Archive for March, 2009

Ireland by Frank Delaney

March 21, 2009

ireThe year is 1951, and a Storyteller, perhaps the last one to carry on a centuries old tradition, finds his way to the home of a 9-year old boy. As the Storyteller weaves his tales of knights and kings, monks and ladies for his audience, young Ronan’s life will be changed forever. The young boy begins his journey to find the Storyteller and in his determined travels, discovers a love of country, family, and himself. Ireland is nothing less than a saga that will delight your heart and warm your soul. Ireland by Frank Delaney was one of the most beautiful books I’ve read in years.

I suppose I’m a typical, lazy, easily distracted person living in a century where if you can’t have it hot in 60 seconds, it’s not worth the trouble. As a result, it took me a good long while to build up the fortitude it would take to finish a 650 plus page novel. Proud of what Irish heritage I have, I decided I would read it in March to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and set my mind in the right spirit. Truth of the matter is, I probably have less Irish blood than I ever would admit. But somehow, my Grandmother’s few but exciting stories of her grandmother (Or was it Great Grandmother? Or Great-Great Grandmother?) who came from the Isle herself became larger than life, and I held tight to it. I managed to pass that along to my own children, who look forward to St. Patrick’s Day as some children would Halloween. In their wee minds, I’m sure they have conjured up ideas of their Great Grandmother walking the green fields of County Cork. After finishing Ireland, I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing, but rather doing a great honor to what ancestry I hope I have.

This is not a book to be rushed. Take it with you on long walks. I imagine you’ll soon find the perfect reading spot under a tree and you’ll find yourself transported to the myths young Ronan O’Mara heard that so transfixed him and changed his life forever. This is a book to be enjoyed slowly, not devoured. Let the flow of the language take you back to nearly 5000 years before the birth of Christ and learn the story of The Architect of Newgrange. History blends with myth, and entwines with the characters in an enthralling dance taking the reader from the 1940’s to 200AD and back again. Never has such a long journey been so smoothly traveled!

As I reached the final chapters and Ronan’s family history was discovered, I found tears in my eyes. Perhaps there’s a bit of my soul that comes from Ireland after all. If every family there has had their secrets, then mine is no different. My grandmother passed away before ever sharing hers, in true Irish tragedy and drama. But don’t we all have a bit of that? So like they say on St. Patrick’s Day, there’s a little bit of Irish in everyone.

I imagine this would be greatly enjoyed in audio book format, as great stories were passed around in tradition of the Storyteller. I have goose bumps on my arms just thinking about it.

Advertisements

The Accidental Human (Accidental Friends Series, Book 3) by Dakota Cassidy

March 10, 2009

human

Wanda Schwartz is enjoying a lucrative career as a Bobbie-Sue Cosmetics consultant. She is thrown for a loop when a MAN (a simply gorgeous hunk of man at that) answers her recruitment ad. Wanda learns that women aren’t the only ones who can work it with a color wheel. Heath Jefferson piques Wanda’s curiosity more than the average recruit with his designer suit, Rolex watch and Yugo parked out front.

The mystery that is Heath is the distraction Wanda needs as she learns she has a terminal illness. Although her two best friends are of the immortal persuasion and could give her a second chance at life with either fangs or fur, she is reluctant to share her burden. She believes in Fate and doesn’t want to screw up Fate’s plans. Fortunately, Fate has been working Its mojo and there is definitely more to Heath than meets the eye. Isn’t it great when Love and Fate work hand in hand?

This is the third book featuring the trio of best friends, Marty, the werewolf, Nina, the vampire and Wanda. Wanda is the glue that keeps them together. I’ve been reeeaaallly looking forward to Wanda’s story since the end of Accidentally Undead, and The Accidental Human was worth the wait. Dakota Cassidy’s talent to keep the reader perpetually intrigued without frustration is very nicely showcased here.

One of the most charming aspects to The Accidental Friends series is the relationship between the three ladies. With the onset of Wanda’s illness, there is an extremely touching scene with the trio that I needed a few tissues to get through. I’m impressed with how the author writes with sensitivity and respect for Wanda’s illness, yet the seriousness gives us the opportunity to see how deep their friendship truly is.

Somehow, Cassidy manages to keep the story upbeat and optimistic with great timing for humor amid Wanda’s dire straits. The dialog is quick witted and feisty, which really bring the characters to life. While tears are certainly jerked, there are plenty of rip-roaring laughs and steam between the sheets that I’ve come to expect from an Accidental Friends novel. That and a HEA (Happily Ever After) that I look forward to as a reader!

