Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Review: LINGER by Maggie Stiefvater

Disclaimer:  If you haven’t read SHIVER, beware of spoilers. 

As spring begins the thaw of the land, newly “cured” werewolf, Sam, is tasked with assisting the young weres as the warm weather brings them back to their human forms.  He is uncomfortable in this new role and leader of the human pack.  When the first were, Cole, transitions to human, he and Sam have an awkward time living together.  Sam doesn’t understand how Cole would choose to forgo his humanity and become a were. 

Cole, abhors his human form.  He chose to become a wolf as an alternative option to suicide.  As the lead singer of a popular rock group, Cole had gotten sucked into all of the trappings of young fame – drugs, sex, selfishness, etc.  He sees being a wolf as the escape he so desperately longed for—that is, until he meets Isabel. 

While Sam is learning to trust in his cure, Grace’s body is beginning to betray her.  Headaches, nose bleeds, stomachaches and a strange wolf scent on her skin reminds her of the wolf inside her body who never had the chance to come out.  Will she be the next to transition, or is there something darker within her?

After the second book, I am still in love with this series and am eager for the third installment.  The characters are likable and flawed.  I’m beginning to like Isabel a lot more than I did in the first book.  The Grace/Sam Love Fest does tend to get a little annoying at times.  They can’t be apart for ten minutes without pining for each other endlessly.  I think the addition of Cole greatly improves the series. 

Overall, I give LINGER…

Plot – 4 bookmarks
Character Development – 4 bookmarks
Love Story – 3 bookmarks for Sam & Grace, 4 bookmarks for Cole & Isabel
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Taylor Lautner (Sam – Okay, I couldn’t help it!  Teenage, Native American, werewolf.  Who would you have thought of?),  Saoirse Ronan (Grace), Kirsten Prout (Isabel), David Cook (Cole)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: BOLD SPIRIT by Linda Hunt

I am a firm believer that buried in every family is a story.  Some stories are heroic, some are tragic, some tell of great loves, others of great losses.  Unfortunately, many of these stories are lost to time due to lack of preservation.  Sometimes people close to the situations are embarrassed by them.  Sometimes they assume no one else would be interested.  Bold Spirit tells of a story that was almost lost forever when the family of Helga Estby purposely burnt Helga’s memoires.  Only a few newspaper articles saved from the ashes by Helga’s daughter-in-law and hidden away are left to remember Helga’s historic feat.

Bold Spirit is the true story of Helga Estby, a Norwegian immigrant, who walked from Spokane, Washington to New York City in the late 1800’s.  When Helga was thirty-six years old, her family was suffering under a recession and fighting the foreclosure on their farm.  This desperation to save her home and to keep her husband and nine kids from starving, led Helga to accept a wager from a wealthy person in the NY fashion industry.  This sponsor wanted to promote shorter skirts, which would show a woman’s ankles (not really, the women wore high boots) and would allow more freedom of movement.  The sponsor promised Helga $10,000 if she would walk from Spokane to New York wearing the new shorter skirt.  This would promote the new fashion as well as support the growing women’s right movement.  Helga was only allowed to leave her home with $5 and was expected to earn her way across the country by selling pictures of herself.  She had seven months to complete the trip. 

So, on a cold Spring morning, Helga and her daughter, Clara, set forth on a walk which would take them across the country.  They used the local newspaper in each town that they stopped in to promote their walk and to drum up picture sales.  (It is this public record of small town newspaper articles which made writing this book possible.)  Along the way, Helga and Clara learned about the American Spirit and hospitality.  They lost their prejudices of the Native Americans.  They learned the physical strength that women possessed. 

I don’t want to give anything away.  Let’s just say, her kids at home were not happy about their mother traipsing all over the country while they were suffering at home.  These children burnt Helga’s memoires and forbid mention of Helga’s great journey.  Besides providing a snapshot of American history, Helga’s story taught me the importance of preserving our family histories. 

Overall, I give Bold Spirit

Plot – 3 ½ bookmarks
Character Development – 2 bookmarks (This is low mostly because very little first-hand information on Helga exists.  The author had to piece her together through our sources.)
History – 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Tilda Swinton (Helga)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Review: SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater

I was first introduced to Shiver by people telling me it is like Twilight with werewolves.  While both books target the same reading demographic, and both are paranormal romance, I think it almost is a disservice to Shiver to make that comparison.  Shiver is a great book in its own right.  By comparing it to one of the best selling and most loved YA books of the century, it is almost unfair.  Die hard Twilight fans will think Shiver pales in comparison—not because there is anything wrong with it, but because they are already so in love with Twilight that they won’t give Shiver a fair chance.  This is all I’m going to say about Twilight—put Edward & Bella out of your mind when you read Shiver and let the book stand on its own.  You won’t be disappointed. 

