Thursday, January 31, 2008

"The Contented Soul" by Lisa Graham McMinn

This was yet another Amazon recommendation, but I surely don't know why. I don't usually read inspirational self-help. But the review sounded like it might be promising; the author is also a sociologist. I figured why not.

Well, why not is that, again, I don't usually read this sort of material and for good reason. I'm just not the sort of person that can "let go and let God". And while some of the author's points are sound, too much of it sounds exactly like that bumper sticker, such as the chapter as "Seeing the Self as Soul." I did appreciate some of her sentiments, such as the chapter on "Sipping and Savoring" - I totally agree that we modern-day humans tend to rush, rush, rush and miss out on the little pleasures life has to offer.

The best chapter in the book was titled "Embracing Limits". There was one paragraph in particular that really resonated with me. "When we relinquish the need for control, we are not driven to adopt the latest product or technology that promises to give us more enery, more productive time or a more perfect life. In this acceptance we are liberated from the pressure to earn more, produce more, do more, orchestrate perfection. We become free to live more gentle lives." Hallelujah! I am one of the troglodites that refuses to own a home computer or cell phone for these very reasons. To the people that complain about my lack of cell phone, I inform them that I can be reached at home or at work. If they can't connect with me at either location, I'm doing something for myself and would prefer not to talk to them anyway. It's a difficult concept for most to grasp!

I suppose this is a decent book. I just didn't really get too much out of it.

"Soon I Will Be Invincible" by Austin Grossman

Can you honestly say this title with a straight face? Doesn't it just make you want to do the stereotypical evil villain pose/laugh and shout "SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE!" It did me (and my hubby); I really liked this book, even though it wasn't entirely what I thought it would be.

Doctor Impossible escapes from prison and begins putting together another nefarious plot to take over the world. He's done this several times over but has never succeeded, mostly thanks to the efforts of the Super Squadron. Think the SuperFriends of our youth. The Squadron was led by Stormcloud and included various heroes and heroines such as Regina and the Pharaoh. Forward several years later and it's now the Champions who defeat Dr. Impossible on a regular basis, led by Damsel, the daughter of Stormcloud and step-daughter of Regina. This new super-hero group also has amongst its members Blackwolf, CoreFire ("created" by Dr. Impossible), Damsel (ex-wife of Blackwolf), Elphin "Warrior Princess", Fatale (one of our narrators), Feral (man-cat), Galatea (robot who sacrificed herself during the last big fight on Titan), Lily (played both sides of the fence), Mister Mystic, and Rainbow Triumph.

Alas, the Champions aren't what they used to be. After disbanding for almost a decade, they reform to track down and defeat Dr. Impossible after CoreFire disappears, then is found dead. Everyone is sure that Dr. Impossible is the responsible party; he and CoreFire are arch-nemeses, after all. It's a race to the end of the book to find out which side will win. Will evil triumph? Will the Champions save the day?

It would be very comic-book character territory if not for the duel narration provided in every other chapter. Our narrators are Dr. Impossible, who starts the story, then is continued by Fatale in the next chapter. They switch off chapters and provide not only the back story of each character, but also examine the psychological aspects of each side. As Dr. Impossible muses, why did he chose to become an evil genius? That he was a genius was obvious from early on; there was never any doubt about it. But why go over to the dark side? He could've just as easily played for the winning team, fought for the side of right and justice for all. Fatale is no different. Having become a cyborg after a horrific auto accident in Brazil, she wonders almost constantly why she was offered the job of a Champion. After all, she's worked for the NSA and as a free-lance mercenary, not exactly shiny, happy positions. And then there's the question of who made her; the company disappeared overnight and there are no records. She has her suspicions, though...

It's Dr. Impossible's chapters that make the book. He's very introspective for a bad guy, and there are small bits of humor in his chapters (not nearly as much as you would expect from the title, cover art, and jacket description). For instance, some of the good doctor's aliases are Baron Benzen, Count Smackula, Doctor Fiasco and my favorite, Smartacus. The doctor also provides the pathos for the book as well; he's obviously a very lonely man who never really grew out of being a lonely, highly intelligent teen. If you really could become a hero or a villain, which would you be? According to Doctor Impossible, it seems to matter what sort of childhood you had. Hmm, not so different from the real world of today, I suppose.

