Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Teasuer Tuesdays: After The Fire

teasertuesdays31

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
After The Fire CoverHere's my teaser:

How could I have failed to see myself as I really am? she asked herself. Will Miller was right. My work has never moved anyone either to tears or joy. Skill I have, but never the indefinable.

~ page 152 of After the Fire by Belva Plain

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mystery Mondays: Review: Why Shoot a Butler?

MysteryMondaysLogoWelcome to another Mystery Mondays review! This week we are taking a look at a title from one of my favorite authors, Georgette Heyer. Better known for her Regency and Historical Romances, Heyer did write several mysteries during her career, with a bit of help from her husband, a barrister. He helped Heyer make sure that enoug clues were sprinkled throughout her stories so that readers might have a chance at solving the mystery. As you'll see in my review, I think he could have done a better job with Why Shoot a Butler? :-)

Why Shoot a Butler CoverTitle: Why Shoot a Butler?
Author: Georgette Heyer
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pub Date: April 2009, Sourcebooks
Trade paperback, 329 pages

Synopsis

Every family has secrets, but the Fountains' are turning deadly...

On a dark night, along a lonely country road, barrister Frank Amberley stops to help a young lady in distress and discovers a sports car with a corpse behind the wheel. The girl protests her innocence, and Amberley believes her--at least until he gets drawn into the mystery and the clues incriminating Shirley Brown begin to add up...

In an English country-house murder mystery with a twist, it's the butler who's the victim, ever clue complicates the puzzle, and the bumbling police are well-meaning but completely baffled. Fortunately, in ferreting out a desperate killer, amateur sleuth Amberley is as brilliant as he is arrogant, but this time he's not sure he wants to know the truth...

My Thoughts

This is only the second Heyer mystery I have read and thought I enjoyed it, I'm not sure I liked it as much as Detection Unlimited. With Why Shoot a Butler? Heyer takes a different approach by having law enforcement officials that border on incompetent and an amateur who is much more talented in the sleuthing department. That particular device provides for many humorous exchanges between the officials and Amberley. Of course, I also liked the idea that instead of "the butler did it," the butler was the victim, or one of them, anyway.

Once again, Heyer's talent for witty banter and dry humor does much to make this an enjoyable read. There is also quite a bit of action, with no less than three murders and one more attempted before the ultimate culprit is found out. My biggest issue with this story was that it was not very obvious to the reader what was actually going on, and what the real mystery truly is, beyond the initial murder of the butler. I did have an inkling as to who the "bad guy" was, but no clue as to the motive. Of course, when the case is explained at the end, Heyer does manage to tie it all up neatly. As is typical with Heyer there is a romance, but unfortunately it is thrown in so suddenly towards the end that she was not able to exercise her true talents in this area. I suppose I could see it coming but it really wasn't worked into the plot as well as it could have been.

Overall, this was a quick, enjoyable read and one I think that most cozy mystery-lovers would enjoy. While I had some issues with the plot, that did not hamper my enjoyment of the story and Heyer's writing and humorous dialogues. I do wish, however, that some of the typos had been taken care of by Sourcebooks--there were two or three that were glaring and should never have made it through.

My rating: 4 stars



Other reviews of Why Shoot a Butler?:

A Lovely Shore Breeze ~ Reading Adventures
Books and Needlepoint ~ Grace's Book Blog

If you have reviewed this book and would like to see a link to your review listed here, please leave a comment below. Thanks!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

In My Mailbox (06.22-27.09)

In My Mailbox
As always, In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi, The Story Siren.

It was a quiet week but I did get two books. One that I'd forgotten I'd won:

Afraid CoverAfraid by Jack Kilborn. Synopsis from BN.com:

ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? YOU WILL BE . . .

Welcome to Safe Haven, Wisconsin. Miles from everything, with one road in and out, this peaceful town has never needed a full-time police force. Until now . . . A helicopter has crashed near Safe Haven and unleashed something horrifying. Now this merciless force is about to do what it does best. Isolate. Terrorize. Annihilate. As residents begin dying in a storm of gory violence, Safe Haven's only chance for survival will rest with an aging county sheriff, a firefighter, and a single mom. And each will have this harrowing thought: Maybe death hasn't come to their town by accident . . .

And I received another book for review, which author Alisa Libby was so kind to send to me:

The King's Rose CoverThe King's Rose by Alisa Libby. Synopsis from BN.com:

Life in the court of King Henry VIII is a complex game. When fifteen-year-old Catherine Howard catches the king's eye, she quickly transforms from pawn to queen. But even luxury beyond imagination loses its luster as young Catherine finds her life—and her heart—threatened by the needs of an aging king and a family hungry for power. Will their agendas deliver Catherine to the same fate as her infamous cousin, Anne Boleyn—sacrificed at the altar of family ambition?

Engaging historical fiction with a throbbing YA heartbeat, this thrilling novel will draw readers into the intrigues and dangers of the Tudor court.

What was in YOUR mailbox this week?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Review: Beyond This Moment

Beyond This Moment coverTitle: Beyond This Moment
Author: Tamera Alexander
Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction
Pub Date: April 2009, Bethany House Publishers
Trade Paperback, 394 pages

Synopsis

When Dr. Molly Whitcomb, Professor of Romance Languages, steps off the train in Colorado Territory, she makes a choice--one that goes against everything she stands for. Yet it's the only choice that offers her a chance to regain a fraction of all she's lost.

Sheriff James McPherson's instincts about people rarely miss the mark. He knows Professor Whitcomb is hiding something. He just doesn't know what. When James learns Molly's secret, his own reputation is undermined. But when Molly Whitcomb's reinvented life begins to unravel, it threatens his job, the stability of Timber Ridge, and what he always knew to be true about himself.

My Thoughts

I originally picked up this book solely for the cover, I just really, really liked it--an attractive woman with a gorgeous background, not to mention the handsome man behind her. After reading the synopsis I was intrigued and had to get it, since I've lately been finding many Christian Fiction books that I've enjoyed. Now I have to admit that the book sat around waiting to be read for awhile, until just a few days ago. I was fortunate enough to meet Julie Lessman at her book signing on Tuesday, and she, my mother and I had coffee together afterwards, which was such a treat. I cannot tell you how special that lady is! And before you wonder what in the world my point is, I am mentioning all this because Julie happened to mention that she enjoyed Tamera Alexander. So, knowing I had this book sitting on a bookshelf back at home, I made a mental note to start it as soon as I finished the book I was reading at the time.

