Wednesday, December 21, 2011

REVIEW: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter #7)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: July, 2007
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 10/10

Description: Begun a decade ago and encompassing six shelf-bending novels, the seventh and concluding volume of the international literary phenomenon that is the Harry Potter saga comes to a bombshell-packed - and oh so satisfying - conclusion in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, arguably the most wildly anticipated release in modern publishing history.

My Thoughts: My feelings while reading this book were very bittersweet. Even knowing how it would play out, I wanted to savor this last Harry Potter story. Knowing I would cry as some of the main characters are killed did not deter me. The same feeling of hopelessness I felt before came back, compassion for Harry to lose so many loved ones, anger on his behalf for the cruelties and evil committed against him for no good reason and lastly pride that in spite of it all, Harry continues to be a giver instead of a taker, a boy quickly becoming a man and putting the needs of others in front of his own. Even at the very end, knowing that one of them must die, he is willing to make that ultimate sacrifice.

Most of this story takes place away from Hogwarts, unfortunately. Though Rowling does an amazing job of drawing us into the world Harry is currently situated, I still found myself missing the days at Hogwarts, as I’m sure Harry did. Sadly, there was no Quidditch, no Peeves to contend with, no excursions to Hogsmeade on the weekends and no Halloween feast. After seven years, I had become so enamored of life at Hogwarts that not being able to be there bothered me a great deal. Instead, Harry is living in hiding with Ron and Hermione as public enemy #1. He is being hunted by Death Eaters constantly. After a very near miss when Harry is being moved from the Dursleys and again at Bill and Fleur’s wedding, Harry’s only choice is to hide while hunting the Horcruxes. Luckily for him and Ron, Hermione foresaw this eventuality and planned ahead with supplies. Unfortunately, none of them know where to find the Horcruxes or how to destroy them.

Their quest takes them to several places as they try to decipher the clues that Dumbledore left for them. Tempers are short as well. They are all frustrated and I felt frustrated for them. Ultimately, the war comes full circle as Harry and his friends return to Hogwarts for the final showdown with Voldemort and his followers. Harry learns many truths that were kept from him until now and I felt that finding them out now made his resolve stronger. I don’t think he could have or would have appreciated the significance of the Deathly Hallows in his first or second year.

So now I have finished the series, breaking my own rule of never re-reading a book. I am so happy I did. I have thoroughly enjoyed this adventure with Harry, Ron and Hermione once again and I must say that this time around was even better. I am sad to see it end, however. This is a story that could have stretched into another 3 books, in my opinion. I will miss Harry, Ron and Hermione but I know they are just a short distance away from me anytime I want to visit them again.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

New Additions To The TBR Pile In November

I may not want to admit it, at least not out loud, but I have lost the battle and possibly the war at reading more than I acquire. Every month I say I want to read more than I take in and that's just not happening. Never has...never will. Whatever...

Turned by Julie Kenner

Description: When Lily Carlyle died in an act of vengeance, she came back as an assassin for the light. But when she discovered her masters' true darkness, she decided to choose the right side for once...

Her own.

With her cover as a double agent inside the forces of evil blown, Lily has no choice but to go underground. She takes along a cadre of warriors: humans, angels, demons, and other trusted creatures. Their only hope is to stop the forces who are attempting to use the Ninth gate as a wedge that will unleash the fury of Hell.

But even as they attempt to stop the unholy rituals, they are confounded at every turn by their foes. With the fate of all life on earth in their hands, Lily must confront the hatred inside her own soul and uncover a traitor in her midst --- and closer to her heart than she ever could have imagined...

The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen

Description: Every crime scene tells a story. Some keep you awake at night. Others haunt your dreams. The grisly display homicide cop Jane Rizzoli finds in Boston’s Chinatown will do both.

In the murky shadows of an alley lies a female’s severed hand. On the tenement rooftop above is the corpse belonging to that hand, a red-haired woman dressed all in black, her head nearly severed. Two strands of silver hair—not human—cling to her body. They are Rizzoli’s only clues, but they’re enough for her and medical examiner Maura Isles to make the startling discovery: that this violent death had a chilling prequel.

Nineteen years earlier, a horrifying murder-suicide in a Chinatown restaurant left five people dead. But one woman connected to that massacre is still alive: a mysterious martial arts master who knows a secret she dares not tell, a secret that lives and breathes in the shadows of Chinatown. A secret that may not even be human. Now she’s the target of someone, or something, deeply and relentlessly evil.

Cracking a crime resonating with bone-chilling echoes of an ancient Chinese legend, Rizzoli and Isles must outwit an unseen enemy with centuries of cunning—and a swift, avenging blade.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Description: Quentin Coldwater is brillant but miserable. He's a senior in high school, and a certifiable genius, but he's still secretly obsessed with a series of fantasy novels he read as a kid, about the adventures of five children in a magical land called Fillory. Compared to that, anything in his real life just seems gray and colorless.

Everything changes when Quentin finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the practice of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. But something is still missing. Magic doesn't bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he though it would.

Then, after graduation, he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real.

Single In The City by Michele Gorman

Description: It's official. Hannah has left her friends and family in the US behind and is following her dream. To live in London.

Hannah's looking for:

1. Her dream guy. A prince or Hugh Grant would be nice. Or does she have to settle for her half-naked Australian housemate or an "English gentleman" with terrible hygiene habits?

2. Her dream job. Something fantastic in fashion. So how has she ended up being the mini-me for an evil party planner who doesn't even trust her to arrange the paper clips?

3. Her dream friends. But everyone in London seems to have known each other for years and Hannah doesn't know the rules of engagement. Who's she going to have fun with?

Dream life? Should Hannah just dream on? She wanted a big change but maybe it would have been simpler and cheaper just to get a new haircut. Was she mad to move 3,000 miles away from everyone she knows? Will she ever find love and her perfect life in England?

Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich

Description: Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum’s life is set to blow sky high when international murder hits dangerously close to home, in this dynamite novel by Janet Evanovich.

Before Stephanie can even step foot off Flight 127 Hawaii to Newark, she’s knee deep in trouble. Her dream vacation turned into a nightmare, and she’s flying back to New Jersey solo. Worse still, her seatmate never returned to the plane after the L.A. layover. Now he’s dead, in a garbage can, waiting for curbside pickup. His killer could be anyone. And a ragtag collection of thugs and psychos, not to mention the FBI, are all looking for a photograph the dead man was supposed to be carrying.

Only one other person has seen the missing photo—Stephanie Plum. Now she’s the target, and she doesn’t intend to end up in a garbage can. With the help of an FBI sketch artist Stephanie re-creates the person in the photo. Unfortunately the first sketch turns out to look like Tom Cruise, and the second sketch like Ashton Kutcher. Until Stephanie can improve her descriptive skills, she’ll need to watch her back.

Over at the bail bonds agency things are going from bad to worse. The bonds bus serving as Vinnie’s temporary HQ goes up in smoke. Stephanie’s wheelman, Lula, falls in love with their largest skip yet. Lifetime arch nemesis Joyce Barnhardt moves into Stephanie’s apartment. And everyone wants to know what happened in Hawaii?

Morelli, Trenton’s hottest cop, isn’t talking about Hawaii. Ranger, the man of mystery, isn’t talking about Hawaii. And all Stephanie is willing to say about her Hawaiian vacation is . . . It’s complicated.

Monday, November 21, 2011

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter #6)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: July, 2005
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 10/10

Description: The war against Voldemort is not going well; even Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of the Daily Prophet, looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses.

And yet...

As in all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to apparate -- and lose a few eyebrows in the process. The Weasley twins expand their business. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.

So it's the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter. Here at Hogwarts, Harry will search for the full and complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort -- and thereby find what may be his only vulnerability.