A Question of Guilt: A Novel of Mary Stuart and the Death of Henry Darnley by Julianne Lee

March 10, 2009

question

Scottish expatriate Lady Janet de Ros is determined to discover the truth behind what she considers to be the betrayal of Mary Queen of Scots. Days after Mary Stuart’s execution, Lady Janet is beholden to her wealthy English merchant husband to travel to Edinburgh to investigate. Was Mary Stuart indeed guilty of murdering her husband, Henry Darnley and plotting against her cousin, Queen Elizabeth?

The extensive job Julianne Lee did researching the history of Mary Stuart gave this book a definite ambiance of the period. It was easy to become swept away in The Golden Age from Mary Stuart’s point of view. However, even as a history buff, I grew tedious as the story dragged on. It wasn’t quite as fully engaging as I had hoped for.

Even as the author used variances in history that were interesting, the book had a more academic, pragmatic feel to it instead of a page turning more florid quality. I did enjoy the alternate viewpoints this novel engaged in. I think most of us are more familiar with Elizabeth I and her charismatic and popular reign. Although it’s impossible to determine what really happened to Lord Darnley, the author’s carefully considered fictional story was entertaining and the protagonist, Janet de Ros’ conclusions were sound.

Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary) by Jeff Strand

March 10, 2009

Very married Andrew Mayhem (his name is very telling, as you’ll soon discover) father of two is in a dangerous state of mind known as financial desperation. A state of mind known for fostering some bad decisions. Oh, for example… Accepting $20,000 for finding a key that happens to currently reside somewhere on the person of a man freshly buried. That is the beginning of a madcap horrific adventure as Andrew and his friend are thrown into a mortal game of cat and mouse where the stakes couldn’t be higher.

graverobbers

One moment I was cringing and the next moment I was snorting with laughter. And so continued that pattern until the final page was turned. It was a unique and wonderfully orchestrated dance between the truly horrific and absolutely hilarious.

Andrew Mayhem is such a likable yet slightly feckless character who could have been my next door neighbor. His intentions couldn’t have been any better, but he just stumbles into these impossible situations out of my worst nightmare.

I have to thank author Michele Bardsley, because I first heard of GRAVEROBBERS WANTED (NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY) in her book, WAIT TIL YOUR VAMPIRE GETS HOME, as one her characters in that book spend some time reading it. I may not have heard of Jeff Strand’s book otherwise and I can’t remember the last time I laughed so uproariously while being so horrified. I thought that was so cool for Michele to support another author that way. Kudos to her.

I couldn’t wait to turn each page. The continued plot twists were unrelenting and impossible to predict. The ending was literally jaw dropping and brought out the very best in Andrew Mayhem, the self depreciating amateur detective.

I can’t wait to read more by this talented author!

When the Day of Evil Comes by Melanie Wells

March 10, 2009

day

It’s time again for Dylan Foster to shape young minds. A Texas psychology professor, Dylan has always enjoyed the respect of her colleagues. But one strange encounter with an oddly pale, bald man, could change all that. Soon, she finds herself wrestling with nightmares in a spiritual battle as her career, family and faith are put to the ultimate test.

I’m thrilled to discover this series! I love suspenseful books. Ones that keep you awake at night because you just have to find out what happens next. These kind of books are on my short list of favorite things. Discovering Christian suspense is a special treat and a story featuring a real character such as Dylan, with strong faith yet relatable short-comings is even more so. I never felt preached at, but rather uplifted as Dylan turned to scripture to equip her in her demonic battle. She is an intelligent, courageous, lovable rebel type I loved spending time with.

This was my first experience in the genre with a female protagonist and I found it extremely refreshing. The strange events at the genesis of Dylan’s investigation are the height of creepiness and it only escalates as the plot thickens. Arming herself with Ephesians six, her faith, and relentless determination Dylan never loses hope as she strives to put up a serious fight against a supernatural evil. The war Dylan fights would be almost too scary if it weren’t for her charismatic personality and resilience.

With snappy dialog, a tight plot, and mysterious happenings, WHEN THE DAY OF EVIL COMES is every nightmare come true. And I mean that in the best possible way! I couldn’t recommend it more. THE SOUL HUNTER and MY SOUL TO KEEP, books 2 and 3 in the series are all I want for Christmas!

