Friday, March 18, 2011

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

New Moon (Twilight, #2)New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I admit I put off reading this second book in the Twilight series, for a few reasons. Maybe my love for Twilight would turn out to be a fluke. I had watched the movie recently, so it would feel like a rerun. I wasn’t ready to dive back into the series. Well, I finally manned up and read New Moon this week. I can honestly say this is one of my favorite books of all time.

Many bad things have been said about Ms. Meyer’s writing. I don’t agree with any of it. Ms. Meyer has proven to me that she can write books that I can admire and enjoy, and that I can appreciate from an artistic and literary standpoint. She brings the story to vivid life, and pulls me right into the action. She knows how to make me feel. For me, it’s not a good sign when I read a book and I feel detached, bored, withdrawn. I want to be involved in a story that I read for pleasure, which is 95% of the time I spend reading. When I read Twilight, I couldn’t get over the awe and joy I felt as I discovered the world of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. The beauty of their love story. I didn’t think this book could top that feeling. Surprisingly, it did. Ms. Meyer took the story that much deeper for me with New Moon.

I have actually read few writers that have such a gift for illustrating and bringing emotions to live. Showing the complexity of relationships, how they all come to matter and play a part of our emotional landscape. The pain that Bella feels when Edward leaves….I felt it acutely. I felt like my heart was breaking along with Bella’s. I felt angry at Edward. I was so mad I wanted to slap him. But, I also felt that same love for Edward I felt when I read Twilight. I could understand why he left, not possibly knowing that his leaving could never be the best thing for Bella. With this couple, as with my favorites in literature, you can see how mutual, how all-consuming their love for each other is. Some might call it self-destructive. But emotions don’t follow the rules. Even when people try to control them, they still manifest in other ways. Especially those that are so powerful, like the love these two people shared.

When it came to Bella’s recovery (at least partial), I thought it was so well-written as Ms. Meyer showed Bella picking herself up from the abyss that Edward and the Cullens’ departure had thrown her into. The way that Ms. Meyer showed the first four months was so beautifully evocative and yet so basic, it was that much more effective. Just each month written on a individual page. Nothing else. That’s how it was for Bella. She couldn’t stop living, not knowing what that would do to her parents. So she existed. Nothing more. After that, there was her developing relationship with Jacob Black.
Again, there was so much skill in describing how Bella becomes friends with Jake. I love how Jake is described as Bella’s sun. Her love for him that is more than just a friend, like a brother, but deeper. I know that if there was no Edward Cullen, then maybe Jake could have been Bella’s true love. But in the world where Edward existed, there was no substitute. I thought that the book would be boring without Edward, but it was far from that. I found that I loved this book even though he wasn’t technically there, except for his voice in Bella’s head. That voice that came around to warn Bella when she was in trouble. Yet at the same time, Jake had the power to hold the pain from Edward’s leaving at bay. When he would smile his sweet smile, and shine his light on Bella. Even though Jake was like a crutch that held a crippled Bella on her feet, I didn’t feel like she used Jake and gave nothing in return. Her friendship also helped him. She stood up for him and cared about him, bringing something to his life as well.

I love Bella as a character. She’s a good person, very caring, but also stubborn as a mule. I like how she is shown to be imperfect, but more than willing to examine her actions and her motives to see if she is doing what she feels is right. Yes, Bella did some immature things, but what do humans do when they are hurting? I think that considering the circumstances she went through, I don’t find fault with Bella. I think Bella might come off wrong on first glance to the casual observer. Like she is in her own little world, selfish and self-absorbed. The way I read her is what I’ve seen in people in real life like Bella. She’s one of those people whose capacity for love is all consuming. She has to hold herself at a distance or lose herself. Because some people don’t understand how deep she commits herself to others. It totally makes sense why she falls apart when Edward leaves, and then when Jake pushes her away because of what is going on with him. The fact that I respected Bella so much is why I loved this book passionately, even though my favorite character is hardly even in the book. It also testifies to Ms. Meyer’s skill at writing. Her characters keep me invested, the way they interact with each other, creating the fabric of this book, a beautifully-woven creation that sucked me in too deep to let go until I was done. I love my dad, but Charlie would be a great dad for any girl. He makes this book series special to me, just for his small parts in the books. He’s adorable!