My Thoughts: This book definitely did not hold the same shock factor for me in this reading that it did 6 years ago. Knowing what’s coming helped me actually focus more on the story instead of worrying about what may or may not happen. On the heels of Book 5 when Harry lost Sirius, I was dreading finding out who Harry would lose next. If Rowling could kill off Harry’s godfather, then nobody was safe. Having grown up without his parents, unfortunately, Harry has become accustomed to losing the people he loves. After a long summer at the Dursley’s, Harry is collected from Privet Drive by none other than Professor Dumbledore who takes Harry on an excursion to contact an old colleague and then escort him to the Burrow.

Harry, Ron and Hermione finally receive their long anticipated O.W.L. exam results and Harry finds himself in an advanced Potions class with a new professor, Horace Slughorn. Potions have never been Harry’s favorite class, especially when Snape was the instructor. Harry acquires a potions book that belonged to someone calling himself the “Half-Blood Prince” and following the notes and tips provided within the book by the previous owner, Harry outperforms Hermione.

Harry is convinced that Draco is up to something sinister and spends a lot of time trying to figure out what it is. There are a few occurrences of students being cursed by unknown perpetrators that add to the suspense of the story. I enjoyed that Harry is made Captain of the Quidditch team and puts together a team that will hopefully win the House Cup.

The best part of the book, for me, are the private lessons Harry has with Professor Dumbledore where he learns what Dumbledore already knows about Voldemort’s early years and family. Through Dumbledore’s memories, Harry witnesses Dumbledore’s first meeting with the boy would become the most evil wizard of all time. Harry is also tasked with finding out the true memories of one of the professors that had been tampered with. Harry has his work cut out for him in this installment and as with the whole series, I enjoyed every minute of it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

REVIEW: Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Title: Insatiable (Insatiable #1)
Author: Meg Cabot
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: June, 2010
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Rating: 1/10

Description: Sick of vampires? So is Meena Harper.

But her boss is making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn’t believe in them.

Not that Meena isn’t familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you’re going to die (not that you’re going to believe her; no one ever does).

But not even Meena’s precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side . . . a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire-hunters, would prefer to see him dead for.

The problem is, he already is dead. Maybe that’s why he’s the first guy Meena’s ever met that she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena’s always been able to see everyone else’s future, she’s never been able look into her own.

And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare.

Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future . . .

If she even has one.

My Thoughts: Several months back, I began to notice that the book market seems flooded with vampires across every genre. Historical romances, young adult, chick-lit, urban fantasy…you name it, there’s probably a vampire theme book in there. I then began to question the quality of these books in a market that is flooded with them. How do I, a reader and a fan of vampire themes, find a good vampire book that will excite me, entertain me and stay with me after I’ve finished reading it?

First of all, I have to say that I adore Meg Cabot. Her “Boy Next Door” and “All American Girl” series are some of my favorites. I held on with this book for a lot longer than I usually give books because I kept hoping it would draw me in as this author usually does. Sadly, it never did. I felt no connection with the characters and even the heroine's dog, Jack Bauer, annoyed me.

I don’t think a good vampire theme book can be written by just anyone, though that seems to be happening from what I see when I’m trolling the bookstore. I don’t think every author is cut out to write paranormal. John Grisham, if you are reading this, please do not jump on the vampire bandwagon. Will I stop reading Meg Cabot? Absolutely not. Have I given up on vampire themes? Nope. What have I learned? That I was right in questioning the quality of a specific themed book in a flooded market. With so many to choose from, it will be very difficult for the reader to know which ones are going to deliver. Choose wisely, my dear friends and if you happen to get one that isn’t working for you, don’t waste precious time continuing to read it. Cut your losses and find another one that will work.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: June, 2003
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 10/10

Description: There is a door at the end of a silent corridor, and it's haunting Harry Potter's dreams. Why else would he be waking in the middle of the night, screaming in terror?

Here are just a few of the things on Harry's mind:

• A Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher with a personality like poisoned honey
• A venomous, disgruntled house-elf
• Ron as Keeper of the Gryffindor Quidditch team
• The looming terror of the end-of-term Ordinary Wizarding Level exams

. . . and of course, the growing threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

In the richest installment yet of J.K. Rowling's seven-part story, Harry Potter is faced with the unreliability of the very government of the magical world and the impotence of the authorities at Hogwarts.

Despite this (or perhaps because of it), he finds depth and strength in his friends, beyond what even he knew; boundless loyalty; and unbearable sacrifice.

Though thick runs the plot (as well as the spine), readers will race through these pages and leave Hogwarts, like Harry, wishing only for the next train back.

My Thoughts: At 15 years of age, Harry Potter has seen more and experienced more than anyone around him and more than anyone should or could expect. He’s nearly a man and yet everyone continues to treat him like the eleven year old little boy he was when he discovered he was a wizard. The gloves are completely off with book #5. Harry is very angry in this book and with good reason. He is attacked and is forced to use magic which results in a hearing to determine if he will be expelled from Hogwarts. Everyone seems to know more than he does about why he is experiencing strange dreams about “you know who” but nobody will tell him anything. Professor Dumbledore goes out of his way to avoid looking at him or even speaking to him. Everyone is tip-toeing around Harry as if he were made of glass.

After the hearing is over and he returns to Hogwarts, things don’t get better at all. The new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher is a despicable and twisted witch who quite quickly uses her influence and connections at the Ministry to take over the school and not teach any actual defense tactics. People are convinced that Harry is an attention seeking lunatic who has made up the entire story of Voldemort’s return.

The first time I read this book, I immediately despised Dolores Umbridge, the new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher. She’s a very sadistic individual who takes great pleasure in punishing people. Though the readers can certainly empathize with Harry’s hatred of Professor Snape, I can state that Umbridge beats Snape hands down in characters you would most like to see receive the Dementor’s kiss. That feeling has not changed one bit between then and now.

Unfortunately for Harry, he doesn’t seem to have an ally at the school. Professor Dumbledore is conspicuously absent and when he does make an appearance, he avoids looking at or speaking to Harry. I felt frustrated for Harry. Hagrid has been gone and when he finally returns, Harry still feels isolated. The only thing he truly looks forward to is playing Quidditch, especially now that Ron is on the team. Unfortunately, Professor Umbridge is determined ruin that for Harry too.

As a result of Umbridge’s refusal to teach true Defense Against the Dark Arts, Hermione insists the only way the students will learn is to do it themselves. After some persuading, Harry agrees to start secretly coaching other students on performing defense spells. They even call themselves “Dumbledore’s Army.”

Ultimately, Harry has to rely on those around him as Voldemort and his Death Eaters make their move. Just like Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix does not have a happy ending for Harry. The wizarding world is officially at war and the stakes are higher than ever.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

New Additions To The TBR Pile In October

October saw some new arrivals on my doorstep. I've already read one of them so hopefully, the rest will be as good when I read them...

Save Karyn by Karyn Bosnak

Description: Drowning in $20,000 of credit card debt, shopaholic Karyn Bosnak asked strangers for money online — and it worked!
What would you do if you owed $20,000? Would you: A) not tell your parents? B) start your own website that asked for money without apology? or C) stop coloring your hair, getting pedicures, and buying Gucci? If you were Karyn Bosnak, you'd do all three.

Karyn started a funny yet honest website, www.savekaryn.com, on which she asked for donations to help her get out of debt. Karyn received e-mails from people all over the world, either confessing their own debt-ridden lives, or criticizing hers. But after four months of Internet panhandling and selling her prized possessions on eBay, her debt was gone!

In Save Karyn: One Shopaholic's Journey to Debt and Back, Karyn details the bumpy road her financial — and personal — life has traveled to get her where she is today: happy, grateful, and completely debt-free. In this charming cautionary tale, Karyn chronicles her glamorous rise, her embarrassing fall, and how the kindness of strangers in cyberia really can make a difference.

