Midnight Bayou by Nora Roberts

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pages: 368
Year Published:

Declan Fitzgerald gave up his life in Boston as a successful lawyer to purchase and restore an old plantation house down in swampy Lousiana. As he starts restoring the grand house to its original splendor, strange things begin occurring. Declan begins hearing the loud cries of a baby coming from his attic, and even begins having flashbacks to scenes from the house's rich past. To complicate matters, Declan has fallen in love at first sight with a local bar owner named Lena Simone, and it seems that she is also connected to what is happening in the house.

Short Thought:
A fun, quick read, but not as good as the other Nora Roberts books that I have read.

Expanded Thoughts:
So, I decided to read this after watching the Lifetime movie based on the book. The lifetime movie was pretty good. (Movie Information and I've embeded the trailer below the review) But I didn't enjoy the novel as much as the movie. (And I don't think it was just the fact that the movie had Jerry O'Connell in it.)

Let's get to it:

There are two absolute gems in this story--the beautiful setting and Lena's Cajun grandmother. The setting was portrayed richly, vibrantly, and really enhanced the story. Some of the old traditions of the region were discussed, mainly through Lena's grandmother, and the 'natives' spoke in wonderful colloquialisms. (The southerner in me rejoices). Even more than that, we are shown a sense of progression and made to really understand the rich roots of New Orleans through the flashbacks with Abby. It lends itself to this beautifully complex theme/argument whether of not people have changed in the last 100 years.

So why the low rating?

I felt that the main characters were flat compared to those in other Nora Roberts books I have read. Declan is a pig-headed, rich guy, who is very giving, and won't take no for an answer. Lena is the working class southern girl that fought to escape her crappy past and turned into a successful uber-independent woman who doesn't need anyone else. The romantic story between them was okay but was pretty lack-luster. I actually enjoyed the story between Abigail and Lucian better. It seemed more complex. To sum up, there was no real moment of tension throughout the book. It pretty much stayed at the same level throughout. Basically, It just wasn't not my taste.

I used to be one of those 'snobbies' that turned my nose up at these types of books, but now I can't wait to jump into the next Nora Roberts novel. No one should deny themselves a whole category of books, because, I tell you, I am sad that I have missed out on these for as long as I did.

Additional Thoughts:
This novel has dark themes, mild violence, and sexual situations.

Midnight Bayou Movie Trailer

Why Mermaids Sing: Sebastian St. Cyr Mysteries 3

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pages: 352
Year Published:

In London, a series of strange murders have everyone concerned. Someone is killing young sons of noblemen and mutilating the corpses in a manner that would suggest the killer is sending someone a message. Sir Henry Lovejoy grows increasingly concerned and begs the help of Viscount Devlin once again.

Short Thought:
The novel that has it all--a brilliant mystery, powerful and complex characters, a historical backdrop, and a complicated romance.

Expanded Thoughts:
Okay, I admit it. My name is Jenn and I am now a Sebastian-aholic. This series has me hooked. So let's just dive right in this review of the book that gave me my most potent literary drug.

This novel is a huge turning point in this series. The previous novels have all eluded to Sebastian's dark and troubled nature, and this novel truly brings the entire darkness. He finds himself bombarded with political scandal, deep family secrets, treason against the crown, and another unsavory dealings that span for decades in this novel. For a man that has no love for society and its curious happenings, he still finds himself broken down and closer to the dark place in which he lived during the war.

The characters are well developed and some of the best I have come across, but the true star of this book was the mystery plot. Now, don't get me wrong, the other novels in this series had great mystery plots too, but this one took my breath away. It was the first novel in a long time that for which I threw away precious sleep. (I love sleep!) Yep, I didn't sleep the whole night, but somehow I wasn't tired one bit. (Just twitching for the next novel.)


Here's the gist of the mystery: Bodies of young men are being left during the night in public parks. These young men are being killed and left in mutilated states. Sir Henry Lovejoy picks up one of the murders but is stumped at trying to develop a victimology. The victims don't fit any pattern--class, appearance, or even location of residence. The only thing that they have in common is the killer, whoever they are. Their bodies were also found with curious items stuffed in their mouths--a star cut-out, a mandrake root, and a goat's foot. Lovejoy, knowing that Sebastian can't turn away from exacting justice, persuades him to become involved. It is then that Sebastian realizes that the murderer is following an old Donne poem:

"'Go and Catch a Falling Star
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil's foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy's stinging,
And find
What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.'"

Even more important, Sebastian discovers that the killer isn't picking his victims at random as a crazed serial killer would. He is killing certain men's sons and doing it for revenge. As he races to find the common link between the victims to prevent the next murder, he begins to uncover an older and unspeakable crime that several men have kept covered for many years. The closer he gets to uncovering the old and unspeakable crime of the fathers, the more dangerous the situation becomes.

One of the most pronounced themes of this novel was FAMILY. Society suggests that family should be number one in a man's life, but as this novel clearly shows that many times those of the upper class put their name and image first. First, the fathers of the victims are willing to sacrifice their sons in order to keep their secret quiet. They won't help with the investigation. They actually try to have Sebastian killed for prying. Next, we have the case of Earl of Hendon, Sebastian's father. He is the classic case. Years ago he paid Kat to leave Sebastian which devastated him. Next, he lied to Sebastian about his mother. For years he believed that his mother was dead, but in fact Hendon has been paying her a stipend to stay away. Then the final blows comes yet again in regard to Kat. Hendon's past indiscretions have managed to tear apart his son's life completely. And it was done to protect the family name.

Let me just go off on a tangent for a moment: What a twist when Kat's past connection is revealed?! For two books, we have witnessed this loving couple be reunited and fall in love yet again. We've also seen how their love for one another never allows them be anything more than just lovers behind the scenes. When Kat's treason to the Crown is discovered by Jarvis, it seems that Sebastian has that final push to make Kat his wife. All begins falling into place, but then quickly shatters. Sebastian matrimonial announcement in the newspaper caught the attention of one of Kat's estranged relatives. Her aunt comes to visit her with news that would sever her relationship with Devlin forever. (You didn't think I was going to give it all away, did ya?)