Check out this book today and soon, you'll find yourself running around yelling "Soon I will be...INVINCIBLE!" (insert evil laugh here)

Monday, January 28, 2008

"Tantalize" by Cynthia Leitich Smith

OK, it's not often that a book really bothers me after I've read it. This one did and continues to, although not for the reasons you'd think. It's not that well written and it definitely owes a lot to the Stephenie Meyers books, as you can see from the plot.

Quincie Morris is a high-school senior trying to juggle school, work, and a boyfriend. Sounds like any normal teen girl, right? Well, work is actually her family's restaurant, started by her grandparents, handed down to her parents, and now pretty much hers after their deaths some three years ago. He uncle is serving as manager until Quincie turns 21 and can legally take over. Since a new Italian restaurant opened a while back, her restaurant, Fat Lorenzo's, has been losing money. So she and her uncle have decided to remodel and take their restaurant in a vampire-themed direction, dubbing it Sanguini's: A Very Rare Restaurant.

The problems start when their long-time head chef, Vaggio Bianchi, is murdered one night in the restaurant's kitchen. It appears to have been a werewolf attack, but the police aren't entirely sure. And who's they're prime suspect? That would be Quincie's "boyfriend", Kieren, who is a werewolf hybrid (Wolf mother, human father, can't quite control his turning and may not even be able to turn all the way). Kieren is worried and keeps warning Quincie that it was NOT a Wolf that attacked her cook. In the meantime, she has to find a new head chef, and quick.

Enter Henry Johnson, aka "Bradley Sanguini". He applies for and gets the job, yet looks nothing like the suave vampire they were hoping for. No problem - Quincie and "Brad" go on several shopping excursions looking for just the right outfit. In the meantime, "Brad" has her trying several different meals as well as wines, trying to find just the right items for the new menu (actually, it will be two menus, one for "Prey" and the other for "Predator"). As Quincie grows closer to "Brad", Kieren looks guiltier of the murder. And then there's Quincie's suffering schoolwork, as well as the odd behavior of her uncle and his girlfriend...

Don't read this review any further if you don't want to know the end of the book. Seriously!

OK, this is what bothered me about this book. It becomes pretty obvious that "Brad" really is Henry Johnson, who's been around for at least 100 years. That makes is equally obvious that he's a vampire for real. What wasn't obvious was that he had been feeding Quincie enough of his blood to turn her into a vampire as well, someone for him to "love", as he puts it later on. Why does this bother me so much? Because this book is aimed at teen readers, and the manner in which Quincie is turned into a vampire is just highly disturbing, as is her reaction. It's almost a violation of her as a person to have this done without her knowledge; it's perplexing that she doesn't react more strongly when she puts it together. She just sort of goes "OH!" and then figures out how to save Kieren from Henry's wrath. WHAT??? Oh, and her uncle was in on the whole thing, having voluntarily turned vampire himself. How creepy is that? Her 30-something uncle pretty much GAVE her to the big bad vampire. Ewww..... If my loved one did that to me, I'd be pissed as hell. And it also seemed weak that Quincie couldn't tell that something was strange about all the time "Brad" was spending with her, the fact that he kept plying her with wine (remember, she IS underage), etc. The whole thing just really made me feel, well, icky.

I cannot recommend this book to anyone, especially not to the teen readers out there. Perhaps the author went in this direction to distinguish her story from "Twilight" and the others in that series, but this was NOT the way to go about it.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

"The Watcher" by Jeanne C. Stein

I just cannot say it often enough; the Anna Strong series by Stein totally kicks butt! This is the sort of writing that I enjoyed back in the early Anita Blake days, back before that character went off the rails (and the author, too, it appears). Anna is a strong yet flawed heroine, one that I have enjoyed each time I've caught up with her.
Anna has been working with police captain Williams in a sort of secret supernatural police force called The Watchers. They basically do just that, watch, unless they find a supernatural sort that's breaking the rules, which of course, draws attention of the human world. For example, early on in the book, Anna is sent after Fisher, a vampire who also happens to be a serial killer; the bodies he's been leaving behind are drawing that undue attention to something that might not quite be "normal". It's a rough thing for Anna to handle, one she doesn't really enjoy all that much.