Revamped by J.F. Lewis

Description: REVIVED. REFRESHED. AND READY FOR REVENGE.

Eric survived a vicious showdown with his double-crossing former best friend and some angry lycanthropes—barely: he’s lost his strip club, his treasured red Mustang, his love life, and even his body. But with a little magic, the die-hard Vlad returns to corporeal form, and “Fang the ’Stang” is restored—with an unlife of its own. Now Eric’s ready to match wits with one of Void City’s most powerful demons to rescue the soul of Marilyn, the love of his (mortal) life. But salvation comes at a high price, forcing Eric to enter his own worst nightmare, vampire High Society, to uncover the truth about the origin of his powers. Having to deal with the Void City elite is bad enough, but the more Eric sniffs around, the more it looks like someone is after his soul, too. Now blood will flow and fangs will be bared, because revenge is never pretty . . . and Eric has plenty to pass around.

Missing In Death by J.D. Robb

Description: Investigating a woman’s disappearance on a New York City ferry, Detective Eve Dallas wonders…if she didn’t jump, and she’s not on board, then where in the world is she?








Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Description: Sick of vampires? So is Meena Harper.

But her boss is making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn’t believe in them.

Not that Meena isn’t familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you’re going to die (not that you’re going to believe her; no one ever does).

But not even Meena’s precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side . . . a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire-hunters, would prefer to see him dead for.

The problem is, he already is dead. Maybe that’s why he’s the first guy Meena’s ever met that she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena’s always been able to see everyone else’s future, she’s never been able look into her own.

And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare.

Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future . . .

If she even has one.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter #4)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: July, 2000
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 10/10

Description: Harry Potter is midway through both his training as a wizard and his coming of age. Harry wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the International Quidditch Cup with Hermione, Ron, and the Weasleys. He wants to dream about Cho Chang, his crush (and maybe do more than dream). He wants to find out about the mysterious event that's supposed to take place at Hogwarts this year, an event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competition that hasn't happened for hundreds of years. He wants to be a normal, fourteen year old wizard. But unfortunately for Harry Potter, he's not normal---even by wizarding standards.

And in his case, different can be deadly.

My Thoughts: As a fan of this series, I feel that the fourth installment of the Harry Potter series crosses the threshold into it becoming more a series for adults than children. With the third book, the reader is given a glimpse of the dark direction the series can take, but the door is definitely thrown wide open with Goblet as Harry faces some of the most difficult times he’s ever had to face. On the upside, He also gets to experience a once in a lifetime opportunity when he attends the Quidditch World Cup with his friends. Even though the event becomes frightening and menacing events occur, Harry seems to enjoy the experience. Luckily for the fans of the series, the unexpected doesn’t stop there. When Harry arrives at Hogwarts, he learns that his school will be hosting a tournament between Hogwarts and two other wizarding schools. Somebody has plans for Harry and they aren’t good plans and Harry has to keep his wits when he is chosen as one of the participants in the tournament.

One thing I did not like about this story is the way Ron behaved after Harry was chosen as one of the champions. I get that he was jealous but it really bothered me that he is supposed to be Harry’s best friend and you are supposed to be loyal to your friends, but yet Ron did not believe that Harry did not submit his own name into the cup. Even when he finally comes to his senses and realizes his mistake, I felt like Harry forgave him too quickly. I understand why he did but I felt like Harry let him off the hook too easily. I am sure that Ron gets annoyed playing second fiddle to Harry, but the series is about Harry after all. If it were about Ron, then this book would have been Ronald Weasley and the Goblet of Fire.

I very much enjoyed the introduction of the social custom of learning how to dance and attending the Yule Ball. Harry’s distress at not being able to take Cho Chang to the Ball and worrying about who he should take was entertaining. Hermione’s coming out was also enjoyable to see. Even with Ron’s snotty attitude, it was still wonderful.

I liked Cedric and thought he and Harry demonstrated great teamwork in the tournament even though they were competing against one another. Though the final stage of the tournament was well written and highly suspenseful, it was still difficult to read what happens as Harry’s worst nightmare comes to life. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Draco undergo some major changes as well with the help of Mad-Eye Moody.

I am now more than half-way through the series and am so excited to be reading it again. There are so many things in the books that I missed in the first reading or had forgotten about that it really does feel like I’m reading it for the first time. Even knowing what awaits me in book #5, I am looking forward to experiencing it all over again.

Monday, October 17, 2011

REVIEW: Missing In Death by J.D. Robb

Title: Missing In Death (In Death, #29.5)
Author: J.D. Robb
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: November, 2009
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Rating: 8/10

Description: Investigating a woman's disappearance on a New York City ferry, Lieutenant Eve Dallas wonders...if she didn't jump, and she's not on board, then where in the world is she?

My Thoughts: This story originally appears in the anthology The Lost but in all honesty, I didn’t read the other stories. I usually don’t read anthologies because the stories are too short for my liking and don’t seem to satisfy. Also, they are usually part of a bigger series and they don’t seem to flow with the rest of the series they are a part of. But when it comes to Lieutenant Eve Dallas, Roarke, Peabody and the gang, a little bit of a story is better than nothing. I love this series so much and am so anal about reading the series in numerical order that I will overlook my rule about anthologies just so I can read these smaller stories.

Missing In Death provides a fast paced read with Dallas and Peabody investigating a disappearance of a tourist on the Staten Island Ferry. They, along with her family, fear the worst because the bathroom she was last seen going into is covered in blood and she’s vanished without a trace. Just as suddenly as she disappeared, she returns, with a bump on her head and no memory of what happened to her or where she has been. This is where the real mystery begins. Dallas and Peabody are diligently following the clues to find out whose blood is all over the bathroom and locate the body and track down the killer.

This was definitely not the best Eve Dallas installment for obvious reasons but I did enjoy the unexpected twist Eve confronts while she is on the killer’s trail. When the killer’s identity is established, Eve faces a moral and ethical dilemma that would be hard for anyone to deal with, but she does and quite effectively. Had this been a full length novel, I am positive it would have received a higher rating but at least I got my Roarke fix until I dive into the next one.

REVIEW: Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich

Title: Smokin’ Seventeen (Stephanie Plum, #17)
Author: Janet Evanovich
Publisher: Bantam
Publication Date: June, 2011
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 10/10

Description: Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and no one knows this better than New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum.

Dead bodies are showing up in shallow graves on the empty construction lot of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. No one is sure who the killer is, or why the victims have been offed, but what is clear is that Stephanie’s name is on the killer’s list.

Short on time to find evidence proving the killer’s identity, Stephanie faces further complications when her family and friends decide that it’s time for her to choose between her longtime off-again-on-again boyfriend, Trenton cop Joe Morelli, and the bad boy in her life, security expert Ranger. Stephanie’s mom is encouraging Stephanie to dump them both and choose a former high school football star who’s just returned to town. Stephanie’s sidekick, Lula, is encouraging Stephanie to have a red-hot boudoir “bake-off.” And Grandma Bella, Morelli’s old-world grandmother, is encouraging Stephanie to move to a new state when she puts “the eye” on Stephanie.

With a cold-blooded killer after her, a handful of hot men, and a capture list that includes a dancing bear and a senior citizen vampire, Stephanie’s life looks like it’s about to go up in smoke.

My Thoughts: Once again, Evanovich delivers a fast paced and side splitting hysterical adventure starring everyone’s favorite bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum and the usual cast of supporting characters, Lula, Grandma Mazur, Morelli, Ranger, Connie and Mooner. There’s also a new character in the book, a possible competitor for Stephanie’s affections and, if her mother has anything to do about it, will be Stephanie’s next husband.

