Thursday, September 30, 2010

Shadowland

The Mediator series was originally published under the pen name Jenny Carroll, and each of the books had different titles.  It's a cataloging nightmare for librarians, that's for sure!  And it makes life difficult for people looking to read books in their proper order.  At any rate, below is a list of the titles in the newly issued series with the original titles in parentheses.

I don't know what the attraction is for me of books and movies about characters who see ghosts, but whatever it is, I sure enjoy them.  I love Elizabeth Cody Kimmel's Suddenly Supernatural books, which are for a younger audience than these, and fans of those will be pleased to find these books waiting for them in the YA section.  My favorite manga series, xxxHOLIC, is about a Japanese boy who can see spirits and the effect that has on his life.  And I love TV shows such as Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies.  This series is a welcome addition to my favorites.

Suze is what is known as a mediator - she sees spirits.  She helps those who have unfinished business, and if the spirits are troublemakers, well, she deals with them.  She's been able to see ghosts since she was two years old, but no one knows about it.  When her mother remarries, and Suze has to move to California, she's not terribly pleased about it.  When she sees how old the house they'll be living in is, she's even less pleased.  The older the place, the more likely it is that there will be ghosts there.  Even her school is ancient - it's on the site of an old mission, and one of the first things she runs into is the ghost of a girl who recently died - a ghost with a pretty nasty attitude.

Suze's life is suddenly so complicated - she has an angry ghost to deal with, new brothers, a new stepfather, a new school - and new friends - more than she expected to have, as she wasn't terribly popular back in New York.  She also has the ghost of a charming, handsome man in her bedroom, and a confidence in her ghost-fighting abilities that just might be a tiny bit overrated...

This is a fun start to a series, with a sympathetic heroine who carries the narrative with a strong, engaging voice.  Her transition into the new family is handled very well, as Suze finds herself saddled with a little brother she can't help but like, and a couple older brothers that, before too long, she finds herself butting heads with in a very sisterly way.  I like Suze, how she speaks her mind and doesn't put up with nonsense from the other kids at school.  I didn't quite buy the fact that she could possibly have kept her ability to see ghosts from her mother - at the age of two, no less - and kept silent through years of therapy, but I was happy to suspend my disbelief because Cabot spins such a good tale.  I'd been meaning to try this series for some time, but it was an enthusiastic teen at my library who put the book in my hands after I'd recommended some other titles to her - she was excited for me to try it, and I was pleased to tell her how much I enjoyed it the next time she came into my library.

Books in the Mediator series:
1. Shadowland  (Love you to Death)
2. Ninth Key  (High Stakes)
3. Reunion  (Mean Spirits)
4. Darkest Hour  (Young Blood)
5. Haunted  (Grave Doubts)
6. Twilight  (Heaven Sent)

Shadowland (#1 in the Mediator series) by Meg Cabot (Avon Books, 2000)

Source: My local public library

Also reviewed at:
Griffie World:  "One of the true powers of Cabot’s writing is her ability to draw the reader into the story. Her characters are penned with authority, and they are quirky, yet lovable, even though sometimes a little prickly."
Puss Reboots:  "The book is somewhere between The Ghost Whisperer and Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a little dash of The Sixth Sense."
Teenage Fiction for All Ages:  "...a fairly light read with characters you want to revisit, in a beautiful setting, with action and adventure and a possible romance. No wonder I've already started on #2..."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jeeves: Joy in the Morning

I do love to listen to the audio versions of the Jeeves and Wooster books, and this BBC audio production has the added benefit of being a full-cast radio production, with actors performing the various parts.  What a lot of fun it was!

The story opens with Bertie getting railroaded into renting a house in the country in order to give his uncle a place to meet secretly to discuss a business merger.  But of course such a straightforward plan is immediately derailed as events conspire, once again, to make Bertie's life as complicated as possible.  A good deed from a boy scout renders him homeless, and Bertie finds himself desperately trying to avoid becoming re-engaged to Florence Craye - and avoid getting beaten up by her current fiance, an old school chum.  I hesitate to say more, because so much of these books is in the telling, and it is best to allow the plot to unfold under the masterful narration of Bertie Wooster himself. 

The Jeeves and Wooster stories are delightful, and and I am thankful there are so many of them.  Once I've finished with the novels, I'll move on to the stories, and then onto whatever else I can find that Wodehouse has written.  If you enjoy a good farce, wonderfully humorous characters and dialogue, and a plot that will twist and turn and twist again, what are you waiting for?  Jump on in - you'll love these books!

Books in the Jeeves and Wooster novel series:
1. Thank You, Jeeves
2. Right Ho, Jeeves
3. The Code of the Woosters
4. Jeeves in the Morning (U.K. title Joy in the Morning)
5. Mating Season
6. Return of Jeeves
7. Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit
8. How Right You Are, Jeeves
9. Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves
10. Jeeves and the Tie That Binds
11. Cat-Nappers


Jeeves: Joy in the Morning (#4 in the Jeeves and Wooster series) by P.G. Wodehouse (BBC Audiobooks, 2006; originally published in 1946)

Source:  My local public library

Also reviewed at:
Let's Eat, Grandpa!: "Wodehouse weaves together a hilarious, ridiculous plot that dips and turns and has each of the characters in different scrapes, out of which they must escape — almost always with Jeeves’ expert help."
Steph and Tony Investigate:  "There is such playfulness in Wodehouse’s pen, and without his delivery, so much of what he sets up would fall flat. But his words and wit are so lively and sharp, it’s really something to behold."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Strange Files of Fremont Jones

This is the first book in a mystery series set in San Francisco in the early 1900s.  It features Fremont Jones, an independent young woman who leaves home and moves, on her own, across the country in order to avoid being railroaded into a marriage that she doesn't want.  She possesses a college education, and she sets herself up in her own business, doing typing work for local businesses.

Things aren't easy, and money is tight, and she feels rather isolated.  But she has a kind landlady, and there is a mysterious but attractive lodger residing in her boarding house.  She becomes friends with a charming, handsome young lawyer.  Then her life grows complicated when a distinguished, elderly Chinese gentleman comes into her office to dictate an important letter, and subsequently dies.  It seems the letter was important, but she cannot remember what was in it.  And a very strange young man, a writer who idolizes Edgar Allen Poe, leaves her his handwritten manuscript to type up, assuring her that it is all true.  His stories are deeply disturbing - and more disturbing still when Fremont discovers that there are indeed kernels of truth in the macabre, Poesque stories.

