Monday, December 24, 2012

Review: The Trouble with Fate by Leigh Evans

It took me a while to get into this book. I’d start reading it for a bit, lose interest and have to read something else and then return to it. Happened a few times before I finally started to care about what was happening.

What bothered me the most is in the beginning, the narrator, who is 21 years old, sounded too much like a teenager, trying to sound tough and cool. After she got past the initial setup and the events began to unfold, I didn’t notice this as much. What did continue to bother me though was her frequent reference to her “inner Were-bitch”. Reminded me a lot of another “inner goddess” in a very popular book I did not enjoy. I don’t like the idea that women are so bothered by their sexual desires that they need to assign them to a separate entity within themselves.

I was almost halfway through the book before I reached a point in which I didn’t want to put it down, but I’m glad I stuck with it. Once Robson Trowbridge becomes a part of the story, things started to get interesting. Hedi’s had a crush on him since she was a child, and once she’s alone with him, things begin to happen – as the title suggests, she seems to have finally discovered her fate.

Even though the love story is the central focus of the book, there’s a lot more fighting action than there are steamy love scenes. And their first time together, which had the buildup of what could have been quite steamy, ended up being ridiculous and maybe one of the worst “love” scenes I’ve ever read. But I think they have a lot of potential to be a great couple.

This is the first book in a series called The Mystwalker. Being that in this book, there isn’t much about Hedi being the Mystwalker, I assume this will be further explored in future books. I’m hoping future books take place more in the other worlds mentioned, but only visited briefly in this book.

This is an interesting story and I liked this book enough that I’ll probably read the next book in the series because I want to know what happens to Hedi and Robson. Also, by the very end of the book, Hedi seemed to have fully claimed her were side – so hoping that means no more separate “Were-bitch” mentions.

I received a review copy through NetGalley. This will be released on December 24, 2012.

Review: All for You by Dana Marie Bell

I was looking forward to reading this book. But a few pages in, I was bothered by all the similarities to another book I recently read and didn’t like. Woman with a brutal, abusive, evil ex-lover is living in terror, but she has a wonderful family, and her protective older brother assigns one of his close friends to watch over her. In the last book I read the friend was a former SEAL, in this case, he’s a nephilim – though no one knows that. Not sure why the brother felt so confident putting his little sister in the hands of an architect, but whatever.

My biggest problem with this story was the main character, Abby. She’s so weak and unable to take care of herself. She’s terrified one moment, so frightened she’s crying and fainting from fear and then she’s deciding that she’s going to leave and take care of herself and protect her family and friends on her own – only to be rescued moments later by Seth. This happens several times in the book. Got old after a while. Also, she acts so goofy and immature. Her thoughts and behavior seemed more along the lines of a silly teenager than an adult woman who had been through a harrowing tragedy. So many times I found myself actually rolling my eyes after reading parts of this book. Things like her getting out of bed and dancing around the room naked or one scene where she got sloppy drunk while waiting for Seth to finish a phone call. An adult woman should not be that unaware of her alcohol tolerance.

I never quite understood why Seth was so drawn to her – other than a desire to protect her because she was in danger. She didn’t seem especially smart or clever, just very, very needy. As for the sex in the book — I’d hoped that would make up for the weak character — it was okay, but a little silly at times. Abby never seemed to move past the idea that she was finally living out her teenage fantasy of hooking up with her older brother’s hot friend.

But the book did hold my interest. I thought the storyline was intriguing. There’s quite a bit of danger and action. This is the first book in a series, and I think the world of Nephilims who hunt Shemyaza holds a lot of potential. I thought for the first book in a series, this world was explained well, I didn’t feel lost or confused about what was happening. There were several other characters introduced in the book I would like to know more about. They seemed stronger and more intelligent than the characters featured in this book. So even though I didn’t love this book, I am interested in reading future books in this series.

I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Review: Let it Snow by Leslie Kelly and Jennifer LeBrecque

I love holiday romance anthologies. You might even say they are something of a guilty pleasure. Even when I was in high school and spending the little bit of money I had on books, I could never resist the holiday romance anthologies with the pretty covers. The stories were short enough that I’d could read at least one a night, providing a variety of adventures to keep me company. Back then, I’d read them to escape all the unpleasant family drama generated from the holiday “fun” and I’d think, “Someday, this will be my holiday story.” Well, twenty or so years later, I’m old enough to know better, but I still relish the escape provided by these stories, especially when I start to feel overwhelmed by all the holiday madness.

Let it Snow is subtitled, A Blazing Bedtime Stories Holiday Collection. And they are, indeed, blazing.

I loved the first story, The Prince Who Stole Christmas. Claire’s got a rough life. She’s always had to take care of herself and her brother. Money is tight as she tries to run her candy shop in Manhattan. Then Phil shows up, renting the run-down apartment in the building she inherited from her uncle. He’s gorgeous and he’s kind and he’s so very sexy. Of course he is, he’s from another planet, and he’s a prince on that planet. He’s perfect. His manners are impeccable, and he’s protective without being overbearing and he’s still respectful of her desire to remain independent, and he loves chocolate, wow, does he love chocolate. This is the perfect modern fairy tale. Sure, it’s a little silly and maybe he’s too perfect, but so what, we all need a little holiday magic, don’t we?

The other story in the book, My True Love Gave to Me, was also nice. I didn’t love it quite as much as the first one. But I guess anything is a bit of a let down after a prince from another planet. Two people who have been best friends since childhood realize they are in love with each other. They’ve been apart for almost two years, and it takes them a while to finally admit their feelings to each other. It’s one of those small town stories, where everyone in town knows everyone else and they’ve all been waiting for the two to finally get together. I’m not a huge fan of stories like that – I find small towns more annoying than endearing. Also, I felt like for such a short story, it took them a little too long for them to finally get together, but when they do finally get together, it’s with the knowledge of two people who have known each other long enough to be comfortable together. So yes, it was pretty hot.

I enjoyed these stories. I would certainly recommend them for some quick, fun holiday reads.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Review: Dark Dealings by Kim Knox

After reading one particularly intense scene, I found myself conflicted about this book, in that I was both disgusted and turned on at the exact same time. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, so I had to read over it again to make sure I understood what was happening. I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to deprive any future readers of the shock I felt.

If I were to try to explain to someone what I had read, they would think I was depraved for thinking it was kind of awesome. There’s no way I could explain what was happening, and accurately describe the way the magic flowing through the story and around the characters turned this bit of horror into something so intensely beautiful.

Or maybe I am a bit depraved, whatever.

For the most part, I enjoyed reading this book. The characters are very unusual; Ava is a thief who doesn’t know much about her abilities or her past. She has managed to tame her instincts to kill and keeps her hunger at bay by consuming nearly raw meat (as a vegetarian, all the mentions of her eating meat were a little gross). She works for Reist, a mage and the Right Hand of the emperor. He sends her to work with Heyerdar, an elemental, and the Left Hand of the emperor, to investigate the thieves who are attacking the city.

What I didn’t like about the book is how confused I felt while reading about the different characters and their jobs and abilities. Maybe to some extent the confusion was intention because Ava knows very little about the world around her and the people in her life have purposely kept secrets from her. But at the same time, I never felt I fully understood what her job was, or what exactly the mages could do, or the connection between the thieves and the mages and the power of the Words. As I kept reading, more things were revealed, and no one was what they seemed and everyone had an ulterior motive of some sort. The more I learned, the more confused I became. I felt like there was so much more to know about this world, and it was interesting and I wanted to know about it, but everything seemed so vague and rushed.

Much of this was written as if the reader should already have some understanding of this world. I thought maybe this was a book in the middle of a series and that in some earlier book this world had been better explained. As far as I can tell though, this is not part of a series.

Even though I think I would have liked this a lot more if the storyline about thieves and mages had been simplified a bit, and there had been a few less minor characters, I still think this book was plenty hot and sexy and well worth reading.

I really liked the scenes between Ava and Heyerdar. I wish there had been more of that, a lot of more of that. I loved the interaction between the two of them. They were so cute and sarcastic and playful with each other. At first I didn’t like Heyerdar very much. He was too arrogant and crude. I usually like for my “book boyfriends” to be a little bit nicer to the women they’re trying to get into their beds – even if they’re horrible to everyone else. But there’s something about this guy. Despite my usual tastes, I found him appealing – which is exactly what is happening to Ava. This all starts out as something of a business transaction, she’s in love with someone else, and then it turns into something so much more.