And if that isn’t awkward enough, the bonds office is gone and the gang is working out of Mooner’s bus. Makes for some cramped quarters and after one FTA who believes he’s a vampire tries to give Lula a hickey, she’s convinced she’s turning into a creature of the night. Things just can’t seem to happen smoothly for Stephanie and especially after Morelli’s grandmother puts the eye on Stephanie, she’s convinced she’s cursed.

I love this series, as campy and crazy as it can sometimes get. When Stephanie is around, you can rest assured that people will die and cars will be blown up, but it all seems to work out and she comes through it all in one piece. 2011 will be an excellent year for Stephanie fans as there will be two releases this year. Book #18 will be out in November and I’m very much looking forward to it.

And if the book isn't enough to entertain you, there's always the movie and that's definitely something to look forward to!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

New Additions To The TBR Pile In September

I think I've done it. Finally achieved that goal that has long eluded me...no homeless stray books showed up in September looking to be adopted...probably because I was neck deep in moving and didn't have time to mess with it.

Of course, now we are in a brand new month and all that will probably change... :o)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

REVIEW: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Publisher: Putnam
Publication Date: February, 2009
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 10/10

Description: Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women - mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends - view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.

My Thoughts: I started this book with the suspicion that it was going to be a story that would be powerful and compelling but also hard to read and I was right. 1962 Mississippi is a very different place than what we are used to now. Women are expected to get married and have children after finishing college, not seek careers. The women’s rights movement hasn’t even begun yet, but the civil rights movement is starting. All across the country, heinous crimes are being committed against black people who dare to break the laws as written by white government. The act of sitting in the wrong seat on a city bus or using a “whites only” bathroom could result in a near-death beating. White people who speak up for black people or who try to help with the civil rights movement are arrested or imprisoned as well. It’s a very different society than today, a very scary society.

This story centers primarily around three women. Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan who has just returned home from Ole Miss to discover the maid who raised her is no longer with the family and nobody will tell her what happened. Aibileen Clark is a black maid working for Skeeter’s friend, Elizabeth Leefolt. She has suffered in her life and now devotes her heart and soul to the white children she now raises. Minny Jackson is Aibileen’s best friend and works for another of Skeeter’s friends, Hilly Holbrook. Minny is outspoken and has lost several jobs because of it, including her present job. The only job Minny can secure now is with Celia Foote, who is considered socially unacceptable and doesn’t know about Minny’s reputation.

Initially, Skeeter begins interviewing Aibileen for assistance on writing a cleaning advice column for the newspaper. After a publisher in New York City tells Skeeter to write about something that concerns her, especially if it doesn’t concern anyone else, she begins interviewing Aibileen on what it is like to be a black maid cooking and cleaning and raising white children. I got a very good sense of how dangerous it was for Skeeter and Aibileen to be meeting and if they were caught, how much trouble they would both be in. The project eventually catches the interest of several of the other maids and Skeeter begins interviewing them as well.

I loved this book. I felt like I was in the room with Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. These characters are people you can care about. The author draws you in and you get to know the characters and begin to relate to and empathize with them. It wasn’t enough to read about what these women were doing, the story pulls you in so deeply that you feel like you are really there. When Medgar Evers is shot, I could feel the fear and apprehension Aibileen and Minny felt for their own lives and the lives of their children. I felt extreme anger at Hilly Holbrook and her bigoted attitude. I wanted to slap her into the middle of next week. I felt disgust at Elizabeth Leefolt for the way she treats her children. This book made me mad, made me laugh and made me cry. I recommend this book if you are looking for a book about people who cross all barriers to tell the truth, no matter how difficult or the cost.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter #3)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: September, 1999
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 10/10

Description: For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort.

Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter's defeat of You-Know-Who was Black's downfall as well; and the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, "He's at Hogwarts . . . he's at Hogwarts."

Harry Potter isn't safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.

My Thoughts: The third installment of the much beloved Harry Potter series has been my favorite from the beginning and continues to be. With the Prisoner of Azkaban, the reader is given a glimpse of the dark direction this series will take, but this book still manages to be a lot of fun. From Harry’s reckless lashing out at Aunt Marge to his crazy ride on the Knight Bus, from Harry’s first encounter with the dementors on the Hogwarts Express (not fun at all) to obtaining the Marauders Map, from meeting Buckbeak, or battling boggarts that look like Professor Snape to conjuring a patronus charm to ward off dementors and finally learning that everything is not as it seems may make your average thirteen year old more confused than ever, but not Harry. I love how Harry, Ron and Hermione seem to take it all in stride and just get on with it.

Remus Lupin and Sirius Black are two of my favorite characters in this series. Finally, Harry meets people who actually knew and were friends of his parents. I don’t count Dumbledore, I guess because he’s a given and he’s not of their generation. Professor Snape knew Harry’s parents and his revulsion towards Harry and James Potter are all too apparent so meeting Professor Lupin and Sirius Black and learning of their connection to James and Lily make it all the better.

I very much enjoyed the brewing conflict between Ron and Hermione regarding Crookshanks and Scabbers. Hermione has bitten off more than she can chew, it seems, with her extra full class load and seems to be barely managing it so she isn’t her usual analytical self. Of course, knowing already how these two end up by the end of the series doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of watching these characters grow and develop.

The Prisoner of Azkaban provides countless hours of reading entertainment. Numerous intense and suspenseful scenes where long hidden secrets and truths are revealed to the amazement of the reader. When the story comes full circle and the last page is turned, I was left with a feeling of euphoria and a rush of adrenaline, akin to an exciting ride on a fast moving roller coaster. I wish I could pick one favorite moment from the book, but I fear I would do the story a great injustice if I tried. I was pulled into this story almost immediately, my sense of excitement and anticipation growing as I turned each page. I love each story in this series, but this one holds a very special place in my heart.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Additions To The TBR Pile In August

With yet another house move in a few weeks, the absolute LAST thing I should be doing is acquiring more books. I know, I know...I say this every month moving or not, but I still acquire. I need serious help...counseling...shock treatment...lobotomy...Dr. Phil intervention...

Pretty in Plaid: A Life, a Witch, and a Wardrobe, or, the Wonder Years Before the Condescending, Egomanical, Self-Centered Smart-Ass Phase by Jen Lancaster

Description: In Pretty in Plaid, Jen Lancaster reveals how she developed the hubris that perpetually gets her into trouble. Using fashion icons of her youth to tell her hilarious and insightful stories, readers will meet the girl she used to be.

Think Jen Lancaster was always "like David Sedaris with pearls and a super-cute handbag?" (Jennifer Coburn) Think again. She was a badge-hungry Junior Girl Scout with a knack for extortion, an aspiring sorority girl who didn't know her Coach from her Louis Vuitton, and a budding executive who found herself bewildered by her first encounter with a fax machine. In this humorous and touching memoir, Jen Lancaster looks back on her life-and wardrobe-before bitter was the new black and shows us a young woman not so very different than the rest of us.

The author who showed us what it was like to wait in line at the unemployment office with a Prada bag, how living in the city can actually suck, and that losing weight can be fun with a trainer named Barbie and enough Ambien is ready to take you on a hilarious and heartwarming trip down memory lane in her shoes (and very pretty ones at that).

The Lazy Husband by Joshua Coleman

Description: My job is more stressful than your's.
I'm just not very good at domestic stuff.
Your standards are too high.
I never learned how to do this chore.


Have you heard one or more of the above excuses in the past month? Are you sick of your husband's avoidance tactics regarding housework and parenting? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you need this book. The Lazy Husband is a hands-on guide to understanding and changing men's attitudes towards domestic work and childcare. Dr. Joshua Coleman, author and clinical psychologist, understands that a happy marriage is a balanced marriage. And now, in his refreshingly honest and straightforward style, Coleman reveals exactly how women can motivate their husbands to become better partners and better fathers.

