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Book Review: Darkfever (Fever Series #1) by Karen Moning

29 Jan

Darkfever (Fever Series #1)My Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Total departure for me:  It is hard-core fantasy; parts are NC-17 but suprisingly, I really enjoyed it! 

I’ve heard hard-core readers talk about this series over and over and over (and over) again.  Everyone luvvvssss these books.  So it was just a matter of time before I picked them up myself. 

The writing is adequate, the story unusual (for me) and I loved the main character by the end of this book.  This is an extremely surprising reaction in my opinion because it has 3 things I absolutely NEVER thought I would tolerate in a book:

  1. it is hard-core fantasy.
  2. parts of it are NC-17.
  3. my copy (thankfully on my Nook) had a LOT of cleavage on the cover. 

Yet despite all of this, I really liked this book and will read the rest in the series.  I know, right?  ME!   This story is about a young 20 something from Atlanta whose sister is murdered in Dublin, Ireland while studying there.  She travels to Dublin to come to grips with the tragedy and hopefully find some information to lead to her sister’s killer when out of the blue she discovers she is ‘special’ and otherworldly.  Chaos ensues. 

I never, EVER thought I would like a book like this.  Never say never!

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Book Review: The Phoenix Apostles (A Seneca Hunt Mystery) by Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore

27 Jan

The Phoenix ApostlesMy Rating:  1.5 out of 5 stars

EDIT:  thank you to Candice who read my review and pointed out a mistake in my historical facts.  I’ve edited my post with the correct information.

This book is extremely formulaic.  It follows a similar plot outline as many of the popular crime series with a recurring character:  Stephanie Plum (Janet Evanovich), Cotton Malone (Steve Barry), Alex Cross (James Patterson), you get the picture. 

Believe it or not, the use of a well-worn plot is not a criticism.  I enjoy these types of books and I chose this book specifically because I was in the mood for this formula. 

This story has the typical elements:  young, intelligent woman with a non-detective job who gets innocently wrapped up in solving a mystery to save her own life, narrowly escaping death and meeting interesting friends along the way.   

It’s the details that killed me here.  Spoiler Alert (highlight with your cursor over the next section – it’s in white text): There is a guy living in present times who is Montezuma who never died because he had the shroud of Turin the Veil of Veronica and is now digging up the graves of world history’s ‘mass murders’ (think Hitler and the like) and using their ground up bones and some smart doctors to  bring them back to life.  Which worked. Why is he doing this you ask?  So these killers can all do their bidding at the same time again now and ‘cleanse’ the earth which will make the sun-god happy and Montezuma will become a god. 

In-SANE.  When I said I liked formulaic, I should have also said that BEING REMOTELY FEASIBLE must be part of the formula I’ll read.  This is just nonsense.

Book Review: Faithful Place by Tana French

25 Jan

Faithful PlaceRating:  4 out of 5 stars

About the Book

Back in 1985, Frank Mackey was nineteen, growing up poor in Dublin’s inner city, and living crammed into a small flat with his family on Faithful Place. But he had his sights set on a lot more. He and Rosie Daly were all ready to run away to London together, get married, get good jobs, break away from factory work and poverty and their old lives.

But on the winter night when they were supposed to leave, Rosie didn’t show. Frank took it for granted that she’d dumped him-probably because of his alcoholic father, nutcase mother, and generally dysfunctional family. He never went home again.

Neither did Rosie. Everyone thought she had gone to England on her own and was over there living a shiny new life. Then, twenty-two years later, Rosie’s suitcase shows up behind a fireplace in a derelict house on Faithful Place, and Frank is going home whether he likes it or not.

Getting sucked in is a lot easier than getting out again. Frank finds himself straight back in the dark tangle of relationships he left behind. The cops working the case want him out of the way, in case loyalty to his family and community makes him a liability. Faithful Place wants him out because he’s a detective now, and the Place has never liked cops. Frank just wants to find out what happened to Rosie Daly and he’s willing to do whatever it takes, to himself or anyone else, to get the job done.