When I reached the end of the book, I was not ready to stop reading about these characters, so I guess the author must have done something right.

I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Review: Daughter of the Spellcaster by Maggie Shayne

This review was originally posted on Brazen Reads:

I loved this book. I figured I would like it. I really liked the first book in The Portal series, Mark of the Witch. But the second book in the series, Daughter of the Spellcaster was even better. Once I started it, I didn’t want to put it down for any reason at all. I was reading it on the plane while traveling on Thanksgiving morning. Once I reached my destination, even though I’d not seen my family in a while, I guiltily kind of wanted them to leave me alone until I could finish reading. (When the plane landed I was more than 80% into the story, so I only had a little bit left. I wouldn’t have been asking that much of them to leave me alone for a few more minutes.) I took my Kindle to the dinner table when we sat down for Thanksgiving dinner. I liked the book that much.

The story drew me in from the very beginning. The action starts right away, with Lena learning about the death of her former client, who was also the father of her former lover. The background information is revealed as needed in bits and pieces as the story progresses.

Lena was born a witch, was raised by her mother, who is a witch, and at an early age she saw visions of her true love, her prince, as she was certain he was. Her mother, thinking she was too young to see such a strong vision, brushed this off as being part of an overactive imagination – and the result of it being the summer Aladdin was released. But when, as an adult, Lena meets Ryan, she’s certain she’s found her prince.

But Ryan has no interest in being anyone’s prince. He watched his dad fall apart after his mom’s death and decided he would do everything possible to make sure he never cared about anyone so much that a loss would destroy him like that. However, he’s confused by his feelings when Lena disappears from his life without any explanation. He’s even more confused about what he wants when Lena shows up at his father’s funeral, eight months pregnant.

As much as Lena wants to win the heart of the man she feels she was destined to be with, she is determined to do so on her own terms. She’s not going to trap him into a relationship. She’s strong and independent, which is largely why Ryan is drawn to her. Well, that, and the fact that they were lovers in another lifetime a few thousand years ago.

I liked both of these characters so much and found myself feeling anxious about them working things out. There were times when the situation seemed so obvious to the reader, it was a little frustrating to see the characters still so hesitant to trust each other. Granted they were in some pretty stressful situations, so it wasn’t totally irrational that they would have doubts.

As if relationships aren’t complicated enough under normal circumstances, they’re also trying to figure out the significance of the magical tools left to each of them by Ryan’s father, as well as fight against a demon-like force who wants their baby. The story had hints of Rosemary’s Baby, but not in a bad way, more like a classic creepy sort of way. This book was very scary in parts, which is why I felt compelled to read it without stopping. I couldn’t set the book down and walk away when the characters were in such dangerous situations.

As was the case with Mark of the Witch, I very much enjoy the way Shayne writes about witchcraft. Her knowledge of the Craft gives the story power and makes it feel authentic. This book in particular though, it makes me want to believe in magic and true love that survives for centuries and withstands death.

Even though Daughter of the Spellcaster is the second book in Maggie Shayne’s The Portal series, I think it would read fine as a stand-alone. Having read the first book and prequel, Legacy of the Witch, I did have a fairly clear understanding as to what was happening – even before any of it made sense to the characters in the book. I recommend reading the entire series, because I think they’re great books, and I’m very much looking forward to reading the next book.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Links to other reviews

Here are the links for some reviews I've posted on Brazen Reads:

Now You See It by Cait Donnelly: The main character is this book was so pathetic - I don't like stories about weak, dependent women.  And I got so tired of her going on and on about her evil ex-husband.  Okay, we get it, he was very bad, and yet you remained with him for six years.

Kissed by a Vampire by Caridad Pineiro - Vampire in South Beach.  This was okay.

Mark of the Witch by Maggie Shayne (I really liked this book, currently reading the second book in the series - Daughter of the Spellcaster, so there should be a review for that in a few days)

Starved for Love by Annie Nicholas - Another story about a woman completely dependent on the men in her life.  I guess this is a thing with romance stories.  But yuck, and then then the whole sister-wives aspect of it.  Not my thing at all.

Sole Possession by Bryn Donovan - Pretty good story about a haunted house, and it had its sexy moments.

Night Thief by Lissa Lessler - Really liked this, set in Paris, very strong female character, really to make it on her own, then she falls for a gorgeous Mayan god/shape shifter.  Nice, very nice.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Review: Now You See It by Cait Donnelly

I didn’t enjoy this book very much, and the further into the story I got, the less I liked it. I began to feel resentful, thinking of the other books I could have been reading when I was reading this instead.

Initially, I thought the concept sounded interesting. The characters have these special abilities. Brady can sense people’s feelings through touch and Gemma can make things disappear and reappear. I thought they were going to be these cool X-Men-like characters. I’m a huge fan of the X-Men. But their special abilities played a very minor role in this story. Brady isn’t able to sense feelings of guilt from sociopaths – because they don’t consider themselves to be guilty – so his abilities were almost useless in this case. And Gemma has no real control over her powers for most of the book. Also, she claims to be able to read a person’s “true self” the first time she sees someone – however, this hasn’t prevented her from making some extremely bad judgment calls regarding the people in her life.

Too much of the book is about how horrible Gemma’s soon to be ex-husband was. I got tired of reading about what a bad person he was and wanted the story to move on. The author wants to be sure that readers understand the husband was truly evil. He was cruel, he was manipulative, he belittled Gemma, he cut her off from her family, he had a sadistic sex addiction. He even played a practical joke on her that caused her to have a miscarriage. Even though he did all these horrible things, Gemma remained married to him for six years. Supposedly she came from a wonderful family, with no past history of abuse and was very close to her brother, so I was never clear as to why she felt she couldn’t leave this miserable situation.

The only explanation given is that the love of her life, her high school sweetheart, died shortly before they were to be married. She felt she could never love again, so she punished herself by marrying someone she didn’t love. I’m not quite sure why she felt obligated to get married at all. But it’s clear that she’s someone who needs a man to take care of her.

After she separates from her husband, she becomes completely dependent on her brother, who then hires his friend, Brady, to watch over her. Her brother and Brady are both former Navy SEALs, which is good because she needs people trained in dealing with exceptionally bad people. She seems to be surrounded by people like this. Now that her husband is dead, there’s someone out to harm her, someone connected to her husband, who is as, or more evil than was her husband.

I usually enjoy a good mystery, but I figured out the guilty person early in the book. To me it seemed obvious, so I found the rest of the book kind of boring as the characters struggled to figure out who was responsible for what was happening to them. And there are so many bad things happening to them and the people around them – vandalism, multiple murders, fires.

As for the romance, I understand that there is supposed to be something hot and intense between Gemma and Brady, but I didn’t feel it. Their attraction to each other didn’t seem to flow well with the rest of the story. They didn’t seem very convincing or genuine, and their sex scenes felt rushed and unsatisfying.

I found the situations to be too absurd and unrealistic. I’ll tolerate pretty much anything in a book if I like the characters, but I didn’t care much about these people. Gemma seemed so weak and unable to take care of herself and not very smart at all, I felt a strong dislike toward her. Brady’s life was so shrouded in mystery, I never felt I knew enough about him to have any sort of strong feelings toward him.

I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Review: Kissed by a Vampire by Caridad Pineiro

I found this book to be slow in the beginning. Maybe I had too much going on this week, but I had trouble getting into this book. Usually when I really like a book, I find time for it, regardless of what else is happening, but in the beginning, I had to keep forcing myself to go back to this. Once I finally got into it, I enjoyed the story.

One aspect that makes Caridad Piñeiro’s Kissed by the Vampire different from the vampire books I usually read is that the main character is a female vampire. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book in which a female vampire is the focus of the story. I’m sure the stories are out there, but I’ve not read them.

Stacia is described as a vampire with very strong elder powers, making her stronger than the typical vampire. She doesn’t need as much rest and doesn’t have to stay as hidden from the sun as other vampires. Most useful though are her elder powers that allow her to manipulate the thoughts and actions of those around her. She’s staying in a nice hotel in Miami, and her powers grant her the ability to buy anything she desires (she simply makes the cashier think they’ve already received payment) and bypass the long lines and easily walk into any crowded club she finds of interest.