{End of Spoilers}

As I said before, (me)+(this book)=(love, devotion, and obsession)

Seriously, if you are a fan of mysteries, adventures, or most any other genre. This series should be on your reading queue.

Additional Notes:
This contains scenes of violence and dark themes.

Crazy by Pete Earley

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

(Pete Earley)

Pages: 384
Year Published: 2007

Teaser: Pete Earley gives readers an inside and informative look at the country's current status when it comes to treating those with psychological disorders. He makes it personal with stories of his own family's battle with mental illness.

Short Thought:
Heart wrenching and powerful food for thought.

Expanded Thoughts:
{Spoilers} Crazy is very different than many of novels in the non-fiction genre with which I have been previously acquainted. It wasn't dreadfully boring, and it appealed to a wider readership instead of a more specialized audience dealing in a specific knowledge arena. Earley succeeds in this by hitting three distinctly different notes in this work. He includes the necessary statistics, figures, and research that would read as a dry news article. The presented issues are made more personal and memorable as he includes some of the background stories of various inmates and about how mental illness has affected and trapped them in the current system. Lastly, he gains the trust of the reader and ensnares our emotions and tugs at our heartstrings with the story of his son's battle with mental illness. Crazy is highly successful in bringing to our attention the “macro” issue of de-institutionalization, but portraying it in a “micro” way that is better received and remembered by readers.

The author's research portion for this novel kicks off at a high level and never really slows down its pace. Armed with firsthand knowledge of the problems with our country's current state of affairs in regards to mental health patients and a fire in his belly, Earley starts his research at the Miami-Dade County Pretrial Detention Center in South Florida. This jail is of the older inner architecture. The cells are crowded with up to fifty prisoners at any given time. He begins by shadowing the doctor in charge of the patients on the cell block as he makes his rounds for the day. When they finally reach the wing that houses the mentally ill, it becomes apparent that jails are not properly equipped to deal with these afflicted individuals. The filth is staggering, the stench is overwhelming, and the state of the prisoners is, at best, disheartening. After some figuring by Earley, he estimates that the doctor ends up spending about thirteen seconds per inmate on his rounds. It is a shocking statistic that jumps out at readers as one begins to realize the dire situation of the status quo.

The author explores many other problems with the current system, or “revolving door” as he so aptly refers to it, in a similar and equally telling fashion. He mirrors his research with stories from his own struggle with the fight for his son. These personal recollections in the novel with be the primary focus for the remainder of this paper.

Even more depressing and telling than the stories about the prison conditions was the story of the author's son, Mike, on his road from scholar to mad man and back again. Mike's descent into madness began when he was less than one year from graduating from university in Brooklyn, New York. Because of the stress of searching for a job and transitioning his life in general, he started exhibiting strange behavior and even physical sickness for no apparent reason. His parents assumed it was just normal behavior for someone at that particular stage of his life. Perhaps, it was just due to all of the stress he was under at his current stage in life. Unfortunately, they were horribly wrong. It was anything but routine and normal.

Mike's strange behavior only became worse. He began to have obsessive delusions about a classmate of his, that barely knew him, that he had to save from evil. He was even convinced they were on the verge of marriage. Mike's conversations were rapid, segmented, and made absolutely no sense anymore. For example, he was convinced that God was sending him messages, that only he could decode, on billboards and other medias. Earley got his son checked out and started him on medication, but the trouble wasn't treated that simply. Mike refused to take the pills, and then the chaos truly began as did Mike's severe symptoms of schizophrenia.

Earley runs into trouble from every direction as he fights to get his son the help he so desperately needs.. The insurance company won't allow him to be treated for more than a three day period. The laws don't make Mike take the necessary anti-psychotic medication. The police don't have proper procedures set up to deal with the mentally ill either. And if that wasn't enough, his ex-wife, Mike's mother, strongly disagrees with him as to how to deal with the young man. Unfortunately, these problems get shoved to the background when Mike, in a delusional episode, breaks into a neighbors' house and vandalizes it in order to take a bubble bath. Now, the author's son was arrested and in danger of serving jail time or even ruining his record with a felony. The situation has escalated very quickly. Mike's life could be permanently impaired if the charges stuck.

The couple whose house Mike had vandalized was vehement about on pressing charges. Earley then had to truly battle for his son's future while trying to get him court-ordered into a psychiatric program. After a long battle with the prosecutor and the victims of the break-in, Mike finally was allowed to plead no contest to two misdemeanors instead of a felony. He was placed on probation and required to attend a program which included orders to take the much-needed medication. Earley held his breathe until Mike finally remained on medication. His son eventually got a good job and gained back his independence. It was a refreshingly happy ending to a very frustrating and scary journey.

The portion of this novel that is most memorable are the six segments that make up Mike's Story. It makes it personal. It takes us knee-deep into the situation—straight through Pete Earley's eyes. Not only does the author portray, in gut-wrenching fashion, the chaos he endured, but he delivers a warning to the reader. A situation like his can truly happen to anyone. It makes it hard for anyone to push the matter aside.

It is easy to forget that Mike's story isn't a clever piece of fiction. It's real life, and it's how similar situations are dealt with around the country everyday. These and the other sections in Pete Earley's novel are indicative of a chaotic mental health care problem that is a rapidly growing Pandora's box pushing to crack open.

Though Pete Earley successfully conveys the desperate need for change in respect to this issue, and for special treatment to those with disorders in the eyes of the law, but the situation is complex and ever-evolving on both sides of the argument. It's true that the reader feels sympathy for Earley's son when he is put before the court, but one must not forget the crime he committed. His crime was minor compared to most, but it was still a crime with copious amounts of damage to the victims. Where does the line of sympathy get drawn? What if a schizophrenic kills someone because he believes they are aliens sent to destroy him? Is it really okay to give him a milder punishment just because he is ill? Where does treatment fit in with the feelings of the victim's family? What if a mentally ill man was caught taking inappropriate pictures of children in the park? Are the victims any less violated? Or if a delusional man broke into your house and smashed everything in sight? Is the damage going to cost less because the man was crazy? The questions and situations are endless, and they have equally reasonable opposing sides. Mentally ill patients need help, and people need to be able to feel safe. Perhaps, this is one question that may never have an answer supported by a majority.

