Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review: VAMPIRE VOSS by Colleen Gleason

Vampires in Regency England…what’s not to love? 

Like many women of the time, Angelica Woodmore’s sole responsibility is to find a suitable husband.  But she is far more interesting than the insipid and silly society girls.  Angelica lives with a dark knowledge. She has a psychic ability to see people’s deaths.  This ability is both a gift and a curse, for she has to live with the knowledge.  When her brother and guardian goes missing, she and her sisters are placed under the guardianship of her brother’s business associate, the mysterious Earl of Covindale.

Enter Voss Arden, Viscount Dewhurst.  Voss is a 148 year old vampire who is, in typical vamp fashion, only out for himself.   Learning of Chas Woodmore’s disappearance and of his sister’s rare talent, Voss seeks to employ her services.  Voss is a wonderfully brilliant character!  He is conceited, selfish and a prankster.  He aligns himself with no one and deals out information to the highest bidder, regardless of what side they are on.  He wants to use Angelica’s ability to learn information that he will be able to sell.  What he doesn’t count on is how lovely she is and how badly, he wants to possess her. 

Angelica soon learns that her brother Chas has run off with the sister of a nasty vampire, Cezar Moldovi.  When a group of his henchmen begin tearing up the town to find Angelica in order to punish her brother, Voss’s long buried protective instincts kick in.  He finds himself battling his urge to drain and bed her. 

This book has plenty of action and romance and fun characters.  The chemistry between Angelica and Voss is hot, but at the same time, it is not the typical “bad boy in need of the love of a good woman.”  Voss is a servant of Lucifer.  As such, he is completely self-absorbed, a literal slave to his desires.  His inner battle and it’s outcome are probably my favorite elements of the story. 

Angelica is also a wonderful character.  She’s a proper young woman of her time, but also incredibly tough.  She doesn’t allow Voss to push her around.  Her journey as a character revolves around discovering her inner strength.  There is a fabulous image of her barefoot and bleeding on the floor of a room destroyed by murderous vampires clutching a makeshift stake to her chest, ready to fight for her life.  My description can’t come close to how beautiful this image was. 

The reviews of it on Amazon are mixed, but I enjoyed it.  The sister Maia irritated me, but I think she was supposed to.  There are two more in this series coming out this spring, and I plan to read them. 

Overall, I give Vampire Voss

Plot – 4 bookmarks
Character Development – 4 ½ bookmarks
Love Story – 4 bookmarks
Interpretation of Vampire Lore – 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Shannon Woodward (Angelica), Charlie Hunnam (Voss)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: WICKED LOVELY by Melissa Marr

Aislynn is the typical high school girl in every way but one...she has inherited the ability to see the faeries in the world who are invisible to everyone else.  These faeries are not the cute little Tinkerbell-types from Disney movies, but viscious and nasty creatures who range from pranksters to out right evil.  While their appearances are beautiful, they are wicked inside.  If the Fae were to find out that she can see them, her life would be in serious jeopardy.  For that reason, Aislinn has had to learn to keep her expressions nuetral and guard her fear of the Fae at all times, so keep from attracting their attention.

Then there is Seth, the ridiculously hot bad-boy who is Aislinn's best friend.  Initially attracted to him because he lives in a converted train car (the steel construction keeps the Fae out, making it one of the few places she can relax), Aislinn has come to trust him and care for him very deeply.  She is torn between wanting their relationship to grow romantically and not wanting to ruin their friendship. 

One day, Aislinn discovers two faeries who are following her.  When the male dons a human glamour and approaches her, she is terrified.  She soon learns that he is Keenan, the King of Summer, and desperately seeking his Queen in order to break out of the bondage he is held in my his mother, the Queen of Winter.  He is fixated on Aislinn because she appeared in his dream.  However, in order for her to join him on the throne, she has to pass a test…one which has dire consequences if she fails.  Refusing the test runs its own risks though, including the destruction of the Fae and the humans as well. 

I thought the description and imagery in this book was very well done.  The world that Marr built is fascinating and offers a new twist on the Faery mythos.  I liked the relationship between Aislinn and Seth.  Keenan was a bit frustrating, because he comes across as a stalker most of the time, but in his inner-dialogue he is a really nice guy. 