By outlining and defining the various types of lazy husbands, Dr. Joshua Coleman teaches women how to understand where their husbands are coming from and enact change. Some Lazy Husband types include:

* The Boy-Husband: This husband wants to be taken care of, and pretends to be incompetent around the house.
* The Perfectionist Husband: This husband wants the house and the kids to look perfect, but doesn't want to do the work himself.
*The Angry Husband: This husband keeps his wife at bay with his irritability, anger, or intimidation.

From here, Coleman develops type-specific plans for change. By following these proactive plans, you too can achieve a happy, well-balanced marriage. Just remember, you can do less by getting your husband to do more.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Description: Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women - mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends - view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.

Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich

Description: Where there's smoke there's fire, and no one knows this better than New Jersey bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum. The bail bonds office has burned to the ground, and bodies are turning up in the empty construction lot. To make matters worse, Stephanie is working out of a motor home she shares with a dancing bear, and Joe Morelli's old world grandmother has declared a vendetta against her. And just when Stephanie decides it might be time to choose between the two men in her life, Morelli and Ranger, a third man from Stephanie's past moves back to Trenton...

Break out a cold drink and slap on some sunscreen, this summer is sure to be a scorcher with Smokin' Seventeen.


Holly's Inbox by Holly Denham

Description: Ever wanted a peek at someone else's emails?

Dear Holly, Are you sure you know what you're getting into...?

It's Holly Denham's first day as a receptionist at a busy corporate bank, and frankly, it's obvious she can't quite keep up.

Take a peek at her email and you'll see why: what with her crazy friends, dysfunctional family, and gossipy co-workers, Holly's inbox is a daily source of drama. Laughter, friendship, and romantic interludes keep her going, until one day, Holly's secret past begins to catch up with her...

Written entirely in emails, this compulsively readable UK smash hit will keep you laughing and turning the pages all the way to its surprising and deeply satisfying ending.

A Question Of Love by Isabel Wolff

Description: Sometimes the questions you ask yourself are the hardest ones to answer...Laura Quick's life is as out of control as her mop of unruly curls. With her shabby-chic flat on Portobello Road - complete with psychic neighbour - and her work for a chaotic TV company, Laura is anything but conventional. So she's the most unlikely candidate to present a quirky new quiz show. But her boss, Tom, see that her quickwittedness and her knack for general knowledge makes her the ideal choice.

It's the chance of a lifetime - and when old flame Luke turns up out of the blue, Laura's sisters think also it's time for Laura to move on and lay to rest the memory of her husband, Nick. But dating Luke again is a step back in time - and spells trouble. Luke is every bit as attractive as when he broke her heart. His wit and charm - not to mention his talent for trivia - captivate her once again. But this time around he's got a 6-year-old daughter in tow - as well as an ex-wife whose behaviour is less than charming. As Laura questions whether to gamble everything on a past love, she must also face up to the unexpected truth about Nick and the life she thought she once knew!

REVIEW: Pale Demon by Kim Harrison

Title: Pale Demon (Rachel Morgan #9)
Author: Kim Harrison
Publisher: Eos
Publication Date: February, 2011
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Rating: 6/10

Description: Condemned to death for black magic and shunned, Rachel Morgan has three days to somehow get to the annual witches convention in San Francisco and clear her name. If she fails, the only way she can escape death is to live in the demonic ever after . . . for ever after.

Banned from the flight lists, Rachel teams up with elven tycoon Trent Kalamack, headed for the West Coast for his own mysterious business. But Rachel isn’t the only passenger along for the ride. Can a witch, an elf, a living vampire, and a pixy in one car survive for over 2,300 miles? And that’s not counting the assassin on their tail.

A fearsome demon walks the sunlight, freed after centuries of torment to slay the innocent and devour souls. But his ultimate prey is Rachel Morgan. While the powerful witch with nerves of steel will do whatever it takes to stay alive, even embracing her own demonic nature may not be enough to save her.

My Thoughts: I am going to preface this review by saying that a series with nine books isn’t always going to please everyone. Me included. I love this series but had the hardest time getting through this story. There is some crazy stuff happening in this series that had me contemplating giving up and walking away. I’m glad I stuck it out because the events I feared did not happen and I pray they don’t.

I saw Trent and Al differently in this story and I struggled with that with great difficulty because it has been relatively easy for me to despise both of these characters for the last 8 books. If they are able to be somewhat likeable or at the very least, tolerable in this story then how does that bode for Rachel? Will there be a truce between her and Trent? We already know they have history and there are definitely feelings that always seemed to run to the hate side of things. But you know what they say about there being a fine line between love and hate right? I just don’t know if I’m ready for Rachel and Trent to explore that line. I absolutely do not want her to explore any lines of any kind with Al either! I get the definite impression in this story that Al’s feelings for Rachel are definitely changing. He seems to be softening towards her. He’s still a demon, he’s still repulsive and I may be completely off base here, but my impression is that he’s developing feelings for her.

Jenks is still my favorite character in this series and even he surprised me in this story by taking a less aggressive stance with Trent and even helping him on his quest. Jenks does get into a little bit of trouble that I’m sure he would have been able to extricate himself from, but it’s always good to have friends there who have your back and Rachel and Ivy certainly do have his back.

I love the way Kim Harrison creates characters that evoke large reactions from me. Especially the villains. In addition to Trent and Al, there are some villains in this book that made my blood boil with their appalling behavior. The day walking demon, Ku’Sox is terrifying. A day walking demon is bad enough but he eats people. Literally…gobbles them up…ewwww…

Rachel has a lot on her plate. Between battling the big bad Ku’Sox and convincing the witch’s coven to reverse her shunning, she has her hands full. Keep your eyes on the ball, Rachel and your mind out of the gutter and you may just make it out of this mess in one piece. The fans of this series are eagerly awaiting the next book.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: September, 2000
Paperback: 341 pages
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 10/10

Description: The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts Schools of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he's packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry's second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart; a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls' bathroom; and the unwanted attention of Ron Weasley's younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone—or something—starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects . . . Harry Potter himself?

My Thoughts: The second book in the Harry Potter saga starts out with Harry back at the Dursley’s for summer vacation with a few changes. He has his own bedroom now instead of being relegated to the cupboard under the stairs. It’s actually Dudley’s second bedroom (don’t get me started on the degenerate waste of space this kid is) and out of the grace and goodness of their hearts, Harry is now using it. This entire attitude demonstrated by the Dursley’s resulted in major eye-rollage on my part and activated my gag reflex. These people are truly despicable. Not sure which is the lesser of the two evils for Harry…living with the Dursleys or being attacked by Voldemort.

After a very interesting and exciting first year at Hogwarts, we now find Harry very melancholy as he hasn’t heard from his friends all summer and is feeling very lonely. Harry meets Dobby, a mysterious house elf who comes to Privet Drive to warn Harry not to return to Hogwarts, which is not an option for Harry as he considers Hogwarts his true home. Dobby demonstrates very strange and self-loathing behavior by frequently assaulting himself with inanimate objects to punish himself for saying anything, which is a little bizarre because he doesn’t really tell Harry much of anything, other than to not return to Hogwarts.

Fortunately for the fans of this series, Harry does not listen to Dobby and through a series of misfortunate events manages to return to Hogwarts to discover an evil creature attacking students. Sadly, Harry is thought to be the one behind the attacks so he has to find out who is behind it before the next attack results in another death, like the one that occurred fifty years prior.