Don’t Talk Back to Your Vampire by Michele Bardsley

March 10, 2009

talk-back

Being a single mother is hard enough. Now try being an undead single mother who bursts into flames at the first whisper of sunlight, and has to drink blood to survive while raising a teenager. Yes, Eva LeRoy, town librarian at Broken Heart, Oklahoma is a vampire.

Everyone is adjusting pretty well, except for the rogue group trying to kill her and/or use her new special abilities for their gain. And oddly enough, the only man who really makes her undead heart go pitter pat is the vampire who killed her.

Let me just get all the crazy gushing out of the way. I was completely enamored with this book from the first page, possibly even the first paragraph. The author had me at “once upon a time”. I can’t remember the last time a book grabbed me by the throat and sunk it’s fangs in this deep!

Okay, now on to the business end of this review.

It was unusual for me to start with the second book in any series, but I was wacky this time and did the unthinkable. These books do stand alone, thank goodness, but I’ll be picking up I’m the Vampire That’s Why as soon as stores open at the crack of dawn.

I just love paranormal romance with a sense of humor. It’s sometimes embarrassing when I’m sitting in the car waiting in line and I start laughing like a crazy person while people point and stare, but in this case, it was worth it. I am too nice of a person to name names, but for me, this series has replaced another one about a vampire with a certain shoe fetish and a cranky demeanor. I’m sorry, but it had to be said.

Is there anything sexier than a brooding Irish vampire? Yeah, I didn’t think so. The chemistry between Eva and Lorcan O’Halloran is sizzling. While Lorcan has some major guilt for murdering Eva (oops, but it wasn’t really his fault, he was sick with The Taint, a debilitating vampire disease), he still manages to be sensual and appealing. Especially to Eva. Ironic, no? Eva is a fun character and surprisingly easy to relate to considering she’s a vampire. Her personality leaps off the pages.

What fantastic and unique use of vocabulary! The author has got to be a serious logophile. Since Eva is a librarian, there was plenty of opportunity for her to flex her verbal muscles and I ate it up like it was candy.

I’m looking forward to spending a lot more time in Broken Heart, Oklahoma and I recommend that you do the same!

Fuzzy Navel by J.A. Konrath

March 10, 2009

fuzzy1I have a list of authors or books in a series that I must have the moment they come out. It’s a compulsion bordering on obsession. I keep a close eye on release dates and budget accordingly. J.A. Konrath has found his way to the top of this list, which means budget be damned, I need me another hit of Jack Daniels!

This fifth installment in the series presents our heroine in one dilly of a pickle. First, she’s got snipers killing sexual offenders and cops alike with no motive in sight. Next, the deadliest villain (dare I say nemesis?) Jack has ever faced is holding her mother and fiancée hostage. Before the night is over the snipers will find their way to Jack’s house, then Jack, her partner and couple of friends who stopped by to lend a hand find themselves in the middle of a bad guy sandwich, with themselves as the filling!

Maybe I’ve been missing Jack Bauer and need a “24” fix, but I daresay Jack Daniels puts Mr. Bauer to shame in her own 8 hours of non-stop hell on earth. I wonder how fond J.A. Konrath is of this fantastic character he created because he really puts her through the ringer this time! Fortunately, Harry McGlade and her mom’s cranky killer cat make an appearance to provide plenty of hilarity because the reader needs it to break up the relentless tension. Holy cow. I have high blood pressure for Pete’s sake! This series should come with a Surgeon General warning. I love it! I’ve never cringed and laughed so much in one sitting. This is a wonderfully unique series that is guaranteed to tickle your funny bone while you test out your nightlight.

Sorry, folks, but Jack isn’t one for short cuts. Enjoy your introduction to the series from the very beginning with WHISKEY SOUR on the house at www.jakonrath.com. That’s right. You can download the first book for free!

I don’t ever remember reading a book that left me wanting more quite like FUZZY NAVEL. Once you’ve finished, you’ll want to go to Konrath’s website and read the author’s special message to the readers he adores to torture so! I’m already counting the days until CHERRY BOMB in June of 2009.

Secrets of My Suburban Life by Lauren Baratz-Logstead

March 10, 2009

secrets

Lauren “Ren” D’Arc’s life changed completely when Harry Potter killed her Mom. No, he didn’t jump out of a book and cast an Unforgivable Curse or anything. A case of Harry Potter books fell on her. Now her Dad moved them to the suburbs because living in the city is too painful for him, taking her away from the city she loves and the friends she knows.

