan of anthologies because the stories are just too short for any real story and character development (imho). However...I’m really looking forward to Burning Up. (Jen says Me too! Me too!) Anything written by Nalini Singh is an auto-buy for me. I love both her Psy-Changeling and Guild Hunter series. To sweeten the deal, this book includes stories by Meljean Brook, Virgina Kantra and Angela Knight. The best part is that it’s going to be released on Tuesday....sweet :)

Here’s the scoop on each story:

Nalini Singh returns to the world of her Psy-Changeling series as a woman in lethal danger who finds an unlikely protector and lover. Virginia Kantra continues the haunting tales of the Children of the Sea in her story of a wounded soldier rescued by an enigmatic young woman. Meljean Brook launches a bold new steampunk series about a woman who strikes a provocative and terrifying bargain for freedom. Angela Knight pairs a vampire warrior and his seductive captor in battle against demonic predator.

We would love to hear what you are looking forward to reading this month.