I'm happy to say that I was not disappointed. Unfortunately, I actually left this book at the office on Friday and not only is it the weekend but that was actually my last day at that job!! I was so hooked on this book, though, that I went out and bought another copy today so that I could finish it. Alexander's writing has a quality similar to Julie Lessman's--the story just grabs you and doesn't let go. The story is woven very well with characters that are very realistic--many are likable and then there are those you'd love to strangle if given the chance. In all honesty, the plot itself was a bit predictable (I've been a bit spoiled by Julie's incredible twisting story lines), but what I appreciated most was the lack of preachiness, though there is no mistaking that this is a Christian fiction novel. Beyond This Moment only had a touch of the formulaic feel that I find too often ruins Christian fiction--thankfully, Alexander's beautiful writing lessens that impression.

This was my first read by Tamera Alexander but it certainly won't be my last. I'm happy to have found another author of Christian fiction that I can enjoy so much.

My rating: 4 stars



Other reviews of Beyond This Moment:

Window To My World

If you have reviewed this book and would like to see a link to your review here, please leave a comment below!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Review: T'aragam

T'aragam coverTitle: T'aragam
Author: Jack W. Regan
Genre: Juvenile fantasy
Pub Date: April 2009, Sweatshoppe Publications
Trade Paperback, 286 pages

Synopsis

Young Max Ransome watched his father die, killed by marauding phantors as they swept through T'Aragam at the bidding of the evil wizard Zadok. Barely escaping with his own life, Max is thrust into a whirlwind journey as he races against time to save T'Aragam, the world he loves, from a dark dominion. Can Max overcome the horror of his father's death and save T'Aragam from the grasping talons of its enemies?

Woven with a charming mix of zany humor and genuine danger, "T'Aragam" immerses the reader in a world of original characters and tightly-woven plot. Young Max leads the cast and is ably supported by, among others, a faithful medgekin friend named Gramkin, two monster brothers named Doom and Gloom, and an equuraptor named Dresden.

Coupled with quirky supporting characters, such as mercenary Captain Baggywrinkle, Lord Stench, and a perpetually hungry sea serpent named Bob, this cast of characters steps from the pages and pulls the reader into the story.


My Thoughts

Normally most of the books I read are for the Young Adult set and older, but when Jack W. Regan contacted me about reading and reviewing his book I couldn't pass it up since I enjoy fantasy so much. And let me tell you, this book was great fun, and I wish it had been around when I was the target audience/age for it.

As you can see from the synopsis, there are some great characters with funny names, but even more importantly, T'aragam is a well-written story that grabs you from the beginning. Regan has done an excellent job weaving an adventurous tale infused with quirky humor that had me laughing out loud many times. Young Max Ransome is thrown into danger early on, escaping an attack on the Ransome Castle only to land in greater danger as he flees. After learning plans that the evil wizard Zadok has, he returns home to do what he can to disrupt Zadok's schemes. Just when you think the story is winding down, Regan throws in a twist to keep you on your toes.

T'aragam is the first book in the Max Ransome Chronicles, and while it's certainly an easy read for me, I am will be likely pick up the next book (when it is available) so I can see how the story continues. Any young reader will likely enjoy this book, and it wouldn't surprise me if this story causes some readers to become hooked on fantasy books in general. It would certainly be a great introduction into the world of fantasy for the younger readers.

My rating: 5 stars



Other reviews of T'aragam:


If you have reviewed this book and would like to see your site listed here, please leave me a comment!

Thursday Thunks (06.25.09)

Welcome to the June 24th version of Thursday Thunks!
Where we make you think a little bit before you blog!

This week we will answer some crazy questions brought to you by Berleen, the number 1559 and the color calico.

1. Someone knocks at your door. You answer it. It's a kid from the local school selling candy bars for a fundraiser. Do you buy one?
If it's a kid from the local school, I probably will. Unless it's the 6th or 7th one to stop by the house. Can't support 'em all!
2. The end of the world is tomorrow and you are out of milk - do you go buy some?
I've never really gotten that one. So no, I probably wouldn't.
3. Have you ever picked up the phone and called someone that you hadn't talked to in years?
On rare occasions, yes.
4. Whats on your computer desktop background?
Currently (at work) it's our company logo. At home it's a picture of a butterfly from our recent anniversary trip to Callaway Gardens.
5. What was the very first movie you saw in a movie theater?
I'll have to defer to my mother on this one, but I think it might have been The Jungle Book???
6. If you had to take a 10th grade science test, do you think you would pass?
Ha, probably not. I took Chemistry in 10th grade and I can't say I remember much about it.
7. Describe heaven.
Words can't describe it.
8. Has a place that you lived ever been infested with some sort of insect or rodent?
Infested? Nah. Maybe a random pest here or there, but definitely not infested. *shudders to think about it*
9. When you were a youngin', did you hide in the clothes racks at department stores?
Again, I'd have to defer to my mother on this one, but I don't think so.
10. Is there anything in your vehicle that is broken?
Not that I'm aware of.
11. What is something in your house that people would be surprised to find?
Can't really think of anything. We don't have much out of the ordinary or unexpected.
12. Do you agree with the death penalty?
Haven't made up my mind on this one.
13. Whats your favorite type of bear?
A Teddy Bear.
14. Where was the last place you went?
The bathroom? Or geographically speaking?--in which case, the office. Or vacation-wise?--Scenic Wolf Resort in Mars Hill, North Carolina.
15. What if that person knocking at your door earlier was an adult selling candy bars... would you buy one?
Nope.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Review: The Manning Brides

The Manning Brides coverTitle: The Manning Brides (Marriage of Inconvenience & Stand-In Wife)
Author: Debbie Macomber
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Pub Date: Originally 1992, this edition 2008, MIRA
Mass market, 475 pages

Synopsis

Rich Manning and Jamie Warren have always been friends--and nothing but friends. However, that changes when she asks him to father the child she so desperately wants. Rich agrees--if she'll marry him. Because he thinks their Marriage of Inconvenience could become a real marriage instead.

