Sunday, November 14, 2010

Evermore by Alyson Noel

Author: Alyson Noel
Publish Date: February 3, 2009
ISBN: 9780312532758
List Price: $9.95
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Jacket Synopsis: 
Since a horrible accident claimed the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever can see auras, hear people’s thoughts, and know a person’s life story by touch.   Going out of her way to shield herself from human contact to suppress her abilities has branded her as a freak at her new high school—but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste…

Ever sees Damen and feels an instant recognition.  He is gorgeous, exotic and wealthy, and he holds many secrets.  Damen is able to make things appear and disappear, he always seems to know what she’s thinking—and he’s the only one who can silence the noise and the random energy in her head.  She doesn’t know who he really is—or what he is.  Damen equal parts light and darkness, and he belongs to an enchanted new world where no one ever dies.

My Comments:
I had heard so much about this series. I read Radiance first which is an offshoot of this earlier story and after reading about Riley I could not wait to start Evermore. This first book in the Immortals series is an entertaining and thrilling adventure of Ever and her abilities. Ever can see auras, read minds, see the dead, and generally feel afflicted by these powers. She doesn't understand why she lost her entire family in a car accident that she alone survived. She is visited by her dead sister which in a way is the only comforting presence Ever has at the moment.

Ever struggles to push through daily life even though she hears everyone's thoughts and is overwhelmed by the spiritual world around her until... One day a new student appears and she finds that she is comforted and finds solace in the presence of Damen. Damen is mysterious and Ever cannot seem to figure out why she "knows" Damen. How does he make her painful abilities melt away and make her feel normal again?

The author, Alyson Noel, has a fantastic writing style. She has developed great characters that will cause each reader to seek the next book in this series without a doubt! The mystery that she builds around Damen and the constant page turning to find out what he is. Is he a vampire, a ghost, and immortal of some sort? Ever has to know why Damen comforts her so much and where this long entwining bond between them comes from.  This is a great YA read!!

I am off to read Blue Moon.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Radiance by Alyson Noel

Author: Alyson Noel
Publish Date: August 31, 2010
ISBN: 9780312629175
List Price: $7.99
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Jacket Synopsis: 
 Riley Bloom left her sister, Ever, in the world of the living and crossed the bridge into the afterlife—a place called Here, where time is always Now. Riley and her dog, Buttercup, have been reunited with her parents and are just settling into a nice, relaxing death when she's summoned before The Council. They let her in on a secret—the afterlife isn't just an eternity of leisure; Riley has to work. She's been assigned a job, Soul Catcher, and a teacher, Bodhi, a curious boy she can't quite figure out.

Riley, Bodhi, and Buttercup return to earth for her first assignment, a Radiant Boy who's been haunting a castle in England for centuries. Many Soul Catchers have tried to get him to cross the bridge and failed. But he's never met Riley... 

My Comments:
This is my first Alyson Noel book. I have had Evermore on my shelf for a while, but other series books have gotten in the way. I thought I would pick up Radiance because it was a short novella by Alyson Noel. This was a fantastic read. Alyson's writing style is smooth, energetic, and constantly entertaining. I love the character Riley that she has created. She is a spunky, independent twelve year old who can certainly hold her own. When she is called up to take on the job of Soul Catcher she doesn't dissappoint.

Riley loves her heaven because she has learned she can manifest whatever she desires; however, Riley and her family have manifested portion of their earth life to make the transition easier. Soon enough Riley is told she has to return to school which she not all to thrilled about. On her first day, she feels out of place and then is shoved into a big empty room with The Council where she has to "explain her life." You will have to read the book to see how that panel discussion goes!! To say the least Riley pretty much says ... I have to explain ALL twelve years! Boy, was I gipped. (my own words)

After The Council session Riley is assigned a job as Soul Catcher. Riley and her best friend in the world Buttercup, her yellow lab, set off with her newly assigned teacher, Bohdi, to test Riley on her first soul catching mission. She is assigned the Radiant Boy who has haunted his castle for decades. Many have tried to convince the Radiant Boy to move on, but he is stubborn.

The second installment to Riley's adventure is due March 15, 2011 and titled Shimmer.

I am moving on to Alyson's Evermore series now, as I thoroughly enjoyed her writing style and creative story telling. I look forward to more great stories and have high expectations for Evermore!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Torment by Lauren Kate

Title: Torment
Author: Lauren Kate
Publish Date: September 28, 2010
ISBN: 9780385739146
List Price: $17.99
Rating: 5 out of 5

Jacket Synopsis:
How many lives do you need to live before you find someone worth dying for? In the aftermath of what happened at Sword and Cross, Luce has been hidden away by her cursed angelic boyfriend, Daniel, in a new school filled with Nephilim, the offspring of fallen angels and humans. Daniel promises she will be safe here, protected from those who would kill her. At the school Luce discovers what the Shadows that have followed her all her life mean - and how to manipulate them to see into her other lives. Yet the more Luce learns about herself, the more she realizes that the past is her only key to unlocking her future...and that Daniel hasn't told her everything. What if his version of the past isn't actually the way things happened...what if Luce was really meant to be with someone else?

The second installment in the Fallen Series did not disappoint. I was on the edge of my seat reading this book. Luce is an amazing character and the whole angelic plot around her is so intriguing. She knows very little about the war of the Fallen (Angels) and all the sides that were taken. She doesn't realize till now that she was a pivotal reason for the war and only she can end it. These depend on her choices in this life.