Starting over as the new kid stinks but when the uber popular girl in school, Farrin, snubs her, Ren’s life starts to become even more complicated. Ren accidently discovers Farrin’s got a secret. She’s been having an online affair with an older man! Ren is the only one who can save Farrin from herself.

Ren, by all respects should be a shallow, stereotypical character as a spoiled rich kid. Thankfully, she’s not at all. She’s a likable character who’s been given a lot of adversity and makes pretty smart decisions most of the time.

The subject of her mother’s death is touched on with sensitivity and realism and with enough sense of humor to keep it inspiring. Also, the seriousness of the danger of online predators is taken on in such a way to be entertaining with a message important for young adults to hear. I would encourage parents of teenagers who spend time alone online to give them this book.

Baratz-Logsted created fun characters in a bubble gum world with substance. She goes deeper than the “Gossip Girl” type books for young adults, and lets her sense of humor shine to making for a unique, smart story.

The mystery aspect really keeps the plot flowing. A little suspense is always good. The slightly goofy slapstick comedy as Ren comes up with a plan to save Farrin from meeting this older man in person gives levity to a dark situation necessary to keep things interesting without scaring away sensitive readers. I’m happy to recommend SECRETS OF MY SUBURBAN LIFE.

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain

March 10, 2009

heartsick2Archie Sheridan, one of Portland’s brightest detectives, is heading a special task force to catch a serial killer. After ten painful years on the case, the killer caught him instead.

Gorgeous, psychotic, Gretchen Lowell captured Archie, torturing him to the brink of death, finally doing the unthinkable and turned herself in to save him. Now they are both prisoners Gretchen is in the penitentiary and Archie is in a prison of another kind, addicted to pain killers and the woman who held him captive.

Now suddenly Archie has to pull himself together. An ambitious newspaper reporter, Susan Ward, is doing a story on him and a new serial killer is on the loose. Will Susan expose his secrets before he can catch the killer? 

This is one of the best thrillers I’ve read this year. Cain has created a unique anti-hero in Archie, a man broken physically, mentally, and emotionally, dependent on a buffet of pills for survival. And yet we sympathize and cheer Archie on as he fights his demons and uses his abilities to catch another serial killer.

Susan Ward has her own flaws that makes her a personality who is relatable and interesting, but Gretchen is one of the most unique and diabolical characters I’ve ever read. She’s truly terrifying as Cain takes us back to when Gretchen had Archie in her clutches, her ultimate plaything.

The flashbacks taking us back to Archie’s captivity were flawless, giving important background that I was dying to discover in spite of myself. The torture he survived was nothing short of cringe-worthy.

Thrillers are my personal favorite, and I found this to have a tightly woven plot with captivating (no pun intended), unique characters and an ending that will leave you with a lovely satisfied feeling. HEARTSICK has it all. Not since Hannibal Lector has there been a more frighteningly fascinating villain. It is my sincere hope that we see more from Archie Sheridan, Susan Ward and Gretchen Lowell! What a fantastic series this would make!

Wait Til Your Vampire Gets Home by Michele Bardsley

March 10, 2009

wtyvgh

Paranormal investigator, Libby Monroe has stumbled upon a jackpot when she wanders into Broken Heart, Oklahoma. Looking for Bigfoot, she instead runs into Ralph Genessa, undead vampire hunk. Never expecting to fall in love with a vampire let alone actually meeting a zombie, shape shifters and finding herself in the middle of a dragon war, Libby discovers all her dreams could come true. Unless she and her one true love are deep fried by flaming dragon breath first!

Michele Bardsley enthralls us once again with her fourth installment in her hilarious paranormal romance, WAIT TIL YOUR VAMPIRE GETS HOME. This series consistently delivers.

Libby Monroe is a unique character who charms the reader with her quirkiness and open heart. I loved the sweet and genuine relationship she developed with Ralph’s twin toddlers. Itfelt every bit as ‘meant to be’ as her relationship with their father.

The scene stealers in this book if there ever were one are the dragons. Leave it to Ms. Bardsley to turn the paranormal romance genre on its ear by inviting them to the party. Well, I suppose they are more party crashers, really.

One of my favorite aspects of this series is how we still get snippets of past characters. Patrick and Jessica, Eva and Lor, Pasty and Gabriel all make their presence known. As I continue to enjoy the series, it makes it all the more comfortable to encounter, and catch up with, my favorite paranormal pals.

While not my favorite in the Broken Heart, Oklahoma series, I thoroughly enjoyed it and have the dark circles under my eyes from a sleepless night of reading to prove it!