Shiver takes place in northern Minnesota at the beginning of fall.  Grace is a high school girl who six years earlier had been dragged off her swing by wolves and bitten.  She healed fully from her wounds, but ever since has felt a kinship to the wolf pack that roams the woods behind her home.  One wolf in particular seems drawn to her also.  He is the one who stopped the rest of the pack from killing her when she was a child. 

When a fellow high school student is attacked and killed by the wolves, talk of Grace’s attack resurfaces and angry men of the town set out to hunt the pack.  Horrified that her beloved wolves are under attack, Grace works to stop the hunt, but not before a few are shot.  When she gets home, she find a boy on her deck, naked and bloody from a gunshot wound.  When he looks at her with his unique, yellow eyes, Grace recognizes him as her wolf, the one who saved her as a child and still comes to visit her in her backyard. 

Grace helps save the boy, Sam, but then discovers he is in bigger danger… When the temperature drops for winter, he will be turning into a wolf for the last time, never to be human again.  While the pair are discovering new love, the shadow of winter is constantly hovering over them.  They need to find out how to stop Sam from turning wolf.  The secret lies in Grace’s past.  She had been bitten by the wolves six years earlier and never turned wolf. 

I really liked this book.  It is beautifully written, and the love story is well done.  I could almost feel the temperature changes and smell winter in the air as I read.  If you like YA lit, this is an excellent read.

Overall, I give Shiver

Plot – 4 bookmarks
Character Development – 4 bookmarks
Love Story – 4 ½ bookmarks
Descriptive Prose – 5 bookmarks (I really felt this book. My husband is from this area of MN, so I’m familiar with it.  She couldn’t have set the scene better.)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Taylor Lautner (Sam – Okay, I couldn’t help it!  Teenage, Native American, werewolf.  Who would you have thought of?),  Saoirse Ronan (Grace), Erin Sanders (Olivia), Kirsten Prout (Isabel)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Review In Memoriam: Jennifer Rardin 1965 - 2010

      Today the literary world lost one of its stars—Author Jennifer Rardin  passed away at the young age of 45.  Jennifer is best known for writing the Urban Fantasy series revolving around a brave and totally kick-ass heroine, Jaz Parks.  Jaz is an assassin who works in a black ops division of the CIA tasked to keep the supernatural world under control. 

The series follows Jaz and her sexy, vampire boss all over the globe on missions to protect mankind.  Along the way, they accumulate an odd gang of sorts comprised of an interpreter, a psychic and a weapons specialist.  Together they work to take on villains such as dirty Senators, terrorists, power hungry Weres, and the evil vampire Edward “The Raptor” Samos.  The series is an action-packed ride filled with supernatural fun.  Think “Alias” with fangs!

Underneath the action, lies the dark, mysterious past buried in Jaz’s subconscious.  As her character develops, more and more gets revealed, leading to one of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ve ever read.  There is also a slow building love story that grows between her and Vayl. 

I wouldn’t normally review a whole series at a time.  Especially one that I read over a year ago, but with Jennifer’s passing, I felt it important to remember her legacy somehow.  I hope my readers will seek out these books.  They are everything that Urban Fantasy is meant to be—dark, suspenseful, exciting, romantic and most of all fun. 

Lastly, my thoughts are with Jennifer’s family, especially her children.  I never met Jennifer, but I’ve heard she was a kind woman and a class act.  She will be missed.

Overall, I give the Jaz Parks Series…

Plot – 5 bookmarks
Character Development – 4 ½ bookmarks
Love Story – 3 bookmarks (Starts slow, but great when it happens.)
Interpretation of Vampire Lore – 4 bookmarks
Fight Scenes – 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Jennifer Gardner (Jaz), Goran Visnjic (Vayl), Bradley Cooper (Cole Belmont), David Krunholtz (Bergman), Aunjanue Ellis (Cassandra)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: FREAKONOMICS by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know that my personal reading for the last few weeks has had to take a backseat to my homework.  Luckily for me, I get to combine personal reading and academic reading this week!  

