Book reviews. Paranormal fantasy, fiction, YA, romance, adventure, fantasy, supernatural--all sorts of genres. New releases, pre-releases and previously released material (whatever I find on my to-be-read shelf :)
Question of the Week: When you've read a book, what do you do with it? (Keep it, give it away, donate it, sell it, swap it..?)
Lately, I've found myself reading more ebooks than print books and there's not much you can do with those besides lend them out. However, I do belong to two trade sites: PaperBackSwap.com and Bookins.com and I post my print books for trade on both. I get a lot of books for my kids on these sites and I trade their books once they have out grown them.
I have found another new series! The Stacy Justice series by Barbra Annino. I found this series through the compilation Every Witch Way But Wicked. As you may know from previous posts, I can not stand to start in the middle of a series, so when I started reading "A Tale of Two Witches" by Christiana Miller and Barbra Annino and realized that the characters mentioned within were established in other series, I immediately stopped reading the story and started the respective series'. I did enjoy Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead by Christiana Miller (where some of the characters in the story originate) and will post my review soon. However, I was really drawn in by Annino's Stacy Justice. Opal Fire is the first book in the series and it introduces us to Stacy Justice, a woman born into a family of witches but does not want to accept her prophesied role as the Seeker. She has recently moved back to the small town of Amethyst and the lives of her family, including her grandmother Birdie and great-aunts Fiona and Lolly, collectively known as the Geraghty Girls and revered as the local witches. Stacy believes and understands the magic held by her family but refuses to embrace the magic as a part of her. However, when her cousin Cinnamon's bar, The Black Opal, burns to the ground under mysterious circumstances, Stacy has to harness everything in her power, including her powers, to prove Cinnamon wrongly accused and bring justice to another lost soul. In the second book, Bloodstone, Stacy is faced with accepting her role in the family in order to help a long lost sister (?) and protect a centuries old secret. She must learn to face her own demons regarding magic and find her place within the family hierarchy.
Both books are well-written and contain compelling characters. The Geraghty Girls alone are worth reading both books, but the other characters are as well-written and likable. Stacy is real, with real problems, magic aside, and very likable. She is surrounded by friends and family that are both skeptical about her family and supportive of the craziness. You want to read about her, her life and the town and you want her to triumph over whatever circumstances she finds herself in. I thoroughly enjoyed both Opal Fire and Bloodstone and look forward to reading the third Stacy Justice book Tiger's Eye due out in 2012.
Question: Keeping with the Spirit of Giving this season, what book do you think EVERYONE should read and if you could, you would buy it for all of your family and friends?
Interesting question. For my children, the Harry Potter series. I have the series in hard bound for them once they are old enough to read them. Besides the magic of an amazing story, it teaches that everyone has something special about them & everyone can make a difference in the world. Also, The Princess Bride by William Goldman and Stardust by Neil Gaiman, wonderful modern fairy tales that tell incredible stories.
For older readers, I have to stick with the classics. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Plague by Albert Camus and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Each is a wonderful study of human nature and society as a whole.
I realize that most people are writing about their favorite read from this year, but these books are timeless, to me, and have been my must reads for a long, long time.
I can't believe how long it's been since I posted! I've really got to get back into blogging, so today's Follow Friday is my new start :)
Today's Follow Friday question is:
Question: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to books? Maybe you don't like love triangles or thin plots? Tell us about it!
Like many of you, I have a few pet peeves when it comes to books. First off, I have been trying to read more independent authors because I think it's important to support new authors and I love discovering someone new to read and to share. However, I have literally stopped reading in the middle of a story because the errors in the book were so bad. I understand that self-published authors don't have the advantages of professional editors and proof readers, but ask a friend to take a look at your work before you publish it. No matter how good your story, a work filled with bad grammar, run on sentences and misspellings seriously detracts from your work.
My second major pet peeve when it comes to books is lazy authors. I love to read series--finding a great author that writes engaging stories is a treasure. However, what I don't like is when an author gets lazy and insults readers by recycling plot lines and, in some cases, actual lines from previous stories. I have stopped reading two series' by a very famous and popular author for this reason. I feel insulted--like I'm not intelligent enough to realize that this same plot happened to the same character three books ago. If an author can't think of new stories for a series, end the series. Simple.