When Gods Die: Sebastian St. Cyr Mysteries 2

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pages: 400 (MM Paperback)
Year Published: 2007

Teaser: At a important banquet, a noble woman is found murdered with a dagger stuck in her back. What's worse is the Regent is found in a drunken stupor next to her body. The Regent's men immediately go to work to cover up the incident. Unfortunately, Sebastian takes a personal interest in the case when he discovers that the necklace found on the corpse was the same one his mother was wearing the day of her mysterious death. He refuses to back down until he gets to the bottom of the situation no matter how much dangerous.

Short thought: A wonderful, historical mystery with powerful characters and an intricate and ever-developing plot.

Expanded thoughts: I dare say that I am slowly becoming obsessed with this series. What makes me love it? It has a great main characters, a voice that isn't geared to a gender specific audience, a great adventure filled plot, and mystery that isn't predictable in the least. It also is fun for me because I don't know anything about Victorian England. So, it's like being opened up to a new world.

As I've mentioned in other posts, I find it hard to express my thoughts without giving spoilers. And I HATE to give spoilers. (Because if you are looking for a book to read, I don't want to ruin it. Why read it if you already know what happens?) So, I'm just going to discuss one item in about this book, and then close this post out.

A new level/depth/dimension was added to this book that made it way better than the first. Sebastian now lives in a country that is on the verge of civil war. There is this underlying tension that is ever-present in this novel that effects every fiber of the characters' beings. Basically, no one can be trusted anymore. You have the supporters of the current monarchy (including the crazy, drunk, and king-to-be prime murder suspect), the supporters of the French, and those wanting revenge for Ireland (best as I can understand, a Catholic v Protestant deal). It just makes this case that Sebastian works on very sensitive and very dangerous. He can't be sure if the murder is political or personal. What's even more nail-biting is that Sebastian can't be sure of the people closest to him. Not even his beloved Kat.

This series was recommended to me, because I was trying to branch out from historical fiction centered in Asian countries. I thought that it would be okay, but not great because I hadn't studied the period that it is centered around. Well, I was wrong. I loved the first book, and this one was even better. I can't wait to start the third one.

Additional Notes
: There are scenes that contain a tad bit of descriptive gore.

The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa

Monday, August 3, 2009

Teaser: Just before the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in the early 1930s, a teenage girl is desperately trying to come into her own as she approaches adulthood. Life has great new things to offer her, but she can't seem to deny that all others that have left their childhood behind live in misery. She finds her once easy life crumbling apart and clears her head by playing Go.

A young Japanese man has just left his childhood home to join the Imperial Army. He finds himself detached from the world and surrounding by the horrors of combat. He is given just a brief glance into his old world when he begins a game of Go with a mysterious Chinese girl in the local square. She had no idea that he was just days away from, with his troop, charging a bloody path through her city.

Short Thought: Gritty account leading up into a huge event in Asian history and how it affected people from both sides of the conflict.

Expanded Thoughts: Be warned there may be minor spoilers in this section. I started writing it, and found it increasing difficult to discuss without revealing anything.

This novel was brilliant, but not for the light-hearted or those who wish to escape harsh realities. It held nothing back and made you react.

The story is told from two perspectives. First we are introduced to teenage girl going to school in Manchuria. She is a strange girl who instead of being obsessed with makeup and men loves and excels at the game of Go. Since she was a child, she could be found down in the public square besting experienced players. She frowns on the old Chinese traditions and receives a lot of crooked glances from her peers because of that.

As the story progresses, she begins to enter a little more into adulthood. She gets involved in her first relationship with an older college student, and learns the benefits and the woes that sharing your mind and body with someone brings. She becomes best friends with one of the girls at her school, and learns the blessings and worries that friends bring. All the blissful innocence of her previous life slowly fades, and she is left with a world with short lived joys and heart stopping tragedies as the situation in her country directly affects all the relationships that took her years to come into.

The second perspective in the story is that of a young Japanese soldier who leaves his mother's home to fight in the Imperial Army. He quickly experiences first hand the horrific traumas of the present society and those that war brings. He has no real purpose in life, and doesn't really expect his life to continue for very long. He drowns his troubles and questions in local women and prostitutes with whom he convinces himself to fall in and out of love. While camped outside side of Manchuria awaiting the order to charge a takeover, he hears of a place he can go undercover in the city to play Go a game that allows him to remember his simple life before the army. He begins a series of games against a mysterious Chinese girl who is one of the best go players that he has played against.

This novel deals with some huge taboo issues and portrays them in a way that you will not forget. With out giving too much away, here are some of the issues that I recall from the reading: arranged v. love marriages, abortion, speaking out against your government, prostitution, torture, suicide, selling your virginity, spousal abuse, pedophilia, man's claim over a women's body, and etc. As I said before, it doesn't hold back. It isn't a 'feel-good' novel, it is a 'micro' account of the impact of the period leading up to this bloody coup.

In closing, I was just amazed at how much happened in just 280 pages.

Additional Notes: This is an English translation of the original French text by Shan Sa. Translation was done by Adriana Hunter.

Additional Notes: This novel contains dark themes, violence, and sexual situations.

Paths Not Taken: Nightside Series 5

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pages: 272
Year Published:

John Taylor has finally found out who is mother is. She is none other than the first wife of Adam, Lilith, creator of Nightside. So, to find out more about his mother and her destructive future plans he decides to travel to the past to a time before the creation of Nightside. He brings with him a fellow PI, Tommy Oblivion, and his long time 'friend,' the trigger happy Suzie Shooter. (AKA. Holy crap, it's her! RUN!)

Short Thought:
More confusing than past novels, but answered a lot of questions and filled in a lot of back story.

Expanded Thoughts:
This 5th installment in the Nightside series deviated from the usual 'gumshoe' formula that the others had. The actual 'job' that John receives plays a very small part in this one. The focus was instead on the back story, Nightside and its history, Lilith, and character growth.

That being said, this is a very important novel if you are reading the entire series. It ties up 90% of the plot lines and answers most of the questions that you hadn't even thought to ask yet. It is basically an introduction to the 'BIG SHOWDOWN.'