This is a promising start to a new mystery series.  I love Fremont's independent nature and her determination to live her life according to the ideals she's set for herself.  She doesn't always make the best choices, but she is young and inexperienced, and she certainly learns from her mistakes.  I was sad to learn that there are only six books in this series, and as the most recent one was published nearly ten years ago, I imagine that is all there will be.  Still, I look forward to reading the rest of these.  Fans of Anne Perry's historical mysteries and Y.S. Lee's Agency series would be sure to enjoy this series as well.

Books in the Fremont Jones series:
1. The Strange Files of Fremont Jones
2. Fire and Fog
3. The Bohemian Murders
4. Emperor Norton's Ghost
5. Death Train to Boston
6. Beacon Street Morning 

The Strange Files of Fremont Jones (#1 in the Fremont Jones series) by Dianne Day (Bantam, 1996)

Source:  My local public library 

Also reviewed at:
Books That I Have Read"Fun and entertaining read of a woman who is trying to make a life for herself without a man."
Lisons & Dansons:  "The elements of the book didn't quite fit together."
LiterariLeigh:  "I went ahead and judged the book by it's cover (and great title!) and was rewarded with a delightful and easy read featuring the spirited and independent Fremont Jones." 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cast in Courtlight

In this sequel to Cast in Shadow, the first book in the Chronicles of Elantra, our heroine Kaylin finds herself in some fairly deep water.  She is pushed by outside forces in exactly the direction that her superiors do not want her to go.  Places like the Barrani High Court, where she is beyond their protection, and where she will face unimaginable dangers.

Kaylin is a member of the Hawks, one of several military guard units, and while some of her skills make her extremely effective, she has always been incredibly stubborn about certain things - like learning magic.  She is a recalcitrant student, but the runes and markings on her arms, while undecipherable to those around her, bear a power that she needs to learn to control.  She finally has a teacher who is more than a match for her stubbornness, but her lessons have barely begun before she is flung into a dire situation where she can count on no one but herself.

I adore this world of Elantra, where several distinct races coexist, more or less peacefully. Sagara has created such a complex world, taking pains to make each race's culture so otherworldly that we share Kaylin's confusion and surprise as she discovers astonishing things about people she's been living and working with but never fully understood.  Kaylin can be a difficult protagonist, a bit self-involved and irresponsible, but she is also courageous and willing to make sacrifices, as dedicated to using her gift of healing as she is to avoid learning other forms of magic.  She and her childhood friend Severn, introduced in the first book, spend some welcome time together here, and I enjoyed seeing them navigate their relationship in the light of events that happened in the previous book.

This is now officially among my favorite fantasy series - tight writing, intricate world-building, complex and highly sympathetic characters, plot twists, humor, and storylines that keep me guessing and turning the pages.  The world of Elantra is very complicated, and much is explained in the first book that is only touched on in this one, so I strongly recommend (as usual) reading the books in order.

Books in the Chronicles of Elantra:
1. Cast in Shadow
2. Cast in Courtlight
3. Cast in Secret
4. Cast in Fury
5. Cast in Silence
6. Cast in Chaos  

Cast in Courtlight (#2 in the Chronicles of Elantra) by Michelle Sagara (Luna, 2006)

Source:  My local public library 

Also reviewed at:
Beyond Books: "Why am I enjoying this series if each book has managed to confuse me so much? I have no idea. I guess because the writing is great and I adore the characters."
Elizabeth Shack"The secondary characters are great, however, and the plot was adequately twisty, and there's a lot of humor — nice sarcastic humor — and did I mention all the random cool bits?"
Today's Adventure:  "Love the story and characters, just wish I could figure out exactly how it ended..." 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Definitely Dead

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  it really bugs me when short stories about series characters contain pivotal actions that involve subsequent books in the series - particularly when no mention is made, in an introduction, for example, that points out the fact.  Why, oh why, couldn't they mention that readers might want to check out the story "One Word Answer," which appeared in the anthology Bite?  I spent some confused moments wondering if I'd somehow missed a book in the series somewhere along the line.  Finally I gave up and just went with it, and in the end it wasn't a huge deal - but I just don't like feeling out of the loop.

Now that that's off my chest, I will tell you that I did enjoy this sixth installment in the Southern Vampire mystery series.  My favorite series involve characters that change and grow through the series as a whole, and when the characters are compelling, the mystery itself isn't why I'm reading the book - so if it's fairly simple, as it is in this one, I don't really mind.

There are several mysteries here: one involves someone taking potshots at shifters, and Sookie's brother Jason is suspected of being involved.  Another involves the vampire Queen of Louisiana, who has agreed to a marriage with another powerful vampire - but it appears war may result if Sookie can't use her telepathy to help the Queen locate a missing engagement gift.  There's a new(ish) love interest here, and some interesting characters are introduced, including a witch who may turn out to be a friend to Sookie.  Some things didn't quite gel for me - such as the motivation of the Queen to even consider an alliance with the man she's engaged to - it simply never felt very believable.  Even so, this was another enjoyable, gripping installment in Sookie's exciting life, and I am certainly looking forward to more.  I continue to enjoy Johanna Parker's skillful narration of these stories, and I intend to listen to the rest of the series because it's just so much more fun that way.

Books in the Southern Vampire/Sookie Stackhouse series:
1. Dead Until Dark
2. Living Dead in Dallas
3. Club Dead
4. Dead to the World
5. Dead as a Doornail
6. Definitely Dead
7. Altogether Dead
8. From Dead to Worse
9. Dead and Gone
10. A Touch of Dead (short stories)
11. Dead in the Family

12. Dead Reckoning (2012) 

Source: My local public library

Definitely Dead (#6 in the Southern Vampire/Sookie Stackhouse series) by Charlaine Harris; narrated by Johanna Parker (Recorded Books, 2006)

Also reviewed at:
Ashley's Library:  "I also have to say that Sookie Stackhouse with a stun gun is not only hilarious, but also reminds me so much of Stephanie Plum from the Janet Evanovich books that I had to re-read it!"
Fyrefly's Book Blog:  "All in all, it was a fast and thoroughly enjoyable light read, which is what I’ve come to expect from the series."
Rhapsody in Books:  "This book is a must-read for fans of the series, since the truth comes out about all sorts of aspects of the plot."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wowbrary!


So check this out!  There is a new e-newsletter that you can sign up for - it's free - to find out what books your local public library (in the U.S.) has ordered during the past week.  It's called Wowbrary, and I think it's a wonderful idea - just pop on over to their website.  The caveat here is that your library must participate in the program, and happily, mine just joined up!  Just enter your zipcode to see if your library is a participant.

My first newsletter arrived, and even though I work at the library, there were some goodies on there that definitely would have escaped my attention.  I hate when that happens, and I end up at the bottom of a massive waiting list!  Not anymore, though.  One of the books that I put on hold is Scumble - the sequel to Savvy by Ingrid Law.  I hadn't even realized there was a sequel in the works.  Aren't libraries just the best?

