Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October Releases

There have been several books come out in the last couple of weeks, since An Echo in the Bone. I've been a busy girl reading them all, as well as reading the first two Aaron Elkins novels.
Charlaine Harris' book of Sookie Stackhouse short stories, A Touch of Dead came out. I was very excited about this book. I have most of the anthologies that contain these short stories already, but it's wonderful to have them all in one place. The one I hadn't read before was "Fairy Dust," that featured Claude and Claudine. It also has "Dracula Night," "One Word Answer," "Lucky," and "Gift Wrap." I do love the Sookie short stories, and can't wait for Ms. Harris to write more of them, and the regular books too of course.

I also just finished reading Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, who wrote The Time Traveler's Wife. It was pretty different from that earlier novel, but I enjoyed it very much. I had a hard time seeing the overall plot at first, well, almost until the end really. It is kind of a story of the building, and the different lives within it. Although, there is really more focus on the people than the building. It has some interesting stories involving twins. One of the characters has OCD and the other is kind of directionless, or perhaps just trying to find himself again. The characters were fabulous and really drew me in. In fact, I would definitely have to read a sequel if Ms. Niffenegger were to write one.

I also read Lynsay Sands The Renegade Hunter. It was the continuing saga of her vampire novels. I really enjoy her take on vampires. In Ms. Sands novels, vampires are a result of a medical experiment of sorts gone awry in the lost city of Atlantis. Nano bots were created to repair damage from cancer and other diseases, but instead they didn't allow the patient to age. And, since the nanos are powered by blood and humans cannot produce enough blood on their own and required transfusions. Anyway, they live similarly to how we perceive vampires.
This particular book is the story of Nicholas, who had apparently gone rogue some 50 years before this book takes place and his finding his life mate.

I read the first two of Aaron Elkins series with forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver. I have to say, I have read all of the Kathy Reichs novels, and I do enjoy them immensely, but, I enjoy the more down to earth explanations in the Aaron Elkins books of the actual anthropology bits. There is good action and interesting mysteries. The first novel, Fellowship of Fear, feels like a spy novel, rather than an anthropological mystery. The second novel, The Dark Place, is more of an anthropological mystery. Neither feel as purely forensic anthropology as the Temperance Brennan novels by Kathy Reichs, but they have a nice quick pace and an intriguing mystery in them. I look forward to reading more of this series.

The new Kelley Armstrong book Frostbitten came out this week. I have downloaded it to Kindle, but haven't started reading it yet. I have to read Living with the Dead before I get to the new book. Of course, right now I've just started Witchling by Yasmine Galenorn.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

An Echo In The Bone by Diana Gabaldon

Diana Gabaldon's latest in the Outlander series was not a disappointment. The continuing epic story of Jaime and Claire Fraser and their family had some great payoff moments that I for one had been looking forward to. The writing was fabulous as always, I love the way she writes, her use of words, and especially the way you can hear the Scottish accents.
I admit to getting a little anxious for the story to move along. The book follows at least four different story arcs, and even though I had faith that they would wind together, I couldn't wait for them to do so.

Spoilers ahead!!!

I found myself getting weepy throughout the book. I realized I had "known" these characters since I read the first book in high school, and have re-read all of the books at least once, more for the older ones. So, some of the interactions between Jaime and Claire and many of the scenes between Roger and Bree, especially ones involving their reading the letters that Jaime and Claire had left for them had me reaching for the tissues.
The story arcs that I liked the least while I was reading them were the ones with William and John Grey, although, by the end when all the different lines completed the tapestry of the story I had a better appreciation for those story lines.
As far as the payoffs that I had been looking forward to that we got in this installment: Jaime, Claire, and Ian return to Scotland and Lallybroch; William finally finds out that Jaime is his father; Lord John Gray and Claire making peace with each other; Ian finding someone else to love after Emily; Jenny coming to America; not to mention the possible birth parents of Fergus.
I love the realism of the relationship between Jaime and Claire and how well they are aging. I like the interspersing of their letters to Bree and Roger with the narrative. I can completely understand the MacKenzie's wanting to not read all the letters right away. I read the book slower than I normally read to try to savour it a little. Especially since the next book isn't likely to be out for a couple years yet.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Flower Shop Mysteries by Kate Collins