My only gripe is that the 'time traveling,' paradox' thing really messed with my head. I found it very confusing. So, if you aren't used to reading that kind of sci-fi stuff, be prepared to slow down. (I had to reread some parts 3 times to get the significances and such.)

My apologies for the short review, but honestly I couldn't think of any other way to not give spoilers. This book is chock full of 'em.

Additional Notes: This novel has descriptive violence and dark themes.

Windfall: Weather Warden Series 4

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pages: 352
Year Published:

If you thought that Joanne's life was complicated before, you haven't seen anything yet. She has moved back to her hometown in Florida and has taken a job as a cute 'weather girl' at a news studio. Sounds pretty mundane, right? Unfortunately, Joanne stills has to figure out how to deal with David's new Ifrit status before it kills them both, the cop that has been stalking and threatening her since the Ma'at incident, and her privileged sister that has decided to take over her new apartment.

Short Thought:
This is the best of this series so far. It reminded me why I like it so much.

Expanded Thoughts:
I am seriously hoping that poor Joanne gets a vacation after this one. The girl never gets a break. Since you can read a synopsis of this book in several places, I am just gonna touch on a few things before I close this out.

Mainly, what made this novel better than the other ones in the series?

For me, it comes down to the fact that Joanne is easier to relate to in this one. She has a crappy job. (Not a magical hookie dookie job, a regular 'Joe' type job.) Her family is being crappy to her. (We even get a glimpse at her crappy past.) Her relationship is on the rocks. (Okay, that one is a little magical.) And everyone in the world seems to want her to have a crappy day. It is a brilliant mixture of real life and fantasy that make this book a good one.

This novel just really pulled at the heartstrings and made the reader fall in love with Joanne. (Especially with regard to David's dire situation) It still had the crazy fast paced, world ending drama, but it showed how Joanne was really starting to become affected by it. (Depression, anxiety, etc.) But I guess dying twice and being two different species would give some sort of PTSD to anyone. I personally wouldn't want to find out.

Additional Notes: This novel contains mild violence and sexual situations.

Cast in Fury: Chronicles of Elantra 4

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pages: 416
Year Published: 2008

: The public isn't too fond of the Tha'alani, and even believe they are responsible for a tidal wave that crashed down the city recently. So to improve public opinion and ease political relations, the High Court has drafted a eccentric playwright to create a wonderful piece portraying the Tha'alani in a good light. Because of Kaylin and Severn's past work with the Tha'alani, they are assigned to the writer to make sure the play is completed with accuracy. Despite lacking all the necessary skills or tact, Kaylin is once again thrown into an important job with Severn by her side.

Short Thought: The main character was slightly less annoying, but there were no develops or twists to the story.

Expanded Thoughts: This series is slowly getting better. When I read the first book I couldn't stand it, but I forced myself to keep going and it's looking like it is going to pay off.

Let's start with the bad:

My biggest complaint still is that the author has opened up a lot of plot lines and I just hope that they don't became large, gaping holes. Said holes include Kaylin's mysterious pre-hawk years, Severn, Lord Nightshade (who is the best character in the whole deal), and many many more. Second, Kaylin is just plain childish and annoying. Seriously, does she have some kind of divine connections somewhere? Because she somehow became a Hawk without taking the classes, without any respect for military/social hierarchy, and skills that should be present in someone of her position. Oh, and she has no respect for rules, and has tantrums. Third, where's the love story? Now, I'll be the first to say that I hate mushy love stories, but after four books it's getting frustrating. (On the record, I vote Nightside.) Even uber-masculine series have couples in them or at least some kind of lingering tension. (My Lifetime movie addict side is showing.) Lastly, there were no real plot developments in this book. It was like a 'filler episode' on a TV drama. It was entertaining, but you could skip it and not miss anything important. (The only bit of info was a little bit of background on the Leotines. That's it.)

All right, I'm totally done griping:

Even though I gripe about this series a lot and I detest the main character, I think I'm slowing becoming addicted to it. It has a different tone than other fantasy series out there today. Also, some of the supporting characters remain absolutely brilliant. (I read the series mainly to see what becomes of them.) Lastly, the world is really unique. I am slowly starting to understand it more and more with each novel, and it's gets more interesting all the time.

Additional Notes: This is the 4th book in the Chronicles of Elantra Series by Michelle Sagara.

Murder Most Frothy: Coffeehouse Mysteries 4

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pages: 272 (Mass Market Paperback)
Year Published: 2006

Claire is headed to the Hamptons to help get a friend's restaurant off to a good start. It's summer, and the Hamptons are full of grandiose parties, hopping socialites, and drama at every corner. Claire is thankful for the change of scenery until one of the restaurant employee is found murdered inside of the owner's house. She fears for her friends' live and moves to investigate. I guess there is never a vacation away from murder.

Short Thought:
Claire is a great main character. I just can't get enough of this series.

Expanded Thoughts:
This is 'cozy mystery' done beautifully yet again. (Or as I call it 'TV alternative.') The characters were great with just enough scandal and drama thrown in. (Well, those are Matteo's two middle names, I believe.) This time, we are treated to a different setting, the Hamptons, and a whole mess of different suspects/party goers. It was fun because I'm a small rural town Tennessee girl and I hadn't even heard of the Hamptons. (I totally thought it was like Hampton Inn hotel or something.) I always love a book that teaches me things that I can use on Jeopardy! some day. It was a nice vacation, and now I'm ready to go back to the Blend. (What can I say? I miss the Baristas.)

My only gripes with this book are minimal. The first is the absence of Detective Quinn. He is in there for maybe a paragraph. I was just hoping for some more of that chemistry he and Claire have. (Can you tell I'm rooting for Mike? huh? huh?) Lastly, it just too darn short, but so is every book in this genre so I can't fault it too much. These books only take me a couple of hours to read, and leave me clawing for the next book. I just need to figure out how to slow my reading. Ah! (Dear Santa, I would like a 1500 page book featuring Ms. Claire Cosi.)

Hex and the City: Nightside Series 4

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pages: 256 (Mass Market Paperback)
Year Published: 2005

John is the closest he has ever been to finding out the truth about his mysterious mother. Lady Luck offers to give him valuable information about his background as payment for a job. This job is dangerous and will put John on the bad sides of some very powerful players in Nightside. As usual, John doesn't seem too upset about it.