The Haunted House

For my second R.I.P. Challenge read, I grabbed this slim volume, The Haunted House by Charles Dickens, from my bookshelf.  I can't even remember where I picked this up, but I do recall setting it aside to read during this time of the year.  I've read just about every novel by Dickens, but this was one I'd never seen before.  I hadn't examined it very closely, so I was a little surprised (given the single byline on the cover) to find it contains several stories by other authors, nestled within a larger story authored by Dickens.  I was also interested to discover that the work was written as one of Dickens' popular Christmas tales - even though it has little to do with the holiday other than the story taking place in December.

At any rate, I adored the opening portion of the book.  Dickens is such a skillful writer, and I have always loved his sense of humor, particularly the subtle way he has of poking fun of things just a little, here and there, as he tells his story.  And yes, at times he's not subtle at all - but that is fun, too.  Our hero is a young man who has been advised to spend some time in the country to improve his health. He decides to rent a house that is said to be haunted, mostly because he seems to want to debunk the idea, but the servants are so hysterically frightened of every little thing about the place, that the narrator and his sister decide to let them all go, and instead invite their friends to stay for the holidays.  They will take care of the house themselves, and perhaps the truth about the haunting will come to light.

Their friends agree to come, and it is decided that they will not discuss any unusual events they witness during the course of their stay.  On Twelfth Night, though, they will gather together and each tell the group about their experiences.  Each guest tells a story, and each of these stories is written by a different contemporary of Dickens - and in addition to the introduction and the conclusion of the book, Dickens has contributed a story of his own.  The authors of the tales are Hesba Stretton, George Augustus Sala, Adelaide Anne Procter, Wilkie Collins, and Elizabeth Gaskell.

I had expected to find traditional ghost stories collected here, but instead I found stories about ghosts of an altogether different kind - stories, for the most part, that made me sit back and think them over in the light of what it means to be haunted.  I enjoyed some more than others, as is typical with a collection of tales - but what an interesting collection of stories they were: happy, distressing, moving, suspenseful, dreamlike.  In the end I certainly did not feel as though I'd been shivering over creepy stories, but there were elements to these tales that will definitely linger in my mind. 

The Haunted House by Charles Dickens and others (Hesperus Press, 2002; originally published in 1859)

Source: My own personal copy

Click here for a free e-version of this book!

Also reviewed at:

Fleur Fisher Reads"This was a fun read over a couple of dark winter evenings and, though it isn’t Dickens at his best, it is still a lovely Victorian curio."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Year of the Griffin

This sequel to The Dark Lord of Derkholm takes place eight years after the closing events of the first novel, and the protagonist here is the Wizard Derk's daughter Elda, who happens to be an enormous golden griffin.  After increasingly dire mishaps involving her growing magical abilities, she travels to the Wizards' University and enrolls as a student there.

In the years since the tourists stopped coming to their world (as told in the first book), wizardry has stagnated.  The teachers, so accustomed to teaching students what they would need to know to navigate the pitfalls of the tours, haven't changed the curriculum, and the students decide to do some outside learning when the coursework is unhelpful as emergencies arise - such as a bunch of assassins sent in to kill one of Elda's friends.  Elda and her fellow students might bring a breath of fresh air into the University - but powerful magic combined with inexperience leads to some unexpected - and very funny - results.

This was a delightful read from beginning to end, as usual with books by Diana Wynne Jones, one of my hands-down favorite authors.  There is a large cast of characters, but each one is so interesting and distinct that I never had any trouble telling them apart.  I suppose it would have been nice to get to know them a little better than we were able to, given that so much was going on at once, involving so many different characters - but one can always hope for future books set in this world.  There are always surprises in Jones's books, with leaps of imagination that are a joy to behold.  Lovers of magic school stories will be sure to enjoy this book, as well as fantasy lovers in general.  My library shelves this in the YA section, but I think it would definitely appeal to adult readers, too.

Year of the Griffin (sequel to The Dark Lord of Derkholm) by Diana Wynne Jones (Greenwillow Books, 2000)

Source: My local public library

Also reviewed at:
The Good, the Bad and the Bookish:  "As always the characters are finely drawn and engaging, the plot is twisty but intelligible, and the writing is threaded with humour and wit."
Someone's Read It Already"Overall, it’s as if Ms. Jones set out to hit a home run, and accidentally got a ground-rule double instead. Definitely good, definitely useful, definitely upping her batting average, but not quite a home run."
VioletReads"This book feels like a cross between the Harry Potter books and Terry Pratchett's Unseen University characters, and it is once again incredibly good-natured; you can't help but liking almost all the characters."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Spy in the House

Twelve-year-old orphan Mary Quinn is whisked away from a death sentence at the gallows for being a thief, and instead is given a second chance by some most unusual women.  She attends their school, and upon graduation possesses the skills - not to mention the charming manners required of women in Victorian society - to find employment.  But to her surprise she discovers that the women who run the school are also running a secret agency of women spies.  She is invited to join their ranks, and she jumps at  the opportunity.

Her first assignment is as a lady's companion to the daughter of a wealthy merchant suspected of insurance fraud.  She is merely to observe and report anything of pertinence she discovers; as she is a new and inexperienced operative, she is not to pry or do any active investigating.  Of course Mary has other ideas about that, and soon she finds herself in a tight spot indeed.

This was a highly enjoyable debut in what is doubtless to be an entertaining mystery series for teens (and some of us YA-book-loving adults as well).  The book explores an aspect of this time period of London (I won't go into the specifics here, as there are potential spoilers) that is rarely mentioned in historical novels, which was a refreshing - and educational - change.  I was a little disappointed that the school Mary attends is more of a finishing school, rather than a dedicated institution (like the Gallagher Academy) whose main goal is to teach girls the necessary skills to become expert operatives).  It seems as though Mary's training is going to be on the job, and I found it rather unbelievable that with so little actual training the agency heads would allow Mary to be placed into a position where she was so isolated and unsupported.  That is a minor quibble, though - I adore the premise, and I found Mary to be an engaging heroine, and I very much look forward to her future adventures.