I loved this series. I read the whole thing. It feels a little like Gilmore Girls would be if it were a murder mystery series a la Murder She Wrote. The town has a Stars Hollow feel to it, and I loved all the quirky characters.
Abby Knight is a smart and funny heroine, and I love the descriptions of her flower shop. I don't have a green thumb, but I could feel the relaxation that Abby felt everytime she went into the workroom.
The mysteries were great too, they kept me guessing up until the culprit was about to be revealed. Occasionally, the culprit was even a surprise.
The relationship between Abby and Marco has real chemistry and it's nice that the relationship proceeds slowly, it makes each encounter more delicious.
The Flower Shop Mystery series is comprised of:
Mum's the Word
Slay it with Flowers
Dearly Depotted
Snipped in the Bud
Acts of Violets
A Rose from the Dead
Shoots to Kill
Evil in Carnations

The next novel Sleeping with Anemone will be out in February in 2010, and I will be waiting to read it!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning

I re-read the entire series, starting with Darkfever on Sunday. I finished Dreamfever in the wee hours this morning. I loved it! You know the book is awesome when you cry out in frustration at the cliff hanger ending. I have been so sucked in by this series. Mac is an amazing characters. I always love characters that grow and change during a series. Even Barrons has done some changing in my opinion, although luckily he hasn't changed too much. I feel as confused as Mac trying to figure out the players and the big game in this series. I like that there are not many times that I find myself yelling at Mac for a decision she's making. Mostly I feel like she makes the decision that I would make, or at least, I am unable to see the downside right away. In so many books, especially told in first person, you just want to grab the character and shake them and say, "How can you have decided to do/say that?! Can't you see he/she is the villain? Do you not see how this is going to basically put your life in danger?"
In this series the things I get most frustrated about is the lack of trust among the two main characters (Mac and Jericho Barrons), when it seems like some things would have gone much smoother if they had trusted each other a little more. But, I can also understand the lack of trust, although it makes some of their exchanges frustrating.

I love the world that KMM has created in the Fever series. I have felt like I was discovering a whole new world within our own, along with Mac. Sometimes her world feels so real that I find myself looking for Shades in the shadows. I also love that in spite of how bleak the world and the outlook for humans has become during the series. There is always hope and there are always people that are not ready to give up their world to the fae.

In this installment of the Fever series (Darkfever, Bloodfever, Fae fever, Dreamfever), we find out what happens to Mac after being captured by the Lord Master and the Unseelie Princes. It was a nice payoff to read about Mac's journey from Pri-ya to Mac 4.0, with more than a little help from Barrons. V'lane, the Seelie prince had a different twist to his character in this one and to Mac's continuing interaction with him. I loved the return of some great characters like fellow Sidhe-seers Dani and Kat, Inspector Jayne. It was nice to learn a little more about the Lord Master/Darroc, Christian, the dreamy-eyed boy, and of course Barrons(!!!). The ending threw me for a loop, but, I'm consoling myself with what Barrons has always told Mac....Don't assume it's dead until you've burned the body, poked around in the ashes, and then waited a couple days to make sure nothing rises from the ashes. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Spellman Series by Lisa Lutz