I actually have read Freakonomics three times now.  The first time was for fun.  The second was for my book club.  And now the third is for a book review for my finance class.  It was the only book on the list of 25 that I had already read, and I didn’t want to have to read something dry if I didn’t have to.  This third reading was really more of a skim, but it counts.) 

Anyway, Freakonomics is a fascinating book that will make even math-adverse people like myself feel smart.  The basic idea of Freakonomics lies in economist Steven Levitt’s belief that economic theory isn’t just for the financial world, but can be applied to the everyday problems of life.  Do realtors really get you the best deal they can when selling your home?  What do bagels in an office lunchroom teach about white collar crime?  How does “No Child Left Behind” encourage teachers to cheat the standardized testing system?  How can an ethnic name influence a person’s job prospects?  Virtually any situation where accurate data is recorded can use economic principles to solve its problems. 

Sound boring?  Trust me…this book is anything but boring.  And you do not have to know anything about economics going in to reading it.  The authors also do not stuff a bunch of mathematical equations down your neck.  The focus is on the cause an effects of certain situations and what they mean.  For example, in the early 1990’s, the crime rate was raising at an alarming rate.  Law enforcement and politicians were in a panic over what how to handle it.  Then, out of the blue, the crime rate started to fall without cause.  Law enforcement and politicians took the credit for it, but the real reason the crime rate fell had to do with something seemingly unrelated—Roe v. Wade.  It seems criminals who largely come from poor, disadvantaged backgrounds were just not being born due to the legalization of abortion.  (DISCLAIMER:  This is not a comment on the morality of abortion.  Purely an observation made in the book.  I don’t want to get into it with anyone.)  This is just one example of the interesting examples studied.  If you want a break from fiction, give this a shot.

Overall, I give Freakonomics…

Innovative Ideas – 5 bookmarks
Accessibility – 4 bookmarks (Most adults should not have any problem following along.)
Likelihood I will read the sequel Super Freakonomics – 4 bookmarks (I’ll definitely get to it eventually.)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – There are no characters, but in the section where they talked about Sudhir Venkatesh—the sociology student who gained open access to the financials of a drug lord—I couldn’t help but picture the dude who plays Zaboo on “The Guild.”

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Review: AMERICAN ON PURPOSE by Craig Ferguson

I heard somewhere once that many people become comedians in order to hide their inner demons.  Think about all of the brilliant comedians out there who have died from suicide or substance abuse over the years.  Andy Kaufmann, John Belushi, Richard Jenni.  Richard Pryor set himself on fire during a heroin binge, for Christ’s sake!  Craig Ferguson could have ended up this way as well.  His inner demons were drug and alcohol addiction.  While Craig’s checkered past gives him some funny material to draw on for his act, this incredible honest autobiography follows the role substances played in his life—including how he almost killed himself.

Aside from his sordid past, American On Purpose follows Craig on his journey from working-class Glasgow to a millionaire citizen of the United States.  It truly is a modern “American Dream” tale.  From the time he was a little kid watching the first moon landing, Craig dreamed of coming to the United States—the land of possibilities.  As an American myself, I sometimes take those possibilities for granted.  While the book isn’t all “Kum-bi-yah” and “the U.S. is perfect”  (it isn’t), it does serve as a reminder of our country’s good qualities. In America, a C student can become President and a tacky chick from the Jersey Shore can become a household name.  The possibilities that exist for us are virtually limitless.  Of course, most of us are not rich or powerful or famous—that’s not the point—the point is that the possibilities feed our dreams and with dedication and hard work, those dreams might become real. 

Okay, back to the book.  It wasn’t the most brilliantly written book I’ve ever read, but it was touching and funny and honest.  What more can one expect from an autobiography? 

Overall, I give American On Purpose
Plot – 3 bookmarks (Follows Craig’s life)
Honestly – 4 ½ bookmarks (You might wonder how I am able to judge a book’s honesty.  Let’s just say I know it when I read it.  Craig did not pull any punches when discussing his past.)
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – That’s a no brainer.  There are several pages of photos in the middle of the book. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


If you have read The Black Dagger Brotherhood books, but not The Insider’s Guide, you don’t know what you are missing.  The book contains an original novella called “Father Mine” which follows Zsadist and Bella’s first few months with their new baby, interviews and dossiers of the brothers, fun stuff from the message boards and an interview of the author conducted by the brothers themselves. 