Books in The Agency series:
1. A Spy in the House
2. The Body at the Tower

A Spy in the House (#1 in The Agency series) by Y.S. Lee (Candlewick Press, 2010)

Source:  My local public library

Also reviewed at:
One Librarian's Book Reviews:  "The setting and the time period in this book simply glowed! Not to mention, I really like Mary, a tough heroine who made the transition from street thief to educated woman beautifully."
Wondrous Reads"By the time I reached the end of Mary's story, I was entertained, surprised, and looking forward to the second book in the series."
The YA YA YAs"My main criticism of A Spy in the House is the surfeit of expository dialogue in the early chapters, especially Chapter One. Otherwise, I very much enjoyed the book, so much so that this is one of the increasingly few times I’m actually excited that a book is the first in a series."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Red Heart of Memories

I can tell you right now that this is going to be one of my favorite books of the year.  I don't know what it is about Nina Kiriki Hoffman's books that makes me adore them so much.  Part of it is the characters - they are so quirky and interesting, and I love spending time in their world.  Part of it is the magic, how it works, how it's a part of ordinary everyday life and seems so believable - but it's unusual, not the same old kind of things that are typically found in urban fantasy novels.  And part of it, most definitely, is her skillful storytelling.  I kept wondering, as with the best stories, What happens next?  And unlike so many novels, what happened next was always interesting and unexpected.


This book was written before A Stir of Bones, but it takes place after the events recounted there.  I read A Stir of Bones first, which worked out well, but any order would work.  The story centers on a a young woman named Matt, short for Matilda, who has an unusual ability to hear and communicate with man-made objects.  This ability has driven her to a marginalized place in society, in which she wanders around, homeless, but she finds a sort of peace in it, listening to objects, and sometimes helping them out.  The book opens as Matt is sitting on a bench in a cemetery when something strange happens.  A man steps out of the ivy-covered stone wall next to her.

Matt is understandably startled and a bit frightened, but she speaks with the man, shares some of her sandwich with him.  It isn't his strangeness that starts her running away; it's the fact that he is kind, and that she finds herself liking him.  She doesn't allow herself to come close to people anymore, but there's something about Edmund that gets under her skin.  When she calms down enough to spend some time with him, it seems as though they've been brought together for some kind of purpose.  They start off together on a journey full of revelation and, perhaps, the possibility of redemption.

The pace is leisurely; things reveal themselves slowly and take their own time, just as Matt's developing relationship with Edmund does.  I enjoyed that.  Breakneck roller-coaster plots are fun, but so is a delicious unveiling of a story, full of sensuous details and an offbeat, quirkiness that kept me smiling and turning the pages.  I love Matt's "dream eyes," which she uses to view the world around her and commune with objects.  As someone who secretly believes her car has a personality and thought processes of its own, I immensely enjoyed Matt's conversations with Edmund's car.  It was also delightful to return to the House from A Stir of Bones - it is definitely one of my favorite houses in literature - or should I say one of my favorite ghosts?

What a wonderful book!  I was so sorry when it was over.  There is apparently a sequel, Past the Size of Dreaming, which I received as a gift along with this book.  Sadly, my library does not own either - but I'm so glad I own them, because I already know I will be reading this again.  The world in this book is one that I look forward to returning to.  I love the poetic writing, the vivid imagery, and the way in which Hoffman manages to make the inexplicable plain and believable.  Fans of Charles de Lint would definitely enjoy this one.

A Red Heart of Memories by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (Ace Books, 1999)

Source:  My own personal bookshelf

Also reviewed at:
Book Log:  "Big ole fangirl. Like it so much I can hardly talk about it."
The Good, the Bad, and the Unread"I like this kind of urban fantasy. I don’t need kick-ass chicks who fight bad guys without ruining their nail polish. I just need a quiet sense of wonder and some small, personal magic in order to make the story one I’ll enjoy."
Kristi's Cup of Tea:  "It was very real. But somehow it lost focus somewhere half way through."

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Sandman: Fables and Reflections

What better way to begin this year's R.I.P. Challenge reads than with an installment in Neil Gaiman's amazing Sandman series?  I am reading them - slowly, to make them last as long as possible - in order, and I've been saving up this one for some atmospheric autumn reading. 

This fifth Sandman collection consists mainly of standalone stories, although several of them build upon events that occurred in earlier volumes.  I love both the single stories as well as those that continue the overarching storyline, so I'm easy to please.  There stories here are mostly historical (one is set during the time of the French Revolution, for example; one is set in ancient Rome during the reign of Emperor Augustus; another takes place Greece, and so on) but there is at least one modern-day one, and all have that fantastical, mythical feel that I've come to expect and enjoy.

We follow the adventures of a napping toddler, a conflicted emperor, a brokenhearted widower, and an Arabian ruler.  We witness the games the Endless play, as Despair provokes her brother, Dream, with a bet he knows better than to accept but somehow can't help himself.  I love how the Endless travel in and out of time, from nineteenth-century San Francisco to the time of the Greek gods and goddesses, and I love the way the stories are reflections of the archetypes the Endless represent, yet human nature, despite the epoch, never really changes.  These are stories that resonate with mythology and folklore, with characters so realistic that, no matter the era they inhabit, they feel real and immediate to me.  These are books I know I will read over and over again, and each time I will notice something different, catch an allusion I missed before, and, depending on what's going on in my life, I will see certain things in a completely different light. 

Books in the Sandman series:
1. Preludes & Nocturnes (collects The Sandman #1-8)
2. The Doll's House (collects The Sandman #9-16)
3. Dream Country (collects The Sandman #17-20)
4. Season of Mists (collects The Sandman #21-28)
5. A Game of You (collects The Sandman #32-37)
6. Fables and Reflections (collects The Sandman #29- 1, #38-40, #50, Sandman Special #1 and Vertigo Preview #1)
7. Brief Lives (collects The Sandman #41-49)
8. World's End (collects The Sandman #51- 56)9. The Kindly Ones (collects The Sandman #57-69)
10. The Wake (collects The Sandman #70-75)



The Sandman: Fables and Reflections (#6 in the Sandman series) by Neil Gaiman (DC Comics, 1993)

Source:  My local public library

Also reviewed at:
Graphic Novels, Comics and Mangas:  ""Ramadan" is just pure genius. The collection would be worth its price if only that one story were in it. "Fear of Falling" is another highlight, although no one ever mentions it."
The Wertzone:  "For my money, it may be the best of the Sandman collections; certainly some of the stories in here qualify as among the very best things Neil Gaiman has ever written."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Undead and Uneasy


Betsy, Queen of the Undead, returns in this sixth installment of the humorous series that is a mix of fantasy, chic lit, and mystery.  I'd been wavering about whether or not to continue the series, because the last one or two seemed a little repetitive and lacking in direction, so I decided to try an audiobook instead.

I listened for an hour or so before I lost patience and clicked on a different book in my iPod queue.  But I came back, and after a while I did find myself becoming more interested in the story.  I wasn't sure if it was the narrator whose voice made Betsy sound whinier than usual and even more self involved, or if that was just the book.  The book starts out with her obsessing over her wedding plans to Sinclair, the vampire king.  As far as he's concerned, they're already married, but he is humoring her wedding obsession, more or less.