Paul Manning, a grieving widower with three small children, turns to Leah Baker for help and comfort. When that comfort begins to grow into something else, Paul discovers that he wants more than a Stand-In Wife.

My Thoughts

I had never read a Debbie Macomber novel before this set of books, which I happened across our local independent bookstore several weeks ago. I decided I wanted to start a light read last night and, well, that's pretty much exactly what I got and so I'm writing just one review for both stories. I've read a few romance novels, and I actually have to say I appreciate the fact that Macomber does not go into graphic detail when it comes to sex, though there are certainly enough innuendos.

In the end, I have wonder if I'm just not a good candidate for romance novels--at least not those that are like these two books. The story lines just felt so unrealistic and ridiculous--especially the way the couples were acting. I found myself rolling my eyes often, and I'm not sure that I have ever been more frustrated with characters than I was when it came to Rich & Jamie and Paul & Leah. How they could not have a clue as to what the other person was feeling, not know what they themselves were feeling and ultimately say some absolutely stupid things to each other was beyond me. Maybe I just can't relate, but I just can't envision real people acting like these silly couples. The timing of the development of the relationships also felt odd--things happened much too quickly and, to me, the various family members did not react to certain events the way I think most people would. Actually, I felt that both stories--but especially Stand-In Wife--focused so much on the couples and hardly at all on other characters (friends & family) that the stories just felt even less real.

I realize that romance novels are very much an escapist read, but I need more substance to really appreciate a story like either of these and to truly "escape." Macomber's writing is easy to read and follow, and I could at least enjoy the fact that the books both ended "happily ever after." But I think that lately I've been reading so many books that are deeper, more emotionally gripping, and better written, and I was simply unable to appreciate this title in the manner it had been intended.

My rating:
2 stars

If you have read and reviewed this book, please leave a comment with the link!

Teaser Tuesdays: T'aragam

teasertuesdays31

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

T'aragam coverHere's mine:

"I have grown tired of humoring you," Zadok said, pulling his hood back over his head. "I have been more than generous and patient, but my tolerance is limited. You will all die."

~ page 72 of T'aragam by Jack W. Regan

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mystery Mondays: Review: Boston Scream Pie

MysteryMondaysLogoWelcome to another Mystery Mondays review! This week I've got a fun one for you... Boston Scream Pie, by Rosemary and Larry Mild, which is the third book in their Paco & Molly series. Don't you love that title? I will also be participating in the Omnimystery Tour for this book and will be sharing an interview with the authors on Saturday, July 11th--I'm so excited! Be sure to stop back by for that, but for now here's a taste of what the book is about and my thoughts on it...

Boston Scream Pie coverTitle: Boston Scream Pie
Author: Rosemary & Larry Mild
Genre: Crime Fiction, Mystery
Pub Date: August 2008, Hilliard & Harris
Trade paperback, 180 pages

Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Caitlin Neuman, a Maryland high school student, is plagued by a series of bizarre nightmares about a horrific car accident on a snowy road. The lone survivor of a car crash that claimed both her parents and twin sister years earlier, Caitlin was too young to remember the details of that fateful night. But are these present-day nightmares simply Caitlin’s mind working out the past, or is there more to these vivid images that haunt her every waking moment?

As the harrowing images escalate, Caitlin takes matters into her own hands and seeks out the one source she knows can solve the mystery of the nightmares: retired Baltimore detective Paco LeSoto.

For any other detective, such a case would seem impossible. But for Paco LeSoto, nothing is impossible. Paco, after all, has both a keen ability to solve mysteries, and the loving support of his wife and biggest cheerleader, Molly, a woman whose deliciously skewed language, exquisite culinary skills, and shrewd cleverness are equaled only by her girth.

As Paco and Molly set out to find answers, they’ll uncover a string of unsolved deaths and a case of mistaken identity buried deep in the past. As the clues mount and the tension builds, Paco and Molly are led to a nearby family embroiled in a crisis of its own.

Newlyweds Newton Boston and his blonde bombshell wife Delylah are mired in their own family turmoil as Delylah’s adult children churn up trouble that threatens this already-fractured family. But what Newton doesn’t know is that four dead husbands lie in Delylah’s past. When another Boston family member dies under suspicious circumstances, all clues point to murder.

Can Paco and Molly stop another killing, bring justice to the culprits, and right an egregious wrong from the past—before it’s too late? As they uncover the sinister clues, Paco and Molly will either shed light on a long-hidden secret, or stir up a recipe for disaster.

My Thoughts

I have to admit, the title alone was enough to sell me on the book, though the cover leaves a bit to be desired. This was another one of those stories where I had a difficult time following the story initially because the scenes switched back and forth between characters that seemed to be totally unrelated. However, the Milds slowly bring everyone together in what I thought was a pretty slick plot line--one that I will also not divulge because it really is key to the story.

Boston Scream Pie is one of those mysteries where you can piece together information and figure out who the culprit is, but there are so many mini-mysteries that you never really can have the full story figured out. Actually, one of the main mysteries is really uncovered with little fanfare, but there is so much to the story (and the reader likely has that part figured out, anyway) that I didn't mind this to be the case. Honestly, what makes this book (and probably the series, though I have only read this title) is the characters. The Milds do a great job portraying all of the family members and possible suspects of the various murders and it becomes interesting to debate who has the most likely motive. Truth be told, Molly and her "Mollyprops" (or malapropisms) really steal the show. In the beginning, it was amusing to see her misuse and mangle various words and phrases, but by the end it was hysterical, as the "slips of tongue" really grew to have double entendres or were just plain amusing in their tone. One of my favorites was "defacation of character" as opposed to defamation of character.

Overall, Boston Scream Pie was an easy, light read that provided a lot of laughs. The relative simplicity of the mystery may disappoint some diehard mystery lovers, but the plot and outcome were all carefully drawn with a resolution that I am sure will satisfy most readers. I should also note that there is a bit of sexual content as well, though nothing very graphic or gratuitous--I felt that it was pertinent to the storyline.