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My Review

Faithful Place is actually the third book in a ‘series’ by Tana French.  The first book is called In The Woods and the second book is called The Likeness.  I write ‘series’ because while they are related, you don’t have to read them in order.  Minor characters in one book becomes the focus of the next book.  I read In the Woods sometime last year and liked it okay, but I have not read The Likeness.  After reading Faithful Place, however, you can bet that The Likeness is on my list!

I read this book during a record cold weekend here in my hometown.  It was the perfect choice.  This book describes what I (and many others) call a ‘cozy read’.  It’s pretty self-explanatory – it’s a book that makes you feel cozy, that is best read when being cozy!

I loved this book for a couple major reasons.  First and foremost, I thought the writing was brilliant – the characters are very intricately developed. The main character especially, was so multi-dimensional, ‘layered’, and very realistic.  Also, no words were wasted – each sentence carried meaning and weight, and furthered the development of the characters and story.  And there were many subtleties in the writing…here’s a passage that illustrates this well:

The bass player broke a string to prove he was serious, and while he was changing it Rosie and I went up to the bar for more wine.
“That stuff’s poxy,” Rosie told the barman, fanning herself with her top.
“I know, yeah.  I think they make it out of Benylin.  Leave it in the airing cupboard for a few weeks and away you go.”  The barman liked us.
“Poxier than usual, even.  You got a bad batch.  Have you nothing decent, have you not?”
“This does the job, doesn’t it?  Otherwise, ditch the boyfriend, wait till we close up and I’ll take you somewhere better.”
I said, “Will I give you a smack myself, or will I just leave it to your mot?” The barman’s girlfriend had a Mohawk and sleeve tattoos.  We got on with her, too.
“You do it.  She’s harder than you are.”  He winked at us and headed off to get my change.
Rosie said, “I’ve a bit of news.”
She sounded serious.  I forgot all about the barman and started frantically trying to add up dates in my head.  “Yeah?  What?”
“There’s someone retiring off the line at Guinness’s, next month.  My da says he’s been talking me up every change he gets and if I want the job, it’s mine.”

Did you catch all that?  Two parts stick out…the reference to the bass player breaking a string “to prove he was serious” and the main character “…frantically trying to add dates up in my head.”   I had to read this novel slowly to ensure I didn’t miss any of these – they really add to the overall story and the main character.  Because of the Irish dialect, this was a bit tedious, but I adore it so much it was a treat for me.

Secondly, the setting and time period has a special place in my heart and made it much more personal to read.  This story takes place in modern-day Dublin, Ireland which I have visited.  Reading this book made me remember that trip, which was nice.  Much of the book is Frank reflecting on his life growing up in the 1980s in an area called Faithful Place outside of Dublin.  My father-in-law grew up in Dublin and is close in age to Frank’s parents.   While I don’t think that my father-in-law is anything like Frank’s dad specifically, I can certainly see how they could be in the same generation.  Reading about the Mackey history gave me a glimpse into my own family’s history too.  And he talks just like that!  Additionally, my own grandparents came from Italy to America when they were in their teens.  And while their ‘old country’ is different,  I can see similarities between Frank’s dad and my Italian grandfather as well.  There is this very to the point, black and white, like gruff exterior that I saw in James Mackey that reminded me of my grandfather.  That mentality manifests itself into things like criticizing as a way of controlling situations, not being overly indulgent with the compliments, and not liking doctors (?).  Don’t get me wrong, I love my grandfather, but I didn’t always know what he was thinking or why he thought a certain way.  So some of the struggles I saw Frank have relating to his parents seemed familiar to me and reading about it was a source of comfort.

The only negative I see with this book is the plot – plausible but predictable.  I figured it out on page 169, which made reading the rest of the 400 page book obviously less suspenseful.  If the plot had been a bit fresher I would have rated this higher for sure.

Bottom Line: This is a great cozy read!  It is intelligently written with many subtleties, and realistic characters in an interesting setting.  While the plot is somewhat predictable, how it unfolds and your investment in the characters will keep you interested.