Betsy is so into her wedding and her own concerns that she doesn't realize that one by one, all her friends and companions are absenting themselves from her life, and it isn't until she is completely isolated that she begins to suspect what's going on.  Her fiance has disappeared; her best friend is extremely ill, in the hospital; the house, usually full of guests, many of them uninvited and unwanted, as far as Betsy is concerned, is empty; she argues with family members, alienating them from her.  And during this time Betsy is complaining, full of self-pity, and amazingly unmotivated to find out what is going on.

The whole thing seems very dragged out, and I think this would have made a much better short story or novella.  Don't get me wrong - it did have some very funny moments, which I enjoyed, and a few interesting new characters were introduced.  But I just never found myself anxious to get back to the action when I put the book down.  The mystery didn't turn out to be very interesting in the end, and it didn't seem as though anything or anyone had changed or grown by the end of the book.

I'm not sure if I'll continue with this series.  Does anyone out there continue to love these books?  Does the series have a purposeful direction?  Should I keep going?  I'd love to know what you think.

Davidson, MaryJanice - Queen Betsy series
1. Undead and Unwed
2. Undead and Unemployed
3. Undead and Unappreciated
4.
Undead and Unreturnable
5.
Undead and Unpopular

6.
Undead and Uneasy
7. Undead and Unworthy
8. Undead and Unwelcome

9. Undead and Unfinished 

Undead and Uneasy by MaryJanice Davidson; narrated by Nancy Wu (Recorded Books, 2007)

Source:  E-audiobook downloaded via my local public library

Also reviewed at:
 Best Fantasy Stories:  "I really wanted to like this book more but I just couldn’t get past the heroine’s tendency to plod along oblivious to the people and events around her."
My Love Affair with Books:  "Against all odds, I enjoyed this book. There were some genuinely funny moments. Though the book's brand of humour is not really meant for me , it was still more fun than the 5th."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ballad



This sequel to Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception switches the focus from Deidre to her good friend James, another gifted musician.  Typically it takes me a little while to accept a transition from one POV character another in a series, and I tend to do so a bit reluctantly.  But with James, I was in from the beginning.  I loved him in Lament, so I was more than happy to spend some quality time with him.

His narration switches back and forth with a new character's, a faerie named Nuala, who is complex and interesting and very, very dangerous, particularly to skillful musicians like James.  Dee is still present in the story, and we get snippets from her point of view in the form of text messages she writes but does not send to James, a technique that I found didn't work so well for me.  It seemed not quite believable that she would pull so far away from James like that and cease confiding in him, after everything they went through in the first book.  Her motive of keeping him safe didn't seem wholly believable to me - it felt more like the annoying withholding information gimmick that too many novels seem to use to hinge everything on.

However, that is a minor quibble.  I loved this book!  It takes place at a private school for musicians.  James has applied there so he can be with Dee, whom he has loved unrequitedly since the first book.  The school doesn't have much to offer him - he is a music prodigy, and there are no bagpipe teachers that can really teach him anything more.  He doesn't mind - he just wants to be near Dee.  However, as Dee withdraws from him, he finds himself in the company of Nuala, and she has plans for him that he finds incredibly tempting.  To complicate matters, there is the music he hears coming from the woods every day near twilight, an unearthly, compelling melody that sings of the dead.  It calls to him.

James's voice, his wit and sense of humor, and his intense emotions all pull the story along.  It increases in tension and pace as the plot progresses.  The Celtic mythology and the other-worldliness of Faerie make for an evocative setting and fascinating interplay among characters with very different cultural backgrounds.

I found Dee's character to be disturbing, though.  It was as though she's become a different person in this book.  In my review of Lament, I wrote:
It was refreshing to see a protagonist so infatuated with someone, yet still able to maintain her sense of self; Deirdre is strong on her own because of who she is, not because of who she is when she's with Luke. 
It feels to me as though Dee is a completely different character in this book, weak and self-deluding, withdrawn and even a little mentally unbalanced.  I had the impression from the first book that she is a survivor, and I didn't like seeing her so diminished in this book.

At any rate, I highly enjoyed this novel, and I think fans of Holly Black, Melissa Marr and Charles de Lint would enjoy it as well.  It is best to read Lament first, though, because it contains the entire set-up for Ballad.

Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie (sequel to Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception) by Maggie Stiefvater (Flux, 2009)

Source:  My local public library

Also reviewed at:
Angieville"Ballad is a love letter to James fans. Period. If you liked yon lanky, loquacious lad before you will fall head over heels in love with him in this installment."
Jen Robinson's Book Page:  "Reading Ballad is like being somehow in the middle of a complex dance between two talented, occasionally unpredictable partners."
The Well-Read Child:  "As I've come to expect with Maggie Stiefvater's works, Ballad is beautifully written. The plot is fast-paced and heart-pounding up to the end, and Stiefvater has a way for making you truly care for all of the characters you're supposed to care for..."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Case of the Missing Marquess

This is the first book of the wonderful Enola Holmes series, which I adore.  I first read this before I started book blogging, so while I've reviewed all the others in the series, I've never written about this one.  I read it to my 9- and 11-year-old girls over the summer, and it was a definite hit with both of them.  And as I'd just finished the final book of the series, it was fun to go back and read the first one.  And I have to say, it held up very well - all the clues are there, back in the very first book, that lead to the final reveal in the sixth book, and it all fits together quite nicely.

In this book we are introduced to Enola Holmes, the much, much younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes.  She barely knows either of her brothers; she lives on a secluded estate with her mother, a progressive woman who has raised Enola to be an independent thinker.

When her mother disappears into thin air - on Enola's birthday, of all days - Enola finds herself faced with some dreadful changes in her life.  Mycroft has been appointed as Enola's guardian, and as both of her older brothers are dismayed by her lack of ladylike sensibilities, they determine to send her to a private girls' boarding school.  Enola has no intention of being locked up in a horrid school, and she travels to London in disguise in order to discover the truth about her mother's disappearance.

This book is in many ways a setup for the rest of the series, as it introduces the larger mystery that comprises a story arc that runs throughout all the books.  But it also contains a separate mystery that does have a definite conclusion, which makes it a satisfying read while leaving enough unresolved issues to make readers eager to reach for the next book.  I am a huge fan of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, and I am very happy with the way Springer has treated my beloved characters.  This mystery should appeal to young readers who enjoy historical fiction, adventure stories, mysteries and puzzles - and adult fans of Holmes would likely enjoy this series as well.  I know it's become one of my favorites (although I am a huge fan of the Mary Russell series as well).