My rating: 4 stars



If you have reviewed this book and would like to see a link to your review listed, please leave a comment below!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Sunday Salon (06.21.09): The Insomnia Edition

SundaySalonLogoHappy Sunday, Saloners (and non-Saloners)! Unfortunately for me, my three-hour nap to recover from my walk in the heat and humidity (despite the early hour of said walk) has left me with a severe case of insomnia! So I figured, what better use of my time than to write a Sunday Salon Post--a week in review, no less. It seems odd to me to do that, as I've had a rather slow reading week (compared to some) but there are a few things I wanted to share with those of you who may only see my Sunday Salon posts...

Sookie Stackhouse 7 booksFirst up, my latest (HUGE) giveaway... You can win a set of the first seven books in the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris! I'd been planning this giveaway for awhile, and with Beth @ Beth Fish Reads starting the Sookie Stackhouse challenge this week, I figured the timing of my giveaway couldn't be any better. So, be sure to check that out and enter for your chance to win--there are many ways to earn entries, so good luck!!

And I suppose I ought to note this week has been sponsored by the number 200, it seems. I wrote my 200th post (wow!) and thanks to the Sookie contest, I also reached 200(+) followers (double wow!). Thanks to everyone for your support, I wouldn't be here without loyal readers--you make it fun for me to share this blog with all of you!

I had an OK week as far as reading goes. Just two books and an audio book completed, and of the three, the audio book, Priceless Memories by Bob Barker, was my favorite. I also completed The Jewel of Gresham Green by Lawana Blackwell and That Summer by Sarah Dessen--that one at least helps me with the Sarah Dessen Reading Challenge!

Speaking of Challenges, this week's Weekly Geeks question was a great one, and it was about a topic I don't tend to cover too much in my posts. I probably should be better about mentioning my progress in my reading challenges in my monthly wrap-up posts, eh? Anyway, check out my thoughts on challenges and a progress update!

Lastly, you all know how I love to play with my blog and tweak it to make improvements. Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to having someone do a complete custom redesign but to be honest, I haven't wanted to shell out the money to do that. I wish I were capable of doing it myself, but it would be a pretty big undertaking and honestly, it's just not something I feel like trying to learn to do right now. Not to mention, I have kind of built my blog on its current theme as it is, complete with a grab button, favicon, and custom header links, so I hated to undo what branding I have done in my blog's infancy. Anyway, about three weeks ago, I downloaded a trial of Photoshop Elements (stick with me--this has a point, I promise) and fiddled around with it for a few days. At that point, I was feeling even less confident about trying to do anything with my blog on my own so I gave it up for awhile. Then today, I was browsing iStock Photo and came across a very cute graphic of a girl in a chaise lounge reading a book, and it just happened to blend very nicely with my blog's current colors. So, I went out on a limb, purchased the picture, and played with adding it to my existing header in Photoshop Elements to see if I could blend it all together. It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I have to admit I'm pretty pleased with the results! I'm just glad that it brings at least a little something related to reading to the look of my blog... Take a peek and tell me what you think :-)

So that's been my week in reading and blogging! Not outstanding, as far as the book count goes, but I am looking forward to what promises to be an awesome reading month in July! This week will be my last at my current job, and after that I will have five weeks off until I start my next job, so I am going to do my best to work my way through my stacks of unread books during that time!

What about you? Read any good (or great!) books this week?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-23: Reading Challenges

WeeklyGeeksThis week's Weekly Geeks topic was suggested by Sheri of A Novel Menagerie. She writes:

"Reading Challenges: a help or a hurt? Do you find that the reading challenges keep you organized and goal-oriented? Or, do you find that as you near the end of a challenge that you've failed because you fell short of your original goals? As a result of some reading challenges, I've picked up books that I would have otherwise never heard of or picked up; that, frankly, I have loved. Have you experienced the same with challenges? If so, which ones? Do you have favorite reading challenges?"

As we pass the halfway point of 2009, how are you doing with your reading challenges? Did you participate in any challenges this year?

Well, as most of you probably know, I'm not too big on reading challenges, mostly because I know my limitations and if I were to enter too many challenges, I'd probably fail miserably. So far, in 2009 I am signed up for 4 challenges, and now is the perfect opportunity to update you on all of them :-) You can always use the Reading Challenges button in my header to see how I'm doing, too!

The first challenge I joined this year was the 100+ Reading Challenge hosted at J. Kaye's Book Blog. I figured that I could handle reading 100 book in a year, and so far I have read 65 books! So I'm well on my way to finishing this challenge with not even half the year gone.

I also decided to join the Classics Challenge, which is hosted at Trish's Reading Nook. That seems to be the challenge I'm having the most trouble with. I did read one book earlier in the year, but subsequently realized that I had read it before the challenge actually started. I have since read another book, but still have five more to go before October's out. I'm hoping to catch up on this challenge with my five weeks off between jobs this summer!

The Pages Read Challenge is another one that I knew I should be able to complete--it is hosted at Secret Dreamworld of a Bookaholic. I have a feeling I will blow my initial estimate of 30,000 pages out of the water given that I've already read over 22,000 pages, but it will give me a good idea for what to plan for next year.

The most recent challenge I joined was the Sarah Dessen Challenge, which is hosted at Em's Bookshelf. After reading and enjoying Just Listen, I decided that reading 8 more books by Dessen by the end of the year (my own time frame) was easily manageable. I just completed my second Dessen book (That Summer) and look forward to reading another one soon!

So far, as this is the first year of my blog, I haven't failed any reading challenges, but I do feel a certain pressure with the one I am most behind in. Of the two challenges, the Classics Challenge and Sarah Dessen Challenge are the two that will likely be responsible for me reading books I might not have tried otherwise. And so far, I've liked what I read! In general, because I am realistic about them and pick and choose which challenges to join, they are a help to me, rather than a hurt. And even if I were to fail a challenge, I don't think I would beat myself up too much--there's always the next year or the next challenge!

So how about you? Having much luck with reading challenges this year?

Review: That Summer

That Summer coverTitle: That Summer
Author: Sarah Dessen
Genre: Young Adult
Pub Date: October 1996 (this ed. May 2004), Penguin Group
Trade paperback, 198 pages

Synopsis

For fifteen-year-old Haven, there's just too much going on. First, there's her father's wedding to Lorna Queen, the local television "Weather Pet." Then, her sister Ashley's wedding to boring Lewis Warsher, who doesn't seem to suit Ashley at all. And Haven can't ignore the fact that she's nearly six feet tall and still growing. Haven can barely figure out who she is anymore, or where she fits in. Then Ashley's old boyfriend, Sumner Lee, shows up and sparks Haven's memories of the summer when her parents were happy, her sister was plucky and carefree, and everything was perfect... or so it seemed.

