Wednesday, March 30, 2011

WOW: Waiting On Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine, highlighting the upcoming releases being eagerly awaited.

This week's upcoming release:   City of Fallen Angels (Mortal Instruments, Book 4)!!!  Due to be released next week (April 5th).  The fourth book in the Moral Instruments series, I have been anxiously awaiting this one since I finished City of Glass (Mortal Instruments).  If you are not familiar with the Mortal Instruments series, start here:  City of Bones (Mortal Instruments), then read this: City of Ashes (Mortal Instruments) and then this:  City of Glass (Mortal Instruments).  From there, hop on over to the sister series,  The Infernal Devices and read this:  Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, Book 1).  In the Mortal Instruments series, Cassandra Clare has created a fascinating world of Shadowhunters,  Wizards, Vampires and Werewolves.  The story of Clary and Jace was so well-written and unexpected, with wonderful supporting characters in their friends and family.  City of Fallen Angels (Mortal Instruments, Book 4) picks up soon after the events of City of Glass (Mortal Instruments), with former supporters of Valentine being hunted down and killed.  Jace and Clary begin investigating, while Clary is still training as a Shadowhunter.  The Vampires are also fighting amongst themselves and Simon is the only one who can determine the outcome, but he wants nothing to do with it.

City of Fallen Angels (Mortal Instruments, Book 4) promises to be a great read--if you haven't read the series, go get started!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Millie's Fling by Jill Mansell

Thank you Barnes & Noble Free Fridays for providing me with such a fun read.  Millie's Fling by Jill Mansell is a delightfully funny romance, nothing too risque and having a lot of heart.  Millie finds herself in a bit of a bind--she's without a boyfriend and without a job, making for the perfect situation to be rescued by Orla Hart, romance writer.  Orla is reeling from a scathing review of her last book and is determined to write something better.  She decides to base her next book on real life, Millie's real life.  However, as Millie's life isn't as exciting as Orla would like, Orla decides to bring in some romantic candidates.  What she doesn't know, is that Millie is holding out on her.

As I said, this is a fun read.  The characters are realistic and funny.  Millie is surrounded by a wonderful supporting cast:  Hester, her best friend whose boyfriend is working 500 miles away, Millie's father and his wonderful partner Judy, the polar opposite of Millie's mother, Adele who left for London, looking for a more exciting life, Nat, Hester's perfect and absent boyfriend; Lucas, Hester's lifelong crush who is more than meets the eye; the gorgeous Con Devereaux, incredibly famous movie star with his own secrets.  And Hugh.

I've never read Jill Mansell before, and this book reminded me very much of a Sophie Kinsella/Marian Keyes type story.  Mind you, Mansell definitely has her own style and it's a very nice one, but I was reminded of these other authors, whom I love.  In fact, I'm planning to add plenty of Jill Mansell to my download list.  I was thrilled when I checked her website to see that she has quite an impressive list of books and awards to her credit.   I've been off of "chick lit" for a while, but I think Millie's Fling might just bring me back for a while.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Review: The Lost Saint by Bree Despain

The Lost Saint: A Dark Divine Novel by Bree Despain is the second of the Dark Divine novels.  The story picks up where The Dark Divine left off.  Grace's world is falling apart:  Jude is still missing, her father is gone all the time trying to find him and her mother is a mess.  On top of all this, she is trying to deal with her newly found strength and anger, while Daniel just wants everything to remain 'normal'.  And, in walks the perfect stranger:  friendly, handsome, always in the right place at the right time and willing to help Grace find Jude.  A recipe for disaster...

I have to admit that I had a hard time reading this book.  I was very surprised since I really enjoyed The Dark Divine.  I was bothered by Grace's anger and bouts of self-pity.  It is quite a turn from Grace of The Dark Divine.  Grace, however, is evolving, in more ways than one, and her evolution is painful and hard.  It's painful to read as well, but pushing through it was well worth it.

I did enjoy The Lost Saint: A Dark Divine Novel, although it was not at all what I expected.  I'm not quite sure what I did expect, but the process of Grace's transformation certainly threw me for a loop.  It is a great second segment of the Dark Divine series and I look forward to reading the next.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why is it so hard to review books I like?