Short Thought:
As with the other novels in this series, this is sick and twisted fun that is surprisingly easy to relate to.

Expanded Thoughts:
This 4th installment in the series builds upon what has been introduced in the previous novels as well as answers a lot of questions and open new doors.

One central theme of the previous books was the mysterious origins of John Taylor. Why does everyone fear him? Who is his 'all-powerful' mother? What of his father? We actually get answers to these questions and more in this book. (Thank God!)

Also, this novel has a interesting and deliciously macabre cast of supporting characters. Some new Nightside residents take center stage. Some of them include: Sinner (sold his soul for love), Pretty Poison (Sinner's demoness lover), and even a unique Madman. They play off of each other well, and can be pretty hilarious at times. My only complaint is that the author's builds these characters up sometimes just lets them go.

Though there are a few redundancies and places that I wish were more developed, this is a great, easy to follow, fantasy story with twisted allusions that tickle your well of useless knowledge.

Additional Notes: This novel contains dark themes and descriptive violence.

Chill Factor: Weather Warden Series 3

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pages: 352 (Mass Market Paperback)
Year Published: 2005

Teaser: Picking up after the last novel's cliffhanger, Joanne is in the middle of trouble once again. She is scrambling across the country to confront Kevin in Las Vegas. If having to deal with an angry teenager with super powers wasn't enough, Joanne's trek is interrupted when she is kidnapped and finds herself in the headquarters of a very strange and dangerous organization. As they try to pump her for information, she finds that she cannot trust any of her old acquaintances--maybe even her beloved David.

Short Thought: Fun, easy to follow, romantic adventure that is as entertaining as any television program.

Expanded Thoughts: First let me just say that you really need to read the first two novels in this series before jumping into this one. This book picks up almost right where book 2 ended. (Weather Warden 1, Weather Warden 2).

This kind of novels are what I like to call "TV alternatives." You can just read, without a brain cramp, and enjoy the ride. There is an interesting storyline, fairly uncomplicated characters, and just enough twists for you to get your fix.

So what is delicious about this novel? First, we are treated with more back story and minor character development. The eccentric Lewis has played a major role in the last two novels, but his character had really remained a mystery until this novel. We are able to understand more about his strange behaviors and how he really fits into the whole grand hierarchy in regards to Djinn and Wardens. Even more than Lewis, I applaud this author for not doing what so many others do in this genre--drop characters off. This author successfully introduces new characters while keeping the personalities and presences of older characters alive. Developments actually go somewhere! (I have been frustrated with another series that will remain nameless.)

Second, can I just say that as cheesy and over-the-top as this couple is, I am addicted and find myself with warm fuzzies. It is a perfect healing, sweet, and sultry match! David and Joanne compliment each other so well. It makes for one of the best relationship dynamics I have seen in the fantasy genre in awhile. (Though, I cannot say that I not just being clouded by all the David-ness. -sigh-)

Lastly, this novel wasn't as flat and linear as the previous two. There was a lot going on, and it was balanced quite well and came together in the end. (I'm totally not giving spoilers on this one.) There was already one troublesome mission on the table at the start of this novel--the stoppage of Kevin, fiery teenager, and his stolen godly servant Johnathan--and tensions were high. Instead of calming down from there, it only got more urgent, more dangerous, more complex, and, at times, nail-biting. Each of the main characters have to find their way out of their own binds before they can truly stop Kevin, and with the twists thrown in no one can be trusted--not even their closest companions.

Okay, there were a few things about this novel that irritated the snot out of me. First, let me just say that Joanne is the biggest 'Mary-Sue' I have seen in a long time. I know it makes that reading easier and less complicated, but does everything have to revolve around her. ('Mary-Sue' is a character to which everything happens. Everyone wants to be with her, everyone is out to get her, only she can complete tasks, only she can save the world, etc...) Sometimes it is a bit ridiculous what she is put through and what she completes. Next, it seems these books are going to start ending in cliff-hangers. Boo-hiss on that! It wasn't as bad as the last book, but BOO! Lastly, the 'humor' gets old sometimes. I understand that humor is subjective, but I just found it annoying in places.

So overall, great fun with very minor hang-ups. It is a must read for fans of urban fantasy and strong female leads.

Additional Notes: This novel contains scenes of a sexual nature as well as mild violence.

The Typhoon Lover: Rei Shimura Mysteries 8

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

(Sujata Massey)

Teaser: Rei receives an assignment that lands her back in her ol' stompin' grounds investigating an upper tier Japanese collector. A typhoon hits Tokyo while she is there and traps her with the very person who hired her. Meanwhile, Hugh is left waiting back at home waiting for her return.

Short Thought: Totally turned me off from the series for a long while.

Expanded Thoughts: [SPOILER WARNING] I won't lie; I couldn't even finish this book. It was by far the worst of the series. I have the next two books, but they will stay on my shelf for a long while. This book made me disgusted with a main character that I once loved. Perhaps, I should have done what so many other readers have done and read these out of order or treated it as a stand alone novel.

It portrayed her as an entitled, uppity, ungrateful, morally ambiguous woman. (Is it 2 or 3 lovers she cheated on now?) She had lived off of Hugh for years, was engaged to him, got him into countless troublesome situations, and then threw him by the wayside. She stayed with Takeo for months just to feel more Japanese and set about from the Western World and then ripped his heart out. I know this is more realistic than books usually are when it comes to relationships, but, dang, if I wanted to see that I just need to look out my window. Don't build couples up only to throw it away a second time. I get frustrated with a main character whose personality changes like the wind. So inconsistent!

This book was completely inconsistent with the previous ones in the series. If you are reading these books as a series, I recommend stopping at The Pearl Diver and treating the next ones as stand alone novels. I can only hope that my memory will forget this is a part of the series which I feel in love with at the beginning.

Additional Notes: This novel contains scenes of a sexual nature.