Suddenly she's contacted by the FBI in the form of Agent Foley; he informs her that her DEA-agent-boyfriend Max has gone incommunicado and is suspected of killing the family of a Mexican drug lord, an evil man who's operation he's been trying to infiltrate since the first book. Anna suspects that Foley isn't telling the truth and heads south of the border to try to find him. In doing so, she runs afoul of a power witch, Belinda Burke, and her coven; they're attempting to raise and bring over a demon on Halloween night (at exactly midnight - duh!). Anna learns that Martinez, the drug lord, has kidnapped Max and is holding him hostage in the hopes that she will attempt a rescue - that way, he can kill her in front of Max, thus causing him the same kind of grief that he, Martinez, experienced at the loss of his family.

Follow all that?

I know, it's a lot of plot for a book running just under 300 pages! Strangely, it works. I always find myself able to keep up; Stein's writing is that tight. The characters are well-written and the whole feel of the book is just really good. As I said before, Anna is a strong heroine but not without her flaws; she knows she has to keep the vampire world separate from the human world, but is still unable to do that. And it's becoming harder for her to hold on to her humanity as well, something that truly frightens her. This installment was pretty dark, I'll admit, but after finishing it, I'm hoping that there are brighter days ahead for Anna. Can't wait until the next book!

Friday, January 25, 2008

"Dead Sexy" by Tate Hallaway

It's been a long time since I read the first book starring Garnet Lacey ("Tall, Dark and Dead"), so I wasn't entirely sure I would remember who everyone was and what had happened in that book. Luckily, Ms. Hallaway gives enough back story explanation in this second book to fill in the blanks. Also nice because it means you wouldn't have to read the first one to know what's going on!

Garnet has been in Madison, Wisconsin for a year now, having run from her previous life after the members of her coven were murdered by the Order of Eustace (a uber-religious group that take that whole "thou shalt not suffer a Witch to live" thing too literally). She's been working at Mercury Crossing, a New-Age bookstore, living her life, loving her vampire-boyfriend Sebastian, and just generally keeping her head down. Oh, and she's been learning how to co-exist with the dark Goddess Lilith, the one that has possessed her since that terrible night one year ago.

But Garnet has a secret she's been keeping, one known to a few of her close friends. When she called on someone, anyone to help her that horrible night, the Goddess Lilith answered the call, and proceeded to kill the priests responsible for the murders of her coven. Unfortunately, at least one of those bodies has surfaced and now the FBI has come calling with questions in the form of Special Agent Gabriel Dominguez. He's looking for Garnet, except the picture he has doesn't look a thing like her. It's her from her old life, with blond hair and blue eyes, a very girl-next-door look, not at all like her current persona of Goth girl. Oh, and she now has violet eyes, thanks to Lilith's cohabitation of Garnet's body.

Of course Garnet panics, just as anyone would. How can she possibly explain that yes, it was her body that killed the priests, but not her? In addition to the FBI, she has other problems to deal with, mostly of the boyfriend kind, but also there seems to be a growing number of zombies lurching around Madison. What will Garnet do?

And that, of course, is the plot of the book. I really enjoyed this (must have, cause I finished it in about a 36 hr period!). The only thing that fell a bit flat was the zombie sub-plot; it was introduced, then picked up once or twice during the text and finally resolved at the end. It just felt like more of an afterthought or convenience for other plot points, just a bit flat is all. I really liked the FBI agent, and Garnet's backfiring love spell on him was hysterical. Also, I thought the boyfriend issue was very realistic; Garnet's ex-vampire-boyfriend, Parrish, is still in her life and she's been avoiding telling her current-vampire-boyfriend about it. Well, duh! How many of us mere mortals have had that very problem?

Overall, I would highly recommend this book, and I'm hoping for a third installment with our favorite witch.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"The Nature of Monsters" by Clare Clark

This is something that I probably would have never read if I hadn't seen the book come across the desk here at the library. It doesn't have the most eye-catching cover, and the title is just OK. But when it got turned in, for some reason, I found myself looking at it, reading the jacket, etc. I thought it might be interesting but had too many other books set aside to read at the time, so I put in a reserve for it down the road, right around my Christmas week off.

Well, the book came in and I just sort of kept looking at it, like "what was I thinking?" It's a period piece, not the sort of thing I usually enjoy. I let it sit in the "to read" pile for quite a bit, until I realized it was about due, and thought I should at least pick it up and give it the 50 pages that Nancy Pearl recommends.

I am so glad I did, too, because it's a very good book. Again, not the sort of action-type work I usually read; this is classical music vs. alternative rock area. But you know what? I like classical music every once in a while!