Why is it so difficult to review books I really like?  The reader in me was thrilled to learn that I had won an Advance Readers Copy of Shift (Shade, Book 2) by Jeri Smith-Ready, while the reviewer in me thought "how on earth am I going to write about this?".  My problem is that when I like a book, I want to talk about the book, what happened and how it made me feel, but I don't want to add spoilers to my reviews.  So, I find myself writing and re-writing, editing out and shortening until I don't feel like I've spoiled anything and wondering if I've said enough.  I often feel like I haven't done justice to a book I really enjoyed because I seem to just say that I enjoyed it without really going into why I enjoyed it.  I don't know that my recommendation alone is enough to make someone want to read the book.  I have spent the last few days trying write a review of Shift (Shade, Book 2) that I am comfortable posting.  I am trying to convey how much I enjoyed the book without spoiling it for potential readers, but I find myself discussing plot points and things that a reader might prefer to discover on her own.  I don't want to focus on how the book is written because well-written doesn't necessarily mean enjoyable story, and this book is both.  Anyway, I feel like I've worked out some of my issues here and hope to post a well-written review of Shift (Shade, Book 2) very soon.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Review: One of Our Thursdays is Missing

 It's been almost four years since the last installment of the Thursday Next series, but One of Our Thursdays Is Missing: A Novel by Jasper Fforde was well worth the wait.  The novel follows the Written Thursday as she traverses BookWorld looking for the Real Thursday, who seems to have gone missing while deep undercover.

The majority of the story takes place in BookWorld, which has recently undergone a remaking based on a geographic model.  The peace talks between Racy Novel and Women's Fiction and Dogma are coming up fast and the Written Thursday is being pressed upon from all sides to find the Real Thursday or replace her at the peace talks.  Her journey takes us all around the BookWorld, through fiction and non-fiction, with interesting treks into Vanity and Fan Fiction.  Along the way, she manages a trip into the Outland, where she finally meets her love, Landon.  Landon is killed off early in the written series, so the Written Thursday has spent her life longing for someone she's never known.  Her trip to the Outland raises questions about her identity:  could she possibly be the Real Thursday?  Suffering from some sort of delusion?

I love this series.  The stories are original and smartly written.  Fforde uses literary device to his own ends to create something spectacular.  This is classic.  He reminds me of Mark Twain in his use of humor to address societal issues, while still poking fun at himself and his work.  I can't find strong enough words to explain how much I enjoy his work.  If you haven't read any of the Thursday Next series, go get started on The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel.

Mr. Fforde, if you're out there, please do not make us wait another four years for Thursday.  While worth the wait, not much out there that can fill the void while we await another Thursday Next adventure.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lost in a Good Book: E-book or Hardbound?

I'm in the middle of a book I've been waiting to read for so....... long!  But, I feel like I don't have any time to really read it.  I bought the hardbound copy of One of Our Thursdays Is Missing: A Novel by Jasper Fforde because I absolutely love his Thursday Next series, and I wanted to see it sitting on my shelf with the other books from the series.  However, I have come to realize that when I download a book, it suddenly becomes more portable and I find more time to read it.  Between my e-reader and the Nook app on my iPhone, I am a lot more likely to find a few minutes to read a page or two than I am to sit down and read a page or two in a hardbound book.  So, the question is:  why am I still so drawn to hardbound books when I am reading an author I love?  I still own the book in e-form, so it's not about ownership.  I can still lend the book out, although not as easily, in e-form.  What is it about holding a book in my hands that makes the experience more enjoyable to me?  I've tried using the e-reader for some of my favorite authors, but I feel like I've missed something in the experience. 

I don't use e-books for any kind of non-fiction or reference books.  I like being able to pick up the book and flip through to find what I'm looking for--especially if it is a well used book.  It's much easier for me to recognize where the information is with the book in hand than to look at a Table of Contents on my e-reader and try to remember what chapter I need.  Maybe that's what I'm missing with my favorite authors on the e-reader.  I'm not creating an experience with the e-reader.  The sensory memory of the feel/smell of the book is missing.  I don't have fond memories of reading the ebook curled up in my favorite chair during a few stolen moments, anxiously turning the page to see what happens next.  I love being able to hold a good book in my hands and have a memorable experience while reading it.  I realize that e-books are the future of publishing and that my children are a lot less likely to need bookshelves than I am.  However, there will always be bookshelves in my home for those books I can't do without and the experiences I want to share.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

WOW: Waiting On Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine, highlighting the upcoming releases being eagerly awaited. 