My final pet peeve ties into the previous one of lazy authors, but this is about convenient endings. Nothing is more disappointing than to reach the end of a trilogy or series only to suddenly have everything fall into place for a happy ending. I know this example will bother some readers, but I was massively disappointed by Breaking Dawn. I mean, come on, imprinting Jacob on the baby to resolve the love triangle--it felt like something from an old Soap Opera. After having read the other books and been impressed by Meyer's storytelling, I was very let down her ending. It felt like she was trying to please readers with a happy ending for everyone instead of writing what she truly felt would happen in the story.
Anyway, that's my list. Hope you all have a great weekend!
I found a new series that I really like: The Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones. So far, I've read First Grave on the Right (Book 1), For I Have Sinned (short story, 1.5) and Second Grave on the Left (Book 2). The main character is Charlotte (Charley) Davidson, private investigator and grim reaper. Charley is the only grim reaper on the planet & she is like a soul magnet. Most souls depart for the afterlife immediately, some do not. These souls tend to have some unfinished business, like naming the person who killed them, and Charley is there to help sort things out & assist with crossing over. She is aided in this by her father, a retired police detective, Uncle Bob, an active police detective, and her best friend Cookie. Aside from helping departed souls, she also takes on 'regular' cases & gets mixed up with all sorts of bad guys. Then, there is Reyes. A mystery man from her past who is taking on monumental significance in her present. Reyes is her reason for being and biggest source of frustration, all at the same time.
The stories are fun & the characters are extremely likable. Charley shows a lot of opportunity for character growth over a series & the story possibilities are numerous. Darynda Jones has created a great basis for her series and I look forward to reading upcoming installments. Her next offering, Third Grave Ahead, is scheduled to be released in January, 2012.
Lately, I have been reading a lot of independent authors. I think that the programs being offered by amazon & barnes & noble are an excellent way for new authors to gain exposure for their work without having to navigate the publishing house system. I also believe that there are a lot of talented writers out there who are now able to share their work with the world and make a little money as well. I have read some very good stories by independent authors (most at a very reasonable rate as well :)
However, I have also been extremely disappointed by some of the works I have read. I don't know about you, but I get very distracted by things like spelling mistakes & horrible grammar. Spell check doesn't solve everything--have someone else read your work before publishing it please! Bad spelling can really be distracting to a reader, especially when that reader is forced to figure out what you really meant to write instead of just enjoying the story. For example, I recently read an independently published novel where the author mentions a character wearing "heals". Now, I know that she meant to write "heels', but the whole incident really distracted me and, believe me, this was not the only spelling debacle in the book. Another reason to have someone else check your work before publishing is the tendency to use the same phrase over and over again--this is really annoying. It makes your characters seem one dimensional and fake--unless the people you interact with really repeat themselves on a regular basis, try to write the way that people speak. Also, punctuation goes a long way to making your writing clear. I'm not an expert, but I know that too many commas or too few can seriously impact the way a sentence is read. There is a big difference between "Let's Eat Grandma!!" and "Let's Eat, Grandma!" And, one final thing, Twilight was a great story & a huge success, but every independently published novel doesn't need to be about supernatural teens caught in a bizarre love triangle.
Maybe I'm being overly critical, but I've stopped reading the last few books before I was finished because I was so distracted and disappointed. I won't be reading anymore books by these authors because I can't enjoy a book, no matter how interesting the premise might be, when my reading is constantly being derailed. Just my opinion.
Q. Do you have a favorite series that you read over and over again? Tell us a bit about it and why you keep on revisiting it?
Surprisingly, I don't. While Harry Potter was being published, I re-read the previous books while waiting for the next book in the series to be released, but that was more to refresh my memory. I do have a few series that I've kept to be read later, but I haven't re-visited them yet. I have Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles on my shelf along with her Mayfair witches series. I also have the Southern Vampire series (Sookie Stackhouse) by Charlaine Harris, The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer and Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. I enjoyed them all enough to keep them but really plan to save them for my children to read than for me to read again.