Silly me. I didn’t expect to enjoy Jake’s story and the wolves as much as I did. I’m silly because I love werewolf stories. I’m silly because I was completely wrong. The wolf pack aspect was very interesting. I felt so much for Jake, how he was confused and at sea; how he truly believed that the wolf that had awakened in him made him bad. I was glad that he had Bella to help him see that the wolf was a beautiful thing, part of who he was. Part of why she loved him, and like she loved Edward even with his being a vampire, she would continue to love him, even as a wolf. I have to say that although Edward is still my favorite, I adore Jake tremendously. I could see what a special, sweet guy he was, how hard he tried to do what was right, and the control that he mustered when it was clear how much his ‘gift’ made control very difficult for him. I just love how he is described. He is like sunshine to Edward’s moon. So yes, I am a Jacob fan now, and well as loving his pack brothers and Emily.

Even though there is not a lot of action in this book, it still kept me riveted. I appreciated how the menace of the Volturi came off so clearly, even with very little onscreen violence. The contrast between the Cullens and the Volturi was beautifully, clearly rendered. How the Cullens had chosen the connection between them, the capacity to love over the bloodlust, even if it was terribly hard at times. This helped me to see that Edward’s motives were truly good, even if they seemed foolhardy. Once that was clear, and seeing his pain, how leaving Bella had destroyed him, I couldn’t stay mad at him. I love Edward way too much. I also adore the Cullens, especially Alice and Carlisle.

I honestly feel that this series shows a deep kind of love that I haven’t seen in all my twenty-plus years of romance reading. It’s not just boy-girl romance, either. It shows a deep, powerful romantic love, but also the love of friendship, the bonds of family (not merely by blood, but by choice), and how they all come together, serving as our greatest weaknesses, but also our greatest strengths. That’s the duality of human nature. Funny how I can learn this lesson from a book about vampires and werewolves, and a human girl caught between them. I can hardly describe how much I love this book! I’m done trying..for now!

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bitter Frost by Kailin Gow

Bitter Frost (Frost, #1)Bitter Frost by Kailin Gow

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Bitter Frost was a good read that sucked me in as I read, and I appreciated getting immersed into this world, with Breena and her secret heritage. However, I do feel that it was far too brief and seemed....unfinished, and I don't mean the cliffhanger ending. I felt a little cheated that it was so short. It was 196 pages. Long enough for me to get sucked in, and then it was over. Of course, this is a series, so I am encouraged to keep reading. I'm all for series, but I think this could have been twice as long and delivered more a satisfying read. I felt kind of annoyed that I have to buy the next book for $10 to get some closure when this book could have been twice as long and I would have probably given it a higher rating, because I would have been much more satisfied with the book.

The ideas were so good, so I did wish I could rate this one more highly, but I just needed more. I wanted to learn more about Breena, sink under her skin. I wanted more worldbuilding. I wanted to see Kian more clearly, and maybe like him or feel more compelled towards him as a person as Breena apparently felt. I am hoping that Breena's friend Logan will get more stage time in the next book, because I am loving him, big time. He's such a sweetie, but also tough as nails. He was so caring with Breena, and he clearly adores her. I feel that a relationship with Logan has a lot of potential, moreso than with Kian. Kian, I wasn't super-fond of him. He seemed a little empty to me. I didn't really feel that the conflict between his feelings for Breena and his duty to his kingdom was that compelling. To me, it seemed as though he could easily leave Breena as second fiddle to his duties. And I'm supposed to root for Breena to choose for him? Um, not so much. Now Logan, drool, swoon, sigh!