Our heroine is Eliza Tally, a young woman in England in 1718, who finds herself pregnant after being "married" to a wealthy young man from a good family in her hometown. Only, his family knows nothing of the "marriage", and indeed, the union is not legally recognized, Eliza's mother having performed a jumping-the-broom ceremony so that the young man could lay with her daughter and not besmirch Eliza's character. After coming to the conclusion that her plans to ensnare the family's fortune have collapsed, Eliza's mother returns with the announcement that her daughter will take a position with an apothecary in London. Eliza is under the impression that this gentleman will give her shelter while taking care of her "condition", then returning her when the baby has been done away with.

Imagine her shock and horror when she arrives at the apothecary's gloomy home and discovers that she is expected to carry to term as well as act as a maid-servant for the household. In addition, her master is considered something of a monster himself, always wearing a hat with a black veil so that others cannot see his face. Turns out he has a rather large port-wine birthmark on his face, something that he's convinced was caused by his own mother being caught in a fire when she was pregnant with him. What Eliza doesn't know at first is that she is actually a test subject for the apothecary; he's attempting to write a treatise on the affect of the emotional condition of mothers on their children. He attempts to replicate his own "deformity" in another baby by preying on the fears of Eliza (in this case, that of dogs).

As I said, this is a very well written period piece, one that had me anxious to find out what was going to happen. The author does not romanticize the time whatsoever; the squalor of London in the early eighteenth century is palpable and frightening. Equally scary is the obvious drug addiction of the apothecary himself; the opium that he continues to ingest in larger and larger doses makes him the real "monster" of the work. I would highly recommend this book to readers looking for something a bit more serious; it would be worth your time and effort.

"Fourth Comings" by Megan McCafferty

Wow, what a difference some time makes, huh? I had read the first three books staring Jessica Darling a while back, so I was totally psyched to learn about this, the fourth installment. Careful what you wish for, I suppose. I don't know if it's me or the writing, but this was a disappointing book on several levels. Description first, moaning later....

Jessica has gone to Princeton to tell her boyfriend, Marcus, that she's breaking up with him. Drama right from the start! Marcus immediately counteracts with a proposal - THE proposal, that of marriage. She has a week to think about it (what is it with the one-week deadline here??) while he's at a Freshman Orientation camping thing. In the meantime, he's given her some blank notebooks (she's always kept a diary, although has also always used notebooks rather than actual "diary"-type books) and has encouraged her to write about her week of thought.

And that's pretty much what we get, musings by Jessica Darling. About her current life, her past, her desire to make in it New York City despite the fact she's not really employed anywhere, and, of course, her relationship (or somewhat lack thereof) with Marcus. She doesn't really want to tell anyone about the proposal, but word leaks out, thus giving us more drama when her friends and family ask what she's going to do.

So why didn't I enjoy this book as much? Well, that's the big question, isn't it? The other three entries were pretty good and the writing was really good, or at least, I thought so at the time. I'm wondering if I'd feel the same way about it now? Maybe it's because I'm almost 40 yrs old and married myself, but Jessica just came off as really, well, whiny and pathetic this time around. She can't make a decision about anything, let alone whether or not she should marry Marcus. And what led to the whole breaking up announcement in the first place? Her embarrassment at having to tell people that her boyfriend was a freshman at Princeton. She, being the ripe old age of 22, just doesn't see how she can tell anyone that news with a straight face. WHAT??? Uh, shallow much? Sigh. Maybe it really is me; I just found Jessica Darling to be very Notsodarling this time around.

"Startled by His Furry Shorts" by Louise Rennison

Georgia Nicolson and her mates are back! If you've been keeping up with the Bookbabe's blog, you know I've read all these books thus far. What can I say? They're cute, they're short, and they're a funny, known quantity. Not a bad thing in my book.

Georgia is now 15 yrs old and still going to Stalag 14 (otherwise known as school). In the last book, she had given Mossimo, the Italian love god, an ultimatum - herself as the only girl or her not at all. The first half of the book deals with her awaiting his answer, as he had a week to let her know. Of course, there's much discussion as to whether it will be a "girl week" (exact to the minute) or a "boy week" (sometime during the same day as last week).

In the meantime, she's also dealing with Dave the Laugh, who had indicated that perhaps she should forget all foolishness with Italians and date him. He is nice, he does make her laugh, and he has awesome kissing qualities. What's a girl to do?