My WOW this week is:  Vampire Mine by Kerrelyn Sparks, due for release on March 29.  I love this series!  It's a lot of fun mixed up with adventure and steamy romance!  The Love at Stake series centers around a group of vampires that drink synthetic blood.  Of course, there are also some shape shifters thrown in for good measure--it seems like vampires & shifters go hand-in-hand lately, doesn't it?  The vampires are fighting the good fight against another group of vampires that cling to the old ways of human consumption, threatening to expose their kind to the world at large.  Along the way, the good guys find romance.  Each story focuses on the story of a different vampire or shifter, while still including the majority of the other characters in the series.  This manages to keep the stories from getting repetitive or boring, while still keeping a connection to the series. 

These books are fun--full of humor and romance.  The first in the series is How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire (Love at Stake, Book 1).  I'd recommend that anyone who hasn't read the series start there, since the books each contribute to the overall series in order.  If you like vampire romance, this series is a great read!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fire burn and cauldron bubble

This is the first book in the Jolie Wilkens series. Jolie Wilkens life is about to be turned upside down and inside out. Making her living providing tarot readings in her new age store, Jolie thinks of herself as average, boring even. In walks the mysterious Rand, who wants Jolie to read him, not his cards. Rand's entrance into her shop, and her life, introduces Jolie to a world she never knew existed. He also reveals things about Jolie herself that she was unaware of: namely that she is a witch with an unusual talent, making her highly desired in the Underworld.

The story itself is interesting; encompassing a variety of supernatural creatures and their hidden existence to the world at large. We learn a lot about Jolie as we learn,along with her,about the Underworld, watching her adjusting to her place in it. Some of the writing bothered me, there is a heavy use of simile which I found distracting. Overall, however, the story line was more interesting than the distractions and I found myself enjoying Jolie's adventures. I will be reading the sequel.

Review: Halfway Hexed by Kimberly Frost

The third installment in the Southern Witches series brings us back to Duvall, Texas with Tammy Jo Trask, pastry chef and late-blooming witch. Still recovering from battling the fairies and werewolves, she is trying to focus on her 'normal' life and her career while avoiding the oh-so-sexy Bryn Lyons. Of course, ever since her magic started emerging, things rarely turn out like Tammy Jo plans.

Things in Duvall are a bit crazy. It seems that some of the townspeople that Tammy Jo helped during the battle are on a crusade to rid the town of witchcraft. On top of that, WAM is coming to investigate and dole out punishment to both Tammy Jo and Bryn. And, she finally hears of her mother & Aunt Mel: her mother is in fairy and Aunt Mel is trapped in England without her powers. So, who else can she turn to besides the incredibly handsome Bryn?

In Halfway Hexed (A Southern Witch Novel), Frost brings us deeper into Tammy Jo's relationship with Bryn. Tammy Jo really starts to acknowledge the depths of her feelings for Bryn--despite the family prophecy meant to keep them apart. With no one else she can depend on, she really begins to wonder just how bad can the prophecy be?

I enjoyed this installment, although the ending left me wondering if there will be another. While some things are resolved to a point where the story could end, there are still other things left unresolved. Nothing on Kimberly Frost's website gives the indication of future books. None the less, I have enjoyed reading the Southern Witches series and would recommend it to fans of paranormal fiction.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Review: Arcane Circle by Linda Robertson

Arcane Circle (Persephone Alcmedi, Book 4) is the 4th book in the Persephone Alcmedi series.  It picks up just after the end of Fatal Circle (Persephone Alcmedi, Book 3).  In fact, some of the issues from the previous book are still up in the air as this one begins.

I really enjoyed this book, but it's difficult to review without spoilers.  Some of the events from the previous book impact the plot of this story and I'm afraid that if I go into too much depth of review, I'll spoil the suspense for another reader.  So, I'll be keeping things somewhat vague in this one.