I appreciated that, for the most part, Piñeiro sticks to standard vampire lore with regard to Stacia’s abilities. I tend to be a little bothered when writers change up vampires’ powers and traits so much that they no longer even resemble vampires.

Stacia has lived alone for 2,000 years, always keeping her distance, believing love was something that didn’t exist for her. Then one night, she sees Alex and feels an instant connection to him. It takes a while before both realize they’ve met before. (When I started reading this, I had no idea it was part of a series called, The Calling. After a little research, I discover there are at least eight books in this
series, and a few short stories. I believe the incident in which Alex and Stacia first met takes place in the first book in this series,Darkness Calls, but I’m not certain.)

Something about the way the story is written left me feeling distant from the characters. While I found their story interesting and enjoyable, I never felt especially close to Stacia and Alex. However, the writing takes on another level of intensity with the bedroom scenes. These two created quite a bit of steam once they finally got together.

There’s also a storyline here involving human trafficking, but while we know the investigation is taking place and see how it’s proceeding, it’s never revealed in enough detail to make this book seem like much of a crime story. But that’s okay. This is a romance novel, not a police procedural.

I liked the book, but I didn’t love it. After reading it, even though I’m a little curious about what happened in that first book when Stacia and Alex first met, I don’t feel strongly compelled to go seek out more books in this series. Not because I disliked the book, but rather because I’m already reading too many other series and it would take something outstanding to get me to add another one. This book reads fine as a stand alone.

If you’re wanting a sexy vampire story, heavy on the romance, without too much else in the story to detract from that, Kissed by a Vampire would work.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Review: Mark of the Witch by Maggie Shayne

I’ve always been drawn to witches. As a child, I never liked Dorothy because I thought she was rude to the Wicked Witch of the West who, in my opinion, seemed kind of awesome. I would get so angry when Dorothy threw the water on her, couldn’t stand to watch it.

So suffice it to say, I love stories about “good” witches: powerful, beautiful, magical witches with strong ties to the elements of nature, witches like the ones featured in Maggie Shayne’s Mark of the Witch.

After giving up on ever finding her soul mate, Indira stopped believing in magic and turned away from her faith in witchcraft. But she seeks out the assistance of her friend and high priestess, Lady Rayne, when she wakes with rope burns on her wrist after an especially vivid dream. What follows puts her in multiple situations that force her to question her beliefs, or rather lack of beliefs.

Father Tomas, also is at a point in his life in which he’s questioning his choices regarding his faith. And on a side note, I was quite amused by the reaction I had from people when they asked about the book I was reading, and I responded, “Oh, just a story about a witch and a priest falling in love.”
But this book is much more than a simple love story between a witch and priest. On a deeper level, this book is very much about faith and religion and the differences between the two, as well as the role people allow those to play in their lives. How does a person cope when dogma interferes with a deeper faith, and when love challenges everything in which a person once believed? Maggie Shayne clearly knows her facts about the craft, and this novel is heavy with details and rituals associated with this practice. That is part of what I felt makes this book such an enjoyable read. The story feels authentic, not merely a jumble of made up random traits assigned for entertainment purposes to people who practice magic.

I have mixed feelings about reincarnation stories, sometimes I think they’re just silly, but I liked the way the topic was handled in this story. This takes the idea of soul mates to a whole other level. These are two people who should want nothing to do with each other, should have nothing in common, but their attempts to fight against their feelings for each other are challenged by a powerful love that has existed for more than three thousand years.

While everything that happens ultimately leads to the love story, the characters have to endure quite a bit before they finally acknowledge their destiny. It’s going to take some convincing for Father Tomas to give up his collar for a witch, no matter how beautiful she is or how strong his feelings for her. Before they can be together, they’ve got to solve the mystery of Indira’s dreams, and figure out the truth behind a story about a demon that is going to emerge through a portal on Samhain Eve. They also need to deal with a fanatical priest, decipher some secret scrolls, and retrieve a missing amulet. This is not a light, quick, read. This is an action-packed story, with twists and surprises up until the last few pages.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit and am very much looking forward to reading the next book in The Portal trilogy.

Also – I very much recommend reading the prequel to this book, Legacy of the Witch. It provides quite a bit of background for this novel, and I think it’s available for free on most sites.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Review: Starved for Love by Annie Nicholas

I’ve never read a book about a succubus before, so I’m not familiar with their traits or background. I don’t know the typical living arrangements or habits. In Annie Nicholas’ Starved for Love, Pia, a succubus, still lives at home with her sisters, father and his three wives. The sister wives (and yes, they are called sister wives in the book) and the very controlling, powerful father all felt a little too Big Love for me. I was never much of a Big Love fan because I was bothered by the way the women allowed men to control their lives, which is exactly what I disliked about this story.

Pia’s in her mid-twenties, but she behaves very much like a child. She’s dependent on her three moms, still needs them to cook for her and take care of her. There are scenes in the book in which she’s playing around with her sisters, teasing and punching each other as if they are little girls. One of her favorite things to do is chase frogs, and mentions her father having to help her out of the swamp after she fell in a few weeks — not years — ago. She doesn’t have a real job, but gets paid to sing in a club owned by Sin, her vampire lover – or rather, suitor, as she refers to the men who provide her with orgasms to keep up her energy. But worst of all, she seems to be completely controlled by her father. He plays a role in selecting her suitors, he has the final word with regard to her finding a husband, and she “feeds” him with her energy.

When her father isn’t telling her what to do, she’s taking orders from Sin. It’s because of Sin that she meets Val, who wants to make her his sixth wife. Her father doesn’t approve, but Pia insists on allowing Val to court her. I didn’t find their relationship to be all that romantic. Val is yet another controlling male, telling her what she should and shouldn’t do. She’s simply exchanging one dominant male (her father), for another.

I don’t enjoy reading about weak, childlike women. Pia wants to fall in love, but her needs as a succubus make that difficult. She thinks she may be falling in love with Val, but she’s only known him for three days. I didn’t find that to be very convincing. There was never any sort of explanation that made their attraction to each other believable. They are certainly attracted to each other physcially, but I got the impression early on that Pia is physcially attracted to most men.

Also, I expected a book about woman who needed orgasms to survive to have hotter and more sex. There are a couple of interesting scenes, but not until toward the end of the book. They weren’t enough to make the rest of the story worth it. Much of the book felt like a big tease. There are so many characters in this story: Pia’s other suitors, Sin’s employees, the fallen angel that worked for Val. I was expecting these other characters to have bigger parts in the story, but in the end most of them were irrelevant. I kept reading, expecting something exciting to happen, maybe a big surprise ending that would redeem the story, but when the story was finished, it all felt like a bit of a letdown.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: Sole Possession by Bryn Donovan

Bryn Donovan’s Sole Possession is the perfect scary, haunted house story for the Halloween season – or anytime you might be in the mood for a chilling read.

After David inherits his father’s house, he answers an ad for a contractor to get the house ready for a quick sale. He’s expecting an Andy when Andi shows up at the front door. His first instinct is to keep her away from the house, which leads Andi to think he’s a sexist jerk who doesn’t want to hire a woman.

David isn’t even sure why he wants Andi away from the house, but he is sure of his attraction toward her. She isn’t the sort of woman he normally dates. David prefers casual relationships, ones that provide a safe emotional distance. But immediately he feels close to Andi and realizes whatever happens between them won’t be casual.

The two wouldn’t seem to have much in common, David is a handsome successful lawyer and Andi has left her office job to work as a contractor. She strips wood and does tile, but her dream job is a full kitchen remodel. She likes the freedom her job provides and was never comfortable working in a cubicle. David admires her feisty determination, and her insistence that she’s the best person for the job.

As soon as Andi begins working on the house, she realizes there’s something strange happening here when she notices a face in the wood of the banister looking back at her.

There’s something in the house, something evil. David grew up as a victim of this evil, and now Andi is frighteningly aware of it. David is afraid he’ll never be able to escape and now he’s worried that his involvement with Andi – the first person he’s ever allowed himself to care about – will lead to her being another victim of this malevolent force.