Luce has lived a thousand lives and only now has learned that she has been stuck in this love spiral. Fighting immortals was never what Luce anticipated in this life, but her love for Daniel, an Archangel, gives her the desire and strength to learn more about the past, her past lives, and what she can do to save their love, but some interesting events happen in this second installment that make Luce question was she really meant to be with Daniel. However, when she sees Daniel she believes that he is her world and that there is no one else, but when she is alone with another she can't help but feel that she needs to understand more about her past lives to know what decisions to make in this one. Luce does not want anymore of her friends or family to die in this life, like past lives, so she decides to find a way to understand her past.

Luce experiences past lives through her new found control of the Shadows, or Announcers, and she sees this as a way to end the Angel war. This is how Luce views her past lives and travels to find her answers...

Lauren Kate, the author, writes such vivid characters that you cannot help but be enveloped into the story. Passion, the third installment, will be out June 14, 2011. Do I hear "Pre-order"? Yes, I do!!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Halo by Alexandra Adornetto

Author: Alexandra Adornetto
Publish Date: August 31, 2010
List Price: $16.99
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Jacket Synopsis:
Nothing much happens in the sleepy town of Venus Cove. But everything changes when three angels are sent from heaven to protect the town against the gathering forces of darkness: Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, a teenage girl who is the least experienced of the trio. They work hard to conceal their true identity and, most of all, their wings. But the mission is threatened when the youngest angel, Bethany, is sent to high school and falls in love with the handsome school captain, Xavier Woods. Will she defy the laws of Heaven by loving him? Things come to a head when the angels realize they are not the only supernatural power in Venus Cove. There′s a new kid in town and he′s charming, seductive and deadly. Worst of all, he′s after Beth.

My Comments:
I was very excited to read this angel themed YA novel. It did not disappoint. This is the US debut of Alexandra Adornetto and it is a jewel. I think her writing style is smooth and eloquent. I really enjoyed her unique story line to include a certain insight into Angels and Demons. An innocent, yet a reflection of life and how good & bad things happen in life, and an odd twist at how the dark powers and watchers partake in these events. Who knew how powerful love is until it is tested? This is going to be a series with the next novel coming out in 2011 titled Hades

The writer is only eighteen years old. I cannot wait to see what her writing career has in store for us. What an amazing debut for this young author. I truly look forward to reading more of her novels and stories to come. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Author: Alice Sebold
Publish Date: September 17, 2007
ISBN: 9780316001823
List Price: $14.99
My Rating: 3 out of 5

Jacket Synopsis: 
"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."

So begins the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on earth continue without her - her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling.

Out of unspeakable tragedy and loss, The Lovely Bones succeeds, miraculously, in building a tale filled with hope, humor, suspense, even joy

My Comments:
I thought that this was an interesting thriller, but the authors writing style was not smooth and I had to re-read many times to follow the story line and characters' thought processes. I was not too crazy about the rape and murder of children, but this was the base line of the story, so beyond that if you could focus on the family and heaven it was a mediocre read. My main interest of the story was what was heaven like and how different people interpreted their own heavens. It was a loving tale about the family's trials and how they learn to live with loss, and how the dead learn to live with their loss. I probably will not explore any more writings by this author because I just didn't like her complicated writing style.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Blood to Blood by Elaine Bergstrom

Author: Elaine Bergstrom
Publish Date: October 1, 2000
ISBN: 9780441007745
List Price: $5.99
My Rating: 3 out of 5

 Jacket Synopsis:

Dracula's sister-by birth and by blood-resurrects his dark legacy...

Praise for Mina: "A real page-turner."-P. N. Elrod

"Throbbing sexuality...An erotic ride."-Shadowdance

My Comments:
This is a continuation of the Mina Harker story that began in Mina: The Dracula Story Continues. The story begins where the previous ends with Mina in Paris writing to Jonathan about a reconciliation when she receives news of an inheritance, and a sizable one at that. I find the story an interesting interpretation about a Victorian woman whose independence is pursued in societal times when women were seen and not heard. For Mina to be so bold as to maintain her own household away from her husband and pursue her charitable work is really unheard of.

This book is a side-by-side story of Mina and Jonathan, but also about Joanna, Dracula's sister. We find Dracula's sister searching for her brother's killers only to find that being released from her brother's control that she can pursue her own life. The excitement is found in reading about what she chooses. Does she choose to live among humans and love and care for them just the same? Or become a ruthless killer and evil pursuer like her sister in-law and sometimes her brother, Dracula.

The author folds in true historical characters as Oscar Wilde and Jack The Ripper. The author includes Jack The Ripper to challenge the reader to determine if the murders are really the work of Joanna or The Ripper himself...and who is The Ripper?

I am surprised though by the amount of edit errors in this book. They weren't so severe that I couldn't figure out what the author meant to write, but the author should be paid a bonus for the editors poor work.

Elsewhere by Gabriel Zevin

Author: Gabriel Zevin
Publish Date: May 15, 2007
ISBN: 9780312367466
List Price: $6.95
My Rating: 5 out of 5

Jacket Synopsis:
 Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It’s quiet and peaceful. You can’t get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere’s museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatric practice. 

Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver’s license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she’s dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn’t want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward? 

My Comments:
One of the most adorable books I have read in a long time. It was the most enjoyable read. I love Zevin's interpretation of death and where we go, especially, through the eyes of a 15 year old girl. She is such a cynic when she arrives in Elsewhere with the attitude of anything done there is pointless. The Elsewhere world that Zevin imagines and brings to life in this book is practical & amazing. My favorite parts are that life (death) is perceived differently in this world. In Elsewhere, you age backwards to be reborn again on Earth and have another chance at life's experiences. The best part is you are able to talk to the animals. The personalities that Zevin gives the animals completely personifies a best friend attitudes and it is beautiful. 