“Father Mine” – This is a touching story about how Zsadist has to overcome his emotional demons in order to be the father Nalla deserves.  As readers of the books know, Zsadist spent a hundred years being tortured and raped.  The tattoos of manicals band his neck and wrists, giving a constant reminder of his past.  Now, Z had to find a way to touch his daughter with those same bound hands.  This story was both heartbreaking and inspiring.  A true treat for any BDB fan.

The rest of the book was both funny and insightful.  My favorite part of this book, as a writer myself, was when she talked about her craft.  (I even took notes—yeah, I’m a nerd.)  If you have never heard JR Ward speak live about her books, I strongly suggest you check her out on YouTube.  Ward is unlike any writer I know in that the she claims to not write the characters, but the characters write themselves.  It’s like they pop into her mind fully formed and it is her duty to transcribe what they show her into paper.  The scenes where she goes to the Brother’s Compound and interviews them each individually treats readers to an inside glimpse of how author and character relate to each other.   Whether Ward comes off as possessed or as a genius, the results are fascinating. 

Overall, I give The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider’s Guide

Plot – 4 ½ bookmarks (Father Mine)
Character – 5 bookmarks (The whole book is about the characters; where they come from, what they are like, what skills they have, how they are different…Ward even turns herself into a character for the interviews.  Very well done!)
Writing Tips – 4 bookmarks (I got a lot out of her discussions on craft.)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while writing) – This is hard for me.  I see Wrath almost as a catoon or comic book figure.  Not a real person.  Rachel Weisz (Beth), Carrie-Anne Moss (Xhex), Chad-Michael Murray (John Matthew), Tom Felton (Lash), Kirk MacLeod (Phury), a bald Kirk MacLeod (Zsadist), Orlando Bloom (Rhevenge), Joe Manganiello (Vishious), Brad Pitt (Rhage), Megan Fox (Bella), Mark Wahlberg (Butch)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Review: ON WRITING by Stephen King

Review: ON WRITING by Stephen King

First, an update on me.  My reading for fun has taken a hit the last couple of weeks, because I’m taking this stupid MBA class that is totally kicking my ass.  On top of that I have had to break down and get a day job.  I know!  That sucks the big one!  After sixteen months of retirement (unemployment), my sugar daddy has decided I need to make some cash.  I’m only going to work part time, 20 hours a week, so I still should be able to continue my writing.  I’m telling you all this because my personal reading might take a hit and therefore, my blog will not be updated as often as it has been in the past.  Don’t worry, even while working full time, I still read two novels a week, so the blog will still be plenty active. 

Now, on to business.  On Writing.  Whether you like his style of books or not, I don’t think anyone can disagree that Stephen King is a genius.  My reading history with King has been perilous.  As a teen, I read every book he wrote—devoured them like candy—until The Tommyknockers.  I’ve never quite forgiven him for The Tommyknockers.  It killed me to have to put it down, but seriously—250 pages on the inner workings of a battery?  I understand that King was coked out of his mind when he wrote it, and it showed, but his editor should have had a “come to jesus” talk with him at that point. 

Okay, I know King has been drug and alcohol free for fifteen years now, but I just wouldn’t let myself go back to him…until On Writing.  Mr. King, I want to publically forgive you for The Tommyknockers and let you know that I’m a believer again. 

On Writing is part memoir/part guide for new writers.  As a writer myself, I am fascinated by those who have “made it” in the business.  Since King is one of the most recognizable and prolific authors of our time, there is no greater expert out there to talk on this subject.  In fact, reading the second half of the book was like King having the “come to Jesus” talk with me.  He called me out and kicked my ass on all of the things I’m doing as a writer that I shouldn’t—and he’s 100% right.  I needed this book right at this time.  I am ¾ of the way though my second novel and have completely fallen out of love with it.  Since King wrote this in second person, it felt like he was talking directly to me, calling me out on all my bullshit excuses.  I needed that. 

On Writing is not just a dressing down—the story was very inspiring as well.  King has been through a lot of crap over his career, some of his making and he’s honest about that, but he has come through it strong.  Most of all, this book showed me that even successful writers have been through the same self-doubt and aggravations that I go through.  He too had a formidable stack of rejection letters wracked up.  Finishing this book made we want to tackle that manuscript again.  Thank you, Mr. King. 

Overall, I give On Writing

Plot – 3 bookmarks (primarily non-fiction, but there is a personal narrative which threads through.)
Practical Application – 5 bookmarks.  (Every writer should read this book—preferably when they are down on themselves.)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Stephen King as himself.  