My Thoughts

While I very much enjoyed Just Listen, my first Sarah Dessen book, That Summer did not really impress me as much. However, I do realize that this is Dessen's first book, so it is to be expected that her work would improve over time.

Thankfully, Dessen's writing has improved vastly since That Summer. With this book, I found myself not really drawn into the story as much--it was written in first person from Haven's point of view, and much of it was reading Haven's rambling thoughts, while dialogues were a bit neglected, in my opinion. I can see how this story would appeal to the young adult set, however. It just happens to be a young adult novel that doesn't really translate well into adult reading in this case. Honestly, the book is a lot of fluff with a little bit of substance sprinkled throughout. Dessen does a good job portraying most of the characters, though most of them do not have any real depth. Frankly, I am surprised Haven didn't have her little outburst earlier on in the story, but I was glad to see her finally show some emotion. For the story to have been more effective, I also wish that Sumner played a larger role.

I realize that it sounds like I didn't like this book, but I promise that's not the case. It was a light, easy read and perfect for me this week, as I have not had much time to devote to reading. And it was certainly an easy book for the Sarah Dessen Challenge hosted at Em's Bookshelf. I would definitely recommend it to the teen and pre-teen girls out there, as I think perhaps it is a story they can more easily relate to.

My rating: 3 stars

Other reviews of That Summer:

Harmony Book Reviews ~ Bookfoolery and Babble ~ Book Addiction
Hope's Bookshelf ~ The Chick Manifesto ~ Wondrous Reads

If you have reviewed this book and would like to see your link listed here, please leave a comment with the link to your review!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Finds (06.19.09)

FridayFindsFriday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

This week's post is actually inclusive of my finds from both this week and last week. I think I've discovered some good ones, and hopefully someday soon I'll get around to reading them! My apologies for not keeping track of where I stumbled across these books and finally decided to add them to my wish list, but know that all of you are awesome bloggers who give great recommendations!!

Gone book coverGone by Michael Grant. Synopsis from BN.com:

In the blink of an eye.

Everyone disappears.

Gone.

Everyone except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not a single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Gone, too, are the phones, internet, and television. There is no way to get help.
Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.

It's a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen and war is imminent.

Hunger book coverHunger by Michael Grant. Synopsis from BN.com:

IT'S BEEN THERE MONTHS SINCE EVERYONE UNDER THE AGE OF FIFTEEN BECAME TRAPPED IN THE BUBBLE KNOWN AS THE FAYZ.

THREE MONTHS SINCE ALL THE ADULTS DISAPPEARED.

GONE.

Food ran out weeks. Everyone is starving, but no one wants to figure out a solution. And each day, more and more kids are evolving, developing supernatural abilities that set them apart from the kids without powers.
Tension rises and chaos is descending upon the town. It's the normal kids against the mutants. Each kid is out for himself, and even the good ones turn murderous.


But a larger problem looms. The Darkness, a sinister creature that has lived buried deep in the hills, begins calling to some of the teens in the FAYZ. Calling to them, guiding them, manipulating them.

The Darkness has awakened. And it is hungry.

Bad Girls Don't Die book coverBad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender. Synopsis from BN.com:

Alexis thought she led a typically dysfunctional high school existence. Dysfunctional like her parents' marriage; her doll-crazy twelve-year-old sister, Kasey; and even her own anti-social, anti-cheerleader attitude.

When a family fight results in some tearful sisterly bonding, Alexis realizes that her life is creeping from dysfunction into danger. Kasey is acting stranger than ever: her blue eyes go green sometimes; she uses old-fashioned language; and she even loses track of chunks of time, claiming to know nothing about her strange behavior. Their old house is changing, too. Doors open and close by themselves; water boils on the unlit stove; and an unplugged air conditioner turns the house cold enough to see their breath in.


Alexis wants to think that it's all in her head, but soon, what she liked to think of as silly parlor tricks are becoming life-threatening—to her, her family, and to her budding relationship with the class president. Alexis knows she's the only person who can stop Kasey — but what if that green-eyed girl isn't even Kasey anymore?

A Bride in the Bargain coverA Bride in the Bargain by Deanne Gist. Synopsis from Amazon.com:

Mr. Asa Mercer placed his pen back in its holder and looked at Anna. "A cook, you say?" "Yes. I prepared the menu and all courses for the morning, noon, and evening meals, having only Sundays off." Mercer leaned back in his chair. "Well. We aren't taking any passengers on credit, but there is one man who wanted a br--, err, a woman who could feed the men who work for him." She straightened. "Well, I daresay he'd be very pleased with me." Mercer gave her a quick appraisal. "I daresay he would." "How many men does he employ?" "He's a lumberjack. I'm not sure how many men are involved in his operation. No more than a dozen, I'd say, if that." A lumberjack. The word conjured up visions of pine forests, fresh air and wilderness--something far removed from the bustling city, the aftermath of the war. "Goodness," she said, a flicker of anticipation whisking through her. "I could feed a dozen men with one hand tied behind my back." He rubbed his hands against his legs. "Well, he was very specific that he would pay for the fare. You would then have to work off your debt for him." "I'm agreeable to those terms, if he is." Mercer said nothing. She could see his inner struggle. Was he worried she wouldn't measure up to her new employer? Sitting a little straighter, she forced herself to not squirm. Finally, he turned again to his desk and retrieved his pen. "Very well, Miss Ivey. I will draw up your papers and award you passage to the Washington Territory on the S.S. Continental."

Never the Bride coverNever the Bride by Cheryl McKay & Rene Gutteridge. Synopsis from BN.com:

Since she was just a little girl, Jessie Stone dreamed up hundreds of marriage proposals, doodled the romantic ideas in her journal with her treasured purple pen, and fantasized about wedding dresses and falling in love. She’s been a bridesmaid nearly a dozen times, waved numerous couples off to sunny honeymoons, and shopped in more department stores for half-price fondue pots than she cares to remember.