What a unique and beautiful premise about life and death. An amazing journey between Earth and Elsewhere. A story of loss, love, and rejuvenation of life... I truly loved this book. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Deeply, Desperately (Lucy Valentine, #2) by Heather Webber

Author: Heather Webber
Publish Date: August 3, 2010
ISBN: 9780312946142
List Price: $7.99
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Jacket Synopsis: 
The irrepressible star of Truly, Madly is back in business. This time, Lucy Valentine will go to the ends of the earth to find true love for her clients...and maybe even herself.

Lucy wants to breathe new life into her family's Boston-based matchmaking company. But how? Even though she comes from a long line of ancestors blessed by Cupid with psychic abilities, a freak accident left Lucy with only one special skill: finding things. Car keys, socks in the dryer, needles in haystacks...and now, in a stroke of professional genius, lost loves! 

My Comments:
The second installment to the Lucy Valentine series is fantastic. I read Truly, Madly as an ARC in December 2009 and fell in love with Lucy Valentine and her band of characters. We find Lucy throwing herself into her new business "Lost Loves" and the ever imposing idea of Cupid's Curse. Will Lucy and Sean be doomed?

I love Heather Webber's writing style. It flows so naturally and throws you into Lucy's world completely. I really feel like a spectator next to Lucy in every written scene. The fun, adventure, and suspense are all wrapped up in a pretty pink bow, that is the cover! Heather is able to intertwine the stalling, sometimes sputtering, love affair of Lucy and Sean with suspenseful investigative work  which has you guessing and speculating page after page. I love the humor of Lucy dealing with friends and family non-stop, exciting drama. We add new characters to the mix in this second book that are funny and only setup us up for exciting new story lines in the third book due out next year.

I love this series and cannot wait for the third installment Absolutely, Positively to come out in February... it is one of my eagerly anticipated Upcoming Releases. I am crossing my fingers that an ARC is available for this and I am lucky enough to win another Heather Webber book!

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella by Stephenie Meyer

Author: Stephenie Meyer
Publish Date: June 5, 2010
ISBN: 9780316125581
List Price: $13.99
My Rating: 5 out of 5

Jacket Synopsis:
Bree Tanner can barely remember life before she had uncannily powerful senses, superhuman reflexes and unstoppable physical strength. Life before she had a relentless thirst for blood... life before she became a vampire.

All Bree knows is that living with her fellow newborns has few certainties and even fewer rules: watch your back, don't draw attention to yourself and, above all, make it home by sunrise or die. What she doesn't know: her time as an immortal is quickly running out.

My Comments:
Another great book by Stephenie Meyer. This is a short story, novella, of the newborn character of Bree Tanner. It gives you a different perspective of the vampire world through the eyes of a newborn and into Victoria's deception. Even the newborn Bree can see there isn't something right about Riley and their "unknown" purpose. It is interesting to see that Bree, only 16, finds another newborn which she befriends and falls in love with. That last seen in the book when the newborn war is over is an interesting insight into what Edward was able to see from Bree's side of the war and what Bree could share with him to help save them. This additional scene to the story that you do not get from the Twilight series is very informative and helps piece together what Edward gathered from Bree before she was killed. A really great read and alternate perspective.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Uninvited by Amanda Marrone

Author: Amanda Marrone
Publish Date: October 23, 2007
ISBN: 9781416939788
List Price: $8.99
My Rating: 2 out of 5

Jacket Synopsis:
Jordan's life sucks. Her boyfriend, Michael, dumped her, slept his way through half the student body, and then killed himself. But now, somehow, he appears at her window every night, begging her to let him in.

Jordan can't understand why he wants her, but she feels her resistance wearing down. After all, her life -- once a broken record of boring parties, meaningless hookups, and friends she couldn't relate to -- now consists of her drinking alone in her room as she waits for the sun to go down.

Michael needs to be invited in before he can enter. All Jordan has to do is say the words....

My Comments:
Interesting YA novel... involves Jordan, a high schooler, drowning herself in booze, sex, and drugs because she has no direction in her life when her boyfriend of a year ago dies and returns as a vampire to haunt her poor, miserable existence. Her mother is non-existent in her life and her friends only encourage the booze and drugs. Her ex-boyfriend is a totally jerk and deserves what he got. The story around these two is not enlightening, uplifting or really entertaining. Not a very exciting read.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Truly, Madly (Lucy Valentine, #1) by Heather Webber

Author: Heather Webber
Publish Date: February 2, 2010
ISBN: 9780312946135
List Price: $7.99
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Jacket Synopsis: 
Meet Lucy Valentine; sassy, fabulously original…and psychic.

Lucy hails from a long line of matchmakers known as Valentine INC. According to family legend, the Valentines have been blessed by Cupid with the ability to help couples find true love. Trouble is Lucy’s powers were zapped away by an electrical surge and now all she can find are lost objects. But what good is that in the matchmaking world?

Lucy is about to find out when she tries to solve a murder and winds up falling into a romance of her own.

My Comments:
An ARC winner! What a brilliantly, intriguing book. I originally read this book in December 2009 and I thought I would share my review as book #2, Deeply, Desperately has just been released.

It is a story about a young woman struggling to deal with a paranormal power and feeling a little lost. It includes love, mystery, murder, and a bit of comedy. I think we all struggle to find our place within our family fabric, with friends, and the world around us. Lucy is working on figuring out what she should do about being a part of the family business. She does it all with suspense, adventure, and love along the way. It is a great light-hearted read that is action packed and hilarious at times. I really enjoyed Lucy's adventure.