As Andi and David begin uncovering the secrets buried within the house, they find themselves forced to confront their own secrets stemming from their childhoods. I found this to be the most interesting aspect of the story. In order to move forward in their lives and in their relationship, these two characters must struggle with their own personal demons, as well as banish the demon clinging to the house. As a child, Andi saw things other people couldn’t see, leading her to believe there was something wrong with her. Now, she’s beginning to realize that maybe what she saw wasn’t part of her childhood imagination. She has to decide what she is going to do with this ability she’s been denying her whole life.

I really enjoyed this story. It’s plenty scary and creepy, and there’s a very nice, hot, sexy romance happening between Andi and David. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good ghost story on a chilly fall night, but be warned, you might end up wanting to sleep with the lights on.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: Night Thief by Lisa Kessler

Lisa Kessler’s Night Thief begins along the streets of Paris, as crowds are gathering to watch Napoleon’s remains beings transported down Champs-Élysées to Les Invalides, making the year 1840. Already the story has scored bonus points with me – I enjoy a well-described historical setting, and I love Paris.

Marguerite, or Rita as she is often called, is trying to “earn” money for her escape from Paris. The police authorities refer to her as the “Golden Thief” because the golden-haired beauty is able to distract men with her charm as she swipes their valuables. Her plan is to sell what she takes and then use the money to travel across the ocean, away from the man for whom she works. I really liked this character, she’s tough and determined. There is absolutely nothing weak about her. She isn’t looking for someone to save her, she has a solid plan to save herself, as well as her cousin.

Her whole life, she’s been betrayed by men who claimed they would take care of her. With each man, her situation only grew worse. Now she is going to take care of herself.

Then she meets Kane, who can’t stop thinking about her after noticing her pick pocketing. For weeks he searches for her, though he’s not even sure why he feels so drawn to her. He’s a Mayan god, a night walker with the ability to transform into a jaguar – not that he ever does, at least not in public, because he’s fairly certain that wouldn’t go over well on the streets of Paris. For centuries, he’s avoided getting involved with humans, but he can’t seem to resist Rita.

While Rita is attracted to him, she’s no stranger to immortals and she isn’t too eager to get involved with one. She’s also a bit put off by his desire to rescue her. She’s not ready for another so-called protector to turn into a monster. She’s certain she doesn’t need him, she’ll be just fine on her own.
Kane isn’t about to give up that easily, and he’s not going to stand by idly while Rita is in danger. These are two strong characters that challenge each other before eventually realizing they should be together.

I don’t want to give away too much. That would ruin part of the fun of reading this yourself. But I will add that even though this is a novella, there’s quite a bit happening here. This is packed with action, danger, lots of emotion and quite a few very steamy scenes. The descriptions are written in such a way to elicit plenty of feelings – both good and bad. There are some horrible, gruesome things happening here to contrast against some truly beautiful parts. I’m a painter, and I’m going to cringe every time I see a paintbrush for a while. You’ll understand why if you read this.

This is a quick, fun read. Once I started reading it, I didn’t want to put it down. I was going to read a few pages before going to sleep and ended up staying up until it was finished.

I should mention, this is considered part 1.5 of The Night Series. I haven’t read the first book in the series and didn’t feel as if I missed anything. The back-story, at least all that is necessary for this story, is explained thoroughly. This has sparked my interest in reading the book before this in the series.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review: Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble by H.P. Mallory

This is the first book in the Jolie Wilkins series.  The ebook is available for free on amazon, which is how I ended up with it.

I thought I'd like this book.  I usually enjoy stories about witches.  It started out well enough, but the fact that it took me more than a week to read it doesn't bode well for the story.  Lately, I've been flying through everything I read.

With this book though, I felt like I'd been reading a lot, only to realize I wasn't very far into the story at all.  After a while, I just sort of lost interest and didn't care all that much about what happened to Jolie.

She's a psychic in Los Angeles who attracts the interest of a handsome warlock.  He hires her to go back in time and discovers she has amazing powers.  Also he's attracted to her and she's attracted to him, but they spend the whole book hot and cold for each other, and after a while it gets boring. 

Jolie describes herself as being very plain, but every man she meets can't seem to resist her.  There's the warlock, the leader of a pack of werewolves, a sexy vampire and the king of the fairies. Everyone wants Jolie in their bed and they're very up front about it. 

And yet, she claims she doesn't date -- well, she says that at one point, says she's only had sex once, back in tenth grade, I think.  But then several times she mentions she hasn't had a date in six months.  I found that confusing.  If she doesn't date -- not at all -- then why keep saying she hasn't had a date in six months.  Did she date six months ago? 

I never quite understood why everyone was so drawn to her.  It's never revealed what is so attractive about her.  How has she gone her whole life -- or six months -- without dating and now all of a sudden everyone wants her?  Maybe she has some quality that only attracts supernatural beings.

Also, after a while I got tired of Jolie crying over everything.  Seems like every scene resulted in her crying for some reason.  I just didn't care about her or her tears.

I was under the impression this was a fun and light-hearted story, and it's written in a very casual way - but then we have all these near death battles.  Such drama didn't fit with the style.  Or maybe I'm just picky.

While I didn't hate the story, and I was amused by the Bon Jovi mention -- Living in Sin is played during a party, following a waltz -- there are much better witch stories out there.   

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Review: Where There's a Will by Karen Kelley

This was really just not my kind of book.  I didn't enjoy it all that much.

My full review can be found on Brazen Reads:

Friday, September 28, 2012

Review: Soul Weaver by Hailey Edwards

I reviewed this book for Brazen reads, which can be found here:

This is the first book in a series about fallen angels, Wicked Kin, I believe the series is called.  Up until I read Gena Showalter's Wicked Nights, I didn't have much interest in angels, but I enjoyed this story and really liked the two main characters.

The Soul Weaver, Nathaniel, - an angel who fell because he was trying to protect his family - falls for a dying human.  He attempts to save her when he notices she has no friends or family - he describes it as having no "tethers to this world" and her soul wouldn't survive the trip to heaven.

I found this idea especially interesting, because I always wonder about the people who don't have anyone.  If there is no one to miss you, no one to notice you're gone, what happens to your soul or your spirit?  Every time there is a disaster or big tragedy, we hear all about the families and loved one who are grieving those they've lost.  But I always find myself thinking about the people who don't have anyone to miss them.  We don't like to think about that, but I promise you, there are plenty of people like that out there.  People who go through life completely alone. 

Because I think about that so often, I felt a personal connection to the character of Chloe, who was too scared of life to live it, who kept herself confined to her home and the bookstore downstairs.

My only problem with this book was that I found the details of Nathaniel’s job and background to be a bit confusing. This is the first book in the Wicked Kin series, but a few pages into the book, I stopped to check and see if maybe I’d misunderstood and began this mid-series. This is written as if the reader should understand what is happening, and I didn’t, at least not at first. I found myself re-reading passages, thinking I’d missed something. By the end of the book, everything had, for the most part been explained. I like that it’s such a complex world, with so many potential storylines – but I wish it had been explained a little more clearly.

Nathaniel’s life is grim. There isn’t much, if any happiness associated with his existence. Viewing so much horror committed by humans and being forced to see and feel their sins is resulting in some major job burnout on his part. It’s no surprise that he’s drawn to Chloe, who possesses a soul so different from what he’s used to handling.

Nathaniel isn’t supposed to interfere with the balance of life and death, but he wants to give Chloe more time, time to find someone and create bonds so that she’ll be allowed into heaven when her time on earth ends. Only later does he realize that his attempt to provide her with another chance has damned her soul.

This isn’t the first time Nathaniel’s good intentions have backfired on him. There is so much sadness in his life. His attempts to protect his brother and save his nephew having resulted in his fall from Heaven. He requests time off from his job so that he can try to figure out a way to remedy what he’s done to Chloe.

While Chloe’s agoraphobia may have began with her wreck, she had social problems long before her accident. Her parents sheltered her, preventing her from having any sort of normal childhood. She has no friends or family.

When Nathaniel walks into her store, offering to do some much-needed repairs on the storefront’s porch, Chloe is startled by her reaction to him. She’s never been drawn to another person like this. He seems to be able to read her mind. When he leans in to kiss her, even though he’s practically a stranger, she offers no resistance.

I really liked the romance between these two characters. It took a while to develop. There is so much going on in this story, that Nathaniel and Chloe don’t have their first date until more than halfway through the book, but it was worth the wait.