Well, if you're Georgia, not much. It's both the frustrating and endearing quality of these books - nothing much really happens in them. It IS the diary of a teen, after all!! But they're still fun, and I was surprised at how much I had missed G and her mates.

Check these out sometime when you want a quick, fluffy read!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"The Sweet Potato Queens' Guide to Raising Children for Fun and Profit" by Jill Conner Browne

Oh, the SPQs! I absolutely love the Sweet Potato Queens - have ever since Jill put out the first book, "The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love". She is just about one of the funniest ladies I've ever read, and she makes me proud that I've relocated and become Southern by choice!

I wasn't entirely sure that I would enjoy this book, seeing as how I don't have any kids, nor do I want any. As I'm sure she would've told me, "Don't worry your pretty little head none!" This is a great and funny book for anyone who has been around children, knows anyone who's been pregnant, etc.

What I liked best of all is that Jill obviously knows my mama, as she talks about discipline in much the same matter as my mother. Kids should be well-behaved, as should their parents. Kids should be allowed to be kids - none of this crazy, insane nonsense about having their days planned out to the nanosecond. Let them run around and act out their little fantasies for a while! There's time enough to be "adult" and mature later. Then again, Jill and her Queens are anything but mature - just ask them!

Fall in love with the SPQs y'all!

"Coyote Dreams" by C. E. Murphy

This is the final book in the Urban Shaman trilogy by Murphy, and it's much better than the middle child, "Thunderbird Falls." Mostly due to the reappearance of Gary, our awesome septuagenarian cabbie. And, of course, there's quite a bit of interaction with her boss, Morrison. Sigh.

In this final installment, Joanne has been trying to learn the ways of the shaman (and trying not to trust the wrong people again). She's still on the lookout for Coyote, her missing spirit guide. In the midst of all this, her coworkers start falling asleep - and not waking. Her fellow cop-in-weirdness, Billy, is the first to succumb, followed quickly by his wife. Then at least half the cops from her precinct fall asleep. Joanne is flummoxed as to what could be the cause and how to stop it. Her only hope is find some sort of protection for the ones still awake, and hope that a solution presents itself soon.

Overall, not a bad book. As I said, much better than the second of the trilogy. I did find it a bit difficult to know when we were awake, when we asleep, and when we were in a trance state. You really have to pay attention when reading this book. It's worth it, but then again, I don't always enjoy having to pay that much attention to what I read! Sad but true - sometimes I'm just looking for some fluff. I will say that I was a bit unhappy with the ending, and I'm hoping that Murphy writes about Joanne again down the road. Not entirely sure she'll do it, though. The series could very easily continue, but it also feels pretty much "over" with the end of "Coyote Dreams."

Monday, January 14, 2008

"Thunderbird Falls" by C. E. Murphy

This is the second book in the Urban Shaman series starring reluctant shaman/police mechanic Joanne Walker. As with several previous series I've read, this suffers from the dreaded "sophomore syndrome". "Thunderbird Falls" is still a fairly decent book, but it drags in places and sadly, her sidekick Gary doesn't have much page time.

Joanne is trying to just do her job as a beat cop when she is dragged yet again into the world of the magical. While showering off after a fencing lesson, she discovers the body of Cassie Turner, a member of a local coven. Suspecting murder, Joanne manages to get herself involved with said coven (reluctantly, of course) at the same time that her spirit guide, Coyote, seems to have taken a vacation. Things are about to go from bad to worse in Jo's world.

One of the reasons that this book falters is the lack of Gary-time and the obviousness of the wrong direction Jo is taking. Sorry, but anyone even remotely paying attention while reading this book will figure out quickly that someone is lying to Joanne, and it's pretty obvious who. That left me just wanting to get through the book, as it took out a lot of the mystery from the first book. And let's face it, Gary is such an awesome character that his absence is felt way too much.

On the plus side, Joanne does interact quite a bit more with her boss, Michael Morrison, whom she obviously has some feelings for; also pretty clear is that he has feelings right back. Of course, the two of them are stubborn and unwilling to admit anything, and there is the whole boss/subordinate problem to cope with as well.

I'm currently into the third book and it's going a bit better, so it's worth it to read "Thunderbird Falls". Just don't expect too much out of it, is all I'm saying.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"Urban Shaman" by C. E. Murphy

This has been showing up on my Amazon recommended list for a while and now I know why; it bears striking resemblances to several of the other series I've been reading for the last few years. The good news it's also a good book for a debut novel.