I read the three books that are currently out in this series back to back in 2 days. So, I this mini-review is going to cover all 3. In order, the books are The Spellman Files, Curse of the Spellmans, and Revenge of the Spellmans. We are introduced to the Spellman Family. Patriarch Albert, Matriarch Olivia, the perfect oldest sibling David, the wild child (and main character) Isabelle, and the youngest (and possible evil genius) Rae. There is also an Uncle Ray (Albert's brother) who has a big part in the first book.
Isabelle is 28 in the first book and finally starting to grow up a little. She had been a juvenile delinquent (literally) as an adolescent, but had followed a straighter path once she hit 18. Her parents run a PI firm and all of the kids worked in the firm as teens, learning the business. David did not enjoy the family business and went on to law school. Isabelle loved the business. She also remained in her parents house, albeit in an attic apartment until she was 28. Rae was 14 years younger than Isabelle and 16 or so years younger than David. Rae also looks young for her age.
The first book is framed around the story of Rae's disappearance, and much of the information seems to come out as a result of Isabelle's questioning by Inspector Harry Stone.
The second book revolves about Izzy's inability to let a case go, even when everyone around her tries to convince her otherwise.
The third book revolves around Izzy's soul search about whether or not she is really cut out to make PI work her career. It also involves a lot of changes in her life.

I loved all of these books, which is probably kind of obvious because I read all 3 in 2 days. It was literally an I laughed, I cried kind of thing. Izzy is a very sympathetic character. To me she seems like what Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone could be if she would try to act a little more human. There is no doubt that Isabelle is a flawed character, and she at least begins to come to terms with some of those flaws by the end of the third book. She changes and grows and see the effect she has on the world. Over the course of the three books we also develop a nicely rounded picture of the other members of Isabelle's family and friends.
The mysteries themselves are ok, they aren't too hard to figure out. I was able to put the clues together myself before the reveal, which I kind of enjoy more than the kind of ending that just seems sprung on you out of nowhere. But, the mysteries are fairly compelling. It's also nice to read a series where the main character doesn't have to put herself in mortal peril in order to figure out the mystery. Actually, some of the side mysteries involving Izzy's family are more challenging to figure out than the main ones.
I highly recommend the Spellman Series by Lisa Lutz. They make up a funny, entertaining mystery series with great characters that you can root for. I can't wait to see where she takes the series next, it seems like it might be at a pretty good turning point.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Breakfast With Buddha by Roland Merullo

I completely loved this book. It took me a little longer to get through it than some of the other books I read, but that was because I would re-read portions and then have to stop reading to just think about different portions of the book or to talk about parts of it with my hubby. Not that hubby read the book, but he humors me.
Otto Ringling is driving from New Jersey to North Dakota to finalize issues relating to his parents estate. His traveling companion for the journey is Voyla Rinpoche, a guru in a tradition similar to Buddhism, but not quite Buddhism. Otto is a self-described skeptic of the more woo woo aspects of life and in the beginning is almost determined to prove the Rinpoche a fraud. However, the journey of the two men across America is a learning experience for both men. Otto teaches Rinpoche about America and Rinpoche teaches Otto about his spiritual self.
This book was an easy read, but deeply affecting. I felt unable to just go back to the more frivolous reading that I had been doing prior to Breakfast With Buddha. It inspired me to go back to reading Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-zinn. I have been attracted to Buddhism in the past, and on a recent 4 week trip to Green Mountain at Fox Run in Vermont finally had a chance to learn more about meditation and how wonderful the practice is. Breakfast With Buddha made me again want to explore my own spirituality and practice mindfulness.
I highly recommend this book it is an entertaining account of a road trip, and it makes you ponder weightier issues of life.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Where There's a Witch