But shopping for one key component of these countless proposals hasn't been quite as productive–a future husband. The man she thought she would marry cheated on her. The crush she has on her best friend Blake is at very best…well, crushing. And speed dating has only churned out memorable horror stories.

So when God shows up one day, in the flesh, and becomes a walking, talking part of her life, Jessie is skeptical. What will it take to convince her that the Almighty has a better plan than one she’s already cooked up in her journals? Can she turn over her pen and trust someone else to craft a love story beyond herwildest dreams?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Review: The Jewel of Gresham Green

The Jewel of Gresham Green coverTitle: The Jewel of Gresham Green
Author: Lawana Blackwell
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction
Pub Date: August 2008, Bethany House Publishers
Trade Paperback, 415 pages

Synopsis

Will this quaint village be the safe haven her heart craves?

To protect her precious daughter from the danger nipping at their heels, Jewel Libby must flee the only home she's ever known. Caring friends direct her to the vicarage in the peaceful dairy village of Gresham, but she arrives there to find Vicar Andrew Phelps and his wife immersed in troubles of their own. Their son Philip, a successful London surgeon, has a controlling wife who resents his close family ties. And daughter Aleda lives in a cottage on the outskirts of Gresham, where she adamantly pursues her writing career and her solitude--often to the exclusion of others.

When Andrew becomes ill and in need of his son's skills, and Aleda's quest for privacy unwittingly advances and evil man's schemes, Jewel finds the tables turned--she is the one offering support and a source of strength. But an unlikely romance is about to change everything.

My Thoughts

It's not often I find a book blurb to be so off the mark, but that was the case with this one. Not that I didn't enjoy the book, because I did, but this blurb is really quite a bit misleading and over dramatizes parts of the story quite a bit.

I have to admit that the story gets off to a slow start and the plot is very difficult to follow for about the first quarter to third of the book. The transitions from chapter to chapter are a bit shaky as the scenes and characters change, but once every main character was located in Gresham, the story was ever so much easier to follow and get caught up in. The story really begins to pick up when the "evil man" mentioned in the blurb arrives, though his schemes really were not advanced the way the book blurb implies. The evil Donald is certainly an unlikable man and it was galling to read how various women fell for his fake charms. He was, however, a well-written character. Many of the characters are not particularly developed, though Blackwell does a pretty good job with Donald, Jewel, Aleda, and Loretta. In all fairness, this is actually the fourth book in the series, so many of the characters may be developed in other books.

Something else I particularly enjoyed was that it was not immediately obvious with whom Jewel would eventually fall in love, however, once that was apparent it took an agonizingly long time for anything to happen! In fact, there is so much going on in this story, that it unfortunately overshadows Jewel's eventual romance and her own story. I really don't feel that this book was about Jewel as much as it was about an entire family in this village. In the end, we were really left with about two chapters devoted to the supposed romance, as if the author realized she needed to get everything wrapped up to close the book. Overall, once the story really got moving, it was an enjoyable light read with some good messages, while not being overly preachy. While this was the fourth book in the series, it did work as a stand alone novel and I do not feel I missed out on anything by not having read the first three books.

My rating: 3 stars

Other reviews of The Jewel of Gresham Green:

Book Critiques

If you have reviewed this book and would like to see a link included here, please leave a comment below!

Thursday Thunks (06.18.09)

Welcome to the June 18th version of Thursday Thunks!

(which we always seem to post on Wednesday)
Where we make you think a little bit before you blog!

This week we will answer some crazy questions brought to you by
Kimber, the number 3000 and the color grape ape.

1. Are your ears dirty?
Nope.

2. Would you rather be stung by a scorpion or bit by a snake? (Don't say either...no one wants to be in pain, that's the point. Pick one.)
How about stung by a really tiny scorpion, maybe that wouldn't be so bad.

3. Do loud noises make you snappish? (i.e. A loud restaurant, screaming child next to you, booming stereo from a neighbor's house?)
Probably depends on the noise. A screaming child might, but a loud restaurant wouldn't.

4. PETA- thoughts on this org.?
I can appreciate the cause, but not their method of promoting it.

5. Would you rather be the discoverer of the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot? (Imagination!)
I guess the Loch Ness Monster, it seems likely that there would be less of that kind of monster than there could be of Bigfoot.

6. When in a public toilet and it's not flushed: do you flush & use or move on to a clean one?
99.9% of the time I just move on to a clean one. That 0.1% left is when I have no choice but to flush it. Ick.

7. Neighbors are having a noisy, party bonfire, what do you do?
Get out the (water) hose. (In case there's any confusion. See comments below if you want to know where this is coming from, hehe).

8. Do you play Monopoly? If so which version of the game?
Every once & awhile, and I've only ever played the original version, and one that is several years old.

9. Are you a remote hog?
Nah.

10. Do you like the smell of paint?
Not particularly.

11. My questions obviously suck this week. {I've had a bad week.}
So do you think Kimber should have...
~smoked pot before doing these questions?
~drank liquid courage?
~begged Berleen to do them (she's better at them anyhow)?
~just piss off! I could have done better!
I'd go with option three, seems like the easiest and safest option that would result in actually having any TT questions.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

HUGE Sookie Stackhouse Giveaway!!

So I've been planning this giveaway for awhile when I knew I wasn't as into the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries as most people out there. Then today I noticed that Beth at Beth Fish Reads is hosting a Sookie Stackhouse Challenge and I thought it would be a great time to help someone out with participating in the challenge.

So what exactly is the prize you ask? The 1st SEVEN Sookie Stackhouse books in paperback!! (Dead Until Dark, Living Dead In Dallas, Club Dead, Dead To The World, Definitely Dead, Dead As A Doornail, and All Together Dead) The first three have been read only once, and the next four have never been read! That's right, one lucky person will win all seven books! They were originally in a boxed set, but sadly the box was cheap and fell apart, so the winner will just receive the seven books in excellent condition!

Sookie Stackhouse books

Here's How To Enter:

You can do this by leaving either one comment with all your entries or several comments--either way is fine. Please include your email address in every comment you leave so that I can easily contact you if you are the winner!

~ For 1 entry: Leave a comment telling me why you want to read these books.

~ For 1 additional entry: Become a follower. If you are already a follower, you will receive 2 additional entries!

~ For 2 additional entries: Tweet about this contest (and include me, @Melsbookshelf).

