Thursday, July 15, 2010

alice! it's not rocket science!

How difficult is it for Alice to borrow the correct book from the library for book club?

Apparently, it is incredibly difficult.

Two weeks ago, I reserved and picked up the book Devil in My Bed by Celeste Bradley. Oh man! I'm so going to read the book for this month's book club! I thought to myself. I had been horrible and had skimped on reading the book for the past two months, so now! now was the chance to redeem myself! More of, know what's going on when everyone else starts to talk about the book... it's a don't-be-completely-clueless survival technique.

I checked the evite a couple of days ago to get the address of the location of book club which is to be held this Saturday.

"Hi Everyone! Our book for July is Rogue in My Arms by Celeste Bradley. I hope to see you all there :)"

Um.. what?!

Luckily, I had placed the correct book on hold too (I must have been confused. Or drunk. Why I would browse the library catalog while drunk is a story for another day.)

Fear not, readers! I will succeed in having this book read.

I shall prevail!

Nalini Singh: Angels' Blood

Angels' Blood: D
Elena Deveraux & Raphael
Paranormal: angels, vampires

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux knows she's the best—but she doesn't know if she's good enough for this job. Hired by the dangerously beautiful Archangel Raphael, a being so lethal that no mortal wants his attention, only one thing is clear—failure is not an option...even if the task is impossible.

Because this time, it's not a wayward vamp she has to track. It's an archangel gone bad.

The job will put Elena in the midst of a killing spree like no other…and pull her to the razor's edge of passion. Even if the hunt doesn't destroy her, succumbing to Raphael's seductive touch just may. For when archangels play, mortals break…
(author's website)

When I think of Ms. Nalini Singh, I think of Slave to Sensation, the first of the Psy-Changeling series and the book that shot her into authordom. I loved that book. Loved it. I thought it was innovative and that it featured such a wonderful love story.

Unfortunately... Angels' Blood was nothing like that. I mean, I want to like this book because I like Ms. Singh, but truth be told, I couldn't take the story seriously.

I think the first disconnect I felt with the story was because our hero, Raphael, is an archangel. Yes, the strongest and mightiest being, who has control over vampires, but still, he is an angel. He is goodly and drop-dead-gorgeous with blazing blue eyes and perfect, perfect features, but .... I didn't know angels had sex. I just couldn't get over this fact. When there was heavy "sexual tension" in the air, all I could think was, but... but! He has huge wings sprouting out of his back! I don't care if they're beautiful and covered with angel pixie dust... he has wings!

Then again, what makes it normal to read about vampires (dead, immortal beings with animal-like fangs protruding from one's mouth) and not about angels? That, I can't really tell you. Regardless, I was still weirded out.

The hunt for the rogue archangel was good enough. The new fantasy world that Ms. Singh created was readable enough.

It was the characterization that I found to be lacking, especially between Elena and Raphael. Minus the sexual attraction and lust they had between them, I couldn't really say much about either without sounding like a cliched mess: Elena is fierce. Raphael is deadly and cold.

Perhaps there are only so many ways for character traits to be written, but really, the art of writing is in how these traits are shown, and Ms. Singh has failed to justly portray each character.

Bottom line: Skip.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sophia Nash: Secrets of a Scandalous Bride

Secrets of a Scandalous Bride: B+
Elizabeth Ashburton & Rowland Manning
Historical - British Regency

Elizabeth Ashburton lives behind a charming, happy fa├žade in an effort to forget her former life. But when she is forced to confront the devil from her past, her friends in the dowager duchess’s widows club can not save her, and Elizabeth turns to the last man on earth willing to help her…

The extraordinarily powerful Rowland Manning has never pretended to be anything but a bastard, in every way imaginable. Through innate grit and determination, he built an astonishing empire and he’ll do anything and everything to save it. Yet, the one thing he secretly craves . . . something even he cannot name, can never be purchased with his kingdom of riches.