Now, I have to address one line in this book that seems to be getting people in the Amazon reviews pissed off.  The line goes something like, “He kissed me there…”  The implication being one of oral sex.  I can understand why some parents might be a little put off by this mention in a young adult book.  However, I don’t know that younger teens would even catch the reference. 

In addition to this, sex is mentioned several times.  Aislinn wants to remain a virgin so she can save it for someone special.  Seth has a checkered past, but has been turning over a new leaf in order to be with Aislinn.  At the start of this story, he had not dated any other girls for seven months and he even went out to get an STD screening for he could be responsible in the event something does happen between him and Aislinn.  The Fae are also sexual creatures.  Nothing is described really, but the mentions are there. 

Overall, I think the sexual topics are tasteful for the most part, but maybe parents will want to read this before they give it to their kids. 

As far as the rest of the story goes, I liked it…but didn’t love it.  I would read the next book in the series, but I’m not running right out to buy it.  The Queen of Winter was fabulously evil.  The Winter Girl, Donia, is a tragic character that wrenches you heart.  The Summer Girls are a bunch of vapid twits.  It was a fun read though.

Overall, I give Wicked Lovely

Plot – 4 bookmarks
Character Development – 3 bookmarks (would have liked to have seen more dimension in Seth)
Prose – 4 bookmarks
World Building – 4 bookmarks (incorporated her Fae research in the chapters)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Shanae Grimes (Aislinn), Ed Speelers (Keenan), Emily Browning (Donia), Steven R. McQueen (Seth)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: SWEET JIMINY by Kristin Gore

Law school drop-out, Jiminy Davis, is at a loss for what to do next in her life. She decides to spend the summer at her grandmother’s house in rural Mississippi. When Jiminy learns of a forty year-old double homicide of an African-American girl and her father, which was never investigated or solved, she sets out to find justice. Along the way, she discovers that the racial divide of the past is closer than she thought.

I’ve lived in the northern U.S. my whole life, so it is easy for me to think of the racial problems and prejudices of the Civil Rights Era as history. The theme of this book revolves around how fresh these prejudices and social stigmas still are. One scene in particular that got to me was when Jiminy goes on a date with Bo, the nephew of her mother’s African-American housekeeper. The reaction of the white townsfolk was like something out of Mississippi Burning. I have to assume this book is accurate, even though it is hard for me to believe people still get this bent out of shape over inter-racial dating. It feels like a whole different world from the one that I live in. Or is it? I suppose one could make the point that my being Caucasian isolates me from seeing the racial prejudices around me. A valid point for sure.

The mystery of this book was fairly predictable. I knew who did it long before the big reveal. However, that does not mean the book was not worth the read. The prose was well done, the characters relatable and the ties between the past and the present were interesting.

Overall, I give Sweet Jiminy…

Plot – 3 ½ bookmarks
Character Development – 4 bookmarks
Mystery – 2 ½ bookmarks
Historical Themes – 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Amy Adams (Jiminy), Columbus Short (Bo), Cecily Tyson (Lyn), Jane Fonda (Willa)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Review: MY BLOOD APPROVES (Series) by Amanda Hocking

Sorry for the lack of updates this week.  I’ve been in Austin, Texas for SXSW and visiting with my family.  Even with all of the great bands and food, I was able to keep reading!  In fact, I completed Amanda Hocking’s four book vampire series, My Blood Approves.  There is really no way to review a whole series without some spoilers, but I’ll try to keep them minimal here.

The series follows Alice Bonham, a seventeen year old high school student living in Minneapolis.  While clubbing one summer night with her best friend Jane, Alice is accosted in a parking garage by some thugs, but the men are run off by a strange boy, Jack.  Jack is friendly and fun and immediately takes a liking to Alice.  As their friendship progresses, Alice learns that Jack is actually a forty year old vampire. 

When he takes her home to meet his vampire family, Jack’s “brother” Peter has a physical reaction to her blood.  Similar to soul-mates, when a blood bond exists, it is like beyond love…more like destiny.  Unfortunately, the 200 year old Peter has been burned by love before and resists Alice with all of his strength, eventually fleeing to another part of the world to avoid her. 