I finished the new Madelyn Alt this morning. I do love Maggie O'Neill. She has finally found the place where she fits in the world and is learning some confidence in herself. It is wonderful to see her strengthening her backbone in this installment of the Bewitching Mysteries. I have a feeling there is still some trouble brewing in her little town in Indiana.
This book again places Maggie in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is an anti-witch undercurrent in town also that is making business a little difficult at Enchantments, the gift shop where Maggie works. This undercurrent is also causing some issues between Maggie and her police officer beau Tom Fielding. Of course, with Marcus waiting in the wings, maybe that trouble could be good.
I love the characters in Madelyn Alt's series. I care about Maggie and have been excited to take the journey with her as she discovers her abilities and what makes her tick. The mystery itself in this one is kind of a means to an end and mostly helps Maggie discover some things about herself and her abilities. It wasn't really too hard to figure out who the bad guy was, but this series for me is more about the characters and their development and I think the overarching big bad that is building throughout the series. It seems like book 5 brings us closer to that ultimate showdown.
If you're already a fan of Madelyn Alt's series, this book isn't likely to disappoint. If you haven't read any of the previous installments, the first book is called The Trouble With Magic. It's a fun series, with a little bit of paranormal thrown in and a little bit of mystery. But mostly I think it's about finding our place in the world and nurturing our natural talents. The Bewitching Mysteries universe is one that feels real. I can believe in the paranormal that Maggie finds in her world, it doesn't seem so far out.
Bottom line, I highly recommend this series for some light reading, a little light mystery and some fun characters.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My new releases for Tuesday July 7th, Silent in the Sanctuary, Pleasure Unbound

So, in February I got the Kindle 2, so most of the books I read are on Kindle these days, but I do also read real books too, especially if it's something I really want that is not yet available on Kindle, like how Janet Evanovich's Finger-Lickin Fifteen wasn't available in Kindle format on release day last month. So, I bought the hardcover and will probably get the Kindle version as well.

The new books I was excited about today are Madelyn Alt's Where There's A Witch. It's the 5th book in her Bewitching Mysteries Series.

I also downloaded J.A. Konrath's Cherry Bomb the latest in his Jack Daniels series. Although, I have not yet read Fuzzy Navel.

While waiting for the new Madelyn Alt I had read all of the samples I had downloaded to my Kindle and ended up buying most of the books I had sampled.

Then I had started going back and reading books I had downloaded but had not read yet.

Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn
This was actually the second book in a series. I do hate to not start with the first book, but this was a title that had been available for free or cheap a while back on Kindle. It takes place in the late 1800s, mostly at an old monastery in England, March family home. It is a mystery where the environment is closed, the murderer has to be a part of the core group. I felt like this one had some good twists and turns. The characters were generally well written and fun to get to know. I did not feel like I was totally lost by missing the first book in the series (Silent in the Grave ), but it did make me decide to download that one and the one that follows Sanctuary (Silent on the Moor). These books do seem like they might be in danger of being formulaic, but I will reserve judgement until I've read the other two.
Lady Julia Grey is heading to the family home for the Christmas holidays along with her two elder brothers and a friend from Italy. Her father has intrigues planned for the holidays, but when one of the house guests is murdered the intrigues become more serious than Julia's father bargained for. Julia is asked to work with Nicholas Brisbane a private investigator type that she had met in the first book in the series to solve the murder before word gets out and sullies her already tarnished family name.
I was glad to have the built-in dictionary feature on my Kindle. I have not read a lot of books from this time period, and the built-in dictionary was great for looking up words that are not used often anymore, or not used in the context they were used in for this book. This book had the marvelous feeling of reading something written in an earlier time period, it had kind of a Jane Austin feel with more mystery and less matchmaking.
I can recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun mystery with some nice twists, and I hope to be able to recommend the whole series after I read the other two.

Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione
This was another cheap or free title for Kindle that I had downloaded a while back and just finished reading. It is an urban fantasy novel that is based around a demon-run ER that treats members of the supernatural community. This book is full of demons, vampires and shifters. There is also an organization of humans who work to rid the human world of these supernatural creatures a la Buffy.
One of the main characters is a Slayer named Tayla who is treated in the demon hospital by the doctor who runs it, a type of incubus named Eidolon. With one of the main characters being an incubus, if you guessed there are some good sex scenes in this book, you would be right. There are several subplots that weave together in an ending that I was able to see coming, but it was still an entertaining ride.