~ For 3 additional entries: Blog about this contest--in a post or on your sidebar, either method is acceptable.

~ For 2 additional entries each: Leave a comment on my reviews of the first three books in the series: Dead Until Dark, Living Dead In Dallas, and Club Dead. Be sure to let me know in your comment on THIS post that you have done that, as well, it makes it easier for counting entries...

So basically you can get up to 13-14 entries for this contest, improving your chances to win! And guess what--this contest is open to EVERYONE, not just the US and Canada! I figured it's time to celebrate the start of summer and summer fun! Even I'll get a few weeks off this year, so I wanted to have a giveaway to celebrate.

The deadline to enter is Sunday, July 5th at 8pm Eastern. After that, I'll tally the entries and leave it up to Random.org to pick the winner, to be announced either that night or the following day!

Good luck to everyone who enters!!

Audio Book Review: Priceless Memories

Priceless Memories coverTitle: Priceless Memories
Authors: Bob Barker, Digby Diehl
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
Pub Date: April 2009
Audiobook (unabridged), 6 CDs, 420 minutes

Synopsis

In front of the camera, Bob Barker has been invited into the homes of millions of Americans as host of The Price is Right, Truth or Consequences, Miss USA, Miss Universe, the Rose Parade, and many other programs and specials. He has been part of the lives of generations of viewers connecting with people of all ages and backgrounds. Now Bob shares stories of favorite contestants, episodes, celebrity encounters, and behind-the-scenes happenings.

Beyond his public persona, Bob opens up about his personal life, sharing a lifetime of fond memories. He recalls his early years spent on a Native American reservation and being raised by a single mother through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. He writes about training as a fighter pilot in the Navy during World War II and how he met, fell in love with, and married the love of his life, Dorothy Jo. It was with Dorothy Jo's encouragement and insight that he launched his career in the entertainment business, starting in radio and moving to television, where his work has been honored with nineteen Emmys (fourteen as a performer, the most any performer has ever won), induction into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame and the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame, the TV Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Pioneer Broadcasters Golden Mike Award, among many other awards.

Bob's support of animal rights has always been a central part of his life. In these pages he delves into stories of how and why he put his personal passion above his career, including his antifur standoff with beauty pageants, and his involvement in cases that exposed animal abuse in movies and television. He shares heartwarming personal stories of the four-legged friends he has adopted and rescued, ranging from dogs and rabbits to elephants. Bob is a complete success at retirement and continues to actively advocate on behalf of animals, including working on successful legislation to control the pet population.

My Thoughts

I don't know about all of you, but I loved to watch The Price Is Right when I was growing up. I have vivid memories of watching it during summer vacation with my mother while lunching at the kitchen table, or with my grandfather when we were visiting my grandparents. He and I would eat our lunches in the living room so we could watch the whole show and not miss any of the fun. So when I saw that I could win a copy of Bob Barker's Priceless Memories at Bookin' With Bingo, I had to enter--lo and behold, I won! This is only the second audio book I have listened to, and while I usually prefer to read an actual book, I have to say that I did enjoy listening to this one, probably because Bob Barker is the narrator.

You can't help but smile when the first disc opens with the theme from The Price Is Right. Bob Barker goes on to talk about the many facets of his life, both personal and professional. I found it to be an interesting listen, and I think I probably enjoyed it more as an audio book than I would have if I had been trying to read it. Barker shows a fair amount of his personality when reading, so it engages you more than words on paper would. For me, the only negative was the amount of time he devoted to animal rights towards the end--sometimes there was more detail than I wanted to hear, though I certainly understand how important it is to him. Hearing about the awful things that are done to animals makes me sad, and it was hard to listen to that.

Barker really does have some amusing anecdotes from his career as a host of "audience participation" shows and some of the people he met along the way. You really get a feel for what he accomplished in his long career as a game show host and more. Some parts, such as his brief stint as a naval aviator, are a bit dry, but overall I found his stories to be interesting. I think anyone who is a fan of The Price Is Right (and Truth of Consequences) will enjoy listening to Barker recount his favorite memories.

My rating: 4 stars



Other reviews of Priceless Memories:

Reading with Monie

If you have reviewed this book and would like to see a link to your review here, please leave me a comment with the URL! Thanks!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My 200th Post: Teaser Tuesdays - The Jewel of Gresham Green

teasertuesdays32

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Jewel of Gresham Green coverHere's mine this week:

Too soon the pair of horses came to a halt, rocking the coach slightly back upon its wheels. The house looked ghostly in the lamplight. The weight lifted by Gilbert and Sullivan and girlish chatter over dinner settled upon her shoulders again.

~ page 155 of The Jewel of Gresham Green by Lawana Blackwell

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mystery Mondays - Discussion Question

MysteryMondayslogo Welcome to another edition of Mystery Mondays at Melissa's Bookshelf. The hubby and I are back safe and sound from the family reunion in NC, but with all the drama (it was a crazy, crazy trip) I did not have time to read a mystery (or any other book) for a review today. Instead I thought I'd pose a question to see how you mystery-lovers out there feel about this...

Do you prefer to read a mystery that you are able to piece together all the clues and solve by the end of the story? Or would you rather be totally shocked by the outcome? (As long as the resolution is at least feasible, of course.)

Personally, I admit that I get great satisfaction out of being able to solve a mystery--probably because I am rarely able to do so, it seems. However, if an author is able to take me completely by surprise and also back it up with evidence in the story, I think I prefer the mysteries with the unexpected twist at the end. There's just something about that eye-opening, jaw-dropping reaction that makes those books worth the read.

So, what do you think? Please leave a comment below!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

In My Mailbox (06.08-13.09)

InMyMailbox
As always, In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren. Thank you!!

I had a nice week with books from a few different sources!

Swoon coverThanks to Tina from Fantastic Book Review! I won a copy of Swoon, by Nina Malkin, from her site. Here's the synopsis:

Torn from her native New York City and dumped in the land of cookie-cutter preps, Candice is resigned to accept her posh, dull fate. Nothing ever happens in Swoon, Connecticut...until Dice's perfect, privileged cousin Penelope nearly dies in a fall from an old tree, and her spirit intertwines with that of a ghost. His name? Sinclair Youngblood Powers. His mission? Revenge. And while Pen is oblivious to the possession, Dice is all too aware of Sin. She's intensely drawn to him -- but not at all crazy about the havoc he's wreaking. Determined to exorcise the demon, Dice accidentally sets Sin loose, gives him flesh, makes him formidable. Now she must destroy an even more potent -- and irresistible -- adversary, before the whole town succumbs to Sin's will. Only trouble is, she's in love with him.