Books in the Enola Holmes series:
1. The Case of the Missing Marquess
2.
The Case of the Left-Handed Lady
3.
The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets
4. The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan

5. The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline
6. The Case of the Gypsy Goodbye


The Case of the Missing Marquess (#1 in the Enola Holmes series) by Nancy Springer (Philomel Books, 2006)

Source: My own personal copy

Also reviewed at:
Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog:  "I really enjoyed this book. It’s really more of a set-up for the rest of a series that an encompassing first novel, but I liked reading about Enola finding out useful things about herself, like how she’s good at disguises and finding things and other generally exciting detective-like traits."
Bookshelves of Doom:  "Enola herself is bright, courageous, stubborn and sees the ridiculousness of the Way Things Are Done* -- all qualities I love in a heroine -- and I'm DYING to read the other books in the series."
Jen Robinson's Book Page:  "The Case of the Missing Marquess is a quick but atmospheric read, with a protagonist strong enough to carry a longer-running series."
Kinnie's Korner (my daughter's book blog):  "I loved this book a lot."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Guards! Guards!

This series just keeps getting better and better!  I'd heard a lot of great things about this one, so I was a bit worried the hype might make it disappointing.  Of course I needn't have been concerned.

This book introduces some new characters, including Carrot, a very tall dwarf who journeys to Ankh-Morpork to join the City Watch.  He is under the impression that the Watch is a respected,effective crime-fighting force dedicated to keeping the streets of the city safe and peaceful.  In reality, it is composed of a rather motley crew and led by the drunk, embittered Captain Vimes.  Carrot, however, is very enthusiastic and takes the laws of the city very literally - which is immensely entertaining.

Meanwhile, a mysterious secret brotherhood, after stealing a certain book from the library of the wizards' university library, begin performing rites that have dramatic and shocking results.  As the plot thickens, Captain Vimes, the quintessential film noir detective, finds himself determined to solve a baffling mystery, with the help of Carrot and his disheveled group of Watchmen. 

In the earlier books of the Discworld series, Pratchett had great fun lampooning fantasy fiction, and here he takes on the mystery, and he does it with style and humor - but never at the expense of his characters, who are very real, complex, and immensely sympathetic.  I adore the Unseen University librarian, of course - he was turned into an orangutan in one of the earlier books, and decided to stay that way because it suits him.  He is not pleased about the theft of one of his books - and it is never a good idea to cross an orangutan - or a librarian, come to think of it. There are many other wonderful characters - and even the antagonists are wonderful in their own immensely interesting way - and the book is a delight to read from beginning to end.

It can be overwhelming to contemplate reading a series with as many books in it as the Discworld series, but the great thing about it is that it contains mini series within the many books.  This is the first of the Watch books, and it is a great place to start reading, for those who are interested in giving the series a try.

There are always so many quotable passages in Terry Pratchett's novels, but I will try to restrain myself and leave you with only a few:

People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."
People were stupid, sometimes. They thought the Library was a dangerous place because of all the magical books, which was true enough, but what made it really one of the most dangerous places there could ever be was the simple fact that it was a library.
The three rules of the Librarians of Time and Space are: 1) Silence; 2) Books must be returned no later than the date last shown; and 3) Do not interfere with the nature of causality.

And last but not least, the motto of the City Watch:  FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC.

Books in the Discworld series:
1. The Color of Magic
2. The Light Fantastic
3. Equal Rites
4. Mort
5. Sourcery
6. Wyrd Sisters
7. Pyramids
8. Guards, Guards
9. Eric
10. Moving Pictures
11. Reaper Man
12. Witches Abroad
13. Small Gods
14. Lords and Ladies
15. Men at Arms
16. Soul Music
17. Interesting Times
18. Maskerade
19. Feet of Clay
20. Hogfather
21. Jingo
22. The Last Continent
23. Carpe Jugulum
24. The Fifth Elephant
25. The Truth
26. The Thief of Time
27. The Last Hero
28. Nightwatch
29. Monstrous Regiment
30. Going Postal
31. Thud
32. Making Money

33. Unseen Academicals


Guards! Guards! (#8 in the Discworld series) by Terry Pratchett; narrated by Nigel Planer (Random House Audio Books, 2007)

Source: Audiobook purchased from Audible.com

Also reviewed at:
A Book a Week:  "Like anything I've read by Pratchett so far, the truth is revealed in such a careful, imaginative way that I was both awed and thrilled. There are moments of catharsis in this novel that any fiction I've read would be hard pressed to match, and yet I never felt overly manipulated."
Novel Reaction:  "Sam Vimes is my favorite Discworld character, winner of a close competition since Discworld also has Death (who speaks in all caps), luggage (a vicious protector of owner and property) and Moist von Lipwig (the greatest con-man who ever lived)."
The Wertzone:  "Guards! Guards! is Terry Pratchett's tribute to detective novels and all those hapless extras dressed in chainmail whose only job in films is to run into the grand hall and get cut down by the hero."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

It's time for the R.I.P. Challenge!

I'm actually rather late posting this, but what with the first week of school for my kids, and trying to get back into the school-year routine, I haven't had a chance to gather my thoughts and make plans for some fun, spooky reading.  As always, many thanks to Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings for hosting this fun challenge once again.  This is the fifth year in a row that he's hosted it, and this will be my fourth year participating.

One thing I love about Carl's challenges is that he offers different options for completing the challenge.  For those who aren't quite sure about reading horror or dark fantasy, there is Peril the Third, which involves reading only one book.  There's a Short Story Peril, for fans of short fiction, and even a brand new Peril this year: Peril on the Screen, for the scary movie lovers out there.

I will start out with Peril the First, which involves reading four supernatural, horror, thriller, suspense, Gothic or dark fantasy books, and we'll see what else I can manage to do.  I usually don't plan too far ahead for reading challenges, but I do have a few books in mind.

Last year I decided to involve my children in the challenge, and we read one of my favorite books from my childhood, The Ghost in the Swing by Janet Patton Smith, which we all loved.  I ordered a book by that same author that I've never read, called The Twisted Room.  We've been waiting for R.I.P. time to read it, so that's next on our list as soon as we've finished our current read.  If we have time, I might also read them All the Lovely Bad Ones, one of my favorite ghost stories by Mary Downing Hahn.

I also received Tales of Terror from the Black Ship by Chris Priestly for Christmas last year (I put it on my wish list after I read Carl's review), and it's been waiting patiently for R.I.P. all this time.  Other books that have been on my list for a while include Tamsin by Peter Beagle,  Curse of the Bane by Joseph Delaney, The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding, and The House on Trad Street by Karen White.  Any thoughts any of you have on these would be welcome!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown

That food-loving crime fighter, the Lunch Lady, returns in this, the fourth installment of the creative and very funny graphic novel series.  This time we leave the familiar setting of the school building and head for the countryside, to cabins, lakes, campfires and -- the swamp monster!

