Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chains of Fire by Christina Dodd

Chains of Fire (The Chosen Ones #4)Chains of Fire by Christina Dodd
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

It's been a long time since I read the other books in this series, so I was a little lost at first. However, it came back to me pretty fast. This series really found its stride after a shaky start. Samuel and Isabelle isn't my favorite couple, but Dodd writes their romance passionately and evocatively. They've been in each others' lives for a long time and never felt a connection like the one they share with anyone else.

Samuel is a complicated person. He's not nice or honorable or kind. But he has deep principles that carry him through. And he's defined by his steadfast love for Isabelle, although he's not done a good job of showing it.

Isabelle is complex in a different way. She had the power of healing. As an empath, her gift can lead to self-trauma, so every time she heals someone, it's an act of self-sacrifice. When she first meets Samuel, she heals an emotionally broken part of him, and from that moment, they will be connected for the rest of their life. But it doesn't promise a quick and lasting happy ending.

Through circumstances beyond their control, they both end up working for the Gypsy Travel Agency, a group that was formed to rescue abandoned children called Chosen Ones. Their organization is nearly destroyed, leaving very few Chosen Ones alive. Isabelle and Samuel have an uneasy working relationship, and on one cold winter night in the Swiss Alps, everything comes to a head, and they can no longer ignore their lifelong bond.

Some parts of this book felt a little awkward, but Dodd is such an engaging writer that I am more than willing to ignore what doesn't work in this novel for what works splendidly. I loved the sense of companionship between Isabelle and Samuel (when they aren't fighting) and the other Chosen Ones. It was so much fun to revisit the past couples, and made me want to reread Aaron and Rosamund and John and Ginny's books (my two favorites). I'm excited to read Aleksandr's long awaited story, but I'm deeply worried about what's going to happen. I can't wait to see how things evolve between him and Charisma. At the same time, sorry to know that Wilder will be the last in the series.

Not a perfect book, but very enjoyable. Thus the 4.25/5.0 star rating.

View all my reviews

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen

The Snow QueenThe Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my favorite fairy tale, hands down. If I'm honest, I'm such a huge fan of snow and cold weather. The idea of snow becoming personified makes a lot of sense, because winter does seem to have a life of its own. I love in Texas, and we don't get much winter, but I grew up with it. I miss it so much! Reading this book makes me long for a good winter.

Along with the evocative imagery of winter, there is a very emotional and spiritual love story. Kay and Gerda share a strong emotional bond, but that bond is damaged by Kay's infection with the slivers from the shattered evil mirror. His eye and his heart are pricked, and it changes the way he sees the world, and makes his loving heart grow cold towards poor Gerda. But Gerda doesn't give up on him. When the Snow Queen steals away Kay, she goes searching for him, going on quite an odyssey and meeting some very unusual people along the way. But she never gives up on him.

The lesson of sacrificial love never gets old. That kind of love can melt the fiercest frozen heart and claim back those who are lost. I loved rereading this, and the illustrations I had in my version was a lovely adjunct.

If one has not ever read this book, I highly recommend it. It's available as a free ebook as part of Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tale collection.

View all my reviews

Dark Descent by Christine Feehan

Dark Descent (Dark, #11)Dark Descent by Christine Feehan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm happily getting caught up on the Carpathians after a long break, and I'm enjoying the ride. The Carpathians have such a complex folklore foundation, and I like seeing it unfold in each book. While I wouldn't like some aspects of being a Carpathian lifemate, there is a whole lot to appeal as well. They really are delicious heroes. I think that this one might be one of my favorites. I loved Joie and Traian as characters, and Joie's siblings Gabrielle and Jubal definitely add to the appeal of this novel. Gary Sanders (who becomes a friend and ally to the Carpathians) has a cameo, and it was fun to see this adorable nerd again. Joie is a kickbutt heroine in her own right, a great match with Traian.

This book is actually quite horrific. The vampires are scary and downright disturbing and disgusting. They give an ugly visual picture to creepy crawly. While Traian is one of the most formidable Carpathian warriors and hunters, he has his hands full when he gets caught in the middle of a nest of master vampires who have formed an alliance. Joie forms a mental bond with Traian and that bond causes her to track him down to the ice caves in the Carpathian mountains. In the process, the Sanders discover a long lost familial relationship to the secretive mages.

I loved how the Carpathian universe is expanding to other species. The mage aspect of the story is fun. Like many of Feehan's works, this book reads like an exciting movie. The battles with the vampires would have me quaking in my books on a big movie screen. But at the same time, they were highly exciting.

I'm pretty into Jubal. I'm wondering if he'll have a story (fingers crossed). It looks like Dark Promises is about Gary and Gabrielle. I hoping that Jubal will have a storyline in this book. He's a character I definitely connected with.

For a short novel, this packed an exciting punch! I read this out of the Dark Nights ebook and I'll read Dark Dream next.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Batman, Vol. 4: Zero Year - Secret City by Scott Snyder (Goodreads Author), Greg Capullo (Illustrations)

Batman, Vol. 4: Zero Year - Secret CityBatman, Vol. 4: Zero Year - Secret City by Scott Snyder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is essentially a new exploration of Batman's origin story. It has a few what I would consider right turns, but I suppose if you're going to re-imagine a character, that's poetic license. I think Snyder is a strong writer and the artwork is also appealing. I would say this is a good quality graphic novel. It has all the things that a Batman fan would like. Portraying Bruce Wayne as the strong character he is; the important and foundational relationship he has with Alfred Pennyworth, who is as much surrogate father as mentor and caretaker. It also portrays the broken and irredeemable nature of Gotham, which seems to attract the morally bankrupt and flamboyant criminals that Batman exists to thwart. It also shows why Batman won't give up on Gotham, even though it cost him his own mother and father.