Each has something to win. Each has something to lose. Only love will determine if the price of redemption and sacrifice is too high. (author's website)

Elizabeth Asbhurton has a secret. She is also running from someone who really wants to marry her, but he happens to be someone she cannot trust, so she runs into the arms of Mr. Rowland Manning (tall, dark, and handsome - why would you not run into his arms?).

I don't really remember the back-story with Rowland, but apparently he has done some low, scum-like things in previous books: something along the lines of kidnapping someone and trying to hold her ransom...from his legitimate, half-brother. But then, you find out Rowland's past and you realize why he is the way that he is.

One thing that was really interesting was Rowland's dislike of food and of hunger, in general. When Elizabeth runs into his arms, he covers for her and demands that she repay her debt by temporarily working as a housekeeper and cook in his home. Rowland works hard and spares little time and resources for unimportant things like food. She sees this and cooks him (and his men) sumptuous meals, forcing him to eat it as he tries to deny it.

It's pretty much representative of the love he feels for her.

But in the end, all of the nastiness gets solved and Elizabeth gets him, despite having sacrificed herself (in having plans to marry untrustworthy man to save Rowland).

Aw! Happily ever afters are awesome!

Bottom line: Good read. Alice recommends!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy 4th of July

I finished reading The Secret Life of Bees yesterday while I waited for my sister to come back. It was a little difficult for me to get in to, but then... I got sucked in.

The book was more than a story about race issues in the south during the 1960s, but reading about those times once again reminded me of the struggle that people had to go through for equal rights. There are still people who are working for their freedom: freedom for their rights and independence from their struggles.

I hope that this Independence weekend will give you some of that freedom.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman: Dragons of Autumn Twilight

Dragons of Autumn Twilight: A
Fantasy; fiction
Dragonlance Chronicles #1

Lifelong friends, they went their separate ways. Now they are together again, though each holds secrets from the others in his heart. They speak of a world shadowed with rumors of war. They speak of tales of strange monsters, creatures of myth, creatures of legend. They do not speak of their secrets. Not then. Not until a sorrowful woman, who bears a magic crystal staff, draws the companions deeper into the shadows, forever changing their lives and shaping the fate of the world. No one expected them to be heroes. Least of all, themselves.
(back cover)

It's sad that fantasy and sci-fi books have such a bad rep because I think if written well, such stories are super fun to read. Besides, I don't discriminate: if the book tells a good story, I read!

The citizens of Krynn believe that their True Gods have abandoned them and in the True Gods' place, rises the Seekers and a group of friends are out to set right all the wrongs. This includes creepy Raistlin with hour-glass shaped eyes, the noble half-elf Tanis, the silly Tas, and the grumpy but fierce dwarf, Flint.

In pursuing this journey, they struggle with questions of honor, of love, of doing the right versus the wrong.. they go up and down mountains, meet elves, fight the evil draconian and reptilian Seekers, and essentially takes you through four hundred and something pages of adventure.

Apparently, the Dragonlance Chronicles inspired 90+ books to create this magical world of dragons. I don't think I'll read all ninety books just yet, but I do plan on reading the other three in this series.

Hooray for fantastical reads!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Karen Robards: Shameless

Shameless: C
Elizabeth Banning & Neil Severin
The Banning Sisters Trilogy #3
Historical - Regency

Lady Elizabeth, the youngest and most headstrong of the three Banning sisters, has been engaged three times, and has most scandalously broken off all three engagements. Her fear of becoming any man's property has kept her from marriage and earned a reputation in the ton as a heartbreaking flirt. Neil Severin is a wicked rogue, black of heart and black of reputation. A man of no morals, devoid of compassion, he is a government-sanctioned assassin. And his newest target is a man Beth holds dear. When the flame-haired beauty thwarts his plan, Neil exacts his own brand of spicy revenge. Beth despises him. Neil doesn't care. But circumstances most unexpectedly throw them together, and with Beth's life in danger, Neil finds himself in the unexpected role of hero, racing to save her before it's too late... (back cover)

Here are some facts:
  1. I have read all three of the stories about the Banning sisters.
  2. I loved the first one: Scandalous.
  3. The second one, Irresistible, was pretty cliched and uninteresting.
  4. The third - this story - is slightly more interesting but still pretty cliched.
OK. End of review.