Joanne Walker is a mechanic for the Seattle Police, a job that suits her just fine. As the story starts, she's been in Ireland for the last four months meeting and trying to get to know her mother, a woman who turned her over to her father at an extremely early age. Jo is the product of a one-night stand between her mother and her father, a Native American. Turns out she'll find out later on that she wasn't quite as much of an accident as she thought. Her real name is Siobhan Walkingstick, and she's about to find out that she's a shaman.

Of course, anytime your perception of reality is challenged, there's bound to be action and conflict galore. Jo's tale is no different, and most of the book deals with her coming to terms with her power and her destiny. It's a lot to take in, both for the characters and for the reader, but the story moves at a fairly good pace. We also have the requisite sidekick, Gary, a cab driver who picks up his most unusual fare and pretty much gets sucked into Jo's world. I like Gary a lot, and look forward to seeing him in other books.

The only thing that felt a bit off was the support of her fellow officers. Yes, Jo is also an officer, having graduated from the police academy early on. It looked too good on paper to have her not be certified; a female minority is quite the coup for the department. Anyway, late in the book most of her co-workers come together to help her, which was great, but I wasn't so sure I believed in the situation. Maybe I'm just a bit jaded, but people don't usually offer up help that quickly, especially not where such "weird" stuff is concerned.

Overall, I give it a good review and recommend it. I've got the second book in my bag, ready to start, so we'll see if Murphy's writing gets better as she goes.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

"Many Bloody Returns" edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner

This is probably one of the strongest short story collections I've read in a quite a while. Out of the 13 all-new vampire tales provided here, I really only disliked about two of them. Then again, most of the authors are favorites of mine, as are the characters they write about. Sort of like visiting old friends, you know?

Harris's tale is first and it's about our beloved Sookie Stackhouse. It's a cute story, mostly due to the surprise that Eric, our stalwart and somewhat brooding head vamp, is actually a total fan-boy of Dracula's. Seems Drac is rumored to go around on Halloween night and pick one of the head vamps to visit personally. Eric eagerly awaits the Count's appearance each and every year, much in the way that Linus awaits the Great Pumpkin (an analogy provided by Sookie herself). It's nice to see Eric at a bit of a loss again, much the way he was in the series when he lost his memory.

There are other old favorites here, such as Harry Dresden and Henry Fitzroy. Interestingly enough, my favorite story was by an author I don't believe I'd read before, Elaine Viets. Her tale of a wronged wife, "Vampire Hours", really caught me and reeled me in - I loved it!

Overall, if you like your vampires and have read some or all of these authors before, you won't be disappointed. Pick up "Many Bloody Returns" today!

"Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson

This is an awesome debut novel, mainly geared towards the young adult reader, but powerful to anyone that picks up the book.

Melinda Sordino starts her freshman year at high school as an outcast, ostracized for calling the police during a summer party. Everyone knows she called them; no one knows why. The reason is Melinda's dark and painful secret (one you'll know if you've seen the movie of the same name). Due to the summer circumstances and her school situation, Melinda remains almost mute for her entire freshman year - thus, the title of the book.

It's a rough but honest look at high school, a time I certainly don't remember enjoying all that much. As Melinda points out, the school is divided into groups such as the Jocks, the Brains, the Marthas, etc. If you don't "get into" a good group, you're looked down upon by the rest of the school. If you're like Melinda, belonging to no group at all - even a bad one, forget it. You're nobody, invisible and unheard. The teachers aren't much better, and the author wisely uses nicknames that Melinda gives them, all but her art teacher, Mr. Freeman. He's the only adult (including her own parents) that seems to sense her pain and reaches out to her.

I can't say it's a fun book because it's not; it's not meant to be. But it is a good book, and I highly recommend it to the young and adult alike. You won't be sorry you read it.

Friday, January 4, 2008

"Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night" by Kresley Cole

Ok, this is a paranormal romance, and I fully enjoyed it! I didn't say I was giving them up entirely, I don't believe.... Anyway, not the well-written ones, that is. This is the third installment of The Immortals After Dark series by Cole, and I must say, I've loved each and every one of them. Why? Well, the writing is pretty darn good and the characters are well-developed. Ah...there's that term again, character development. What can I say? I like to feel like I know my characters!