Hector, Terrence and Dee are all going to camp, and they are interested to see Lunch Lady and Betty arrive there, too.  The kids are, of course, hoping for a fun and exciting time, but Lunch Lady and Betty are looking forward to some well-deserved peace and quiet.  However, the strange goings on around the camp - including apparent visits from the legendary swamp monster - put an end to any of the time off that Lunch Lady was hoping for.  When a popular counselor is attacked by the creature, the three friends are determined to help Lunch Lady any way they can.

This is another delightful addition to the Lunch Lady series.  It is just as appealing, accessible, creative and funny as the previous three installments.  Aside from the main threat of the swamp monster, the three children must also deal with unpleasant camp bullies - not to mention a dreadful lack of video games.  Lunch Lady has her usual cache of food-related crime-fighting gizmos, and it is, as always, a pleasure to witness her creative problem-solving skills in action.  The vivid illustrations are a perfect complement to the text and help to make the books very engaging and non-threatening for novice readers.  I love that these books appeal equally to male and female readers - the superhero here is a woman - hooray! - and her sidekicks are two boys and a girl.  Fun for everyone, and characters for everyone to identify with.  I will be anxiously awaiting the next installment of the Lunch Lady series - and so will my kids.  (They kept sneaking off with this when I wasn't looking, so I ended up getting to read it last!)

Here is an interview with author Jarrett Krosoczka at Literary Asylum.  Enjoy!

Books in the Lunch Lady series:

1. Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute
2. Lunch Lady and League of Librarians
3. Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta
4. Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown


Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown (#4 in the Lunch Lady series) by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010)

Source: My local public library

Also reviewed at:
Booking Mama:  "While I definitely enjoy the characters and the plots in the Lunch Lady books, I have to say that the biggest draw to me, as a parent, is that even the most reluctant readers will love these books."
Books:  "While the story is light-hearted, the novel touches on some serious and timely issues, including lying, bullying and jealousy."
Comics Worth Reading:  "Due to the lack of Lunch Lady focus and too much else going on, my favorite book in the series is still the previous, The Author Visit Vendetta, but kids who enjoy the series likely won’t have my qualms."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Innocent in Death


I am completely addicted to the audio versions of this series now - and I already know that once I've made it through to the end, I'm going to start right back at the beginning.  At the moment, though, I'm spacing them out as much as my will power allows.

In this installment of the futuristic murder mystery series, Lieutenant Eve Dallas is called to a murder scene at an exclusive private school in New York City.  The English teacher who has been killed - poisoned, it seems, by something in his lunch - seems too well loved by all those around him, colleagues and students alike, to have become a murder victim, but there it is.  Eve sorts out some likely suspects, then works at closing in on the killer before he - or she - can strike again.

She is distracted, however, by the reappearance of an old flame of her husband's.  Roarke insists that it's all over, that he feels nothing for this woman - but Eve finds herself cut to the quick by the fleeting expression in his eyes when he first sees the woman again - a look Eve's only seen in his eyes when he's looking at her.

This is another solid installment in one of my favorite series, and while Eve and Roarke's relationship issues are handled very skillfully, I found myself not enjoying the book quite as much because of the friction between them.  It made me feel like a small child whose parents are fighting, and I just wanted them to sort it out and make up, already!  Stop laughing at me.  Eve and Roarke are one of my favorite fictional couples, and while it is good to see them grow emotionally and all, I like it best when they are happy together and working toward a common goal.  I did love the book, and the mystery was a really good one, with lots of psychological drama and interesting characters.  Susan Ericksen's narration of the audiobook is brilliant, as always.  Now we'll see how long I can hold out before downloading the next book in this series...

Books in the Eve Dallas series:
1. Naked in Death
2. Glory in Death
3. Immortal in Death
4. Rapture in Death
5. Ceremony In Death
6. Vengeance in Death
7. Holiday in Death
"Midnight in Death" (in Silent Night)
8. Conspiracy in Death
9. Loyalty in Death
10. Witness in Death
11. Judgment in Death
12. Betrayal in Death
"Interlude in Death" (in Out of This World)
13. Seduction in Death
14. Reunion In Death
15. Purity in Death
16. Portrait in Death
17. Imitation in Death
Remember When (spin-off book with section featuring Eve)
18. Divided in Death
19. Visions in Death
20. Survivor
in Death
21.
Origin in Death

22. Memory in Death "Haunted in Death" (in Bump in the Night)

23. Born in Death
24. Innocent in Death
"Eternity in Death" (in Dead of Night)
25. Creation in Death
26. Strangers in Death
"Ritual in Death" (in Suite 606)
27. Salvation In Death
28. Promises in Death
29. Kindred in Death
"Missing in Death" (in The Lost)
30. Fantasy in Death

Innocent in Death (#24 in the Eve Dallas series) by J.D. Robb; narrated by Susan Ericksen (Brilliance Audio, 2007)

Source: My local public library

Also reviewed at:
 I Just Finished Reading...:  "I will probably always be a fan of this series and as long as JD Robb keeps writing them, I'll keep reading."
Playing Many Parts:  "Innocent in Death is a who-done-it murder mystery with just enough romance thrown in to keep it interesting and personal."
Sherri's Thoughts and Ramblings:  "I'm not sure if WOW sums up effectively the reactions and feelings this book brought out of me. This installment so far has to be the most shocking out of the entire series."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The great mouse rescue!

We had some fun excitement during this past Labor Day weekend while visiting some friends out in Virginia's beautiful Shenandoah Valley.  We always take our dog, who is friends with our friends' dog, and they love lounging with us in the shade by the pool.  They were delighted when they spotted a tiny little field mouse huddled beneath the umbrella stand, and there was stand-off for a while as they stared at each other.  My children and their friends were delighted, too, and got out the camera to try to take a picture.  But unfortunately it was too dark under the umbrella stand to make out any of the images they shot.

Finally the poor little critter couldn't take it any longer and made a run for it.  The dogs went bounding after it, thrilled with this exciting development in an otherwise dull morning.  The mouse was fast but misjudged the distance it would have to go, and when one of the dogs was suddenly there, blocking the intended escape route, the mouse fell into the pool.


Its tiny front paws were a blur as it paddled frantically along the edge of the pool, the dogs barking and bounding alongside.  The girls were trying to grab the dogs and didn't know what to do about the mouse, and we were all worried that it would get sucked into the filter basket as it swam closer and closer to it.  Luckily there was a purple styrofoam noodle float nearby, and the rough texture offered the perfect surface for little mouse claws to cling to.  My youngest daughter snapped a few photos of our little survivor, and then we let it go in the brush on the other side of the pool fence.  The dogs, clueless, continued poking and sniffing around every possible mouse hiding place around that pool for the rest of the day.