Additional Notes: This is the 8th book in the Rei Shimura Mysteries series by Sujata Massey. There are two more books currently out. (Girl in a Box, Shimura Trouble)

Nightingale's Lament: Nightside Series 3

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pages: 256
Year Published:

: To square off his debts, John Taylor took a job from his long time unfriendly enemy Walker. Of course, he got the job done in a way only "the cursed John Taylor" could--by screwing up the electricity grid for Nightside and leaving a lot of carnage behind. So, John decides to head to Strangefellows to escape Walker's wrath.

While at the bar, John is approached by a man who has a job for him. The man is concerned about his daughter who has recently cut off all contact with her friends and family. He wants to know if she is okay. John agrees to take the job even after he finds out who this mysterious girl is. The daughter is none other than Rossignol, the singer whose songs are so sad that many have committed suicide after listening to them. The problem becomes even more dangerous when John finds out that she is managed by the Cavendishes--one of the most powerful and strange duos in Nightiside. John is suspicious that the Cavendishes are using Ross as a weapon so he brings along the only comrade of his immune to such things, Dead Boy.

Short Thought: Yet another twisted and fun ride that is the best in the series yet.

Expanded Thoughts: Even though Nightside is a place in which no one would want to be found, it is definitely a great place to observe. With each novel, the author shows us yet another dimension of Nightside, sometimes literally, while keeping some of our favorite constants like Strangefellows and its jaded bartender.

This novel was the best in the series so far. In previous posts, I have complained before about the redundancy of some of the syntax. (John Taylor is scary. Nightside is scary. Things are strange in Nightside. Blah blah blah) It was minimized in this one. Granted, it was still there, but not annoyingly so. Also, the 'mystery' plot was much more focused. In previous books, there is so much going on that the actual 'job' gets forgotten sometimes. This 'job' is at the forefront of the story, and becomes extremely trying for John emotionally. He honestly wants to help Rossignol and not just complete the job and intimidate along the way. Lastly, the new supporting characters are the most brilliant and developed yet. All hail Dead Boy!

Though I love this series, I did have one complaint about this novel. The 'Walker' job in the beginning just seemed randomly thrown in to me. It was like a short story just thrown in the beginning.

Over all, a very dark, twisted, and highly entertaining short read.

Additional Notes: This novel contains dark themes, violence, and gore.

Additional Notes: This is the 3rd novel in the Nightside Series by Simon R. Green.

Latte Trouble: Coffeehouse Mysteries 3

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Teaser: Lottie Harmon, a long time Village Blend customer, has finally made it big in the fashion world. She has completed her new collection of clothes that feature a coffee-inspired palette. She decides on the Village Blend as the place for the debut show. As Claire and her fellow baristas serve up the brew, prominent figures of the fashion world begin to fill the shop. All seems to be going well until one of those figures drops dead after being served a drink from Tucker. Claire is determined to prove that Tucker isn't a murderer and to save her shop from yet another scandal.

Short Thought: This novel definitely gives some bite to this genre!

Expanded Thoughts: Don't let the genre fool you! Sure this is a cozy, female-targeted yarn, but this mystery is a fun ride!

As with previous books in the series, the story follows single mother Claire Cosi and her life in New York City. This one centers around the frenzy of New York fashion week and the strange (umm..unique?) characters that are found in that world. It also shows how dangerous and how political the world of fashion is.

Some of the minor characters take a bigger role in this story as well. Each of the Blend's baristas are great characters and are excellently woven into the mystery. Namely, we learn quite a bit about Tucker when he is arrested for murder. I have to note that the author also does this without losing the richness of the main characters as so many other books do.

As for the mystery plot, it was great. It was uncomplicated and simple with a few twists. As with the other books in this series, I can never figure out the perp before it is revealed. That is something that I am usually able to do with books in this genre, but not with these.

I do have a few complaints though. The story is very short and uncomplicated. Claire's character hasn't really grow since the first novel in the series. All the relationships feel like they are still 'up in the air.' There are little tidbits into Claire past. (Mostly with Matteo) But there still isn't anything into which you can sink your teeth.

If you read the other two in this series, you won't be disappointed with this one. It is just as good if not a little bit better.

Additional Notes: This is the 3rd novel in the Coffeehouse Mysteries by Cleo Coyle.

Dead to the World: Sookie Stackhouse Series 4

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Teaser: Still fuming from Bill's betrayal, Sookie is back in Bon Temps drowning her anger in her job. She thinks that she may just be granted a period of peace when Bill announces that he is leaving for an extended research trip to Peru. Unfortunately, Sookie's life is never boring. One night while driving home after her shift, she spots Eric, scared and barely clothed, running down the road. When she reaches him, she doesn't find the tough sheriff that she knows but an innocent, charming Northman. Someone has wiped all of his memories leaving him in a highly vulnerable state.

Short Thought: This one was my favorite in the series so far. What can I say, Eric over Bill any time!

Expanded Thoughts: Okay, I think I have to say that this is the best novel of the series so far. The setting is finally back in Bon Temps. (The town with which everyone is starting to fall in love.) We are also treated to learn more about the Fangtasia gang. In the other novels, Bill shielded Sookie from Eric and his gang, so it was nice to have her really see how they were.

Many have said that this novel 'kicks it up a notch,' I agree totally. (BAM!) Why do I think that? Well, the most obvious is that Sookie isn't some scared little belle anymore. Bill isn't there to treat her like an innocent child. She begins to show her Independence and her strength. Also, Sookie is being relied on for help. Not just for her telepathic powers, but Pam and Co are really hoping that Sookie can help to bring Eric back to normal. It is one of the times when the Vampires' super-duper abilities are useless.


What else makes me love it? There is tons of 'genuine' Sookie and Eric mush. There has constantly been tension, and I have been hoping for three novels for this 'forbidden' pairing to truly happen. (Can you tell Eric is my favorite?) It finally did, if even for a brief period. When Eric loses his memories, he also loses all of his greed, darkness, and boundaries. He becomes a simple, honest man. (No, really, Eric, simple, and honest in the same sentence.) And though it is no secret that I despise those mushy intimate scenes (granny entertainment), I didn't mind them in this one so much. For those of you that do like them, I will just say that you will get your money's worth and more.