I love the author's writing voice. It is smooth and completely envelopes the reader into Lucy's world. Her experiences, emotions and thought process all keep the reader 100% engaged. I read this book in 1 day. I am eagerly awaiting to read book #2 and #3. I think the character of Lucy is going to start a great series of mystery, love, and enticing humor. I am really glad that I was offered the chance to read this book and look forward to Heather Webber's additional books to the series. Deeply, Desperately was just released Aug. 3, 2010. I am already reading this one and will have a review soon. If you like Charlaine Harris mysteries, this book falls in line with that genre. Great book, I want more!!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Lonely: A Memoir by Emily White

Author: Emily White
Publish Date: March 1, 2010
ISBN: 9780061765094
List Price: $25.99
My Rating: 2 out of 5

Jacket Synopsis:
This boldly honest and elegantly written memoir reveals the painful and sometimes debilitating experience of living with chronic loneliness—the first book of its kind devoted exclusively to the subject.
Despite having a demanding job, good friends, and a supportive family, Emily White spent many of her evenings and weekends alone at home, trying to understand why she felt so disconnected from everyone. To keep up the facade of an active social life and to hide the painful truth, the successful young lawyer often lied to those around her—and to herself. She was suffering from severe loneliness. 

My Comments:
I saw this book and thought it would be a good, helpful read. Being that it is a memoir, it would have personal insight and reflection on loneliness. I expected it to be an informational read that would help me understand my own feelings of loneliness. After personal set-backs, loneliness is ever present, even with so much family and friends around. The book describes different types of loneliness: situational, emotional, and chronic, the major types that I took from the read.

The author suffers what she terms as chronic loneliness and writes about the fact that there is not much study or material around the state of loneliness. With that said, I expected this book to provide helpful insight on how to deal with loneliness, but it does jump from a memoir format to a medical-jargon filled self-help that I found difficult to apply. I had high expectations that this book would share relate-able ways to conquer, if not, manage loneliness, but, sadly, I found the read frustrating and daunting.

I congratulate Ms. White on an amazing accomplishment and difficult journey. I hope that this book was cathartic for her and that it helps others who experience the state of loneliness, if the can get through the monumental material.

How To Mellify A Corpse by Vicki Leon

Author: Vicki León
Publish Date: July 6, 2010
ISBN: 9780802717023
List Price: $17.00
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Jacket Synopsis:
In How to Mellify a Corpse, Vicki León brings her particular hybrid of history and humor to the entwined subjects of science and superstition in the ancient world, from Athens and Rome to Mesopotamia, the Holy Land, Egypt, and Carthage. León covers subjects as diverse as astronomy and astrology, philosophy and practicalities of life and death (including the titular ancient method of embalming), and ancient mechanical engineering. How to Mellify a Corpse of course invokes legendary thinkers (Pythagoras and his discoveries in math and music, Aristotle's books on politics and philosophy, and Archimedes' "Eureka" moment), but it also delves deeply into the lives of everyday people, their understanding and beliefs.

A feast for the curious mind, How to Mellify a Corpse is not only for those with an interest in the experimental: it's for anyone who's inspired by the imagination and ingenuity humanity uses to understand our world.
My Comments:
ARC Winner! What a great read! León's writing style is interesting, yet humorously objective. Her goal is to give you insight into old age superstitions and social beliefs from the Greco-Roman times while applying some common sense with a humorous voice. She also relates them to society's beliefs and superstitions today which is often hysterical. León paints a colorful picture of Greek and Roman times which explores the day-to-day lives, beliefs, social politics, and personal rituals of great philosophers of the time, kings/conquerors, other notable figures, and average citizens.

If you are wondering about that title, it has to do with the preservative benefits of honey. It was common to preserve foods in honey, but it also led to other important preservations. Alexander the Great mellified his lover and himself upon their deaths. Other superstitions about necromancy and "learning secrects from the dead" has an interesting tale as well. Cleomenes became king and he cut off the head of his best friend, Archonides, and preserved it in honey in a large jar in his room. This allowed King Cleomenes to consult with Archonides about battles and political issues. "It may come as no surprise to learn that the honeyed skull of Archonides agreed with everything he said." (pg. 64)

This book touches on philosophy, astronomy, construction, politics, science, music, medicine, and the history of these civilizations. We journey into the lives of Aristotle, Plato, Emperor Octavian, Pliny the Elder, Cicero, Pythagorus, Archimedes, and many others. We also cross such lands as Greece, Italy, Spain, France, England, Asia Minor (now Turkey) and the Middle East.

I like León's writing style because it flows smoothly and intelligently while still entertaining. She covers a great deal of material but keeps it from being overwhelming or boring as some historical reads can become. The topics switch often but are connected either by a historical figure, topic, or place to keep the reader on track and mentally connected to the material. You will definitely remember this read because you are able to relate it to today and intelligent humor stays with you.

I have already acquired her other series called "Uppity Women" of Ancient Times, Medieval Times, and Shakespearean Times. I cannot wait to get started on this series!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dead and Loving It by MaryJanice Davidson

Author: MaryJanice Davidson
Publish Date: April 4, 2006
ISBN: 9780425207956
List Price: $14.00
My Rating: 3 out of 5

Jacket Synopsis: 
MaryJanice Davidson has enchanted readers everywhere with her delicious blend of wicked humor, sizzling sex, and totally unique vision of vampires and werewolves. In this collection of four novellas she brings her beloved Wyndham werewolves (featured in her acclaimed novel Derek's Bane) together with the vampires ruled by Betsy Taylor (from her bestselling Undead series).

Filled with equal parts of spicy heat and laugh-out-loud moments, this collection will drive Davidson's legion of fans wild with blood-pounding delight.