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Review: THE MAGE IN BLACK by Jaye Wells

Red-Headed Stepchild was one of the enjoyable books I read this summer.  I meant to get to the sequel right away, but you know how it goes.  So many books, so little time.  Anyway, I finally sat down with The Mage In Black, and I’m so glad I did.  I’ve had a rough week and needed a little snark to brighten my day.  

The story resumes with Sabina Kane—half vamp, half mage—leaving the life she had always known with her powerful vampire grandmother on a venture to discover the other half of her family.  As she enters the mage headquarters in New York City, Sabina is totally out of her element, something she abhors greatly.  However, she’s not alone… she Adam, the sexy mage, and her Giguhl, her minion demon cat by her side!  For a little while at least.  Unfortunately, Adam gets called away (not before a steamy kiss) and her minion gets wrapped up in being the new star in a Demon Fight Club.  At least her long lost twin sister, Maisey, seems cool and genuinely wants to forge a relationship. 

While Sabina works to develop her magical abilities, the underworld politics are raging.  The world sits on the brink of war between the mages and the vamps.  While the mages work to obtain support from the Fae, someone is trying to take Sabina out of the picture early.  With Adam away, she has no choice but to turn to her ex-boyfriend, Slade, for help. 

I think the reason I like this series so much is because it is so much fun!  The definition of escapism for me.  The dialogue is punchy and witty, the characters are interesting and unique, the action keeps is enough to induce massive amounts of nail biting… The romance element is toned down, but you can feel it coming.  The slow build-up makes it that much sweeter.  I’m not sure if this is a trilogy, or is Wells plans to continue on, but the next book, Green Eyed Demon, is set to release March 1, 2011.  I can’t wait!

Overall, I give The Mage in Black

Plot – 4 ½ bookmarks (Lots of action keeps it moving.)
Character Development – 4 bookmarks (I want a sassy demon minion!)
Fight Scenes – 4 ½ bookmarks
Interpretation of Vamp/Mage/Demon Lore – 4 ½ bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – I stand by my prior visions.  Emma Watson (Sabina Kane/Maisey), Charlie Bewly (Adam), Clive Owen (Slade), Cady the Kitty (Giguhl the Demon Cat—I’d even let them shave her bald).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Review: PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White

There has been so much pre-release buzz about Paranormalcy that I was almost reluctant to read it.  I get that way sometimes.  Books, movies, TV shows, music… When things are overly promoted, I get too excited and frequently get let down by the actually product.  Luckily for me (and readers everywhere), Paranormalcy totally lives up to the hype! 

Sixteen year old Evie is just like a normal teenager… except she has never been to high school, lives in an underground government compound, has never been on a date, and works for the IPCA (International Paranormal Containment Agency) capturing paranormal creatures.  Evie is unique.  She is the only person in the world who can see through paranormal glamour and recognize the creature underneath.  This makes identifying vampires, werewolves, ghosts, hags, faeries, etc. easy-peasy.  Once she has them cornered (or rather, they have her cornered) she shocks them with her trusty pink taser gun and slaps an ankle bracelet on them, rendering them controllable. 

While Evie is proud of her work and genuinely cares for the people at the center who take care of her, she longs for the life she sees teens living on TV.  She would love a family, a home, a school with a real locker, a boyfriend maybe…  The closest thing to boyfriend she has ever has is Reth, a faerie who follows her around and wants to control her.  When she meets Lend, a mysterious being that no one has ever encountered before (and a teenager also), she forms a friendship and possibly could turn into more.  Unfortunately, Evie’s social life will have to wait.  Something is killing paranormals in an odd way and no one is safe. 

I thought this was a wonderful book.  White’s voice was so believable as a teenage girl.  She had the language and tone perfect.  At times I felt like Evie was a bit young for sixteen, but considering she grew up in a sterile, protected environment with no one else her age, it works.  I don’t know for sure if this is the start of a series, but I hope so.  There were a few unanswered questions, and I would love to see what happens to Evie next.  I am very curious about Reth’s character.  I have a feeling he is not as crazy as he seems.

Overall, I give Paranormalcy

Plot – 4 bookmarks
Character Development – 4 ½  bookmarks
Love Story – 3 ½ bookmarks (incredibly sweet)
Age Appropriateness – 5 bookmarks (the harshest cuss words were crap, freakin, and bleep)
Interpretation of Paranormal Lore – 4 ½ bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Taylor Swift (Evie), Taylor Lautner (Lend), Orlando Bloom (Reth)