The heroine of our story is Mariketa the Awaited, a 23-yr-old witch. She's entered the Hie, a sort of supernatural scavenger hunt where the grand prize is a very special key; it allows the winner to go back in time, not once, but twice. Mari is competing against a lot of heavyweights, both literally and physically. While she is a witch, she's not an immortal, not yet. This means that she has weaknesses that the other competitors don't, such as unnatural strength (like the Lykae), healing powers (again, like the Lykae), or the power to teleport out of sticky situations (like the vampires and demons). But being human is exactly why Mari's entered the Hie; she's tired of being known as a bumbling witch with a penchant for blowing things up with her spells (at a 99% success rate - of explosions, that is).

Enter Bowen MacRieve of the Lykae clan, a werewolf who desperately wants the key to go back and save his mate. Seems she was killed accidentally before they had a chance to consummate their relationship and he blames himself (she fell on a tree stump while running away from him after he turned at the full moon, a very grisly-written scene). He has been matching wits and adventures with Mari, finding himself strangely attracted to her while loathing her at the same time. His family has a nasty history with witches and he doesn't trust them.

Circumstances, of course, force the two together and Bowen realizes that Mari might be his mate, something that Fate doesn't usually provide, as Lykae mate for life and with only one partner. Mari has had only one previous boyfriend, a demon, a relationship that ended on a rather sour note (demons aren't known for monogamy). Both have been hurt, both have trust issues, and both can't keep their hands off each other. Need I say more? Oh, and there's that pesky destiny of Mari's, the "Awaited" part...

I can just see you shaking your heads, dear readers, asking what's so special about this book? Well, as I said before, character development, a key element in any good book! There's also a good plot that moves at a good pace, the build of sexual tension (the actual act not taking place in the first 20 or so pages, thank you very much!) and the inclusion of well-written minor characters. It all blends into a great read where the heroine needs help, but isn't helpless; the hero is heroic yet flawed (and realizes it); and the evil is vanquished, for now. Trust me, this is a good series and one I'm going to keep reading for hopefully several books to come!

"The Color of Magic" by Terry Pratchett

This is the novel that begins the famous (or perhaps infamous) Discworld series by Pratchett. Since I spent most of last year plodding through paranormal romances (some really horrid ones, at that), I thought I'd try a little something different over my holiday break. Normally, I'm not a huge fan of science fiction unless it falls into the paranormal realm, what I believe they have dubbed dark fantasy (where do they come up with these categories?!) Being somewhat familiar with Pratchett, I thought I'd give the Discworld series a go.

The story basically revolves around a somewhat inept wizard named Rincewind and his new found friend, the tourist Twoflower. Also, there's the matter of Twoflower's luggage, a rather innocuous looking box that happens to be made of sapient pearwood, a very special material; the luggage comes complete with lots of tiny legs and a rather nasty habit of eating anyone it considers a threat to its owner (in this case, the aforementioned Twoflower).

The two travelers have several adventures, including but not limited to a pub brawl and ending up at the edge of the world (the Discworld, that is). Death makes an appearance (several, actually) and the Luggage eats a lot of people. There's magic and mayhem, basically. It's a very strange story without a true ending. No, really! I'm still not entirely sure I know what happened to all the characters after closing the book!

Did I like it? Um, I suppose. Would I recommend it? Uh, yeah. Will I read another one of the series? Yes, just to see if this one is the weakest of the lot. Stay tuned for another visit to Discworld in the near future.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year, dear readers!

2007 has come and gone. I'm hoping that 2008 will be just as good, if not better, a year for the Bookbabe and her hubster dearest. We managed to take a short trip, pay off some debt, and finally get the awesome G-5 from George Foreman! All in all, it was one hell of a year, was 2007.

My goal for 2008 is to keep this blog going, hopefully at a much better pace! Perhaps I'll learn to add a few zings to it, too. Also, be sure to check out, if you haven't already. It's a fabulous website for bibliophiles such as ourselves! Very cool graphics and a great way to reach other book lovers.

Finally, I'm throwing it out here now: my goal is to read 150 books for 2008. Ok, ok, it was 200 originally, but that just ain't gonna happen! I managed about 129 for 2007, which is pretty darn good. When I started calculating for the 200/year, I realized I'd have to read one book every 1.8 days! Now, if I didn't have to work, it would be a no-brainer. But alas, the Bookbabe has to pay the bills somehow!

Here's to a great year, and keep on readin'!