My Comments:
The Undead books are a great series and I have read all 9 books. I highly recommend to anyone the Undead Series (Queen Betsy). However, I was not so entertained or impressed by this short-story off shoot of the series. Please do not let that comment deter you from checking out the Undead Series because it is off-the-chart entertaining and I just love the characters. I really wish I knew Betsy in real life because her quips and come-backs are to die for (no pun intended).

The mini-stories in this book are interesting but you would certainly have had to read the Undead Series to understand the back stories behind the characters written about in this book. The author's style is uniquely inviting and just plain funny. The Undead series and this book include stories about Vampires, Ghosts, Zombies, Fiends, Werewolves, and the Devil Spawn. These characters are hilarious and interesting to watch them interact and live together. There is always some disaster that has to be attending to and Queen Betsy has the humor to get through it.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Author: Lewis Carroll
Publish Date: 1865
Website: N/A
ISBN: 9781593080150
List Price: $5.95
My Rating: 2 out of 5

Jacket Synopsis:
Alice begins her adventures when she follows the frantically delayed White Rabbit down a hole into the magical world of Wonderland, where she meets a variety of wonderful creatures, including Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Cheshire Cat, the hookah-smoking Caterpillar, the Mad Hatter, and the Queen of Hearts—who, with the help of her enchanted deck of playing cards, tricks Alice into playing a bizarre game of croquet. Alice continues her adventures in Through the Looking-Glass, which is loosely based on a game of chess and includes Carroll’s famous poem “Jabberwocky.” 

My Comments:
I picked up this classic after watching the new 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland. I was very excited to read this classic story since I had grown up on the Disney version as well. Well...let's just say that this is interesting. I got through it finally, but the jargon and innuendo of the Victorian times that this story was written in was completely lost on me. I would love to say that I enjoyed the story and that it will be a "keeper" in my library, but it sadly will not be.

I am glad to say that I "read" the story which means that I read the words and turned the pages, but probably comprehended about 70% of the story. It was not entertaining because I was having to look up much of the Victorian vernacular. Many of the colloquialisms had to do with politics and societal differences. I figure as I read more about Victorian times much more of the story will make sense. Kudos to those of you who understood and enjoyed this story.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Monster Book of Zombies, Edited by Stephen Jones

Editor: Stephen Jones
Publish Date: September 18, 2009
ISBN: 9781435120495
List Price: $7.98
My Rating: 3 out of 5

Jacket Synopsis:
Death is not the end! If you are too rational to believe otherwise, then we invite you to read the stories collected. Here are tales of the walking dead reanimated by black magic, weird science, outer space viruses, and plain old human irresponsibility. No matter how they are resurrected, all indulge in malevolent mischief and mayhem that will make you think twice about dismissing dead as done.

My Comments:
This book is a collection of 26 zombie mini-stories by such authors as Clive Barker, Joe R. Landsdale, Robert Bloch, H.P. Lovecraft, Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, Les Daniels, Edgar Allan Poe, Brian Lumley, Manly Wade Wellman, and others.

These stories provide different interpretations of the zombie. We typically see them as mindless, flesh eating beings that thrive on the movie screen, but in these stories the zombies are aware, have cognitive thought, and plan devious acts to obtain their goal. The various writing styles are interesting and the non-typical interpretation of the zombie may question the differences between vamps and zombies if they both are the living dead.

Mina by Marie Kiraly

Author: Marie Kiraly
Publish Date: December 4, 2007
Website: http: (Written under the pen name of Marie Kiraly)
ISBN: 9780425217467
List Price: $3.99
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Jacket synopsis:
The chilling and erotic tale of Mina Harker, sole survivor of the vampire's obsession.

My Comments:
The story is a continuation of the original story of Dracula by Bram Stoker. It is from Mina Harker's point of view just after she has been seduced and bitten by Dracula. It chronicles the search and chase of Dracula by Mina, Van Helsing, Jonathan Harker, Dr. Seward, Arthur, and Quincey. Mina details in her diary the chase, the demise, and their return to ordinary life.

Although upon their return to England, Mina cannot shake her connection to Dracula, though he is believed dead, nor her vivid, frightening dreams. She questions her ability & desire to fulfill an expectation of carrying on the facade of a happy Victorian marriage. Mina cannot escape the dreaded reactions to blood and sensual desires triggered by the vampire blood inside of her. During her adventure and escape from Dracula's castle, Mina stumbled upon a diary kept by one of Dracula's three wives. This diary also becomes an obsession of Mina's because it has to be translated. She must know the intimate details of 100 year old diary and how it may provide answers for her future.

Through all this Mina endures murder, adultery, a stint in an asylum, and her journey back to Dracula's castle to confront what she may become.

The author has done a great job of continuing the voice of Mina Harker from Bram Stoker's Dracula. The characters are so vivid that you cannot help but be drawn into the story. I thought this was an exciting and well written read. There were a few edit errors, but I enjoyed the story. I am curious to see where Mina's story goes, so I will be reading the sequel to this book Blood to Blood (Dracula Continues, #2) under Elaine Bergstrom.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Queen of This Realm: The Tudor Queens (Queens of England, #2) by Jean Plaidy

Author: Jean Plaidy
Publish Date: May 18, 2004
Website: Goodreads - Jean Plaidy
ISBN: 9780609810200
List Price: $14.95
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Jacket synopsis:
In this "memoir" by Elizabeth I, legendary historical novelist Jean Plaidy reveals the Virgin Queen as she truly was: the bewildered, motherless child of an all-powerful father; a captive in the Tower of London; a shrewd politician; a lover of the arts; and eventually, an icon of an era. It is the story of her improbable rise to power and the great triumphs of her reign—the end of religious bloodshed, the settling of the New World, the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Brilliantly clever, a scholar with a ready wit, she was also vain, bold, and unpredictable, a queen who commanded—and won—absolute loyalty from those around her.