Let me just take the time to address a pet peeve I have with far too many young adult fantasy books now--the love triangle. Why do most of these books have to have a love triangle? Is this an absolute requirement for publication? How about a more deep, more developed relationship progression between the heroine and one love interest? How about more focus on the development of the character? How about more action and less "which guy should I choose?" I'm just saying. Maybe I'm the only one who has an issue with this. I mean no disrespect against Ms. Gow or any other YA writer. I just wish that this plot device would stop being so heavily relied on in YA fantasy. I'm not the target audience, since I'm in my 30s, so maybe this is a thing that the younger readers enjoy. But I think a book can be perfectly enjoyable with a heroine who has one love interest. And, as I addressed above, I didn't feel that the love triangle aspect rang true. To me it's an obvious choice who Breena should end up with. If I'm going to be pulled in two directions, I need to feel like the heroine could go with either choice, and Kian ain't ringing my bell right now.

So....It's hard for me with this book. It had a lot of potential. Some great ideas. But not enough here for me to be blown away. That's why I couldn't give it more than 3.5 stars. Honestly, I am miffed that I will have to shell out the not inconsiderable bucks for the next book, afraid I will feel the same dissatisfaction, but I will be coming back for more. That seems like a Pyrrhic victory to me.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Giants of the Frost by Kim Wilkins

Giants of the FrostGiants of the Frost by Kim Wilkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Giants of the Frost turned out to be a slow read, but it was a very good book. I think that the use of Norse mythology was well done. I appreciate how Ms. Wilkins took Norse mythology and folklore and created something novel with these elements as a basis.

Although it took me a while to get sucked into the romantic aspects, admittedly a big part of this book, I enjoyed reading about the characters: Victoria, Vidar, Aud, and Loki, whose fates are entwined rather deeply. I also appreciated the secondary cast of characters, the norns (three sisters who weave the fates for the Aesir), Skripi (a forest wight who is a lot of help to Victoria), and Victoria's coworkers, especially Gunnar (who is a very good friend and source of information about Norse myths to Victoria), to name a few. It was interesting to see Victoria's journey from grounded, almost boneheaded skepticism (she calls herself a fundamental atheist), to a woman who believes that she is the reincarnated lover of the son of Odin. Loki was quite the scene stealer. Ms. Wilkins managed to take this scheming, perpetually joking and stealing trickster of Norse lore, and make him into an appealing antihero who definitely got my interest. Aud, who is the bondmaid of Vidar, really earned my sympathy. She made a bargain out of a mother's love that cost her a thousand years and is in love with Vidar, although she knows it will never be returned. I liked that the characters were complex, realistically selfish in their desires at times, and not always motivated to do the right thing; yet they did show good qualities that made me want the best for them.

Ms. Wilkins is a very good writer, drawing vivid pictures in my mind. My favorite parts were the retelling of Vidar's struggle to be reunited with his love. It reminded me of fairy and folktales in which a character goes on a quest and suffers greatly, for that which is their heart's desire. I admit that there were parts where my interest waned, but I was glad I kept reading, especially when it got to the more interesting parts with Vidar's quest. Although I was a bit ambivalent about the fated love aspect of this story (more from the execution since I normally love that in a romance), I admit that by the end of the book, I was crying and hoping that Victoria and Vidar would get their chance to be together and happy.

I didn't quite know what to expect with this book. I picked it up because of my interest in Norse mythology, and I'm glad I did. This book was expertly crafted, with gratifying depths of complexity; a rich tapestry woven from the threads of identifiably human emotion--both good and bad--and fascinating lore and legend. I'll definitely be reading more from this author.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

She's Having My Baby by Raye Morgan

She'S Having My Baby! (Having The Boss'S Baby) (Silhouette Romance, No. 1571)She'S Having My Baby! (Having The Boss'S Baby) by Raye Morgan

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I had a little trouble keeping my attention on this book, although it's a good story. I was impressed and kind of surprised at the level of depth to both Kane and Maggie's emotional issues. Maggie was severely verbally abused by her father, and ended up marrying a man who wasn't much better. People thought she was sadly mourning her dead husband, but she was glad he was gone, not that he was dead, but that she was free. She wants a baby, but not the controlling husband or man to go with it, so she gets artificially inseminated, and the clinic accidentally inseminates her with her boss's sperm, which he deposited as a way to encourage his friend with cancer to bank his sperm. Kane finds out before she does that there is a woman out there who is pregnant by him. This book is actually part of a series in which the various women in the business Kane owns are the suspected baby momma by Kane. He has sleuthed his way through his list, and came up empty. The real woman is still a mystery when this book starts. I didn't read the other books, but I did get this one because I liked another book I read by this author. I may go back and read the others, if I get my massive tbr pile under control.