I love this final photo!  Doesn't it look like a manga mouse?  I wonder if any of its friends believed it when it got back home and said, "You'll never believe what happened to me today..."

Ash

 I had no idea what this book was about when I first opened it - and only a vague idea why I'd put it on hold at my library.  Presumably I read a review from one of your blogs and added it to my list - but since I rarely read more than the sentence or two from the cover flap - if that - I went in with no idea what to expect.  And it turned out that was a fabulous way to become drawn into this story.

It didn't take more than a few pages for me to realize that this is a retelling of the Cinderella story.  And I must admit that I was a tad disappointed when I first understood that, fearing it would be trotting out the same old story to the usual inevitable conclusion, as it's been done so many times before.  Soon, though, I became interested in Ash's unique personality and the unusual relationship she has with what appears to be a faery, menacing or beneficent - it's hard to tell.

Then the story veers away from the expected, with a delightful twist and a change of direction that I thoroughly enjoyed.  I found this to be a welcome addition to my favorite fairytale retellings.  The language was lyrical and evocative, with a definite once-upon-a-time feeling, but the characters are much more complex and real than their two-dimensional fairytale counterparts.  Ash's stepsisters aren't thoroughly evil and spiteful characters for simple sake of the storyline.  They can be unpleasant, but we see their shortcomings in the perspective of their own difficulties in life and how they are attempting to cope with them.  I also enjoyed the romance, the believable development of love between characters, rather than a more superficial love-at-first sight.  I look forward to reading more of Malinda Lo's work.

Ash by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown and Company, 2009)

Source:  My local public library

Also reviewed at:
Rhinoa's Ramblings:  "One of my most enjoyed books so far this year and I am so glad the cover was pretty enough to catch my eye as I might have missed it otherwise."
The Story Siren:  "What a outstanding debut novel! Malinda Lo absolutely blew me away. The writing was elegant, beautifully lyrical."
Things Mean a Lot:  "...the world of Ash is complex and fully realized. It's very much its own thing, but it reminded me of the worlds of The Goose Girl or Ella Enchanted, two of my favourite fairy tale retellings."

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dark Lover


I have been hearing so many people rave about this series that I thought it was time to give it a try.  It occurred to me as I was reading it that these "paranormal" or "urban fantasy" series seem to fall into two categories.  The first is a romance novel with trappings of the supernatural, including demons, werewolves, vampires, etc.  The second category centers on a problem or issue that involves a fantastical or supernatural element - and if that element were removed, the story would fall apart.  There is often a romantic relationship in these books as well, but the relationship is not the point of the book.  Series that I would put in this category include Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series, Karen Chance's Cassandra Palmer series, and Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire series.

I much prefer this second category, and it seems to me, judging by this first book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, Dark Lover falls into the first.  Yes, there are vampires, and there is some world building, but it felt to me that the story was mainly about bringing together two people who are destined soul mates, the woman frightened and bewildered by the supernatural circumstances, the man tortured and bitter (and of course unbelievably hot) but suddenly struck by true love.  I guess I've read this kind of thing so many times before that I didn't find it terribly compelling.

Part of the problem was that certain things kept me from getting sucked into the narrative and successfully suspending my disbelief.  One was the names of the characters, these unbelievably handsome, dangerous, and rather twisted band of vampires who make up the Black Dagger Brotherhood - they call themselves Rhage, Tohrment, Wrath (why not Wrahth, I kept wondering?), Phury, Vishous, etc.  It was hard to take them seriously as people.  The villains were uninteresting - yes, they have evil intentions, but why?  Beyond the fact that they are led by a Satanic sort of force bent on evil and destruction?  Some complexity there would have made me become more emotionally involved in the story, I think.

I haven't given much of a synopsis for this one, have I?  Well, it's about a young woman, a reporter, who is a bit of a loner.  She's amazingly gorgeous but has always been fairly uninterested in other men.  She doesn't know it, but her father was a vampire, and when she reaches a certain age, she's going to be a vampire, too.  Her father's friend Wrath finds out about her and takes on the responsibility for helping her through her transformation - but he is incredibly attracted to her, and she to him.  He already has a sort of wife, but he never cared about her anyway, and has apparently not noticed that she's been trying to be everything to him.  For the past few centuries.  Evil "lesser" vampires are bent on their destruction, and Wrath and his Black Dagger brothers must stop them.

This has a fast pace, some interesting characters, lots of romance and steamy vampire sex, and it certainly has a huge following of very enthusiastic readers.  It didn't work so well for me, though, so I think I will pass on the rest of this series.


Dark Lover (#1 in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series) by J.R. Ward (Signet Eclipse, 2005)

Source: My local public library

Also reviewed at:
Avid Book Reader: "This series is wildly pop­u­lar so, count me in the minor­ity who just didn’t 'get it'."
Love Vampires:  "I particularly liked Dark Lover because it is the start of a new vampire romance series. It is an exciting, original and well written book."
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books:  "Dark Lover is…well, I don’t know if it’s an out-and-out bad book, but it’s definitely cheesy.  The dialogue is forced and in places unbelievable, and though the action is appropriate it almost seems silly."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tsubasa, Volume 9

This ninth book in Clamp's Tsubasa series continues the search for Sakura's memories, which have been scattered in the form of feathers throughout a series of alternate worlds. As her memories return to her, Sakura has become more lively and independent, no longer the passive, often sleeping girl of the first few books.

This volume picks up the story that began in Volume 8, in which the travelers are separated upon their arrival in a new dimension. They find themselves among warring factions, each group following a deity represented by a holy statue. Because they are divided, the friends find themselves on opposing sides of the conflict, and it seems that Sakura's memory feathers are well out of reach.

I continue to enjoy this series, particularly the different dimensions the travelers discover, which so far have been based on different periods in Japan's history. This particular world, though, involves Hindu mythology, which made for an interesting backdrop for all the action. I find it fascinating to see how the challenges offered in each world reveal different aspects of the travelers' characters as they rise to meet those challenges. Syaoran's steadfast devotion to Sakura is heartwarming but bittersweet, as she will never be able to remember how much she has cared about him her whole life, even when she regains her memories. Still, I do hope for a happy ending - somehow - for this star-crossed couple. I look forward to their further adventures in the next volume of Tsubasa.

Previously reviewed volumes:
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5
Volume 6
Volume 7
Volume 8


Tsubasa, Volume 9 by Clamp (Del Rey, 2004)

Source:  My local public library

Have you reviewed this book, too? Let me know, and I'll link to your review.