My comments:
I thought this was an excellent historical romance. I love reading about Queen Elizabeth I and thought this book was a wonderful story, partially including real history, but also always touching on the missed romances that Elizabeth had throughout her reign. I like the way that Jean Plaidy writes. Her written voice is easy to follow, exciting, and educating. She includes not only the romance realm, but also insight into the politics of her reign and never-ending fight for her crown by usurpers, foreign princes, and distant family members. It is an insightful read about Elizabeth’s inner voice and emotional turmoil that she endured throughout her reign.

I look forward to reading more of Plaidy's books in her series titled the Queens of England. The Tudor Saga Series also looks very intriguing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge by Eleanor Herman

Author: Eleanor Herman
Publish Date: April 1, 2005
ISBN: 9780060585440
List Price: $13.95
My Rating: 2 out of 5

Jacket synopsis:
Continuing her accounts of history from women's perspective, Herman foregrounds the royal mistresses of Europe since the Middle Ages, who are usually relegated to shadows even when significantly influencing policy. One of her insights is that mistresses provided kings not so much with sex as with companionship.

My comments:
This book was supposed to be about the historical role the mistress played in the structure and balance of the monarchy. Be it for beauty, politics, power, greed, or even love, the mistress played an important role whether moral or not. This book was disappointing to say the least. This book is not organized well. To read it is confusing and without an organized flow. It was very disjointed and skipped around way too much. The characters begin to blend together and it is hard for the reader to place the event being read about into a time line with the right historical figures. The character stories should have been organized into mini-stories or into specific topics, or at least by a time table. An interesting insight to the role of mistress. I already have another of Eleanor Herman's books and I am not sure that I will read it through like this one if it is as haphazardly put together like this one.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Get It Done When You're Depressed by Julie A. Fast

Author: Julie A. Fast
Publish Date: January 2, 2008
ISBN: 9781592577064
List Price: $14.95
My Rating: 3 out of 5

First, I have to say thank you to Julie Fast for writing a book without the confusing medical jargon and giving us strategies that can be truly applied to everyday situations and circumstances. There are too many books out there that just give you big words, no help and just a bunch of fluff. Julie's writing is honest, eye opening, and to the point. You don't have to read 100 pages to start applying her strategies and guidance. You don't have time to wait when dealing with anxiety and depression.

As the reader, you don't have to read the book in order, but you can. There are 50 chapters and I read them in my order of importance which helped me obtain that "accomplished feeling" along with working through chapter's short trainer to apply the chapter's lesson. Each chapter is only about 6 pages which means her strategies are simple and condensed. There is no run-on discussion, just to the point strategies to help you function, acknowledge, and move past any anxiety, self-esteem or depression issues you are dealing with. We all deal with depression in our lives and this strategy reference guide (which is what it will be for me now) is quick and so helpful... Thanks Julie...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publish Date: July 13, 2010
ISBN: 9780545123280
List Price: $17.99
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Trailer: Linger Book Trailer (created, filmed, and scored by Maggie Stiefvater)
Trailer: Music Composed for the Book by Maggie Stiefvater

The story is about a boy who was a wolf and about a girl who is destined to become one. Even though they are together now, in Linger, they have to fight to stay together. Secretly Grace's health is deteriorating and all the signs are leading her to believe that the wolf in her if fighting to be free.

Linger begins where Shiver leaves us with Sam and Grace together after the surprising risk they take to keep Sam in his human form. Sam is still in shock over the possibility that he will stay human, no longer shift to a wolf form, and stay with Grace forever. If that were the case, the story would end there.

All is well for a while, Grace and Sam could not be happier planning a future together. Grace begins to feel there is something wrong as she notices regular nosebleeds and a strange wolf smell on herself. To add to that, Grace and Sam are torn apart when Grace's parents find out that Sam and Grace spend every waking and sleeping moment together. They forbid her to see Sam. All the while she is becoming more sick. Grace eventually makes the decision to be with Sam and leave her absentee parents.

New characters are introduced into the story as Beck, Sam's pack leader, recruits new pack members, who unfortunately are not the average recruits, Cole and Victor. Sam struggles with understanding why Beck recruited members so famous which could reveal their existence. To complicate matters, Beck has transformed and is not expected to shift back, ever. Sam is left to assume the new pack leader role. Cole and Victor are well-known rockers who wanted to escape their life of bad decisions. Sam and Cole do not get along, but when they are confronted by threats to their pack mates and Grace's possible death they find away to help each other. Even Isabel join the struggle and fight to save the pack and Grace.

The story is written from 4 character perspectives: Grace, Sam, Cole and Isabel. The author does a great job of transitioning between each character's voice making sure to keep their distinctive personalities within each chapter. My favorite quote is from Isabel talking to Grace about leaving home to be with Sam "...because you couldn't live without The Boy's stunning Boyfruits for another night." (pg. 311) I just love the author's sense of humor amongst all the drama.

The author certainly give characters the right balance of melodrama and humor. Between crying there is laughing... The author has created a unique and original plot around the existence of wolves creating the idea of escapism where the character can give into their raw senses. The conclusion of Linger is both expected and unexpected. I cannot wait to hear Grace's voice in Forever...I won't spoil it. This is another great young adult (YA) novel from Maggie Stiefvater and I am eager to see the next book in the trilogy, Forever, due out in July 2011.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publish Date: August 1, 2009
ISBN: 9780545123266
List Price: $17.99
My Rating: 5 out of 5 

Trailer: Shiver Trailer 

The basis of the story is about a boy who lives his winters as a wolf and his summers as a boy. All the while in love with a girl on the edge of the woods. He saved the girl from a pack attack when she was young and has not been able to forget her all those years. 