In Peter’s absence, the relationship between Alice and Jack grows.  With her blood longs for Peter, it is Jack who gives her the emotional support and love that she craves.  Knowing the territorial nature of vampires, if their love progresses and Peter returns, he is likely to kill them both.

Unfortunately, Hocking sets up this brilliant love triangle with hot chemistry, but then lets if fizzle out.  Peter is this amazing character who has serious depth to him, but I feel Hocking barely scratched his surface.  On the other hand, Jack is fun and all, but tends to be immature and jealous.  I kept expecting some big thing to happen with this love storyline, but it never really went anywhere. 

The character of Alice was also a bit disappointing.  She starts off as this bored teenager who doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life and then she turns into a bored vampire who doesn’t know what she wants to do with her eternity.  Hocking solves this issue in the end, but not until I suffered through three and a half books of her sleeping all day and moping around all night.  Don’t get me wrong…I liked Alice.  In fact, I think she was one of the more realistic teen heroines that I’ve read in this genre.  But I would have liked to have seen more of a growth in her character earlier in the series.  She had a lot of potential and it would have been fun to see this explored. 

Some of the supporting characters were really fun.  I loved Alice’s brother Milo.  Actually, I think Milo was the most developed character in the series.  He was younger than Alice, but he was also her caretaker since their father was MIA and mother was never home.  We got to see Milo turn from a little boy to a strong man.  Other characters that I liked were Mae, Ezra and Bobby. 

As teen vampire series go, this was a good, but not great.  I think it is worth the read, but I enjoyed Hocking’s Trylle Series much better. 

Overall, I give the My Blood Approves series…

Plot - 4 bookmarks
Character Development - 3 bookmarks
Love Story - 2 bookmarks (Disappointing because it had so much potential)
Interpretation of Vampire Lore - 3 1/2 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Rooney Mara (Alice), Hunter Parrish (Jack), Robert Pattinson (Peter), Peter Fachinelli (Ezra), Ke$ha (Jane), Alexander Gould (human Milo), Thomas Decker (vampire Milo)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Review: LOST AND FOUND by Carolyn Parkhurst

Similar to The Amazing Race, Lost and Found is a reality show where contestants are sent on a world wide savenger hunt. Each pair of contestants are carefully selected by producers to provide the maximum drama for the show. One pair is an evangelical married couple who were "cured" of their homosexuality and are on the show to promote their anti-gay agenda. Another mother/daughter pair are still realing from the daughter's hidden pregancy and the giving away of her child. Other pairs include a couple of Internet entraprenures, a couple of former child-stars, a reunited pair of high school sweethearts, a set of brothers and a couple of sexy stewardesses.

Told from rotating points of view, Lost and Found is a wild journey through all corners of the earth. Part travelog, part humor and part moral lessons, this book has something for everyone. I loved the insider look at "reality" television where situations are contrived and film is editted for maximum entertainment value...often at the expense of the contestants on the show. In many ways, the show is a pressure cooker forcing the characters to confront truths about themselves and their lives.
 Sometimes, books with rotating points of view can be confusing or difficult to read, but Parkhurst is able to create unique voices for each character, lending a realistic quality to the narrative. The sarcasm and humor was smart and fun. This was an enjoyable read!

Overall, I give Lost and Found...

Plot - 4 bookmarks
Character Development - 4 1/2 bookmarks
Humor - 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - My cousin Salena (Cassie) (Sorry, I know you don't know her, but that's who I saw in my head), Anna Torv (Abbie), Jake Gyllenhall (Justin), Oliver Platt (Carl), Laura Linney (Laura), Anne Hathaway (Juliet)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Review: FALLEN by Lauren Kate

I’ve been reading a lot of teen Angel novels lately.  I saved this one, because it got mixed reviews.  So I guess it’s no surprise that I also have mixed reviews also. 

After the mysterious death of her crush, Luce is sent to reform school in rural Georgia.  She was the only witness to the death and the prime suspect, but she honestly has no memory of the incident at all.  The reform school is way worse than she imagined.  Many of the students are actual criminals with long wrap sheets.  There is barbed wire lining the tops of the walls surrounding the campus.  Video cameras record the students every movement.  Worst of all…Luce is only allowed one fifteen minute phone call a week!