As I went off tangent, let me explain what Kane's issues are. He has two significant ones: his father was an alcoholic who died in a car accident while driving drunk. Kane never really got over losing his father, and I think it gave him a fear of loving someone in case they are lost. Secondly, he married a gold-digger, who tried to manipulate his affections for material gain. After extricating himself from this bad marriage, he swore never to marry. He assumed he wouldn't be having children either, but when he finds out that his child is out there, and it's like a piece of him is lost, and he knows he has to find his child. He's happy that he finds out that his efficient assistant Maggie is his baby's mother. At first, he's just going to support her and be on the edges of her life, but his sister-in-law gets him to see that he could end up losing contact with his baby if its mother remarries. He then proposes a marriage of convenience. Yeah, we know how those turn out, at least in romance novels.

Kane takes longer than Maggie to get his emotional baggage together. It's a bit frustrating the way he blows hot and cold. I felt bad for Maggie. Thankfully, Kane does get a clue.

This was a touching and heartwarming book. It was short, and it took a while for me to get engaged, but I think that's about my state of mind when I started reading it. This was my second book by Raye Morgan, and I'm happy to read more of her backlist. People who enjoy a quick romance in the vein of Harlequin/Silhouette, more on the traditional side, would probably like this one.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Monday, March 07, 2011

Cave of Fire by Rebecca King

Cave of Fire by Rebecca King

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The beautiful descriptions of the Central American rain forest were a huge part of the appeal for this book. They were very detailed and well-written, and they made me keep reading. This book had a bit of the "Romancing the Stone" appeal that I like in a exotic setting romance. The jerky, arrogant, rude, ill-mannered, at times verbally abusive hero was a strike against the story. I kept wondering when Dany was going to tell him to go to H.E.L.L. She was a lot more tolerant that he deserved. I have to say that at least he admitted to his jackassery at the end of the book, which is indeed something. Being the girl who can't part with a book that she likes for whatever bizarre reason, I'm going to keep this one, because I am a sucker for the survival/trek through the wilderness/living off the land storyline, the descriptions of the rain forest were so appealing, and I liked the end. I still think that Nick doesn't deserve Dany. She might be young and impulsive, but he's an a*hole, and since he's probably in his 30s, I think that's a lot worse than being young and immature. Let's hope that he stays true to his word and settles down to marriage and gives up his objectionably rude ways.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

Hellboy: The Ice Wolves by Mark Chadbourn

Hellboy: The Ice WolvesHellboy: The Ice Wolves by Mark Chadbourn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book started out slow, but I ended up very sucked in. I think that the author was successful in writing a layered story that had some very 'literary' elements. I liked that although this was a Hellboy book, the story was more about Brad Lynch, a young man suffering from PTSD after being a journalist in Iraq and witnessing some truly horrible events, his broken relationship with his father William, and his evolving relationship with his best friend and co-worker, Lisa. Although this was very much horror/dark fantasy, it was also a drama about family dynamics. How a horrible event can tear a family apart, and leave the survivors walking woundeds who go on to live emotionally dysfunctional lives.

Hellboy is tasked with finding the Kiss of Winter to prevent a catastrophic takeover of the world by werewolves. He finds out that it's being kept in the famed Grant House in Boston, and ends up on Brad's doorstep, because Brad's father owns the house. He convinces Brad (with Lisa's help), to go to Boston and get his father to let them in the house so they can find the Kiss of Winter. Hunted by hungry werewolves, they barely make it into the house as an unseasonal and fierce blizzard hits Boston. Inside the house is some protection from the wolves, but it's full of spirits, some benign, and some very, very malevolent.