Grace has spent her days watching the wolves in Mercy Falls always noticing a particular yellow-eyed wolf watching back. That summer Grace happens upon a yellow-eyed boy all too recognizable at the local bookstore. Grace knows this must be her wolf. Soon Grace and Sam are inseparable, but as winter approaches they are both desperate to find a way to keep Sam human because if he turns into a wolf he may never turn back again. 

Let me just say I read this book in one day! I could not put it down. The love story between Grace and Sam is so precious and inviting that you just can't help but finish this book in one sitting. It is not without its adventure and excitement as Sam fights to stay human. He knows that he has little time left before he transitions to a wolf for good. The author, Maggie, has such a unique writing style that draws you into this is so vivid that you feel like you are right there watching the entire story unfold.

Beware: I started crying at chapter 35!

The story is written so that each chapter is either from Grace's or Sam's point of view. It just gives the reader a valuable insight into the emotions, thoughts, and inner monologue of both Grace and Sam... an insight that just draws you closer and deeper into each character. This story is such a page turner...I cannot wait for Linger to get here ... I cannot wait to see what Grace and Sam...(not going to spoil it)...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Juliet by Anne Fortier

Author: Anne Fortier
Publish date: August 17, 2010
ISBN: 9780345516107
List Price: $25.00
My Rating: 5 out of 5

Trailer: Juliet Trailer

An amazing story by a very talented new writer. A story about a girl with little direction in her life finds a whirlwind adventure about mystery, loss, fate, lost love, and arrives at a conclusion no one could have foreseen. The twists and turns of this story are thrilling and on-the-edge-of-your-seat entertaining. I was unable to pull myself away from this exciting read. Juliet's trials and adventures are so well written and engaging. This book is truly a labor of love by Anne Fortier. I thoroughly enjoyed the historical adventure of the true Romeo and Juliet and how it lead to a 600 year old mystery to be solved by today's Juliet. The emotional attachment to the characters is strong and as the reader you cannot wait to see where the myth and mystery travels next. I know other readers will find this book just as mesmerizing, intriguing, and completely entertaining. It is a love story that spans 600 years. Best of luck to Anne Fortier and I hope that this book is as well received as I hope that it will be. I look forward to more stories by Ms. Fortier!

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Author: Sara Gruen
Publish Date: April 9,2006
ISBN: 9781565125605
List Price: $13.95
My Rating: 3 out of 5

A cute story of the life of Jacob Jankowski. A very vivid story about the trials of Jacob's life as a unplanned circus vet during the 1930's depression era. It begins with him as an old man, 93 to be exact, and how he is worried that he is losing touch with reality and becoming one of those senile folks he sees in his assisted living home. Jacob is sharp as a tack though and completely aware of what he still wants out of life. Each chapter bounces him from the present, age 93, to his youth at 23...where we begin his life story at college and the terrible events that catapult him to a rocky adventure with a circus at the beginning of the depression era. 

In the beginning, we learn that Jacob has lost his parents to a terrible car accident and left him penniless as the depression begins to unfold over America. Jacob leaves college and wonders aimlessly until he happens upon a moving circus train that provides an escape from loneliness and loss. Jacob joins the circus because he has no where else to go. 

Jacob meets Marlena and August after he has stowed away on the circus train of the Benzini Brother's Circus. Marlena is the star of the show with her equestrian act and August is a circus boss. She has a natural talent of speaking to the animals and the charisma of an angel. Jacob falls for Marlena even though she married a man, August, to escape her family to a new life on her own terms, or so she thought. August isn't what he appears and is a feared character in this story. August has violent tendencies toward people and animals. He can't be trusted. 

The circus is a third rate circus which doesn't bode well for anyone. "Red lighting" (being thrown from a speeding train) occurs often to keep the circus "profitable" and paychecks are usually hard to come by. As they struggle to keep the circus together, they happen upon an elephant, by the name of Rosie, who needs employment. It's soon believed that Rosie has no talent and was a worthless purchase, but Jacob observes that Rosie is trained ... in Polish which may lead to an amazing act. However, tragically Marlena is injured and we endure the wrath of August as he shows his anger towards Rosie. 

I thought the story was entertaining, had a great twist in the plot, and an unexpected ending. The author's able to paint a pretty vivid picture of this "menagerie," but in the end I felt the love story could have been better established. I just didn't feel the strong love connection between the characters that I expected. It just didn't tug at the heart-strings. They are currently bringing this book to the big screen, so it will be interesting to see how it translates to the movie screen.

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Author: Lauren Kate
Publish Date: November 19, 2009
ISBN: 9780385738934
List Price: $17.99
My Rating: 5 out of 5

Trailer: Fallen Trailer

Where to start!? This book is a can't-put-it-down type of book. The plot is original, creative, and captivating. Lauren Kate, the author, draws you into the world of Luce and Daniel with such dramatic visions of an unknown, uncontrollable darkness that has followed Luce all her life. Luce’s life seems tragic and destined for a dark ending. Until she arrives at the reform school, after a terrible incident involving death, Luce sees Daniel and she feels an unbelievable pull, and a knowing him that she can't explain. No matter how mean and off putting he is, she is drawn to him. As the dark shadows befall Luce again and are increasingly more dangerous, Daniel appears to be more present to save her or guide her. Luce starts researching Daniel's past as she is drawn to him. She has to know everything about him. This only leads to more shadows appearing and hurting those around her. Ultimately, Luce figures out why she has these vivid dreams of her past and of being with Daniel and realizes they have been together in past lives and no matter what they do they find each other, but they are soon driven apart upon Luce's death. She only lives for 17 years each time and Daniel is heartbroken but so in love he falls for her each time. This time though things are different and Luce doesn't die when Daniel and others expect her to and Daniel is doing everything he can do to keep her safe and break the cycle of losing Luce. As the angel war begins, Daniel is doing everything he can to keep her safe because they need her.