In this book, we get to meet a lot of interesting new characters in addition to Dobby. The new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher is best-selling author Gilderoy Lockhart who gives arrogance a whole new meaning. He was quite entertaining but very annoying, except the female students think he’s wonderful. Harry meets Draco Malfoy’s father, Lucius Malfoy who we quickly learn is quite evil and now see where Draco gets it from. Ron’s sister, Ginny is now a first year at Hogwarts and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her and the rest of the Weasley family better. Many new magical creatures are introduced in this book such as Fawkes and Aragog, to name a few. A new ghost is introduced to Harry and his friends. Moaning Myrtle haunts one of the girls’ bathrooms and though she can be quite annoying proves to be a very interesting character.

I enjoyed learning more about Hagrid and Voldemort’s past in this story and getting a bird’s eye view, if you will, of major events at Hogwarts fifty years prior with the help of an enchanted diary. I loved the scenes with Harry and Ron in the enchanted car; there’s more than one and one of them is quite intense so be prepared.

Overall, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets proves to be entertaining on every level. There are a few intense scenes that may be too graphic for young readers and may cause nightmares but older age groups will be thoroughly pulled into this story as Harry navigates the perilous hallways and dark corridors of Hogwarts to stop the evil creature lurking within.

Friday, August 12, 2011

REVIEW: 'Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy by Leslie Langtry

Title: ‘Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy (Bombay Assassins #1)
Author: Leslie Langtry
Publisher: Leisure
Publication Date: July, 2007
Paperback: 336 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Rating: 6/10

Description: YOU CAN'T PICK YOUR FAMILY...

Death by Chocolate is her favorite dessert. And those knitting needles aren't just for craft projects. To most people, Gin Bombay is an ordinary single mom. Then again, they don't know she's from a family of top secret assassins. Somewhere between leading a Girl Scout troop for her kindergartner--would nooses count for a knot badge?--and keeping their puppy from destroying the furniture, Gin now has to take out a new target.

BUT YOU CAN PICK THEM OFF

Except this target has an incredibly hot Australian bodyguard who knows just how to make her weak in the knees. But with a mole threatening to expose everything, Gin doesn't have much time to let her hormones do the happy dance. She's got to find the leak and clear her assignment...or she'll end up next on the Bombay family hit list.

My Thoughts: The next time you think your family is awful, spend a day with Ginny Bombay and her family. Hopefully, you will get out alive. Being a member of this family brings a whole new meaning to family reunions. This family really takes care of their own. Miss a meeting or family reunion and they will take care of you…permanently. Growing up in this family, Ginny learns very early what is expected of her. At age 5, she is initiated into the family business to begin the training program. At age 15, our young assassin is assigned her first hit.

The danger is high but the perks are lucrative. No retirement plan or health benefits with this job, though. For Ginny, it’s a way of life and unfortunately, her 5 year old daughter is expected to join the ranks, much to Ginny’s dismay. When the family gathers on their remote tropical island for the annual family reunion (more like a staff meeting to me), Ginny is summoned by the Council, which consists of Ginny’s grandmother and the other most senior members of the Bombay family. Ginny is told there is a traitor in the family who is planning on bringing the family down and exposing them to the authorities. Ginny is assigned the task of finding out who the traitor is and taking them out.

This assignment doesn’t give Ginny a lot of time or opportunity to explore the attraction she feels towards hunky Australian bodyguard Diego. Of course, he doesn’t know about her true profession or the fact that the man he is paid to protect is on Ginny’s hit list. This will make for a very awkward dating moment. I keep picturing a romantic dinner setting with both of them armed to the teeth and the waiter reciting the wine list…

Though this story didn’t knock my socks off, I did enjoy the snarky humor and the family dynamic Ginny is a part of. The story introduces a lot of interesting characters, though not all of them were likeable. This is the first book in the series and I’m intrigued just enough to be curious about what happens to Ginny and her family next. If you like cozy mysteries that have wacky characters and don’t mind far-fetched storylines and enjoy humor, give this book a try.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

REVIEW: Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead

Title: Succubus Blues (Georgina Kincaid #1)
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: March, 2007
Paperback: 343 pages
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Rating: 8/10

Description: Succubus. An alluring, shape-shifting demon who seduces and pleasures mortal men. Pathetic. A succubus with great shoes and no social life. See: Georgina Kincaid.

When it comes to jobs in hell, being a succubus seems pretty glamorous. A girl can be anything she wants, the wardrobe is killer, and mortal men will do anything just for a touch. Granted, they often pay with their souls, but why get technical?

But Seattle succubus Georgina Kincaid's life is far less exotic. Her boss is a middle-management demon with a thing for John Cusack movies. Her immortal best friends haven't stopped teasing her about the time she shape-shifted into the Demon Goddess getup complete with whip and wings. And she can't have a decent date without sucking away part of the guy's life. At least there's her day job at a local bookstore--free books; all the white chocolate mochas she can drink; and easy access to bestselling, sexy writer, Seth Mortensen, aka He Whom She Would Give Anything to Touch but Can't.

But dreaming about Seth will have to wait. Something wicked is at work in Seattle's demon underground. And for once, all of her hot charms and drop-dead one-liners won't help because Georgina's about to discover there are some creatures out there that both heaven and hell want to deny...

My Thoughts: I can’t recall having read a book where the leading character is a succubus before. By the very definition, a succubus isn’t someone a guy should be getting intimate with, so there goes any chance of a happily ever after with Mr. Right for our succubus heroine, in my opinion. At any rate, Georgina manages to make her job as a succubus interesting. She has a lowlifes only policy so the souls she’s taking aren’t innocent to begin with, though her demon supervisor would rather she expand her criteria. The upside to this life that I really enjoyed is that Georgina can shape shift into anything and can become invisible. She gets to choose her body and appearance, the persona others will see. Georgina will never have to worry about having to buy larger size clothing because her craving for ice cream has gone to her butt. She can just shape shift herself into a size 4. She also works in a bookstore and seems to have access to an unlimited quantity of white chocolate mochas and free books. Not a bad arrangement at all…

I also found Georgina’s past intriguing. The reasons she became a succubus were interesting and though she seems happy with her life and choices for the most part, Georgina still mourns her old life and the people in it. I do hope she doesn’t spend a lot of time dredging up the past, though.

There are a lot of interesting characters in this book and it was a little bit overwhelming trying to keep everyone straight. Vampires, angels, and demons are among Georgina’s friends and associates. Georgina also has an attraction to a couple of mortal men, Roman and Seth, but she is trying to be careful as she doesn’t want to hurt them. The simple act of kissing can take years from their lives.

The villain in this story is a different type of character for me as well. It didn’t take me long to figure who the villain was, but finding out what the villain is came as a surprise. This kind of character in my reading is also a first for me. The villain is targeting immortal creatures and Georgina, unfortunately, is one of the victims when she is viciously attacked and beaten. Luckily, she survives and heals quickly, but other immortal creatures are not so lucky. With the help of her friends, Georgina is trying hard to solve the puzzle of who is behind the attacks and why before she loses her life or someone close to her dies. I very much enjoyed the way this story played out and learning why the villain was attacking immortal creatures proved to be very interesting. I will be looking for the next book in the series to see what Georgina and her friends get involved in next. I recommend this book if you enjoy paranormal themes but are looking for something a little bit different in your characters.

Monday, August 08, 2011

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter #1)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: June, 1997
Paperback: 310 pages
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 10/10

Description: Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley—a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry's room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry—and anyone who reads about him—will find unforgettable. For it's there that he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him... if Harry can survive the encounter.