Robertson really begins to unlock some of the background of her characters in this story.  Elements from Persephone's and Johnny's pasts come into play during the story.  A large part of the story is focused on Johnny's being recognized as Domn Lup and the search to find the person who can unlock his power, which is being contained in his tattoos.  We learn a little more about Johnny and his struggles in dealing with losing his father figure and being acknowledged as Domn Lup, while accepting this truth about himself.  I enjoyed having more of the focus on Johnny, as the story was more focused on Menessos in Fatal Circle (Persephone Alcmedi, Book 3).  The relationship between Johnny and Persephone is explored more in this book and seems to be getting stronger, despite the temptation of Menessos.  Of course, the pressures and expectations of Johnny being Domn Lup have only just started to impact his relationship with Seph.

Not everything is resolved at the end of the book, leading me to believe that there will be another addition to the Persephone Alcmedi series and I look forward to reading it.

For anyone who hasn't read the Persephone Alcmedi series of books, Vicious Circle (Persephone Alcmedi, Book 1) is where to start :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

WOW: Waiting On Wednesday

This is my first waiting on Wednesday post!  Thanks to Breaking the Spine for such a cool idea :)

Although I am anxiously awaiting the release of several upcoming books, the one closest to release is The Peach Keeper: A Novel by Sarah Addison Allen.  I absolutely love her books!  She combines fairy tale magic with Southern hospitality, all wrapped up in secrets and hope.  She examines the way that these secrets tie people together and how love never truly dies.  Her female characters are strong women, searching for a sense of belonging or for some lost piece of her history, that one thing that will bring perfect happiness into her life.

Her previous books,  Garden Spells (Bantam Discovery), The Sugar Queen (Random House Reader's Circle), and The Girl Who Chased the Moon: A Novel are all wonderful reads and highly recommended.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Review: River Marked

Why are all the good books such quick reads?  Why can I finish a book I love in no time at all and then have to wait a year, or more!, to read the next installment?  Why can't the authors of books I love focus only on the series I enjoy and crank out book after book all year long?  This is how I feel about the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.  (Although, to be honest, I also enjoy Briggs' Alpha & Omega series, so she'll need to start splitting her time between the two :)

River Marked (Mercy Thompson, Book 6) is a book I'd been waiting to read for quite a while.  It had been almost a year since Silver Borne (Mercy Thompson, Book 5) and I was dying to catch up with Mercy, Adam, Stefan, Zee and the Pack.  Things open with Mercy under considerable stress regarding her impending wedding.  Her mother's continued outrageous suggestions leave Mercy crying for, well, mercy.  She decides that she and Adam should get married right away, before the planned wedding, without all the bells and whistles.  Mercy's simple ceremony turns into a rather pleasant surprise provided by her family and friends--OK, maybe that was a bit of a spoiler, but I didn't tell everything.  The real action starts when Mercy and Adam leave for their honeymoon--outside forces have even managed to manipulate where they honeymoon, but Adam assures her that they are in the area for a reason and that the reason will show itself soon enough and, sure enough, it does.  At least they get a few days of peace before Mercy finds herself facing a Native American river monster that is terrorizing the area.  She and Adam connect with a very interesting group of Native Americans to try and set things right.

What I liked most about this book is that Mercy finally connects with her father's side.  She finds out a lot about her father and gains some powerful allies in the Native American world.  This is the first time the reader really gets to see this side of Mercy, where her magic comes from and where her roots lay.  I also really enjoyed the bond between Mercy and Adam.  We get to see them as a couple, without work or pack business getting in the way.  Their relationship is explored and explained on new and different levels and they really hone their communication skills.  The story is great--lots of action and magic involved, including new magical elements for Mercy to explore.  Overall, I really enjoyed River Marked (Mercy Thompson, Book 6), it's a great addition to the Mercy Thompson series.  I hope Patricia Briggs is busy writing the next Mercy Thompson book because I can't wait to read it!! 