I do have to say that this book was very scary at times. The house was extremely menacing, with negative entities out for blood, although there were also some helpful presences in the house that help save Hellboy and his companions' bacons quite a few times, and also help them to obtain the Kiss of Winter. Mr. Chadbourn writes one heck of a haunted house story. To be honest, I enjoyed these elements more than the werewolf aspects, and that's saying a lot since I love werewolf fiction. The construction of the house is very creepy, adding to sinister feel of this book. Also, hearing the ill-fated histories of the family who lived in the house added to the atmosphere. I reached a point where this book was a bit too scary to read late at night, but I didn't want to put it down because I was sucked in. There were also some intriguing time travel/warp elements, as the Kiss of Winter and its sister artifact, the Heart of Winter, together help to manipulate and fold time.

Hellboy is his usual witty, tough self. I like his wisecracks, but I like how he sees the emotional aspects of the interactions between Brad, Lisa, and William. He has his hands full, fighting hungry werewolves, evil ghosts, and trying to encourage Brad to make up with his dad and to let Lisa know his true feelings. Hellboy is pretty darn awesome, I must say.

I liked the use of various arcane/occult devices in their struggle against the werewolves. The witch candle was pretty awesome. It protected the house, and it set the werewolves on fire as they tried to enter.

This ended up being a very enthralling read, although it was occasionally a bit slow. Once I got used to Mr. Chadbourn's writing style, he delivered a very good story, and he makes good use of Hellboy and the elements that make this character and his world distinctive, but in a very personal, character-driven fashion. Not an easy task when you're dealing with subject matter that by nature is more action and event-driven. I hope he writes some other haunted house books, because he knows how to make this horror fan cringe in fear.

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Friday, March 04, 2011

Count Magnus by MR James

Count Magnus & Other Ghost Stories (Complete Ghost Stories 1)Count Magnus & Other Ghost Stories by Montague Rhodes James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review is for Count Magnus alone (although I fully intend to read the other stories at some point).

Mr. James has not been called a ghost story-writing master for no reason. He is an expert at building the atmosphere and writing a story that delivers an eerie, creepy thrill to the reader. Although I wouldn't call this one of my favorite stories by him, he was quite successful with this tale about an ill-fated travel-writer who comes upon the mystery of a not-so nice Swedish nobleman with an incredibly unsavory history.

Although the amount of detail in this story will probably bore a reader who is used to a more modern, terse style of writing, I enjoyed James' almost conversational way of telling a story. Those ghost stories that are told as though I am the reader hearing my friend tell me about a real set of events are the most effective to me, because they feel more real, and the unsettling elements have a personal impact since I feel like I am there in the action.

Mr. James builds up the suspense as you hear about Count Magnus, and he leaves certain facts to the reader's imagination. I think that's probably a little more scary. I wondered what was up with the two figures who were apparently stalking Mr. Wraxall. I felt a chill go through my body when Wraxall encounters a sarcophagus that appears to be unlocking itself. What's going to come out of that coffin? What powers does Count Magnus possess, even from beyond the grave?

This story won't work for a reader who wants a more "in your face" style. But for readers who enjoy the old-fashioned, but very creepy and atmospheric ghost/horror story will enjoy this one.

Rating for Count Magnus: 4 stars .

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Desperate Desire by Flora Kidd

Desperate Desire by Flora Kidd

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Books like this in the Harlequin Presents line make me want to reach for more vintage romances. I like that this book had a rich story. The hero and heroine are complex individuals who come together and find a compelling attraction between them. Neither of them are perfect. Adam was delightfully surly, kind of take charge and rough in a way, and very compellingly masculine. He's also a bit insecure about his partial blindness. When Lenore literally bumps into him, they exchange mean words with each other, that Lenore feels bad about when she finds out that he's vision-impaired. Days later, Lenore gets stranded at his house during a freak snowstorm, after injuring her knee. They end up going to bed together, and it felt right to me. The passion and the connection and sharing between them felt authentic. However, Lenore runs away, only to return when her heart draws her back. But that's not their happy ending. They have to deal with some things first. Lenore was in a long-term relationship with a guy I felt was using her. He was Orthodox Jew and while she was good enough to shack up with, he wouldn't marry her unless she converted. When she said no, he broke it off. Now, she is dealing with the heartbreak of being dumped, and she's not really to let herself be vulnerable in that way to a man. It's even more devastating when she has a powerful, intense attraction to a man like Adam.