My Thoughts: For those who don’t know me and my reading habits, I never re-read. My philosophy has always been that re-reading is a waste of time when I have so many books waiting to be read for the first time. I first heard about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone back in 2001 when the first movie was preparing for release. To be honest, I had no interest in reading the book and couldn’t understand the hype. I mean, come on! It’s a children’s book! What’s the big deal? All of my online book groups were raving about the books and now were happily chattering about the upcoming movie. So I gave in and borrowed the audio book from the library. I figured that listening to the book would be killing two birds with one stone. I could continue to read the books from my monstrous to be read mountain and listen to this book during my daily commute. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting that much and I figured if the book didn’t work for me, I wouldn’t be out anything or have wasted valuable reading time, right?

The audio blew me away and my now ex-husband who hated to read jumped all over the books too after we watched the first movie. I quickly went after all of the audio books and was so thoroughly entranced and entertained by Jim Dale’s talented narration of the books. Even with the creative differences between book and movie, I was hooked on the movies too.

So now, here we are ten years later. The last Harry Potter movie has been released and the Harry Potter saga is complete. No more books, no more movies. So, why, you may be asking would I want to re-read the books? I mean, reading, as in turning pages, not listening to audio. I broke my biggest rule about reading and re-reading because I wanted to experience the magic of Hogwarts and Harry’s world all over again. I went out and started purchasing the paperbacks (hardcovers are too heavy to carry around) and began back at the beginning.

One very important thing I have learned is that the perspective between listening to an audio book and reading the book is greatly different. I listened to the unabridged edition back then so I thought that it would be the same as reading the book. I was greatly mistaken. Maybe it’s the way we process information we are receiving, maybe it’s my memory, maybe my mind wandered somewhat during the original listening but reading the book this time felt like I was reading it for the very first time! I didn’t think it was possible to feel that way when re-reading a book.

J.K. Rowling does a marvelous job of creating a world so unlike ours but so similar in many ways. The witches and wizards in Harry’s world are not that unlike us when you think about it. They have the same feelings, fears, hopes, dreams and disappointments. There’s a social hierarchy in their world, much like ours. There’s a political structure in their world too, complete with a governing agency, ruling officials and laws and regulations. They go to school, hold jobs, get married, raise families, get old and die. They love sports and entertainment as well. There’s good and evil in Harry’s world too.

Harry is your typical boy for the most part, but having never known his parents has left him missing out on that most important relationship. He’s being raised by his mother’s sister and her husband, living with them and their bully of a son, Dudley, but not really wanted. I got angry all over again at the way they treated him and at his living conditions. One thing that amazed me then and still does is why the Dursley’s put up such a fight to keep Harry from going to Hogwarts. They made it abundantly clear every day that they didn’t want Harry, barely tolerating his presence in their home. Going to Hogwarts would get him out of their home and ultimately their lives. They should have been kicking up their heels in joy when the first letter arrived. Perhaps, I will never understand why. Fortunately, the lack of bonding and family love does not turn Harry into a sociopath, bent on destroying lives.

Harry adjusts remarkably well to his new life and the excitement of it all. Once again, I found myself wishing I could go to Hogwarts. Going away to school in a castle with moving staircases, ghosts, magical creatures, and interesting characters may seem like a lot for an eleven year old boy to deal with, but Harry does. Finding out his parents were actually murdered by a very evil wizard who also tried to kill him is a lot to take in, as well, but Harry soon learns that those events are a part of who he is and the world he is now a part of.

I wanted to savor each page of the book, but I couldn’t put it down. Even knowing what was coming next, I discovered things I had missed before or perhaps forgot. I had forgotten what a strange and unusual girl Hermione was in the beginning. I had forgotten that Ron is very brave. I had forgotten how troublesome Peeves was and how stern Professor McGonagall could be.

So whether you are a fan who loves to re-read this series or someone who is reading it for the first time, embrace the story fully and enjoy the ride. It is an adventure not to be missed.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

New Additions To The TBR Pile In July

July has been an off month for me. Though I've acquired a few new additions, I didn't finish reading very many books during the month though I am currently reading four books. Perhaps a case of the Summertime Blues...

Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead

Description: Succubus. An alluring, shape-shifting demon who seduces and pleasures mortal men. Pathetic. A succubus with great shoes and no social life. See: Georgina Kincaid.
When it comes to jobs in hell, being a succubus seems pretty glamorous. A girl can be anything she wants, the wardrobe is killer, and mortal men will do anything just for a touch. Granted, they often pay with their souls, but why get technical?

But Seattle succubus Georgina Kincaid's life is far less exotic. Her boss is a middle-management demon with a thing for John Cusack movies. Her immortal best friends haven't stopped teasing her about the time she shape-shifted into the Demon Goddess getup complete with whip and wings. And she can't have a decent date without sucking away part of the guy's life. At least there's her day job at a local bookstore--free books; all the white chocolate mochas she can drink; and easy access to bestselling, sexy writer, Seth Mortensen, aka He Whom She Would Give Anything to Touch but Can't.

But dreaming about Seth will have to wait. Something wicked is at work in Seattle's demon underground. And for once, all of her hot charms and drop-dead one-liners won't help because Georgina's about to discover there are some creatures out there that both heaven and hell want to deny...


Pale Demon by Kim Harrison

Description: Condemned to death for black magic and shunned, Rachel Morgan has three days to somehow get to the annual witches convention in San Francisco and clear her name. If she fails, the only way she can escape death is to live in the demonic ever after . . . for ever after.

Banned from the flight lists, Rachel teams up with elven tycoon Trent Kalamack, headed for the West Coast for his own mysterious business. But Rachel isn’t the only passanger along for the ride. Can a witch, an elf, a living vampire, and a pixy in one car survive for over 2,300 miles? And that’s not counting the assassin on their tail.

A fearsome demon walks the sunlight, freed after centuries of torment to slay the innocent and devour souls. But his ultimate prey is Rachel Morgan. While the powerful witch with nerves of steel will do whatever it takes to stay alive, even embracing her own demonic nature may not be enough to save her.


How To Host A Killer Party by Penny Warner

Description: Don't let murder crash your party.

Presley Parker was just happy to get her party planning business off the ground. Now she's gotten the gig of the year, planning Mayor Davin Green's sumptuous "surprise" wedding for his socialite fiancée, to be held on Alcatraz.

But when the bride is found floating in the bay and the original party planner is found murdered, Presley becomes the prime suspect. If the attractive crime scene cleaner, Brad Matthews, doesn't help her tidy her reputation, she'll be exchanging her formal wear for prison stripes...


Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros

Description: New York Times bestselling author Teresa Medeiros absolutely dazzles in this quick-witted, laugh-out-loud funny, and highly moving love story that will set readers’ hearts atwitter.

Abigail Donovan has a lot of stuff she should be doing. Namely writing her next novel. A bestselling author who is still recovering from a near Pulitzer Prize win and the heady success that follows Oprah’s stamp of approval, she is stuck at Chapter Five and losing confidence daily. But when her publicist signs her up for a Twitter account, she’s intrigued. What’s all the fuss?

Taken under the wing of one of her Twitter followers, “MarkBaynard"—a quick witted, quick-typing professor on sabbatical—Abby finds it easy to put words out into the world 140 characters at a time. And once she gets a handle on tweets, retweets, direct messages, hashtags, and trends, she starts to feel unblocked in writing and in life. After all, why should she be spending hours in her apartment staring at her TweetDeck and fretting about her stalled career when Mark is out there traveling the world and living?

Or is he?

Told almost entirely in tweets and DMs, Goodnight Tweetheart is a truly modern take on a classic tale of love and loss—a Griffin and Sabine for the Twitter generation.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

REVIEW: Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros

Title: Goodnight Tweetheart
Author: Teresa Medeiros
Publisher: Gallery
Publication Date: January, 2011
Paperback: 222 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 9/10

Description: New York Times bestselling author Teresa Medeiros absolutely dazzles in this quick-witted, laugh-out-loud funny, and highly moving love story that will set readers’ hearts atwitter.