Q. It's that pesky magic book fairy again! She has another wish: What imaginary book world would you like to make a reality?
Ohhhhh, difficult question :)
However, I really think I'd like to be able to visit the world of Thursday Next. Jasper Fforde has created not one, but two interesting worlds. Thursday lives in an alternate Swindon, where the Toast Marketing Board is all powerful and cheese smuggling is a major problem. However, she is one of the rare people that can also visit BookWorld--where books are living things and characters vacation in the backstories of other books. I'd love to be able to visit with Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice or hang out with Shadow from American Gods. The possibilities would be endless!!
I love the Otherworld series. Until Waking the Witch (Women of the Otherworld, Book 11) Elena was my favorite character--they story of Elena and Clay is still my favorite in the series. However, after reading about grown-up Savannah, she has taken the role of favorite character. Armstrong always wrote Savannah as an interesting child, just finding out who she is and where she belongs. She was always somewhat confident in herself and her abilities. However, the adult Savannah is a complex and well-written character. She is confident and arrogant, while still being vulnerable and insecure. She knows what she wants but isn't always ready to go after it. Her story, as told in both Waking the Witch (Women of the Otherworld, Book 11) and Spell Bound (Otherworld, Book 12) shows her maturing and finding herself and her place in the world. She is a very likable character.
In Spell Bound (Otherworld, Book 12) things are heating up. Savannah is kidnapped, again. This time by an underground movement wanting supernaturals to 'come out' into the open. Their leader, a cult like figure with an interesting back story, believes that Savannah fulfills one sign of a prophecy that will propel supernaturals in to the open and as superior to humans. There are other signs of the prophecy as well, many of whom are Savannah's friends and family, and a few of whom seem to be references to Armstrong's YA series about Otherworld. I'm very interested to see if the two series will intersect in the future. This book brings most of the supernatural community into the story and seems to be setting up something big in future books. All the players are here: Jeremy, Elana, Clay, Jaime, Hope, Karl, Cassandra, Aaron, Paige, Lucas and, of course, Adam. Both the Nast and the Cortez Cabal are involved as well. However, while this does set-up what sounds like a great future story-line, Savannah's story is excellent on it's own. Her character really starts to mature in this novel. Without her powers, she really begins to appreciate what others have to offer her in their own experiences and what her own strengths are outside of spell casting. It's a great story and I look forward to reading the next installment in the Otherworld series.
Forever (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 3) is the final book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. When I read the first book, Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls), I was completely captivated by Grace and Sam. Their story broke my heart and filled me with hope at the same time. I recommended this book to friends and could not wait to get my hands on the second book, Linger (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 2). However, I didn't love Linger (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 2)like I loved Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls). I honestly don't know what I expected out of Linger (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 2), but what I got wasn't it. But, I have been known to be disappointed in 'middle novels' where trilogies are concerned because they tend to be a lot of filler and lead up to the final novel. So, despite my disappointment in Linger (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 2), I read Forever (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 3). I really, truly wanted to know what happened to Sam and Grace, and even Cole, Isabel, Olivia and Beck. And after reading about 400 pages, I can't tell you what happened to any of the characters except for the ones who die. I feel like the ending never happened. I kept looking for an epilogue six months later or something. Maybe I'm selfish in wanting to know what happens, but I feel like I invested myself in three books about these characters and I'd like to know if anyone got a happy ending, you know? Maybe my tastes are too pedestrian, expecting some closure to the trilogy. Maybe I'm too old to read YA novels and my expecting an ending is a clear indication of this. I don't know. All I know is that I was disappointed in the end. I have nothing to say about the rest of the story because I can't get past the feeling of being left twisting in the wind. I feel like I read the trilogy and didn't get my payoff of at least knowing what happens and that ruined the entire reading experience for me.
Q. How has your reading habits changed since you were a teen? or If you are still a teen what new genres are you in love with currently?