Just kidding... sort of.

What more to say about this novel other than the fact that I've been waiting years and years for Beth's story only to have it sort of peak and then plateau into an abyss of semi-blandness?

I liked Beth, though I couldn't really relate with her unwillingness to have any man be her master. I mean, I knew she was headstrong and stubborn, but when I read Scandalous (book 1), she was but 15. What 15 year old isn't headstrong and stubborn? Ms. Robards neglects to delve into Beth's psyche as to why she dislikes marriage. What we know about Beth's cruddy family situation is from past books... and authors cannot rely on back information from other books to support the current story. Besides, I never got Beth's perspective on it. (In this aspect, Meredith Durant did a better job in explaining Mina's absolute insistence on being her own person in Written on Your Skin. )

And I liked Neil, but only in the most vague and superficial manner possible. As in, he fulfilled the part of the cold, heartless assassin in a manner that was most expected. Cliched, I suppose.

Surprisingly, the adventure was enough to keep me reading without sighing in irritation and without copious amounts of eye-rolling.


The way Ms. Robards ended the novel was bad. As in, without the epilogue, there would be no happily-ever-after. In essence, she didn't end the story: the epilogue was the last chapter of the novel. Why she labeled it as an epilogue is beyond me.

Authors, 'epilogues' are not used as last-chapters. It is a step beyond the end of the story. It's the "what happened after the happily-ever-after? Where are they now?" chapter, not a "let me finish the story."

Let me explain myself another way.

An epilogue is a bonus feature that can be taken out without adversely affecting the story. The story will still have an ending without the epilogue.

Without the epilogue at the end of Shameless, it would have felt unfinished and would have been highly unsatisfying. This is the point I would add in the WTHeck?! This is Ms. Robard's, like, twentieth book. I would think she knows all this already......

Regardless, the entire story proves to be a most average sort of story.

Bottom line: Read, I suppose, but don't buy.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Joanne Harris: Chocolat

Chocolat: A

When beautiful, unmarried Vianne Rocher sweeps into the pinched little French town of Lansquenet on the heels of the carnical and opens a gem of a chocolate shop across fro the square form the church, she begins to wreak havoc with the town's Lenten vows. Her uncanny ability to perceive her customers' private discontents and alleviate them with just the right confection coaxes the villagers to abandon themselves to temptation and happiness, but enrages Pere Reynaud, the local priest. Certain only a witch could stir such sinful indulgence and devise such clever cures, Reynaud pits himself against Vianne and vows to block the chocolate festival she plans for Easter Sunday, and to run her out of town forever. Witch or not (she'll never tell), Vianne soon sparks a dramatic confrontation between those who prefer the cold comforts of the church and those who revel in their newly discovered taste for pleasure... (back cover)

I must say that this book was a gem to read. Ms. Harris' words are itself like warm, sweetened confections and completely succeed in making your insides tingle. She is one I would consider to be a poetic writer, with such beautiful taste and style.

The story is also very delightful, with the church pitted against Vianne's chocolate shop. Is it all right for one to indulge in their passions and desires? And what to do when one in a position of authority leads the people (or the congregation, in this case) in a direction that does not have so much to do with the people's well-being but has to do entirely with obtaining power? Are there absolute black and whites with no grays?

Oh, the questions! (And you know how much I like books that ask thoughtful questions..!)

Besides that, the entire book was about Vianne preparing delicious goodies that literally made my mouth water. Mmm..

If anything, read to see how Ms. Harris' sculpts her words to simply create a wonderful read.