Lenore's music ends up bringing them back together, when she's asked to see if the local music group can hold their performance at his house. Adam makes demands on Lenore that she's not ready to deal with, and they end up parting again, not under the best terms. However, he agrees to letting the concerts take place at his house. This brings them into close, tantalizing proximity, showing Lenore and Adam that their feelings are very real.

Although this is all from Lenore's viewpoint, I was able to get a fix on Adam. He's a tough guy who was gravely wounded in a war-torn country, where he lost part of his sight. He's not sure how to rebuild his life without being visual, since that's a big part of his self-esteem, allowing him to pursue his dangerous career is a videographer/journalist. He finds himself drawn to Lenore, and wants all of her. However, he's not good with words in showing his love. They both have to decide if they can love each other and find everything that they need in life together as a unit.

This was a quick, fulfilling read. I'm sure I read Flora Kidd growing up. But I feel the urge to hunt down more of her books, since I like her writing style. Recommended to fans of the older Harlequin Presents books.

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Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs

Iron Kissed (Mercedes Thompson, #3)Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Iron Kissed has made me even more of a fan of Patricia Briggs. This story takes off shortly after Blood Bound. Mercy and her friends are still recovering from dealing with the demon-possessed vampire, and the wave of violence that he inflicted on the Tri-Cities area. Do not be fooled into thinking that things will go back to normal for Mercy. The heat is on as the pressure to choose between two werewolves who want her as their mate: her former flame, Samuel and the sexy, powerful alpha of the Tri-Cities pack, Adam, gets explosive. Normally I hate love triangles, but Ms. Briggs handles this one so well, I was loving it. I could see how it was hard to choose between Samuel and Adam, because they both have a lot to offer a girl, although my heart already made the choice for her, and I was glad that Mercy made the same choice. I adore both Adam and Samuel, for different reasons. They are both tough and powerful men, with a primal edge that I just adore. Adam is protective but he knows that Mercy is always going to be her own woman, and works hard to give her space, even though his urge to claim her is increasingly hard to control. Although he is dominant and formidable in his own right, Samuel is more touchy feely and does sweet things like cooks for Mercy and provides her with the feelings of home and hearth that she sometimes misses from being part of Bran’s pack long ago. I enjoyed the flirtations she had with both guys, and I didn’t feel like she was stringing them along. It was clear how hard it was to choose one man, and possibly lose the other. Ms. Briggs balanced the tension beautifully in this book.

On top of emotional/relationship aspects, is the mystery about who is killing Fae at the Walla Walla faerie reservation. I love reading about the Fae, and this book didn’t disappoint me. Ms. Briggs captures the ruthless/dangerous aspects of these creatures, but also the allure and the otherworldly appeal awesomely. Mercy is in serious danger in this book, and there are some moments that are intense and very heartbreaking, as Mercy puts herself in jeopardy to save her friend Zee from being framed for the murder of a bigoted, anti-Fae guard who worked at the reservation.

Ms. Briggs is my favorite fantasy author, and this book only solidifies her place in my keeper shelves. She writes urban fantasy with a light, subtle touch, her narrative sparing but rich at the same time. She has all the human elements that make an urban fantasy book call to this reader. Yet she also gives a reader the magic and the preternatural creatures that make fantasy one of my favorite genres. I loved her wolves from book one, and this book makes me love them more. Adam is just awesome, but Samuel is delicious and adorable too. And the rest of the pack and their dynamics stands out beautifully, especially Ben. I loved how Ben was able to talk to Adam and Mercy and help them through the horrible situation the potential mates found themselves facing in this novel.