My reading habits have changed pretty drastically since I was a teen. When I was in high school, and even in college, I really only read what could be considered the classics. I would get introduced to an author through a required reading assignment and, if I liked the author, he became the subject of my reading for pleasure. My teen years were filled with Faulkner, Hemingway, Austen, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky and Salinger. However, I have since discovered many wonderful authors to read for pleasure that are still alive and writing! Now my reading for pleasure includes the "old masters" as well as Charlaine Harris, Jasper Fforde, and Neil Gaiman.
Okay, this really isn't a regular Waiting on Wednesday title because it's been serialized by the author on her website. However, one chapter a week definitely has me waiting!! Jeri Smith-Ready, author of many fine books, has given her readers a wonderful gift: a novella, in serial form, on her website to tide us over until the next, and final, book in her WVMP series Lust for Life is released late in 2012.
If you're not familiar with the WVMP series, get started with Wicked Game. Here's the GoodReads synopsis for Wicked Game:
Recovering con artist Ciara Griffin is trying to live the straight life, even if it means finding a (shudder!) real job. She takes an internship at a local radio station, whose late-night time-warp format features 1940s blues, '60s psychedelia, '80s goth, and more, all with an uncannily authentic flair. Ciara soon discovers just how the DJs maintain their cred: they're vampires, stuck forever in the eras in which they were turned.
Ciara's first instinct, as always, is to cut and run. But communications giant Skywave wants to buy WVMP and turn it into just another hit-playing clone. Without the station — and the link it provides to their original Life Times — the vampires would "fade," becoming little more than mindless ghosts of the past. Suddenly a routine corporate takeover is a matter of life and undeath.
To boost ratings and save the lives of her strange new friends, Ciara rebrands the station as "WVMP, the Lifeblood of Rock 'n' Roll." In the ultimate con, she hides the DJs' vampire nature in plain sight, disguising the bloody truth as a marketing gimmick. WVMP becomes the hottest thing around — next to Ciara's complicated affair with grunge vamp Shane McAllister. But the "gimmick" enrages a posse of ancient and powerful vampires who aren't so eager to be brought into the light. Soon the stakes are higher — and the perils graver — than any con game Ciara's ever played...
Q. Talk about the book that most changed or influenced your life (was it a book that turned you from an average to avid reader, did it help you deal with a particularly difficult situation, does it bring you comfort every time you read it?).
Wow, I think the book that most influenced my life was The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. I was assigned to read it the summer before I started high school and it blew my mind. I had never read about a character so real to me before. I'd read classics, sure, but no character ever resonated for me like Holden Caulfield did. The book made me want to read others like it, about real people who were damaged and flawed in real ways, things that I could relate to. It also fed my burgeoning interest in psychology and human nature. The Catcher in the Rye remains one of my favorite books to this day.
Let me start by saying that, over the past several years, I have become a huge fan of Neil Gaiman. I love Stardust and Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, both of which are smart, incredibly witty and thoroughly enjoyable novels. My children are also fans, with The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish and Crazy Hair in our regular reading rotation. I have long been aware of his other, perhaps more popular or more revered works but have been somewhat intimidated by the intelligence in his writing and by my own perception of Mr. Gaiman as being more of a science fiction writer than I was interested in reading. However, American Gods: A Novel has been lurking on the edges of my awareness, slowly piquing my interest until I finally was ready to give it a read. And here's the thing, once I started, I could not put it down. It was intelligent, emotional, poignant, smart, funny and educational.
Shadow is in prison, so close to his release that he can taste it, but he has a bad feeling that something is going to ruin his early release. "Storm's on the way", he is told by another inmate and Shadow feels it too. So he keeps his head low and does his best to finish his time without incident. However, some things are beyond Shadow's control and there are higher powers at work than he realizes.
When ancient peoples travelled to new lands, they brought their beliefs and practices with them. These beliefs and practices manifest themselves as physical incarnations of Gods--Gods who have been left to their own devices as their worship and worshippers have faded over time. In modern America, they find themselves at odds with new Gods, created not by religious practice but by society's elevation of their importance. New Gods like media and internet, all of whom are in danger of fading without the adoration of America. Shadow finds himself employed by Mr. Wednesday who is trying to rally the old Gods against the new. They travel together finding all manner of ancient God, trying to convince them to join together against the new Gods in order to eliminate the competition, as it were.