The storyline about the Red Hood Gang was interesting and more than a little creepy (creepy in the sense of the pervasiveness and ruthlessness of the cult). I'm thinking that the leader may be the origin of one of Batman's arch-nemeses.

I've really liked the New 52 Batman that I've read so far. Each one makes me want to pick up the next.

View all my reviews

The Fade Out, Volume 1 by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips (Illustrations), Elizabeth Breitweiser (Colorist)

The Fade Out, Vol. 1: Act OneThe Fade Out, Vol. 1: Act One by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One word for this graphic novel. Atmosphere. I definitely felt like I was in the late 1940s Hollywood. But the real Hollywood, not the glamorous, shining synthetic world that so many people in the industry tried to project. The point of view is from a screenwriter deeply immersed in the studio system who was emotionally broken by his war experiences. He wakes up in a bedroom and finds the body of the starlet in the next room. The star of the movie he's been working on. The list of suspects is long, and even if they aren't the murderer, most of these people aren't blameless and are far from innocent.

People like to say that the depths of depravity in society has gotten worse. I don't think so. I think people have gotten more blatant in their dark desires, but they have been doing anything under the sun for gratification since the beginning of time. This book shows that very dark side of Hollywood that swallows people whole, brings out the very worst in its denizens, exploiting their weaknesses and insecurities and their desire to be famous regardless of the cost. It features the wolves and the lambs (although the lambs aren't without blemish), and the bottom-feeders of the industry.

The artwork was alluring and perfectly paired to the narrative. It conveys the feel of a hardboiled, noir mystery, although the artist is not afraid to use color. I love the style of the 1940s, and I found myself a student of the character design in this book. It's done in such a way that it doesn't give a misleading tone of brightness that is completely opposite to the story.

This ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, in that there is no resolution of the mystery, but instead a big breadcrumb for the reader to follow in the next volume. I need to know, so I'll keep reading.

View all my reviews

Ransom by Julie Garwood

Ransom (Highlands' Lairds, #2)Ransom by Julie Garwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another book I thought I had read. Boy was I glad that I didn't. Read this for the Julie Garwood group read, and it was delightful. Julie Garwood books are definitely comfort reads. She understands why we read romance, and one of the reasons is we want heroines who we can root for, that we fall in love with just as much as the heroes. Her heroines have this tangible sweetness that makes me want to hug them, root for them, and to fight with and for them. Gillian is no different. My heart hurt for her losses and I cheered her for her indefatigable will. To be honest, I did think she was a slightly too good for Brodick, although I did like him. Maybe that's a good thing, because the common dilemma for a romance fan is to like the hero more.

I have read the other two Highland Laird books and loved them. I don't know how this fell through the cracks! But it was perfect timing, because you need a pick-me-up sometimes when you've been reading for so long, and some of it's assigned reading. I am a die-hard romance lover, and while I enjoy other genres, I always come back to romance because it has the tried and true things that satisfy me as a reader. In this case, it's the great heroine and the story that completely immerses me and takes me away from my world--back to medieval Scotland. The romance is great, but there's so much more in addition to offer in this book.

One of the things that spoke to me strongly was the theme of family and loyalty. Gillian has lost more of her family, but she cleaves to that which is left. She lived with the hope of being reunited with her sister. Her uncle who raised her after the betrayal and death of her father has her unswerving loyalty. She faces great danger to keep him safe from her so-called guardian Baron Alford, who is essentially the Son of Satan. That doesn't mean she won't spare the time to protect a young Scottish boy who was kidnapped by Baron Alford's forces, even at the risk of her own life. She does it for because it's right, even if it's a great cost to her. Fortunately, her good deed leads her right where she needs to be, and into the sights and arms of Brodick, Laird of the Buchanans.

Brodick doesn't know what hits him (not unusual for a Garwood heroine). Before he knows it, he can't live without Gillian, even though he knows from the beginning that she's bound to return to England. He fights his love for her because he believes love makes him weak. Although he hypocritically demands Gillian's love as his due. Brodick takes her into his clan literally, and gives Gillian the family she's missing.

Brodick was a pretty good hero. Not good enough for Gillian, but I liked him. I didn't like that he tended to usurp Gillian's self-will, both because he believes he knows better, and also for her protection. He knew that she needed a protector, but the lie he told was a costly one, nearly losing the love of his life in the process.

This book has almost two romances for the price of one. The second romance between Ramsey and Brigid was fun, and it develops more slowly than the one between Gillian and Brodick. Most of the characteristic humor is evident in their interactions, since Gillian's situation is so serious, it doesn't leave as much time for humor.

Not only was the romance good, but it had genuine suspense. Gillian is in some very dangerous situations, and she makes it through between a combination of divine providence, will power, and intelligence. She hasn't had an easy life, but it's made her into the wonderful heroine she is. One who can't help but acquire the loyalty of those around her.

I was more than satisfied with this book. It took me a while to read, but that's sort of my life now. But every time I picked it up, I was deeply involved and enthralled. This was a long book, but when it ended, I wished for more. I did feel disappointment with the resolution of Gillian's search for her sister, but that's real life. And at least she found a new sister in Brigid. I can't help but give it five stars under those circumstances. Even with my increasingly stingy ratings, I can't argue myself down from there.

View all my reviews