I loved the reform school setting.  Not only have I not read a book in this setting before, but it also lends itself to some fun teen-angst drama and danger.  Of course, why are a bunch of angels in reform school?  That’s not really addressed, but I’ll go with it.  The setting also had some really cool details which lent itself well to the paranormal genre.  The school is located in an old Civil War fortress.  The gym is in a converted church.  Spanish moss drips from the trees while moss of the green, damp variety crawls up the sides of the structures.  There is even a civil war graveyard on the property.  Very cool!

Like many YA novels, there is a love triangle.  Cam is dark and dangerous, yet is obviously into Luce.  He goes out of his way to be nice to her.  Unfortunately, Cam can’t seem to hold her interest.  Luce is distracted by the blond bad boy, Daniel.  As much as Cam goes out of his way to be nice, Daniel goes out of his way to be a jerk.  The first time Luce sees him across the school lawn, he flips her off.  Even though Daniel is outright rude to her every time they speak, Luce can’t stop thinking about him.  She has a sense that she knows him from somewhere, but can’t place him.  Because of this, she can’t help herself from stalking him around the campus and forcing herself on him over and over.

In case you haven’t noticed, I really don’t care for the love story between Luce & Daniel.  He’s an ass and she’s obsessed with him.  The whole thing comes across as creepy.  When they do start to give in to their feelings for each other, it seems forced and implausible.  I fail to see why these people care about each other.  Okay, so they have a history.  That’s cool and everything, but Kate doesn’t do enough to create chemistry or a complete back-story.  I found myself more interested in Cam. 

Aside from these three, there are some interesting supporting characters.  I really liked Luce’s friends, Pen and Arien.  Both girls are well developed and unique…not to mention, polar opposites of each other. 

In the end, I enjoyed the story enough to read the next in the series, but if the love story part doesn't get better in the next, I will probably be done with the series.

Overall, I give Fallen…

Plot – 3 ½ bookmarks
Setting – 4 ½ bookmarks
Character Development – 3 ½ bookmarks
Love Story – 3 bookmarks
Paranormal Elements – 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Vanessa Marano (Luce), Alex Pettyfer (Daniel), Escher Halloway (Cam), Portia Doubleday (Arien), Britt McKillip (Pen)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Review: THE HEROINES by Eileen Favorite

(This one is going to contain spoilers. Sorry, but I have to talk about the ending with someone. Don't worry, I'll warn you when they are coming.)

When I first read the blurb on this book, I thought it sounded great. Set in 1974, thirteen year old Penny lives with her mother in a bed & breakfast set in a picturesque setting in northern Illinois. But, it's not an ordinary B&;s a place where literary heroines go to escape their stories. Past guests have included women like Scarlet O'Hara, Ophelia, Catherine Linton, Madame Bovery, etc. Penny, entering the full throes of puberty, resents the heroines from monopolizing her mother's care and attention. She and her mother fight over how to treat the heroines...Penny wants to warn them of the dangers that lie ahead of them when they return to their stories, while her mother is too afraid to alter the course of the stories and insists on keeping the heroines in the dark. When a Celtic Villan shows up to claim his heroine, he becomes Penny's Hero, leaving the reader to wonder, is penny a Heroine herself?

For literature lovers like me, this seems like a really fun read. Unfortunately, it was just okay. Not too far into the book, Penny's mother commits her to an insane asylum, knowing full well there is nothing wrong with Penny, but wanting to keep her away from the Celtic King roaming their woods. To me, that seemed cruel, implausible and unnecessarily extreme. (Although the way Penny gets out of the loney bin is one of my favorite scenes in the book...)

I also didn't get the periodic references to Nixon and Watergate throughout the story. I felt like it must have been a metaphor for something going on in Penny's life, but I never was able to make the connection. Same with the character of Gretta. I felt like her back-story didn't meet my expectations. I kept waiting for it to come out that she was a literary character as well, but it never happened.