What do you do when the boy of your dreams is too bad to be true?


T'aragam coverAnd for review, I received a copy of T'aragam from Jack W. Regan. Here's the synopsis:

Young Max Ransome watched his father die, killed by marauding phantors as they swept through T'Aragam at the bidding of the evil wizard Zadok. Barely escaping with his own life, Max is thrust into a whirlwind journey as he races against time to save T'Aragam, the world he loves, from a dark dominion. Can Max overcome the horror of his father's death and save T'Aragam from the grasping talons of its enemies?

Woven with a charming mix of zany humor and genuine danger, T'Aragam immerses the reader in a world of original characters and tightly-woven plot. Young Max leads the cast and is ably supported by, among others, a faithful medgekin friend named Gramkin, two monster brothers named Doom and Gloom, and an equuraptor named Dresden.

Coupled with quirky supporting characters, such as mercenary Captain Baggywrinkle, Lord Stench, and a perpetually hungry sea serpent named Bob, this cast of characters steps from the pages and pulls the reader into the story.

And lastly, I received three books from BN.com...

City of Ashes coverCity of Ashes by Cassandra Clare. Here's the synopsis:

Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what's normal when you're a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who's becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn't ready to let her go -- especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary's only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil -- and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings -- and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

In this breathtaking sequel to City of Bones, Cassandra Clare lures her readers back into the dark grip of New York City's Downworld, where love is never safe and power becomes the deadliest temptation.


City of Glass coverCity of Glass by Cassandra Clare. Here's the synopsis:

To save her mother's life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters — never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and her best friend, Simon, has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.

As Clary uncovers more about her family's past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadowhunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadowhunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he's willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City — whatever the cost?

Love is a mortal sin and the secrets of the past prove deadly as Clary and Jace face down Valentine in the final installment of the New York Times bestselling The Mortal Instruments.

The Belgariad coverThe Belgariad, Volume 1 (Includes Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, and Magician's Gambit)by David Eddings. Here's the synopis:

Millions of readers have discovered the magic of David Eddings’ New York Times bestselling series The Belgariad. Now the first three books in this monumental epic appear in a single volume. Here, long-time fans can rediscover the wonder—and the uninitiated can embark upon a thrilling new journey of fantasy and adventure.

It all begins with the theft of the Orb that for so long protected the West from an evil god. As long as the Orb was at Riva, the prophecy went, its people would be safe from this corrupting power. Garion, a simple farm boy, is familiar with the legend of the Orb, but skeptical in matters of magic. Until, through a twist of fate, he learns not only that the story of the Orb is true, but that he must set out on a quest of unparalleled magic and danger to help recover it. For Garion is a child of destiny, and fate itself is leading him far from his home, sweeping him irrevocably toward a distant tower—and a cataclysmic confrontation with a master of the darkest magic.

What did you get in your mailbox last week?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Review: Star of the Morning

Star of the Morning coverTitle: Star of the Morning (Nine Kingdoms #1)
Author: Lynn Kurland
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Pub Date: December 2006, Penguin Group
Trade Paperback, 324 pages

Synopsis

Darkness covers the north, since the black mage has begun his assault on the kingdom of Neroche. Legend has it that only the two magical swords held by Neroche's king can defeat the mage. Now the fate of the Nine Kingdoms rests in the hands of a woman destined to wield one of those blades...

In this land of dragons and mages, warrior maids and magical swords, nothing is as it seems. And Morgan will find that the magic in her blood brings her troubles she cannot face with a sword-and a love more powerful than she has ever imagined.

My Thoughts

I have been having a lot of luck in the bargain books sections lately. Star of the Morning was one I happened across at B&N and couldn't resist. I'm always up for any fantasy books that sound like they are reminiscent of The Lord of The Rings and full of adventure.

This book did not disappoint. While parts of the plot were perhaps a bit predictable to the genre, Kurland did manage to throw in a few twists and make the story her own. Morgan is a great heroine--you've got to love a strong woman who can stand up to any man and hold their own if not even best him. Kurland did a nice job with the characters as well--there was the usual mixture of humans, dwarves, wizards and elves, though humans are really the primary characters. In the end, the king of Neroche was not characterized at all like I thought he would be (he's a pompous jerk) and I enjoyed that for a change.

Something else I liked was the fact that while this was a book about a struggle between good and evil, you didn't get bogged down in darkness. There are a few battle scenes, but nothing particularly graphic. And naturally, you've got some romance thrown in, though it is just barely blooming and you are left in doubt as to where it will go in the next book. This book is certainly a cliffhanger, as not too much is resolved, though I didn't feel like the book ended too abruptly. If you like fantasy quests, I think you will not be disappointed by Star of the Morning. It's not perfect, and you will likely figure out much of what is going to happen, but it's an easy, enjoyable read with likable characters and an interesting premise.

My rating: 4 stars



If you have reviewed this book and would like me to add a link to it, please leave a comment below!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Another Challenge - Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen Challenge Button1Well, after reading and loving Just Listen, I decided I ought to participate in the Sarah Dessen Challenge, which is hosted at Em's Bookshelf! I haven't committed myself to very many challenges this year because I know my limits and capabilities, but I thought I could handle this one.

You see, I really like Em's rules for this challenge. All I need to do is read all 9 of Dessen's books in my own time frame. Knowing what my reading pile looks like, I decided to just read all of them by the end of 2009. I've helped myself along (and made it easy on my wallet) by purchasing 4 more of Dessen's books at bargain prices at Books-a-million.com. You might check it out if you're interested in her books!

So here's my list where I will update my progress:

1. Just Listen (completed 6/10/09)
2. That Summer (completed 6/19/09)
3. Keeping The Moon (completed 7/17/09)
4. Dreamland (completed 8/29/09)
5. The Truth About Forever (completed 12/31/09)
6.
7.
8.
9. (to be completed by 12/31/09)