PS – If you are wondering when I will finish The Passage (which has been listed as the book I’m currently reading, even though I keep publishing reviews about other books), I actually AM reading it.  It’s slow going, but I’m reading about 20 pages a day.  I’m on page 253 and things are starting to pick up.  It’s 900 some pages!

Catching Fire (Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins

13 Aug

Catching Fire (Hunger Games, #2)My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Properly prepares readers for the final installment of this series!

Who will like it best: Women and men ages 13+ who have already read the Hunger Games

Words to describe it: Fast-Paced, Action, Sets Stage

Will I add it to my personal library: Yes

Will I read it again: Yes, with my kids who I hope will read it too!

Catching Fire is the second book in the Hunger Games series. I couldn’t wait to read this to continue the story of Katniss and Peeta (and Gale) after she survives the Hunger Games.

The middle book of a trilogy always gets a bad wrap because it’s never as exciting and glamorous as the books that come before and after it. But while it seems like the 2nd book is ‘forgettable’, it is absolutely critical to making a trilogy work. In the first book, the novelty draws readers in and they want to read on and in the last book, everything is concluded, which is also exciting for readers. This leaves the middle book to provide enough interest, information, character development and storyline to basically move the story from point A to point B. But that is so important, even if it isn’t as impactful. Without that middle book ‘gearing up’ the readers, they won’t be appropriately anticipating the third installment. And without that anticipation, they will be disappointed in the last book and the whole series will get a bad reputation. A roller coaster ride would not be good if it didn’t have some calm between hills. Catching Fire filled its role better than I expected. It contained its own surprises and held its own action-wise while still properly preparing us for the grand finale, Mockingjay. The only criticism I have is that the pace of the story was a little  more choppy than I remembered Hunger Games being. It was a little harder to follow. I also felt Katniss’s thoughts and actions were a little choppier too. She seemed to be more conflicted in this book and changed her mind more often. She was a little harder to keep up with as well. Well, let’s not forget she is a teenage girl!

This series is completely entertaining and worth everyone’s time. I recommend it to just about anyone from ages 13 on. This book by itself isn’t that strong, but it doesn’t need to be because it serves its purpose and properly prepares the reader for the final Hunger Games installment.

Book Review: The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) by Suzanne Collins

28 Jul

Rating:  4.5 out of 5 Stars

Who will like it best: Women and Men 13+

Words to describe it: Satisfying, Exhilarating, Action

Will I add it to my personal library? Yes

Will I read it again someday? Yes!

The Hunger Games has been on my ‘To Be Read’ list for a very long time.  This science-fiction book came out in September 2008 and has been a NY Times bestseller since, for the past 97 weeks.  It is the first book in a three-part trilogy, the second book of which is called Catching Fire and has also been on the best seller list for a whopping 46 weeks.  The third book, Mockingjay, will be released on August 24.  Never heard of these books?  It might be because they are on the Children’s Chapter Book best seller list which is for readers 12 years and up.   I’ll admit that was one reason I was hesitant to read this book – I was afraid it would be totally dumb and boring. I learned my lesson about tween books the hard way with Twilight (grrr…believe me, I wanted to like them!).  That combined with the fact that it’s science fiction made reading this novel pretty unappealing to me all the way around.  But because of the hype, I felt I had to at least try and see what it was all about.  And guess what…it was a really good book!

I’ve read that Lionsgate has purchased the rights to make this trilogy into a movie and the author, Suzanne Collins, will write the screenplay.  The most I can find on that now is at IMDB (www.imdb.com) has this movie listed as ‘in development’.  If it does make it to the big screen I’m anxious to see how this is done – I think this book would make a great movie.  What I hope doesn’t happen is that it comes out looking like a made-for-tv-movie on the SciFi network, which will completely undermine the work of art the book is.