This book was just fantastic. In fact, I feel the urge to read it again already, although my tbr pile is calling me to other books. I’m so glad that I have the rest of the books to come back to when I get my reading schedule under control. Ms. Briggs, I want to shake your hand. You know how to write an enthralling book for fantasy lovers, and you proved it with Iron Kissed.

Casting Choices:

Julia Jones as Mercy Thompson:
julia jones Pictures, Images and Photos

Christian Bale as Adam Hauptman:
so good in a suit Pictures, Images and Photos

Wentworth Miller as Samuel Cornick:
Wentworth Miller Pictures, Images and Photos

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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Burial of the Rats by Bram Stoker

The Burial of the RatsThe Burial of the Rats by Bram Stoker

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

This one was a little too slow-moving for me. It didn't have much momentum for me. More of a suspense story, it reminded me a little of "The Most Dangerous Game". Stoker apparently wrote this story as a result of his honeymoon in France, and it's evident that the scenery had a creative effect on him. Although it was a hard read, I did appreciate the sinister aspects. The way the narrator soon comes to realize that he's being set up to be murdered by the vagrants he visits was well-done. The hints that they have malevolent intents dawned on both me and the narrator at about the same time. There was also the suspense of the chase as the narrator runs for life, and the menace of the hungry rats. Sadly, this one didn't win me over. It was a bit too much of a hard read and not much of a satisfactory payoff. Even so, I'm so glad I got the chance to read it. As a whole, I do admire Stoker's writing.

Overall rating: 2.5/5.0 stars.

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Lessons from a Latin Lover by Anne McAllister

Lessons from a Latin Lover (Harlequin Presents, No. 2467)(Pelican Cay)Lessons from a Latin Lover (Harlequin Presents, No. 2467) by Anne McAllister

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I did like this one, although I liked Hugh and Sydney's book a little more. It was interesting that Molly had been engaged to Carson so long (since they were young teens), and now she was ready to move their relationship to the next level, but worried that their relationship didn't have passion because she was a tomboy. She recruits Joaquin, a Spanish footballer (soccer outside of the US) to give her lessons in love.

Joaquin always looked through Molly, mostly because she was the younger sister of his friend Lachlan. He's at loose ends because he can't play soccer anymore due to a congenital spine issue that could lead to him becoming paralyzed permanently if he keeps playing. Molly's request gives him a challenge that he needs to keep himself from going crazy. In the process, he finds that Molly is a sexy, vibrant woman, and falls in love with her. The unfortunate part is he has to respect that she is committed to another man.

What I liked about this book:

*I liked the humor in the interactions between Molly and Joaquin and her brothers. It was funny how Joaquin would always deliberately call Carson 'Carter', because he was jealous of the man.

*The chemistry between Molly and Joaquin was well-done. The gradual building of attraction between them was believable as Joaquin started to see Molly with new eyes. She wasn't like one of his easy pickups (since he was quite the ladies' man).

What I didn't like as much:

*I didn't like how bossy and controlling Joaquin's parents were. They had pretty much mapped out his future. When he got over his soccer indulgence, they were determined that he settle down, marry the woman they wanted for him, and work in the family business. I think parents should support their children's dreams. I understood that Joaquin loved his parents, but I wish he'd just stand up and tell them that he had his own goals for his life.

*In a way I wish that Carson was in the book more. It would have been more interesting for him to be around and to be more of a real rival for Joaquin. He treated her like an afterthought, even after her makeover. I hoped that he'd get his own book, but that doesn't seem likely.

*I'm not overly fond of makeover stories. I don't think all people have to fit the same mold. Couldn't Molly be sexy even if she's tomboy and a mechanic? It's nice for people to see the natural beauty that you have before you get a makeover. I'm not sure that Joaquin really saw that in her. And Molly's brothers weren't much better. They were kind of dismissive of Molly's attractions pre-makeover. I'm sure that were men who thought Molly was the bee's knees before she got made over.

Sigh. I'm sure I'm over-thinking things, but that's just my MO, I guess.

All in all, this was a diverting, enjoyable read. I still need to read Lachlan's story: McGillivray's Mistress.

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