[End of Spoilers]

All that being aside, the story was the best yet. My only complaint about it is that it was too short. It could have had an extra 100 pages and been a masterpiece, but it was still great and entertaining. Ah, bah! Enough of this, if you are hooked on Sookie, this is a volume in the series that you can't miss! (Especially, if you have a thing for blonde vikings!)

Additional Notes: This is the 4th book in the Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris. (This series is also known as the Southern Vampire Mysteries.)

Additional Notes: This novel contains violence, coarse language, and scenes depicting sexual situations.

The Pearl Diver: Rei Shimura Mysteries 7

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

: In The Pearl Diver, Rei is settling into her new life in Washington D.C. with her fiance, the dashing international lawyer Hugh. She continues to grow restless and misses her life in Japan. Fortunately, while at lunch with her cousin, she is offered a job to decorate a Japanese restaurant that will be opening in the neighborhood.

Once again, life is looking up for Rei until her cousin vanishes from the restaurant's opening night party leaving her children behind. Also, terrible things start happening to Rei and her acquaintances when she and her aunt start helping her coworker Andrea locate her long lost Japanese mother. Someone clearly doesn't want anything about Andrea's mother to come to light, and they will stop at nothing to make sure it all stays hidden.

Short Thought: An action-filled addition to the popular series that has some of the brilliance of the series' earlier novels.

Expanded Thoughts: This novel has Rei settling (or rather, re-settling) into a comfortable life with the dashing Hugh. It is once again set in Washington, D.C and centers around Rei and the constant trouble that follows her every move.

So far I have read all of the novels in order except for The Flower Master which isn't currently available.

Okay, this novel was all over the place. It seemed very unfocused and scattered at times and then afflicted with tunnel vision in other parts. I love a complex story line for mystery plot, but this one just wasn't woven together well at all. It has Rei running in all directions (I can think of at least 7 off the top of my head) and being increasingly more annoying and inconsistent.

To go off on a tangent, what happened to Rei? Which is the real Rel? At the beginning of the series, Rei was a humble antiques dealer in the search of a steady flow of clients. She was modern, witty, independent, quick, and interesting. She also desperately wanted to fit in and be Japanese. Now, in this novel, she is a backwards (not familiar with anything current), whiny, and self-centered woman who is a living contradiction. (She portrays herself in a high and mighty fashion, but doesn't live it.) I understand that she struggles with her roots, but she is just presented as an immature woman whose attitude and personality changes like the wind. It just frustrates me because I just loved her in the beginning of the series, and now I can't stand her.

I actually feel like the Aunt actually overshadowed Rei because she was a much more interesting element in the story.

I have another gripe about this novel. The author tries to cram too much of a history lesson (in which the accuracy is up for debate) into the story, and fails to follow through and make it a significant part of the story. It was as if she was trying to shove in as much shocking moments of Eastern history as she could. It would have been a great mystery plot without all the excess bunk thrown in. I know it's possible. It was masterfully done and enriched the story in The Floating Girl (the 4th novel).

This novel was okay, and did have specks of the brilliance of the earlier novels in the series. If you did like this novel, I do recommend reading The Salaryman's Wife, Zen Attitude, and The Floating Girl. In my opinion, they were brilliant and the best of the series.

Additional Notes: The Pearl Diver is the 7th book in the "Rei Shimura Mysteries" series by Sujata Massey.

Additional Notes: This novel contains sexual themes and situations.

Heat Stroke: Weather Warden Series 2

Monday, July 6, 2009

Teaser: Joanne begins learning the difficulties and consequences of being reborn as a Djinn. She must learn the basics if she is to survive. She is sent to Paul, the only other Djinn that began as a human, to begin training. Unfortunately for Joanne, there are those that would use her new found situation to their advantage. She finds herself in great trouble once again.

Short Thought: Fun and adventurous light read with a cliffhanger ending.

Expanded Thoughts: Let me first just say that if you like this series, buy/check out this book and the next one at the same time, because this one ends on a cliffhanger. It is a very cruel, cruel thing if you aren't prepared.

In the last book, the Weather Wardens and their structures and powers were the focus. In this novel, the focus is primarily on the mysterious Djinn. We are given a lot of information, but are still left with plenty of mystery. Through Joanne, we are shown that the limitless powers they possess are not without an equally measurable dark side full of tragedy.

Light novels like this have found a permanent page on my shelves. Nothing epic or inspiring, but worth the entertainment value. I look forward to continuing the series. I'll add it to my "better than TV" section. It's like a twisted, fantastical Lifetime movie, whooo!

Additional Notes: This is the 2nd novel in the Weather Warden Series by Rachel Caine

Additional Notes: This novel does contain scenes depicting sexual situations.

Club Dead: Sookie Stackhouse Series 3

Sunday, July 5, 2009

(Charlaine Harris)

: Cozy couple Bill and Sookie have been drifting apart as of late. Bill, who has always placed Sookie on a pedestal, has became increasingly secretive and distant. The situation escalates when Bill goes missing after a mysterious trip to Mississippi. With the help of a new lycanthropic acquaintance, Alcide, Sookie goes to Mississippi desperate for answers.

Short Thought: Great sexy fun, but it slightly inconsistent with the first two novels in the series.

Expanded Thoughts: This story was bizarre, even for this series. We get introduced to a crap load of new characters, while old characters fade. Sweet Sookie changes a lot in this one. She gets a handful of new love interests, new life experiences, and discovers her darker nature.

[Minor Spoilers]

This series' central theme is the shock to the societal system that was made when the vampires decided to 'go public.' Little did we know that vampires were just the tip of the iceberg. We are introduced to the tribal 'Were' network in this novel. There are even nightclubs (hence, club dead) that cater to 'two-natured' patrons. I found that bizarre because it is inconsistent with all the 'vamp hoopla.'

Next, this novel takes a new turn when the solid pairing of Bill and Sookie starts to crumble. Bill is slowing pushing Sookie to the side, and it doesn't sit with Sookie one bit. After he runs off to Mississppi, he leaves his computer system in Sookie's closet with a mysterious database program on it. (The place in which he usually sleeps over.) Okay, I have to comment on this. Bill has a computer?! He has always been portrayed as a guy stuck in the old ways. I just do not see him as the ultra vampire techie geek who would make a program database thing that no one had ever thought to do. It just doesn't fit.