Abigail Donovan has a lot of stuff she should be doing. Namely writing her next novel. A bestselling author who is still recovering from a near Pulitzer Prize win and the heady success that follows Oprah’s stamp of approval, she is stuck at Chapter Five and losing confidence daily. But when her publicist signs her up for a Twitter account, she’s intrigued. What’s all the fuss?

Taken under the wing of one of her Twitter followers, “MarkBaynard"—a quick witted, quick-typing professor on sabbatical—Abby finds it easy to put words out into the world 140 characters at a time. And once she gets a handle on tweets, retweets, direct messages, hashtags, and trends, she starts to feel unblocked in writing and in life. After all, why should she be spending hours in her apartment staring at her TweetDeck and fretting about her stalled career when Mark is out there traveling the world and living?

Or is he?

Told almost entirely in tweets and DMs, Goodnight Tweetheart is a truly modern take on a classic tale of love and loss—a Griffin and Sabine for the Twitter generation.

My Thoughts: In today’s technologically advanced world, love finds us no matter where we are. Those of us who are highly skilled in all things Twitter will relate to Abby and Mark and for those of us who aren’t so knowledgeable in all things Twitter will still relate to Abby and Mark. I found myself drawn to this book by the title and though I’m not an advanced “Tweeter” as other people are, this story is still easy to get into.

I loved how each Twitter conversation between Mark and Abby starts with the question “what are you wearing,” which elicits some humorous responses and ends with a goodnight round robin volleying back and forth until Mark ends it with “Goodnight Tweetheart.”

I could not put this book down. Like Abby, I eagerly anticipated what Mark Baynard would say next and find out where in the world he was traveling to next. I loved how his wit and charm draw Abby out of her slump and she begins writing again with his daily encouragement.

Overall, I loved this book but I struggled with the rating. I felt the ending left me a little flat. There should have been more, giving the reader a little closure. Still, this book is a solid A- that will charm the reader, bring a smile to their face and a laugh to their soul.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

REVIEW: Kindred In Death by J.D. Robb

Title: Kindred In Death (In Death #29)
Author: J.D. Robb
Publisher: Putnam
Publication Date: November, 2009
Hardcover: 374 pages
Genre: Mystery / Suspense / Thriller
Rating: 10/10

Description: When the newly promoted captain of the NYPSD and his wife return a day early from their vacation, they were looking forward to spending time with their bright and vivacious sixteen-year-old daughter who had stayed behind.

Not even their worst nightmares could have prepared them for the crime scene that awaited them instead. Brutally murdered in her bedroom, Deena's body showed signs of trauma that horrified even the toughest of cops; including our own Lieutenant Eve Dallas, who was specifically requested by the captain to investigate.

When the evidence starts to pile up, Dallas and her team think they are about to arrest their perpetrator; little do they know yet that someone has gone to great lengths to tease and taunt them by using a variety of identities. Overconfidence can lead to careless mistakes. But for Dallas, one mistake might be all she needs to bring justice.

My Thoughts: What appears to start out as a random brutal crime quickly turns into a web of revenge and horror as a brutal killer is systematically killing the loved ones of people he blames for ruining his life. With the impending nuptials of Louise and Charles and Eve’s near panic at the thought of her matron of honor duties, she has very little time to find the killer but our Eve would much rather get bloody and chase down a killer than be subjected to the rituals of marriage and being within 100 miles of Trina and her devices of female torture.

As always, I loved this book and can’t get enough of Eve, Roark and the gang. However, I was expecting a more intense takedown of the subject. As usual, it played out flawlessly, but with the level of brutality the killer demonstrates, I expected him to go down fighting. Perhaps the author didn’t want her beaten and bloodied right before the wedding. Even so, Eve does get her hands dirty a few times and takes a few hits for the team. Not enough snark with Summerset this go around, but these two pace themselves beautifully and don’t disappoint when they do take the gloves off. I love how Peabody is developing as a character. She’s really coming into her own as a detective and with Eve’s mentoring, she will be a force to be reckoned with. What can I say about Roark that hasn’t been said a million times already? As Peabody and Mavis would say, he’s mag. I always enjoy seeing him getting to use his computer geek skills working with Feeney and McNab to assist Eve.

With 29 books in the series and no indication of slowing down, I am excited to see what Eve and the gang gets into next.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

REVIEW: Eternal Kiss Of Darkness by Jeaniene Frost

Title: Eternal Kiss Of Darkness (Night Huntress World #2)
Author: Jeaniene Frost
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: July, 2010
Paperback: 361 pages
Genre: Paranormal Romance / Urban Fantasy
Rating: 10/10

Description: An immortal war has been brewing in the darkness . . .

And now one woman has stumbled into the shadows.

Chicago private investigator Kira Graceling should have just kept on walking. But her sense of duty refused to let her ignore the moans of pain coming from inside a warehouse just before dawn. Suddenly she finds herself in a world she's only imagined in her worst nightmares.

At the center is Mencheres, a breathtaking Master vampire who thought he'd seen it all. Then Kira appears—this fearless, beautiful . . . human who braved death to rescue him. Though he burns for her, keeping Kira in his world means risking her life. Yet sending her away is unthinkable.

But with danger closing in, Mencheres must choose either the woman he craves, or embracing the darkest magic to defeat an enemy bent on his eternal destruction.

My Thoughts: This book turned out to be quite the surprise. In a good way. Mencheres has been a central character through the entire Night Huntress series and yet I didn’t seem have much interest in him. He always seemed to be brooding and even a little dull and mopey. In Destined For An Early Grave, there was a slight glimpse and hint of Mencheres’ ability to demonstrate quick wit and snappy dialogue. I’m happy I didn’t write him off as too dull or boring because I would have missed this story and that would have been regrettable. Those of us who have been fans of Ms. Frost’s books from the beginning know Mencheres to be quite eccentric and a little hard to warm up to. In his words, he’s older than dirt and has seen a lot of pain and suffering and endured quite a bit of his own as well. If you enjoy tortured characters carrying around scads of emotional baggage, you can’t go wrong with Mencheres. He’s used to people using him, hurting him, betraying him and even trying to kill him. He’s not used to a complete stranger endangering her own life trying to help him.

Kira is carrying her own baggage. Bad relationships, sick sister, loser brother, the list goes on. What I really liked about her is she’s a fighter. When she’s down, she refuses to stay down. She stands up to an abusive husband and picks her life up and moves forward. She doesn’t needlessly throw herself into stupid situations but when she sees a man being attacked, she doesn’t think twice about trying to help even though it nearly costs her own life. Unfortunately, she has seen too much and finds herself being kept somewhat of a prisoner until Mencheres can erase her memory about what she has seen.

I really loved this story because up until this book, Mencheres has been a character that I haven’t been able to relate to or connect with. His presence never seemed to carry the story anywhere or provide any interesting moments though he has always been a central character. With this book, Mencheres is revealed as a force to be reckoned with. He starts out as the same brooding and moping character as before, but quickly shows a completely new side to his personality that I never knew existed. Now I see a compassionate character that is protective and caring. He is a strong character with powers beyond imagining but has immense wisdom. It’s like the old Mencheres that I was seeing in previous books had died and was reborn into a completely different character.

I’m looking forward to where this series will take me next. Now that Mencheres is no longer the boring wet blanket I thought him to previously be, I would love to see a spin off book for Vlad, Ian and Tate.

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I am not a professional reviewer, but I love to read and share my opinions on my reading with others who are interested. I work full time but my ideal perfect day would be to curl up with a good book. The majority of the books I review here are from my private collection and my reviews are provided purely for entertainment purposes. I receive no compensation whatsoever for sharing my thoughts and review on any book. If you would like me to review your book, please email me at sharalsbooks@yahoo.com Happy Reading! :o)