At this point, I could write about how this novel makes a strong statement about today's society and the importance attributed to intangible things like technology. That Mr. Gaiman shows us that our elevation of these intangibles to God-like status has created an almost religious fervor surrounding things like computers and mobile phones and 24-hour media coverage. And also how much more relevant this statement is ten years after the novel was initially published. However, these things are secondary to the fact that this is a really good story. The characters are interesting and, in fact, educational. I found myself looking up new characters to see which pantheon of Gods the character fit into. Mr. Gaiman includes beings from Norse, African, Eastern European and Celtic mythology, as well as from Native American religions and American folklore. The story is tightly woven with plot twists that are both expected and unexpected. As I said, I could not put this down once I started reading it. Not only is the story entertaining and thought provoking, reading it inspired me to explore more of the old myths,which brought more reading pleasure into my life.
Overall, I have to say that I am so glad that I finally picked up American Gods: A Novel. While I admonish myself for not reading it sooner, this is a book that, for me, I had to be ready to read. And I fully intend to approach more of Mr. Gaiman's works as I become ready for them.
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill atBreaking The Spine, highlighting the upcoming releases being eagerly awaited by all of us bibliophiles.
This week's Waiting on Wednesday title is:
Scheduled for a November 1, 2011 release, this will be the twelfth novel in The Others series. Unfortunately, I can not find any synopsis of it anywhere! However, having enjoyed the other novels in the series, I look forward to reading her latest when it is released.
Here is how McMillan Publishing describes The Others series:
The others are supernatural beings--werewolves, shapeshifters, vampires and witches. In this sensual series of paranormal romance and contemporary fantasy, things get hot when humans meet Others.
Q. Name 3 authors that you would love to sit down and spend an hour or a meal with just talking about either their books or get advice on writing from?
First: J. D. Salinger. I love his works--his insight into the human condition was remarkable. I'd like to know why he stopped writing and became a recluse as well. The man was brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
Second: Jane Austen. Another all time favorite. I'd love to know what it was like for her to be an author during a time when women authors weren't prevalent. I'd also love to know her inspiration for Mr. Darcy.
Third: Neil Gaiman. He wrote Stardust, my all time favorite book. And he co-authored Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophesies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, another of my top 10 favorites. Although the majority of his works don't resemble these two books, I could spend days discussing just these two with him. Also, he's kind of like a Rock Star Author to me and meeting him would probably blow my mind :)
In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there's a deadly turf war going on between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret band of brothers like no other-six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Yet none of them relishes killing more than Wrath, the leader of The Black Dagger Brotherhood.
The only purebred vampire left on earth, Wrath has a score to settle with the slayers who murdered his parents centuries ago. But, when one of his most trusted fighters is killed-leaving his half-breed daughter unaware of his existence or her fate-Wrath must usher her into the world of the undead-a world of sensuality beyond her wildest dreams.
Lover Awakened (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 3) focuses on Zsadist, the hardest and most damaged member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood and credit to J.R. Ward for tackling him so early in the series. I honestly expected to read about Zsadist much later in the series because of his dark nature and background. However, I was extremely pleased that he came into the spotlight so early because his character intrigued me from the very first novel.
Zsadist's journey actually begins in Lover Eternal (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 2) when he meets Bella and she is later kidnapped by Lessers. As Lover Awakened (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 3) begins, Bella is still missing and Zsadist is losing his mind trying to find her. As the story progresses, Zsadist must face each of his demons in order to move forward with his life. His story is amazingly sad and there are times when you just want to scream for him, but it's all worth it in the end. I have to say that there were some parts of the story that I didn't enjoy at all--I won't mention what happened for anyone who hasn't read the book yet--but I do hope that those parts will serve some purpose as my reading of the series progresses. As of right now, there are nine books in the series and I plan to start Lover Revealed (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 4) right away.