I think a story loses credibility when a character who has never so much as kissed a man suddenly becomes a sexual expert in the bedroom, so I appreciated that the author stayed true to Chloe being nervous and hesitant about getting involved with Nathaniel and then inviting him up to her room for the first time. There’s something so sweet about how Nathaniel regards Chloe. He’s so careful with her, always aware of her fears and her inexperience. He was exactly what someone as fearful as Chloe needed.

Nathaniel's entrance into Chloe's life makes everything extremely complicated and difficult.  But still, I liked this story and I'm looking forward to the next book in this series -- really hoping there's more of Chloe and Nathaniel and not just a brand new couple in this world, as most series tend to be it seems.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Review: Magic of the Loch by Karen Michelle Nutt

This is the perfect blend of murder mystery, magic and romance. 

This book makes me want to visit Scotland and search for my soulmate.

My full review can be found here:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

I finally got around to reading Fifty Shades of Grey.  Everyone is talking about it.  Lately, any time I mention that I like to read or that I recently read a book, or mention books in any way at all, the first thing someone asks is, "Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey?"  And I always answered, no.  Honestly, it didn't seem like the sort of book I would enjoy. 

When it first started gaining attention, it was called "mommy-porn."  I don't know what that means, but being that I'm not a mommy and have no desire to ever be a mommy, I figured this book wasn't for me.  I avoided it.  Every once in a while, I joined in conversations ridiculing it, even though I'd never read a word of it.  But more and more people that I knew were reading it.  Even my students (I teach at a high school) were talking about this book.  Out of curiosity, I put my name on the library's waiting list for the Kindle version of the book.  I was number 48 on the list.  By the time I got the notice that it was available, I had forgotten that I'd even requested it.

One of the boys at school says he didn't read the book, but his sister did and then much to his horror, asked him to pick up the second book in the trilogy on a trip to Wal-Mart. He says he didn't.  He warned me to stay away from the book.  "You'll hate it, it's a story about an old man and a young girl.  It's going to gross you out, you know you hate stuff like this."  He's known me for four years, he's familiar with my feminist rhetoric and it's true, I'm a bit disgusted by the idea of old, wealthy men taking advantage of young women.  I'm very big on telling my students that women are capable of taking care of themselves, they don't need a man and should aspire to do more with their lives than "find a man."  I told myself that if, indeed, this was the story of an old guy and a young girl, I would stop reading immediately.  I was relieved to discover that the "old guy" was 27.  When I was 21, I dated a 27 year old.  I didn't feel like that was a big age difference.  In hindsight, maybe I was wrong.  He was so not Christian Grey - thank goodness - but he was kind of boring, boring enough that I realized if that's what relationships were about, maybe I'd just stay away from them.  And I did for a while, which actually worked out well for me.  But this isn't about me, we're discussing Fifty Shades of Grey.

The book wasn't anywhere near as horrible as I expected.  It was quite readable.  There were little things that made me cringe - that she kept falling, and not just stumbling, but falling flat on her face - on multiple occasions.  She's twenty years old.  There's clumsy and there's: maybe she's suffering from some severe balance issues and needs some help.  And the pigtails.  Does anyone over the age of six wear pigtails? -- unless, of course, they're serving tables at a breast-a-raunt and trying to increase their tips by looking like pre-pubescent girls that gross old men find attractive.  What bothered me the most throughout the book though was the battle between the subconscious and the "inner goddess."  At no point was this "inner goddess" even explained, or if it was, it didn't stick with me.  Why was she suffering from this multiple personality problem?  If an editor had gone through and eliminated all mentions to this "inner goddess" I think I would have rolled my eyes much less while reading this.  It was just silly, made the character seem like an immature teenager.

She's not a teenager, but she isn't very experienced, and she's very naive and very drawn to this gorgeous, wealthy, successful man.  And he seems to be equally captivated by her.  I'll admit, I'm a sucker for stories about beautiful men who fall in love with plain women.  Aren't we all?  That's why we're at home reading romance novels, right?  Okay, fine, maybe that's just me.

I was okay with the story until Christian Grey presents Anastasia with a "contract" explaining the terms of the dom/sub relationship he wants to have with her.  That's when my head exploded for a moment.  If the dom/sub is what you're into, great, that's cool.  I have no problem with consenting adults doing whatever they want in the privacy of their own home.  But Anastasia was a virgin until she met this guy and he expects all of this of her.  It's ridiculous - he's dictating what she can eat, how often she exercises, when she can make eye contact with him.  To someone like me - this is horrifying.  No one tells me what to do.  And how dare this guy take advantage of this young woman's inexperience.  (In hindsight, maybe the boy who told me to stay away from this book knew what he was talking about.)  She's so overwhelmed by him and all he has.  I was impressed that she did try to stand up to him a few times, she's seeking compromise, wanting a real relationship, not what he's presented to her.  But she doesn't want to lose him and he's got issues, so many issues.  He describes himself as "50 Shades of fucked up" - hence the title. 

I didn't find their story to be especially romantic or erotic.  If someone has to be told that what is being done is for "her pleasure" because she can't figure that out on her own, maybe they don't need to be doing it.  I thought the story was sad and I thought Christian Grey was cruel and arrogant and felt he could simply buy Anastasia.  I HATE people who think they can have anything and anyone they want because of their money.

As for the sex scenes, I've read better.  I said this to a co-worker and she looked at me like I'm a deviant.  Oh well.  Sorry, I'm an adult and sometimes I read books that have sex in them.  Is that only acceptable when reading Fifty Shades of Grey?  And yes, the books I read have better sex.  I don't equate kinkier with better.  I suppose the books I tend to read feature "vanilla" sex, but the descriptions are much hotter, and don't involve the woman being whipped and powerless.  Seriously, I can provide you with a list of titles.  Sometimes they involve demons or vampires, but they're much nicer in the bedroom.  On that note, I kept thinking I would like Christian Grey much more if he was a vampire, then he would at least have an excuse for being so cruel and well, inhuman.

I know that a lot of people like this book, love this book.  That's great.  We all have different tastes.  I didn't like it all that much and I'm probably not going to read the other two books in the trilogy.  I prefer to believe it ended with the end of this book.  It's just  not my thing.  But if it's your thing, that's cool.  Enjoy. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review: Wicked Nights by Gena Showalter

Wicked Nights is the first book in Gena Showalter's Angels of the Dark series, which is a spin-off of her Lords of the Underworld series.  If you've read my review of that series, you know how much I like it, so, of course, I was going to read this.

The main character of this book is Zacharel, who we first meet in Book 7, Darkest Secret.  He is described as being stunningly beautiful (as are all the angels) and devoid of emotion (that would be his own personal quirk, not necessarily an angel trait).

He appears again in Book 8, accompanying Lysander to the Harpie Games and plays an even bigger role in Book 9, Darkest Seduction, traveling with Paris in his search for Sienna.

In this book, he's being punished because he doesn't care about humans, has no qualms about killing them when they get in his way of doing his job.  He's got issues, to say the least.  Years ago, he lost his twin brother, and lost his ability to love or care for anyone.  He does his job, follows orders.  His boss though, he wants him to develop some empathy for humans.

No one is more shocked than Zacharel when he finds himself drawn to a human who has spent the last few years in a mental hospital.  She's being tormented by demons.  He feels obligated to rescue her.

Annabelle is damaged.  Not only has she lost her family, but she's also endured years of abuse in the mental hospital.  She and Zach are quite the pair of dysfunction. 

It takes them a while to work things out.  Annabelle is leery of trusting anyone - with good reason.  Zach doesn't even know how to go about caring for another person.  I enjoyed seeing them work through their issues.  I thought it was a nice, believable love story.  Believable in that they had to get to know each other before they fell for each other.   

I also really liked the guest appearance of some characters from the Lords of the Underworld. 

I was a little bothered by some events at the end of this book.  There's a huge secret revealed in the end, and it's resolved way too quickly.  While I don't question the choice made, I felt there should have been a stronger reverberation from the choice.  The information was shocking, but Zach seemed to handle it way too easily.  Maybe centuries of denying any emotion would have that effect?

For the most part, I really liked this book and I'm looking forward to the continuation of this series. Showalter has created yet another world, or rather an extension of a world, filled with interesting, complex characters battling demons real and imagined.  And I love the clouds in which the angels live.  This Angel wants a cloud!