As the reader, we don't find out in the book why they need Luce and what her importance is to the fallen angels, but both sides of angels need and want her and that is where we are left... with Luce safe and Daniel watching over her until he and his angel friends can figure out how to save her and win the war... One character alludes that the sanity of the world shouldn’t revolve around the love of two sick lovebirds (Luce & Daniel)… so we are not sure how important that Luce and Daniel be together really is. We are left with a lot of questions and so eager to continue the story.

I hope to hear more about Luce’s past lives and her purpose in the world of the fallen angels. Lauren Kate has such a great writing style. The story is vivid. I felt like I was there in every scene. This story would make an amazing movie if the screenwriter could capture the story and world Lauren has created.

Torment, the sequel to Fallen, comes out in August-2010. It is already pre-ordered! I cannot wait to continue this story. I was completely on the edge of my seat with this story and I did not want to turn to that last page. It was hard to close the book and have the story end. My anticipation is boiling over for this next book...hurry up August!!

Angel Star by Jennifer Murgia

Author: Jennifer Murgia
Publish Date: May 18, 2010
ISBN: 9780982500538
List Price: $10.99
My Rating: 5 out of 5

Trailer: Angel Star Trailer

Angel Star is the first book from Jennifer Murgia, a brilliant new YA author. What if you met your guardian angel? What would happen if you fell in love with him?

It is a story about a girl with a normal life going to school and dreaming about what all girls dream about...the perfect boy to come along and fall in love. Teagan never imagined a world beyond her own. Until…a transfer student appears and shares with her a secret no other human knows. There are angels, guardian angels, that are there our entire lives. Teagan’s guardian angel, Garreth, is allowed to reveal himself and the world of angels to her only because Teagan has powers unknown to her that will help save humanity.

Teagan learns that Garreth has given up his wings and will become human in eight days in order to declare his love for her and prepare her for the darkness. Garreth will no longer be able to protect her as he has all her life from the shadows. The struggle between the light and the dark become personal when those around her are touched by the darkness.

Can Teagan grasp her hidden power and hold on to her true love, or will the darkness overcome her and lead her down a dark path? Temptation to do so is strong, but can Teagan harness her powers to see the Truth?

Hadrian, a dark angel, is very alluring and beautiful in his in own right. She encounters Hadrian in a painful struggle to save Garreth, her guardian angel. In the end she has to choose between Garreth and Hadrian … learning that some people have more than one angel. Could one of them be a dark angel that pulls at the darkness within us?

The story pauses at this point where Teagan knows that Hadrian is watching her too. Lemniscate (2011), the sequel to Angel Star, will continue Teagan’s story…

I could not put this book down. It was fast paced, action packed, with a brilliantly woven love story… This book is one of my new favorite-must-keep books and I am eagerly looking forward to the sequel. I look forward to reading more of Jennifer's book in the future. She has a fantastic and imaginative writing style, which paints the most detailed scenic pictures. I could picture the stone chapel in the woods and every scene Teagan experienced.

Wonderful book, Jennifer! Congratulations on realizing a dream. I truly look forward to many more books from you...

The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen

Author:  Thomas Mullen
Publish Date: January 26, 2010
ISBN: 9781400067534
List Price: $26.00
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Trailer: Firefly Brothers Trailer

I thought this was an intriguing read about mobsters in the '30s Depression era. It is a story about fictional mobsters known as the Firefly Brothers, Jason and Whit Fireson, who defy the law of "death." They are fairly well known criminals and adored by the public for their heroic deeds of tearing up past due debts of destitute Americans when robbing banks. Unfortunately, they are caught in a wild shoot out and killed, we think! Once I started this read, I could not turn the pages fast enough.

The story starts in 1934 and is action packed with robberies, shootouts, kidnappings, close calls, and wild adventures of being on the run. The Depression is looming and America glorifies mobster figures. When the brothers are caught in a fire fight and are killed, for the first time, the media is on a race to cover the story. As other mobsters like Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd are becoming "Public Enemies." The FBI is making mobsters priority #1. After the media gets a look at the bodies of the Firefly Brothers and publishes their demise, somehow they disappear from the morgue without a trace until reports of appearances crop up about the Firefly Brothers showing up in banks and speakeasies again.

The brothers cannot explain how they are still alive and law enforcement cannot explain why and where they are either, so the brothers are on the run. The FBI attempts to cover up the public blunder while searching for them and explain the growing mystery now surrounding the brothers. The brother's fear their new found apparent invincibility, but as old habits and family obligations emerge they can't help but make new plans for bank robberies.

The story gives the reader a great fictional but historical view of the Depression and the impact it had on the American worker, creating Hoovervilles, and the family strife the Fireson's endured.  The author also intertwines the FBI's true misgivings of the time into the Firefly Brothers's story along with references to real mobsters of the day (Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, etc.). The reader not only follows the escapades of the Firefly Brothers, but how their family members and sweethearts are effected throughout the story. The story weaves in the concurrent stories of the assigned agent to the Fireson's Investigation Team and even J. Edger Hoover.

Mr. Mullen's writing style is thrilling and intriguing. He keeps the reader completely engaged while sustaining the mystery and action throughout the story. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in '30's Mobster era or even just an action packed, suspenseful read.