Synopsis

This story takes place in a post-war North America called Panem.  The land has been reorganized into 12 districts and a Capitol.  The members of the Capitol rule over the districts and to remind them of this, every year they force each district to send 1 girl and 1 boy to compete to the death against each other in what is called the ‘Hunger Games.’  These games are televised and are required to be watched by everyone across Panem.  Katness Everdeen is the girl sent to represent District 12.  She is 16, but is tough and self-sufficient and has been taking care of her mother and little sister since her father died. The book follows her through her experience competing in the Games.  I won’t tell you how it ends explicitly, but you can probably guess since it is the first of three books.  Don’t worry – knowing that doesn’t ruin the reading experience at all.

Here’s an excerpt – I like how much this short paragraph tells you about the world of Panem.

The train finally begins to slow and suddenly bright light floods the compartment. We can’t help it.  Both Peeta and I run to the window to see what we’ve only see on television, the Capitol, the ruling city of Panem.   The cameras haven’t lied about its grandeur.  If anything, they have not quite captured the magnificence of the glistening buildings in a rainbow of hues that tower into the air, the shiny cars that roll down the wide paved streets, the oddly dressed people with bizarre hair and painted faces who have never missed a meal.  All the colors seem artificial, the pinks too deep, the greens too bright, the yellows painful to the eyes, like the flat round disks of hard candy we can never afford to by at the tiny sweet shop in District 12.

My Review

As I mentioned, I was concerned with the teen-ness of this novel but in the end I actually liked that it was more ‘PG’ than not.  The relationships lacked any adult point of view as I expected, but that was okay because the relationships weren’t the only focus.  And it was definitely a less complex overall but I was fine with that too because it made it easy for me to adjust to the science-fiction aspect.  And honestly, the sci-fi wasn’t overwhelming at all.  You do have to adjust to a society beyond what we know, but it’s pretty simplistic actually and not distracting when following the story. This book has a (much less detailed and headache-causing) George Orwell1984-vibe with the big brother and government control themes.  I also really liked Katness.  I believed in her and her abilities.  This made me excited to watch her compete and see what ultimately happened to her.  Lastly, this book is extremely well paced.  It moves quickly which enables the reader to easily keep up interest through to the end.

The one question that kept coming back to me as I was reading this book was, “How did North America get like this?”  There is no year given, but it says that Panem “rose out of the ashes” and this is the 74th year of the Hunger Games, so I can only imagine how far into the future this book is set.  What was at work and for how long to leave the entire continent reconfigured?  Perhaps some of that will be revealed in the next 2 books.

I had a couple of minor issues with the way this novel ended.  First, I cannot believe this situation is coming up for the first time in seventy-four years of the Hunger Games.  It seems like 2 other contestants could have worked out what Katness did at some point before.  Secondly, I don’t understand why the Capitol is so angry about it.

I would recommend this book for sure and for many categories of readers:  Male and female readers both young and old.  I don’t recommend it to those who are heavily into adult science-fiction – I suspect that they would find it a little too ‘light’ compared to what they are used to.  The story is unique, the characters distinctive and likeable.  It’s well paced, not too heavy on the science-fiction but enough so to transport you to a somewhat unfathomable but believable society.

First Family (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell Series #4) by David Baldacci

22 Jul

Rating:  2.5 out of 5 stars

I pulled this audio book off the libary shelves one afternoon when my favorite satellite radio show went on a 2 week vacation.  I chose this book because the author is very consistent.  Once you’ve read one of David Baldacci’s books, you know exactly what you are going to get with any of his others.  Here’s the breakdown of a Baldacci novel…they are all legal thrillers involving political figures and are usually unpredictable, which is what I like best!   There is little character development, which is okay with me because I don’t need that much to enjoy the thrill! 

The Sean King and Michelle Maxwell series is about the adventures Sean and Michelle get themselves into as retired Secret Service agents.  Basically they can’t stay away from the job even though they officially left that world.  Michelle definitely has some daddy issues and Sean seems to be a commitment phobe.  They definitely have sexual tension between each other too.  I’ve only read one other book in this series, Simple Genius, which I enjoyed.  And overall, this book did not disappoint either.  I did not feel like I was missing anything by not having read the other 2 previous books in this series. 