Oh, and did I mention the cover of this book is absolutely beautiful?  Every time I look at it, I ache, wishing I'd been the one who painted it.  When I was a teenager, my dream job was to be an artist who painted the cover of romance novels.  I used to spend hours drawing those covers that featured Fabio and the Topaz Man.  (I have a weakness for men with beautiful bodies.)  I remember reading an article in an artist magazine about a woman who painted those covers and setting it aside, thinking someday that would be my future.  So sad when dreams die.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Review: Lords of the Underworld series by Gena Showalter

Instead of nine separate reviews, I'm going to write one big review including all the books in this series.  I read them all as one big story, so that seems most appropriate.

I'll spare you the messed up details of all that has been happening in my life.  Not sure I could explain it even if I tried.  But let me just say this summer I was in dire need of an escape.  My interest in the "real world" had hit an all time low.  I wanted out and the only way I know to escape is through books.  This has been my coping method for most of my life -- oh sure, I've tried tequila and chocolate chip cookies and large amounts of red wine -- but in the end, books are what works best, and no vomiting or weight gain to follow.

I wanted vampires.  Hot, sexy vampires.  Several of my friends are fans of the Black Dagger Brotherhood books, so that's what I was going to try.  But the first book in the series was checked out.  So I went to goodreads and searched for paranormal series.  I was interested in a few different series and I cross checked those with what was available at my library, particularly available for my Kindle.

And that's how I ended up reading The Lords of the Underworld, not knowing this series would soon consume my whole life, at least for the next month or so.

What I checked out from the library contained The Darkest Fire, which is considered the prequel to the series, and the first three books.

First a little general info about the series: The Lords of the Underworld were warriors created by Zeus (ah, yeah, and I love Greek mythology, was obsessed with it back in my younger days), they tried to steal Pandora's box, which resulted in demons being set free. As punishment, the demons are placed inside the warriors. After centuries of struggling to control their demons, they now live in a fortress in Budapest.

I didn't like the Darkest Fire all that much.  It almost prevented me from reading the rest of the books.  It's a strange story -- the beast that guards the walls of hell is trying to help a goddess fortify the walls so that demons don't escape.  They both go inside hell and they're attacked by demons, but in this short amount of time, they fall in love and have sex a few times.  What?  Yeah, strange.  It's supposed to explain the creation of Pandora's box, I think.  Not at all necessary for the rest of the series, so feel free to skip it.  I kind of wish I had.

The first book in the series is The Darkest Night, which focuses on Maddox, the keeper of the demon Violence.  Also, because he was the one who killed Pandora, he has to die every night as punishment, spend the night in hell.  It's gruesome, and the other warriors have to participate in this ritual, one killing him (I can't remember which now, Reyes or Aeron maybe) while Lucien, the keeper of Death, takes him to hell.

Ashlyn is seeking the Lords because she's heard of their special powers.  Her whole life, she's been tormented by the ability to hear all conversations that have happened in whatever location she's standing.  Her mind is a wreck.  Then she meets Maddox and for the first time in her life, the voices are silent.

I liked this book, but I didn't love it.  Maddox is a bit of neanderthal, and sex scenes between him and Ashlyn were awkward, so awkward.  But I liked the story and the characters and the world Showalter had created enough to want to read the next book.

The second book, Darkest Kiss, focuses on Lucien, keeper of death.  I liked this book better because I found Lucien to be a more interesting character.  Years ago, after losing someone he loved, he scarred himself to ensure that no one ever got close to him again.  But Anya, a demi-god, isn't bothered by his scars.  She wants him anyway.  I didn't like Anya very much, she dresses and behaves in a way that encourages people to believe she's a slut, then gets hurt and offended when she's accused of being one.  She's got some issues in her past.  The two seem to be complete opposites, Lucien, quiet and reserved and Anya in everyone's face with her obnoxious behavior.  They make an interesting couple.

I liked the third book, Darkest Pleasure, better than the previous two books.  Reyes is the keeper of pain.  He thrives on pain.  He takes the whole "cutting" thing to new levels.  He's drawn to Danika, an artist, who is on the run from Aeron, who has been ordered to kill her and her family.  I found their story to be the most realistic -- well, as realistic as a story involving a man possessed by a demon can be.  They actually take the time to fall for each other.  Throughout this series, these two would remain one of my favorite couples.

Book 4 - Darkest Whisper - Sabin is the keeper of doubt.  His demon, with its cruel whispers, drives away everyone he's ever loved.  But when he and the others rescue Gwen, a harpie, from a horrible experimental lab, he can't fight the protectiveness he feels for her.  She's terrified of her own powers, and it's Sabin who trains her to become quite the badass fighter.  I liked the character she became, but I didn't like the introduction of her sisters into this book.  Also, all the training scenes got a little boring.  This book wasn't one of my favorites.

My favorite is probably the fifth book, Darkest Passion.  This is the story of Aeron, the keeper of wrath.  An angel, Olivia, has been assigned the task of killing him, but instead she chooses to lose her wings because she's fallen in love with him after watching him from afar.  Aeron is so reluctant to give into the angel.  I loved this couple.  Aeron is so angry, with such a violent past, tormented by wrongs he's done and because of his demon, always aware of the wrongs done by others.  Olivia is so pure and gentle, a joy bringer.  They couldn't be more different, but they're so perfect together.  And the sex is so hot in this book!  My only complaint about this book was the creepy demon named Legion.  She almost ruined what was an otherwise great love story.  Yuck, I cringe just thinking about her.

Book 6, Darkest Lie, was my least favorite of this series.  Gideon is the keeper of lies.  He can't tell the truth, so everything he says in the opposite of what he means.  That got really annoying to read after a while.  And his love interest, Scarlet, wasn't very likable either.  These characters were so angry and bitter.  Didn't care much about them, and I didn't like how their storyline veered so far off from the rest of the group. 

Book 7, Darkest Secret, is the story of Amun, the keeper of secrets.  Amun isn't one of my favorites of the Lords, but this was probably one of my favorite books.  He's quiet, can't speak without spilling secrets, so he uses sign language and he's never had a big part in the other stories.  I enjoyed this book quite a bit though because I found the story of him and Haidee - a former hunter who had devoted her life to tracking down the Lords - to be interesting.  I liked their journey through different levels of hell and the discovery of their past together. 

Book 8, Darkest Surrender, is Strider's story.  He's the keeper of defeat.  He turns everything into a challenge and he has to win, or else he suffers.  I didn't like this book all that much.  A harpie, Kaia, one of Gwen's sisters has fallen for him.  Then he has to accompany her to the Harpie Games.  Felt like he was guilted -- or maybe challenged -- into falling for her.  I just didn't find the Harpie Games all that interesting and I didn't care much about Strider and Kaia.

Book 9 - Darkest Seduction was the book I'd been most anxious to read.  It sat there in my stack of books, taunting me with his hauntingly beautiful cover.  But I couldn't read it until I read the books before it.  This was the story of Paris, the keeper of promiscuity.  A few books back, he found his soul mate, and she happened to be a hunter, trying to capture him, and then she died in his arms.  Since then he'd been on a downward spiral.  In this world, rarely is anyone ever completely dead.  Paris finds Sienna and he's determined to be with her.  They've both been through their own personal hells.  I found myself wanting so much for them to finally be happy and to be together.  I liked this book quite a bit, but being that it was Paris' story, I had expected some mind-blowing sex and of all the books, this was probably the most watered down.  More implied and less explicit. 

For the most part, I read these books one right after the other, taking about two or three days per book.  I had to take a break after book five because I was waiting for book six to become available at the library.  But I sunk into this world, lost all interest in anything happening outside of these books.  Besides the couples on which each book focuses, there is also the big, overall story of the Lords fighting against the hunters, some crazed humans who blame the Lords for all that is bad in the world.  I equated them to religious zealots, causing all kinds of violence to further their righteous agenda.  They're also on a quest to obtain four artifacts to help them find Pandora's box.  Then there's the conflict happening between the gods - the Greeks and the Titans, I believe.  There's a lot happening in this world - it's not just demon meets girl/harpie/angel/demi-god and they live happily ever after.  These books were exactly what I needed at the end of my summer. 

I finished the last book right as school started and I had to return to work.  And the next book won't be available until next summer.  I kind of hate that I'll have to wait so long for the next book, afraid it won't feel the same as reading one book right after the other.  Maybe I'll just re-read my favorites from this series before the next one comes out.   

