Reading in the Month of May…..

June 3, 2009

I didn’t read as much as I would have liked in May, (does one ever?) but what I read was wonderful!

blood

Field of Blood by Eric Wilson wasn’t a Twilight vampire book, if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for. It went deep into Biblical truths, using them as a solid foundation to tell a compellingly creepy story.

The characters are very real, and they endure difficult struggles readers looking for squeaky clean Christian heroes may be disappointed in. However, there is nothing unBiblical about the story. Fans of Dekker should really enjoy this series.

While there was no “preaching”, Field of Blood definitely captured the spirit of God’s love.   This is the first in the Jeruselum Undead Trilogy. I really enjoyed how the author wove archeological history with his characters struggle. Great story.

naturalDoesn’t She Look Natural by Angela Hunt was a definite page turner. Although it wasn’t what I was expecting, it was just what I wanted. The character goes from working on Capitol Hill to a divorced mom who inherited a funeral home. For some reason, I was expecting more politics and got more funeral business.

I never thought I could be so interested in what goes on in a mortuary, but as I joined the characters on their inspiring journey, I couldn’t stop reading. Hunt manages to keep things lighthearted when needed and respectful and uplifting when needed. When I turned the last page, I wanted to rush down to buy the second in the triolgy!

turnTurn Coat by Jim Butcher is the 11th in Harry Dresden’s adventures. It was all I expected. Jim Butcher has yet to disappoint, and with so many books in the series, that is definitely saying something. Wait! There was one disappointing thing… I miss Bob. I would have enjoyed a bit more of Bob the Skull, but other than that, it was wonderful!

Morgan, the Warden that has been a stone around Harry’s neck for most of his life shows up wounded on his doorstep. Accused of treason, Morgan is in serious trouble and how he’s made his trouble Harry’s. Harry is sarcastic, sardonic, and idealistic. I love him!

kissKiss and Hell by Dakota Cassidy takes paranormal romance in a new direction. Delaney Markham sees dead people. Yeah, like that Haley Joel kid in that movie with Bruce Willis. Only it’s not as happily ever after as The Ghost Whisperer makes it look on TV. Now she’s got a demon hanging around with nothing but bad news. Too bad he’s Mr. Wonderful. And really too bad he’s supposed to take her back to hell.

Dakota never disappoints. Her contemporary style is hilarious. She creates characters that I’d love to meet, even if they do have to keep a lifetime supply of prisms and rock salt to keep demons at bay!

hostsHosts by F. Paul Wilson is the fifth installment of the Repairman Jack series. Focusing on two stories, Jack is put in the position of saving a subway car full of people from a terrorist. Now he’s the city’s “savior” everyone wants to know, but no one can know Jack… The other story involves his sister who’s concerned for her friend. She’s in remission from a brain tumor but has odd behaviorial episodes and wanders off to meet strangers. Jack would do anything for his sister, and soon that is put to the ultimate test.

Jack is one of the most compelling characters ever. I heart him! Every book in this series is so vastly different from the last, yet keeps the same feel. This keeps each new installment fresh. Reading them back to back is not a problem because these aren’t the same rehashed plots. This one is more of a medical drama with some supernatural elements and with Jack, Gia, Vicky and Abe around for some wonderful familiarity.

Haunted Air by F. Paul Wilson is the next in the Repairman Jack series, and my favorite so far.

Death’s Daughter by Amber Benson

April 30, 2009

death

Calliope Reaper-Jones was great at shopping for designer clothes, searching for organic dim sum for her demanding boss, and living a regular life. Unfortunately, a normal life isn’t what fate has in mind for Callie. She has actually been under the thrall of a “Forget” spell and it’s come time for her to remember.

Returning to the family estate, she discovers her father, Death himself, has been kidnapped. Seems it’s time for Callie to take over the family business and hopefully save her father as well. Being the Grim Reaper isn’t as easy as it sounds, and Callie has to satisfy certain requirements in order to be official. Including a trip to Hell, keeping the Devil’s hunky protégé at bay, and making sure Kali, Goddess of Destruction keeps her temper.

I was quite impressed by Amber Benson’s first solo book. Many fans of urban fantasy and paranormal will be familiar with the author from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her portrayal of Tara. DEATH’S DAUGHTER is proof of her multitude of talents.

Calliope (what a fantastic name!) was a great character with a lot of room for growth. Although she starts out slightly self absorbed, she grows into her newfound responsibility and I had a great time getting to know her. Callie’s rapid fire wit kept me smiling page after page.