The first lady’s niece is kidnapped.  While the official channels work on finding out who took her, First Lady Jane contacts Sean Maxwell and asks him to conduct his own investigation.  Sean is ex-Secret Service and he brings along his partner, Michelle, and together they look to solve the crime on their own.  In the middle of this story there is a sub-plot involving Michelle and her family which seemed unnecessary because it doesn’t support the major storyline but was actually very intriguing as well.    The last chapter is dedicated to wrapping up some of the loose ends of this series, which was uninteresting to me because I hadn’t really been following it. 

As I mentioned, one of the most predictable things about Baldacci is his unpredictability!  While I was able to get an idea of what was going on and how things were going to end, I really was unable to predict the outcome until it was staring me in the face.  I loved that!  I also really enjoyed the Washington D.C. and the national government backdrop of the story.  Here’s what I didn’t like – the outcome was unfeasible.  I mean really unfeasible.  And unethical in the worst way.  It seems a little extreme for Baldacci’s taste and it surprised me.

I would recommend this book if you looking for a thriller/mystery that will keep you interested to the end without expecting to have it profoundly impact you.

Savor The Moment (Bride’s Quartet #3) by Nora Roberts

21 Jul

Rating:  2 out of 5 stars

I was so excited to read this book!  I love the whole premise of this series – 4 women who have been friends since they were kids all live in a mansion and run a wedding service on the grounds.  Each book in the series focuses on a different member of the ‘quartet’ and their story, ending with them finding their true love.   Mixed in are situations involving the weddings they host, girl heart-to-hearts, and very descriptive romance!  If you are able to suspend disbelief, this series is perfectly light and whimsical.  One comment about Nora Robert’s writing style – her dialogue does not always clarify who is saying what, which drives me slightly batty.  But with a plot like this, does it really matter?

So that’s how I feel about the series at least after reading the first 2 books in that series (Vision in White and Bed of Roses).  NOT this one.  This one is about the cake baker in the group – Laura – and I do not understand her at all! She apparently came from meager beginnings and is being pursued by one of the wealthiest men in town.  This man happens to be the big brother of one of her quartet members.  The typical ‘do you think I’m good enough for you even though I’m poor’ is there, naturally, as is that weird ‘I act bitchy because I’m too proud to just ask you about the rich/poor issue ‘ that always seems to come with the poor member of this plot line.  Which is fine if she came off as proud.  She comes off as a nut case!  No one can say anything to her without her biting their heads off.  When she has discussions she uses these metaphors that I need a decoder ring to understand.  And she has this inner dialogue that sounds completely schitzophrenic!  No, Yes, No, AHHH!! I think Roberts was trying to make her a tough, independent, rebel who has trouble relying on people, but she just didn’t pull it off.

Here’s a weird thing too:  Because this couple has known each other for so long, they decide to date but go 30 days without being intimate to prove that it’s not a fling.  I’m pretty sure that doesn’t prove anything.  Wouldn’t it have made more sense to be intimate on day 1 but promise to go out for 29 more days?  Wouldn’t THAT prove it wasn’t a fling?  Isn’t it after the deed that matters?  Maybe I’m just out of touch.  But that’s not the weird part.  The rest of the gang (the other 3 girls and the 2 guys that became permanent during books 1 and 2) place bets on whether or not they can last the 30 days.  They discuss it ad nauseum.  Incestuous!

There was a little payoff for me towards the end when they go on vacation.  It was a refreshing change of scenery that I welcomed.  Unfortunately, our ragging cake baker Laura had to go on the vacation too and open her big mouth which meant, once again, crazy lady ruined the party for me.

I wonder if I would have skipped this book if someone told me it would be like this.  Probably not because then my reading of the series would not be ‘complete’, which I like all things to be. 😉

I recommend this book only if you have read the preceding Bride Quartet books.  I will most likely recommend this series, but I’m waiting to read the last one before I do just to make sure the series is more good than bad.