I was equally disappointed by the story of Penny's real father. SPOILER ALERT!!!!!! STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON"T WANT TO KNOW THE END!!!!!!
 Heathcliff? Really? Out of all of the heroes in the history of Literature and the mom had to hook up with Heathcliff? I couldn't stand either Heathcliff or Catherine from Wuthering Heights. Both were selfish and mean and completely unsympathetic. Never understood the appeal. I mean, why couldn't have been Mr. Darcy or Rhett Butler or Hamlet? Even Holden Caulfield would have been a better choice. And the scene where the hook up takes place is so rough and unromantic. It left me thinking, "Ewwww...."

So, readers, I want to open the question up to you. Who would be the literary hero that you would hook up if you had the chance?

Overall, I give The Heroines...

Plot - 2 1/2 bookmarks
Character Development - 3 bookmarks
Literary References - 3 1/2 bookmarks (the best part of the story)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Britt McKillip (Penny), Sean Bean (Celtic Villan), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Albie), Anna Kendrick (Deirdre), Julie Benson (Franny Glass)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Review: JUST IMAGINE Susan Elizabeth Phillips

First off—I’ve read a couple of books this week that were just awful!  NOT THIS BOOK!  I’ll get to this one in a minute.  Anyway…these other couple of books were so bad that out of respect for the author, whom I happen to know personally, I can’t bring myself to review them.  Both of these books were contemporary romances and the female leads were terrible!  They were simpering, weak and stereotypical, yet the author kept telling us how strong they were.  Just because you keep saying something, does not make it true!  I’m tell you about this because I want you to understand where my head was at when I started this book.

This book, Just Imagine, had one the best heroines I’ve ever read in a romance!  Kit Weston is a southern girl, but she is no belle.  The story starts just after the Civil War when Kit, dressed as a boy (not a costume, but her every day clothes), travels to New York to kill the Yankee Bastard who is stealing her family’s plantation, Risen Glory, out from under her.  She is skinny, dirty, swears like a sailor and detests all things girly.  Her goal single focus is to get Risen Glory back and restore it to its pre-war prosperity.

Major Baron Cain, a Union Army war hero, is shocked to learn that his estranged mother has died and left him a South Carolina plantation and appointed him guardian of her step-daughter Kathryn Weston.  He fully intends to shirk the responsibility for both the plantation and the girl onto someone else as soon as possible, but in a meeting where he discovers that his stable boy is actually the girl that he is in charge of, he finds himself intrigued by this filthy young woman.  While Kit flat out hates Baron, she knows that he is her best chance at getting her land back.  The two come to a reluctant truce.  If she goes to a finishing school and learns how to be a proper woman, he will remain her guardian and will consider selling Risen Glory back to her once she gets her trust fund. 

From here, the characters turn into Rhett & Scarlett with their love/hate relationship.  While this is somewhat predictable, I loved the strength and uniqueness of Kit, the woman who wears britches and rides her horse astride in one scene and is the belle of the ball in the next.  I loved her business sense and tenacity.  Is this the best book Phillips has ever written, no—but it was very refreshing after the crap I’d been reading earlier in the week.   

The things I didn’t care for…  I hate the title!!!!  Hey, titles are hard, I know, but what in the hell does this one have to do with the story?  My  problem here is that it is completely forgettable.  If I ever find myself wanting to recommend this book to someone, I’m never going to remember it.  NOT GOOD!

I also didn’t care for the ending.  I can see that Phillips tried to give it a plot twist, but rather than make the ending interesting, but just seemed unbelievable. 

According to the reviews of this book on Amazon, opinions of this book are all over the board.  Maybe it was my mood, but I found myself enjoying this book.  If you can put the similarities to Gone With The Wind out of your mind and just enjoy this book as it stands, it is quiet enjoyable.

Overall, I give Just Imagine

Plot – 3 bookmarks
Character Development – 4 bookmarks (while somewhat stereotypical, I appreciate the guts of a heroine who spends the first several chapters refusing to take a bath. That took guts to write & could have backfired.)
Love Story – 3 ½ bookmarks (typical love/hate thing, but I dig that sort of thing)
Historical Accuracy – 2 ½ bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Couldn’t help myself…Vivian Leigh (Kit), Michael Fassbender (Baron)