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

I loved Deborah Harkness' Discovery of Witches so much, so very, very much.  When I was reading it, I couldn't stop thinking about it, had to talk about it to anyone who would listen - and a few who probably weren't listening.  I was broken hearted when the book ended because I hated the idea of being away from these characters.

This summer I visited Oxford with the specific purpose of visiting the locations mentioned in the book. 

I was anxiously awaiting the release of the sequel - Shadow of Night.  I even re-read Discovery of Witches right before getting my copy of Shadow of Night

Maybe my expectations were too high.  I'm not sure how any book could live up to my love of Discovery of Witches.

I will admit to having a few concerns about the sequel, a few things happened toward the end of Discovery of Witches that worried me, as you can see from the review I wrote last October.  I'm not a fan of time travel and I'm not a fan of stories that involve babies -- and it was those two things that bothered me the most about Shadow of Night.

In this book, Diana and Matthew travel back in time so that Diana can find a master witch to teach her how to use her powers.  I assumed they would travel back to work with one of Diana's ancestors.  But no, instead, Matthew decides they should go back to Elizabethan England.  He had a well established life in England during this time period, a group of close friends, a home in London, and connections with some very important people.  

Harkness, a historian as well as was a novelist, is an expert on this time period, so trust that the details are accurate.  The setting is rich in details.  But I have trouble with time travel stories, this is a problem I often have.  Can't get my head around the idea.  The way this one was set up didn't help at all.  The Matthew in the past disappears with the arrival of Matthew of the future.  What?  Where did "past Matthew" go?  And he's just going to show up again after "present Matthew" leaves the past?  Oh, my head hurts just thinking about it. 

Then there is the baby thing.  In the first book, I felt as if Diana was a character to which I could relate on some levels.  She's single, she's focused on her career, she's independent and intelligent and a little hesitant about falling in love.  In many ways, she is exactly the person I wish I could be.  (And I don't mean a witch in love with a vampire, though...)  But in Shadow of Night, she suddenly becomes fixated on having babies and there she kind of lost me.  The desire to reproduce is not something I understand at all, and for that reason, I tend to avoid traditional romances because too often they end with a marriage and/or pregnancy, signifying that life is now "perfect."  But to me, that seems to signify that their life is over.  So in this book, I felt this disconnect with Diana, and that made me sad.  Why couldn't she and Matthew have had some time together, to get to know each other - I mean, what was the rush, he's immortal?  They'd known each other, for what, maybe a month?  I was okay with love at first sight, but this intense desire to start making babies immediately -- while you're still in the 1600s?  I don't know, maybe wait until you're in a safer, more hygienic environment, where your husband -- who happens to be a doctor in the 21st century -- has access to modern technology.  Whatever.  This probably bothered me more than it should have.  I'm sure that this was the sort of thing the more mainstream, target-audience loved.  Again, that made me sad, realizing this is becoming a story for the more traditional female reader, not for a wanna-be academic weirdo like me.

Another minor complaint -- I grew a bit tired of all the extra family members. Brothers, sisters, nephews, parents. Enough already! I wanted to read about Diana and Matthew.  Again, this is based on my own life experience, in which I have no strong family ties of any sort, making it difficult to relate to stories of people who do.

But in spite of the above complaints, I thought this was a well written story and I still enjoyed reading it.  The book sucked me in immediately, I did nothing but read it for two days.  The characters are people that I care about deeply.  That sounds absurd because, well, they're fictional, but to me they're more real than most people I encounter in my so-called real life.  I want only good things for Diana and Matthew.  I don't think I've ever loved two characters more than I do these two.  But I wasn't entirely happy with the way their behavior was affected by their surroundings.  This didn't lessen my love for these two characters, but made me anxious for them to hurry up and return to their present day surroundings.  Enough with playing house in the past, let's get back to living in present times. 

Maybe my biggest problem is that I have become entirely too attached to these characters and this story.  I'm unable to simply read about them, I feel too much toward them.  I think the ability to elicit this much emotion is the sign of a great book.  So even if I wasn't entirely happy about what was happening, it doesn't mean there's something wrong with the book.  I hate for it to seem like I'm giving this book a bad review.  I still think people should read the book.

When I finished the book, I found myself suffering from something of a "book hangover" -- I saw that phrase used on facebook, and it fits perfectly for this situation.  The real world seemed so dull compared to the world created by Harkness.  I'm looking forward to the third book, but I suspect I'll be re-reading the first two a few times before it's released.

In fact, I have the weekend before Halloween reserved for a re-reading of Discovery of Witches.  If I have time, I suspect I will continue with a second reading of Shadow of Night.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review: Elizabeth the Queen: Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith

When I initially made plans to visit London this summer, I had no idea I would be arriving the weekend of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebration.  I selected the dates based on price, available direct flights and the desire to leave as soon as school was out.

As I prepared for the trip though, I became aware of the Diamond Jubilee events and it made me want to learn more about Queen Elizabeth II.  I think I probably know more about the royal family than the average American, but that isn't saying much.  And being something of a nerd, part of what I enjoy about traveling is the research done before I leave.  Also, I try to always select travel reading material based on the places I'll be visiting.  I wanted a book about the Queen to read on the plane.

My library is always my first resource, but all of their books about Queen Elizabeth II were checked out.  I put my name on the hold list of the one I wanted to read, but it wasn't available before I left for my trip.

Our first night in London, my friend and I sat in Hyde Park and watched the Diamond Jubilee Concert on big screens.  We bought commemorative tea towels and tote bags at Top Shop.  The windows at Harrods were based on the Diamond Jubilee.  We visited a special exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery focusing on art and the Queen. 

When I returned from Europe (a week in Paris followed my week in London) I was desolate, as I always am when returning home from a fun trip.  But what cheered me up somewhat was discovering that the book about Elizabeth II I'd requested was now available from my library.

I spent those first few days back from Europe engrossed in this book.  The story flows so well, it reads like a novel.  It's full of details and information, lots of dates, places and names, but never feels like a dull history lesson. 

This book presents the Queen as an interesting and likable person, with a dry sense of humor and a strong sense of purpose. She's devoted to her job, sometimes at the expense of her personal life, but without regret. 

I already liked the Queen, but reading this book caused me to gain even more respect for her.  I had no idea how involved she was in the government.  Granted, she doesn't have a lot of power, but she still plays an important role.  I loved the part when she's informed that Margaret Thatcher is the new prime minister.  She's told something along the lines of, "Isn't that odd, having a woman in power?"  And she's like, "Odd, how do you mean?" (Paraphrasing, it's been a while since I read the book and don't remember the exact wording.)  But the person is like, "Yeah, strange to have a woman running the country."  You just know the Queen is thinking, "You idiot, you do realize you're talking to a woman who rules a country and commonwealth?"

I really liked this book and would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about the Queen.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Review: The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Allen Addison

I wanted to read this because it was described as a magical story.  While there is a bit of magic in it, it's a small amount.  Magical realism I guess it's called.  I prefer a bit more magic than what this book contained.  I'm also beginning to realize that I prefer there be some sort of mythology or background to support the magic.

The book started out well.  I really enjoyed it at first.  But by the time the story was over, I was annoyed with all the coincidences and the way everything was so neatly wrapped up.  I felt the story required more tension.  But that's not the type of story this was.

By the time I was done with the book, I didn't like it anymore. A little too simple and the happily ever after arrived a bit too easily.  Not my type of book.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Review: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

This is such an usual story.  A childless couple build a snowman one day, and then a child appears.  Sounds absurd, but the story is written in such a way that I kept expecting an explanation.  At times there seems to be a logical reason for all of this, and at other times the only explanation is magic.  As I've said many times, I like stories that include a heavy dose of magic. But every once in a while, there's a bit of reality in the story that threatens the existence of magic.

The child appears during the winter and disappears when the snow melts.  They don't know where she goes and she provides no information.  She can't stay inside for too long or she grows too warm and starts to feel ill.  Each year, she ages, as a normal child does.  Then one winter she falls in love with the neighbor's son and things begin to change. 

I liked this story because it was so different.  This is beautifully written.  But I wanted more.  When the book was over, I still had so many unanswered questions.  I wanted some of my friends to read this book so we could discuss it, but no one did.  Maybe I need to read it again to see if I missed something. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review: Call Me Princess by Sara Blaedel

This is one of those books that popped up as "if you like Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" you'll like this.