I am not going to give any more away because if you have read the first couple books in this series, you will read this one regardless of what I put on here. So just know this, the story was faster paced than normal with more twists. None of the usual minor characters are in it. (Other than Bill and Eric really.) It leaves behind most of the old developing plotlines, and replacing it with newer, more expansive ones. Despite its flaws, this novels was entertaining as 'all get out.'

Additional Notes: This is the 3rd novel in the Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris. It is also known as the Southern Vampire Mysteries.

Additional Notes
: This novel does contain scenes of violence and sexual situations.

Agents of Light and Darkness: Nightside Series 2

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Teaser: John Taylor is back in Nightside and doesn't appear to be returning to the normal world any time soon. He has taken a new job that pays as well as it is dangerous. A mysterious priest has hired him to locate and retrieve the Unholy Grail (the cup from which Judas drank). The task proves to be quite difficult and attracts some of John's most powerful enemies. Angels and Demons, anyone?

Short Thought: Off the wall detective adventure that is as twisted as it is fun.

Expanded Thoughts: What can I say? This book is corny in the darkest, most entertaining way possible. It is just plain fun and shouldn't be taken too seriously. I won't lie; I wasn't too fond of the first book. I thought it was too predictable and cheesy in a bad way. This one was much better, and borders on masterful.

There are many things about it I absolutely love. First, the settings and characters are out of this world. It is like what the world would look like if Quentin Tarantino and a posse of evil clowns took over. I can't even fathom how someone comes up with stuff like this. I thought it was pretty crazy in the first novel. The author takes it a step further in this one.

Second, I love the throwback to old gumshoe stories and film noir. I think it has a brilliant amount of cheesiness added (just like in the old movies) and takes it to the darkside. I could almost picture a movie scene with John Taylor sitting at a desk with a ceiling fan in the foreground. (And oh don't forget the trickling piano music with a hint of muted trumpets.) I feel that it was too forced in the first novel, but it was very balanced in this one.

Lastly, the actual plot surrounding the Unholy Grail retrieval was great on its own. It had twists, turn, and obstacles that built throughout the short novel. All the extra stuff just helped to bring different tones and colors to it.

I only have a few gripes. First, some of the lines are annoyingly repetitive. (...this is the nightside. ...Suzy likes to shoot people. ....people fear John Taylor. ....Alex has a poor disposition.) I just want to scream, I KNOW!, sometimes. Second, what happened to the real world? I don't think that it was ever explained. John had hidden from Nightside for years in the 'real world.' Did he just not return?

In closing, if you want a short and fun novel that appeals to your dark side, you should really check out this series. I believe Agents of Light and Darkness is just a taste of the dark and twisted fun to come.

Additional Notes: This is the 2nd book in the Nightside Series by Simon R. Green.

Additional Notes: This book contains scenes of a dark and violent nature.

Luck in the Shadows: Nightrunner Series 1

Friday, July 3, 2009

Teaser: Alec has been sentenced to death for a crime that he didn't commit. As his days in prison grow longer and the torture more intense, he is given new hope. One of the prisoners, a curious man named Seregil, plans to escape and agrees to take Alec with him. Alec can't wait to get out, but he fears that his new acquaintance may be even more dangerous.

Short Thought: A dashing fantasy adventure with a great mix of characters.

Expanded Thoughts: Alright, I'm just gonna shoot the 'big elephant in the room' first on this. Yes, it is true that this series' lead couple (Alec x Seregil) is MxM or yaoi. This seems to be one of the major complaints made about this series. The couple is genius though, and I don't really see what their genders have to do with anything. It enhances the brilliant story if anything else. It brings something new and bold to this genre. So, don't be fooled by angry reviewers! This is a great fantasy novel. One of the best that I have read!

So, let's discuss the main characters. First, we have Alec. As the story begins, Alec is a illiterate low class country bumpkin with very innocent and traditional view about the world around him. Next, we have Seregil. He is a thief extraordinaire with a past full of issues a mile long. While young Alec's past is a seemingly open book, Seregil's is clouded with secrecy and darkness. The two learn from each other and help each other as they are confronted with huge obstacles.

As for the story, it really was an adventure. It was like that moment on a roller coaster when your breath catches, and then WHAM! It truly was a well developed, fast-paced ride throughout. It also has all the great elements: high stakes escapes, mystery, political intrigue, thievery, coming of age, humor, and characters with whom you can fall in love.

Honestly, I can't wait for the next one.

Additional Notes: This novel contains gay relationships, violence, and mild language.

Additional Notes
: Luck in the Shadows is the first novel in the Nightrunner Series by Lynn Flewelling.

Through the Grinder: Coffeehouse Mysteries 2

Thursday, July 2, 2009

(Cleo Coyle)

Teaser: Clare Cosi's life is once again taken off its tracks. This time Clare founds out that her daughter is e-dating, and so she decides to sign-up to keep an eye on her. Unfortunately, it leads Clare and the Village Blend into major trouble yet again when Clare finds out that she may have just accepted a date with a serial killer.

Short Thought: Combines my two favorite things: coffee and mystery thrills!

Expanded Thoughts: I am always worried when I read the second book in the series especially if I loved the first one. I didn't need to worry with this one. It was a perfect book 2. It still had the wonderful feel of the first, but handed the reader just a little more of the life of Claire with a few more twists.

I love Claire as the main character. She is a woman that knows how to handle herself, and knows when to tell a guy off. (Especially Matteo, ha!) What I like most about her though is that she faces a lot of the problems that are relevant to women today. In this volume, she is worried sick about who daughter may be involved with and she also deals with dating woes of her own.

Don't let the lightness of this genre fool you either. The mystery plot was solid in this one. It kept you guessing until the end, and you never really knew just how in how much danger Claire was. In the story is included scenes with little snippets of the killer mind. It was great.

Also, can I just say that I love coffee? I mean I LOVE coffee. So, all the the coffee knowledge that I am gaining from these books is just icing on the cake. (A coffee cake!)

I just love it. It is the perfect contemporary, cozy, and light mystery drama.

Additional Notes
: This is the 2nd novel in the Coffeehouse Mysteries by Cleo Coyle.

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