For anyone out there unfamiliar with this series, start with Moon Called (Mercy Thompson, Book 1).  Once you've started the series, you won't be able to put it down!  Also, check out Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega, Book 1), a companion series to the Mercy Thompson series which focuses on one of Mercy's pack mates from her childhood.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Review: The Looking Glass Wars

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor is an interesting take on the Alice in Wonderland story. This interpretation contends that Alyss Heart, Princess of Wonderland, is the Alice of the Lewis Caroll story. When her evil Aunt Redd attacks and kills her parents, Alyss flees to the outside world. Separated from her escort and bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, Alyss finds herself an orphan in London who is eventually adopted by The Liddells. Her adoptive family dismisses Alyss' stories of her life in Wonderland as flights of fantasy. She gives up her memories of Wonderland when a family friend publishes her stories under the pen name Lewis Carroll. Alyss is hurt and angry because she feels her life has been trivialized and turned into a fairy tale. She becomes determined to be the ideal daughter and truly becomes Alice Liddell. She is set to marry Prince Leopold when a figure from her past arrives and brings her back to the ruins of the Wonderland where she grew up. Redd has destroyed the city and all those who support White Imagination, that of the former King and Queen. She and her followers practice Black Imagination, which is destructive and evil. In order to restore Wonderland to the peaceful land of her childhood, Alyss must learn to hone her imaginative skills and defeat her aunt.

This book took a long time for me to read. I kept getting hung up comparing it to the original story. I was also distracted by the semblance to the real life story of Alice Liddell and the fabricated parts created for the character of Alice Liddell. In fact, at one point, I put the book down and left it for over a month. I read quite a few other books before I came back to finish it. However, I did come back to finish it. I enjoyed the adventure of the story, and the change and development of Alyss' character. It makes an interesting statement about how much is lost when imagination is discouraged. It furthers the statement with the power Alyss has once she begins to hone her imagination as an adult. The characters were interesting, particularly Alyss' childhood friend Dodge, but many of them were weakened by being based on characters in the original story. For example, Hatter Madigan may have appeared as a stronger hero figure if I weren't thinking of him as the Mad Hatter.

I can't even decide if I liked this story or not. I'm not sure if I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn't been based on Lewis Carroll's Alice. Of course, being based on the famous work is part of what drew me to the book in the first place. I'll say this--The Looking Glass Wars is an interesting adventure filled with some familiar characters in a familiar land. Will I read the sequel, Seeing Redd: The Looking Glass Wars, Book Two? Probably, if I come across it on a book exchange site, but I won't be paying to download it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls by Victoria Laurie

Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls (Ghost Hunter Mysteries, No. 5) finds MJ Holliday and the cast of Ghoul Getters in Ireland, investigating a haunted castle.  However, this is no ordinary haunted castle, this castle boasts a phantom and a legend of lost treasure.  Upon their arrival in Ireland, the team finds that several treasure hunters before them have lost either their lives or their sanity trying to locate the lost treasure of Dunlow Castle.

MJ is back, helping lost spirits and busting evil ones.  She's got Gilley, Heath and her television crew with her.  They are in Ireland visiting a very haunted castle--with helpful and harmful spirits.  When a member of her crew goes missing, presumably lost to the phantom, the kinder spirits at the castle charge her with solving the mystery of the phantom and ridding the castle of it.  Only then will they assist her in finding her friend.  MJ finds herself solving several mysteries, including the mystery of her feelings for Heath.

Victoria Laurie provides a fun adventure, mixed with some ghost hunting and a little romance, in this addition to the Ghost Hunter Mysteries.  MJ continues to be her witty, entertaining self, and her relationships with Gilley and Heath add humor and romance to the mix.  Overall, this follows the previous books in the series very nicely and I hope we see more development between MJ and Heath in the future.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

This Side of the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

This Side of the Grave (Night Huntress, Book 5) by Jeaniene Frost is awesome!  It continues the adventures of Cat and Bones, who are facing more trouble than they know what to do with.  I honestly loved this book & had been anxiously awaiting the release to see what Cat and Bones got into next.  But, I have had the worst time trying to write a review of it.  I've been trying off and on for several days, but every time I write something it feels too spoiler-ish and I start over.  I figure that if you are reading the series, you certainly won't be disappointed and if you're not familiar with the series, start it.  Go buy or download or borrow Halfway to the Grave (Night Huntress, Book 1) and get started.  Cat is an incredibly interesting character who continually evolves over the course of the series & Bones is, well, Bones is freaking hot :)  If you like a little spice with your vampires, et al, read Jeaniene Frost.

Enough said.