I did like it.  It's not really all that much like Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but still worth reading if you like crime stories.  The story takes place in Copenhagen and the main character is a detective named Louise Rick.  As if her job isn't stressful enough, she's also trying to deal with some upheaval in her personal life.

The case she's working on involves women being killed by someone they've met through an online dating service.  Sort of confirmed everything I think about online dating. 

It's a typical detective story, police procedural, but that's my favorite kind of book.

I was looking forward to reading other books in this series, but most of the series hasn't been translated to English yet.  I'm hopeful though.  I liked this book and this character, and think I would enjoy this series.

Update: I now have two other books from this series - very happy about that.  Probably won't read them until this summer, when I have plenty of free time to enjoy a good mystery or two. 1/28/2013

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Argrim

I selected this book one day because I needed something to read while laying outside and soaking up some sun. I have a stack of books at home, but wanted something on the Kindle.  So that morning, I searched the library's selections and picked this memoir written by Alison Argrim, who played the part of Nellie Olseson on Little House on the Prairie.

Something you may not know about me - every day after school, I watch Little House on the Prairie.  It's because at night, I watch Golden Girls on Hallmark, and when I come home, I don't bother to change the channel.  Sometimes I sit through hours of it.  Strange, I know, but it isn't like there is anything else worth watching on at that time.  Really, I don't care enough to check for something else to watch, I just turn on the TV for the noise.

I found this book to be very interesting.  I was only going to read for an hour or two, but read until the sun moved past my lounge chair, then I went inside, laid down on the couch and read until I finsihed the book.

I enjoyed reading about what happened behind the scenes at a show I've watched my whole life.  Alison endured some truly horrible childhood experiences.  Now she devotes her time to helping children who have had similar experiences.  She's a very brave, strong person.  I enjoyed reading about her.  I recommend this book to anyone who has any interest in Little House on the Prairie. 

Friday, April 06, 2012

Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy

I was drawn to this book because I love the title and it's set in Athens. Years ago, I visited Athens.  It was my first international trip.  I fell in love with the city, so I looked forward to reading a story set in that city.

This book is divided into sections, or rather "books."  I liked the first book and thought I was going to really enjoy the entire story.  But I didn't like the second book.  This is the section I remember most about the book.  I believe this is the point where the narrator is trying to deal with his loss.  I understand that he was grieving, but his behavior seemed so bizarre and selfish.  He cuts off the rest of the world and begins to travel from city to city with no plan at all.  It seemed so indulgent.  I think I was supposed to be struck by his profound loss, his inability to move on.  But instead I thought of how the rest of the world has to "suck it up" and move on when they lose a loved one.  How nice to be able to take a year or so off.  Maybe I was jealous because I wish I could do that when I hurt, but I can't.  I have to get up and go to work the next day.  I found it impossible to feel any sympathy for this character.  At that point, I began to lose interest in the book.

I found it difficult to like the book because I didn't like the characters very much.  I felt no connection to them.  It's been a few months since I read this book, and mostly what I remember about it is that I didn't like it as much as I thought I would.  I remember the story getting complicated and the character finding the sister of his lover and a diary.  At that point, I simply didn't care all that much about what happened to these people.  The book didn't live up to my expectations.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Emily's Ghost by Denise Giardina

Wuthering Heights is my all time favorite book.  If I had a son, I would name him Heathcliff.  Heathcliff has ruined me for all men.  I'm going to spend my whole life waiting for someone to love me the way he loved Cathy.  But that's okay because it's better than glaring at the man you're with and wishing he were someone else, right?

I wanted to read this because I was going to try to include in my summer vacation a visit to the the area the Bronte sisters called home.  I ended up not going, the travel plans started to get too complicated.  Also, this book described the area as being so harsh, especially during that time period when Emily lived, I sort of lost my desire to visit.

This is a completely imagined story.  I don't think there is any proof that Emily ever had a love interest.  As fans, we assume there must have been someone, someone secret that we know nothing about, because how else could she have written so passionately about love?

The author has taken this idea and created a world in which Emily does fall in love.  We also see her interacting with her family and community.  It's an interesting story, even if it is all imagined.

I enjoyed the romance, though they never quite reach a Cathy and Heathcliff level of passion.  As expected, the ending is sad.  We know she isn't going to live happily ever after. 

It's a well written story.  I liked it, but wasn't blown away by it.  There are several books about the Bronte sisters on my "to-read" list, but I've not gotten around to them yet, so I can't compare them.  I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this one to any Emily Bronte fans.   

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Review: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

I loved this book. I love everything about it: the setting - New York City, 1938; the characters - an interesting variety of working-class citizens trying to make it in the big city alongside some trust fund babies; the way the story flowed - As I was reading it, I had no idea what was going to happen next and kept finding myself surprised and intrigued. I didn't want this story to end. Too often books start out well, and then disappoint me in the end. I was bracing myself for that because I couldn't believe that a book that started so well could continue in that manner - but it did.

What I liked most about the book were the strong women characters. The story is about Katherine Kontent (what a great name), and how she chooses to navigate her life in a city that will "turn you inside out." But as she's making her decisions, readers are also made aware of other women in the city, and the choices they make, determined to live on their own terms. 

I will confess to being somewhat sexist in what I choose to read.  I generally avoid books written by men.  That's a terrible thing to say isn't it?  But seems like anytime I read a book written by a man, I find myself annoyed by the portrayal of women, so I started to avoid them.  But Amor Towles has created characters that ring truer than just about any I've ever read.  Very, very glad I decided to go against my "rule" of not reading new male authors.

I realize this review is vague with regard to the content of the novel, but I don't want to give away too much, because as I mentioned earlier, one of my favorite things about the book is that I had no idea what to expect with each page.

This is one of those books I'm going to recommend to anyone who asks what they should read next. Actually I'm probably going to go ahead and recommend it to those who don't ask for recommendations.

I checked it out from the library, but recently, I bought a copy for my Kindle because I liked it so much I'm certain I'll be reading it again a few more times.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

When I first heard about this book, I thought it sounded amazing.  Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite writers, and this book is all about history and religion, and I assumed it would have a heavy dose of magic.

I was on the waiting list at the library before the book was even released.  But after I checked it out, it sat there for three weeks and then had to be returned - untouched.  I was reading other books.  It looked so heavy and it was around the holidays when I needed my reading to provide somewhat enjoyable escapes from reality.

I decided to check out the audio version of the book.  I spend so much time in the car, time wasted listening to crappy pop music.  Might as well be productive with my time.

While I'm glad I listened to it because I don't know that I would have stuck with it had I been reading it, I am also concerned that listening to it versus reading it might have effected my impression of the story.  There were four different narrators for this book, as the book tells the story of four different women in the days before the siege of Masada.  At times I found the characters to be so annoying, and I'm not sure if it was because of what the characters were saying and doing or because of the voice.  I know that at least one of the voices annoyed me horribly.  I found myself mimicking her words as I drove along listening to the story.

I didn't find this book as amazing as I'd expected it to be.  I found it very interesting, and listening to this prompted me to learn more about what happened in Masada.  Reading about the remains discovered at the sight made Hoffman's ending particularly interesting.

I thought the book was a little long.  I think the same story could have been told with a few less words.  There were times when I found the story dragged, too much repetition.  Also, I didn't like the characters very much.  I understand that as readers we're supposed to view them as strong, fierce women, but I wasn't that impressed.  I grew tired of hearing the first woman go on about her love for a man who simply used her because he'd grown tired of his wife and there was no one else around.  She kept referring to him as if he were the great love of her life, but from my perspective he didn't seem like a great man at all.  He took advantage of a young girl, got her pregnant, all while his wife and other children are sleeping in the tent next to them.  This happened to the first character in the story, and that might have set the tone for the rest of the book. 

Several of these women seemed to be okay with getting involved with married men.  I didn't find their actions to be strong or admirable, but rather pathetic.  Were we really supposed to feel sympathetic for them?  How are we supposed to feel for the wives being betrayed?  They're also women, suffering through these same harsh circumstances.

Mostly, I was disappointed by the lack of magic.  Oh, there were bits and traces, but much, much less than the typical Hoffman book.  This was, for the most part, a historical novel.  I'm glad I listened to it, but I didn't love it.