In the familiar genre of urban fantasy, I found DEATH’S DAUGHTER to be quite unique. Not a vampire or werewolf was to be found. Instead we had hellhounds, an uppity faun and other characters of mythology and religion, combined with a healthy dose of creativity.

Although there were some scenes of violence and near sexual rendezvous, this could be a fun possibility for older young adult readers. I always appreciate a book that focuses more on character and plot development.

Callie was a total kick in the pants. There’s so much potential that I am really looking forward to what DEATH’S DAUGHTER is up to next in the series. Highly recommended!

Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich

April 28, 2009

plum

Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter… well, not quite extraordinaire is back, in her first full length “Between the Numbers” book in the series. This time, Diesel, bounty hunter definitely extraordinaire, is along for the ride as Stephanie hunts Martin Munch, boy (okay, he’s in his twenties) genius. Diesel is really after Wulf Grimoire, who seems to be connected to Munch. Diesel and Stephanie’s partnership takes them out to the freaky Pine Barrens of New Jersey to find their quarry. If they can manage it with a menagerie of monkey’s at every turn!

Okay, I love Stephanie. Call it an addiction, because apparently I can’t stop reading this series even when this installation shows I should know better.

My first issue with PLUM SPOOKY is the title. What was spooky? The Pine Barrens is supposed to be. The legend of The Jersey Devil is supposed to be. Somehow, this story made any possibility of spookiness just ridiculous. There was no spook factor at all. Instead we get a retired Easter Bunny and Sasquatch. What? Disappointment number one.

My second issue is with Diesel. Who is this guy? What is the deal with his powers? Where in the Sam Hill does he come from? There are just too many questions. Great. He’s cute. Do we really need a third guy sleeping with Stephanie? Not really. Diesel isn’t adding to the storyline, he just irritates me because I know next to nothing about the dude. Give him his own series. A spin off. The poor guy has potential with nowhere to go and no place to go back to. Disappointment number two.

My third issue is with Lula, Tank, farting in general and too many monkeys. (I’m combining issues to save on the length of this review.) Lula used to add some spice. She was a gun toting mama with enough attitude and confidence to take on anyone. In this book, she was relegated to farting. She wasn’t the only one, unfortunately. We have a character named Elmer the Fire Farter whose farts actually explode. Tank takes up residence in a little old lady’s house with lots of cats. Hunh? That’s not ironic, that’s character assassination. The monkeys don’t really make sense. I suppose they were there for humor but it was overkill. Too many monkeys spoil the mix. Wasn’t there an old saying about once you have to get cute animals in on the act, you’re pretty much done? Yeah, I think we’re done. Wasn’t Bob the dog enough? I miss the days of good old Bob eating half the house and dumping a truck load on Joyce’s (remember Stephanie’s nemesis?) front lawn. Disappointment three, four, five, and oh for goodness sake. You get the point.

I haven’t wanted to admit it, even to myself, but I have to say that my beloved Stephanie has jumped the shark. There were still some great Morelli moments courtesy of his carousing brother, a good Ranger moment or two, even a Grandma Mazur giggle, bringing my rating up by a half for good times sake. Unfortunately, Stephanie can no longer be counted on for a solid laugh, a good mystery, or even the comforting familiarity of characters I’ve loved for years. So much about those characters are gone and have become nothing more than a bad fart joke.

My advice for new readers to the series is to start with ONE FOR THE MONEY and enjoy the pants off the next seven books or so. You’ll find sharp wit, touching moments, and a page turning mystery with actual nail biting danger thrown in.

Reading, Reading and Reading…

April 16, 2009

Since the doctor decided my insomnia was ridiculous, Ambien has been my friend. Unfortunately, I haven’t been reading nearly as much as a result. And I’m reading about five books at once. I hate it when I do that…

So, I’m nearly done with Set Sail for Murder by Carolyn Hart on audio book.

Ditto Healing Stones by Nancy Rue and Stephen Arterburn in print. Awesome, touching book I want to share with everyone immediately.

Over My Dead Body by Michele Bardsley, an ARC I am privy to since becoming a Supreme Minion that I downloaded onto My Precious, AKA Sony E Reader. I’m enjoying it more than the previous installment in the Broken Heart series!

Bringing Up Boys by Dr. James Dobson. With two boys, ages 8 and 3, I need all the help I can get, thankyouverymuch. Boys are so different from girls. Duh, right? Almost finished with that one as well.

Women’s Devotional Guide to the Bible that I’m reading with a friend. I think… We both keep flaking. I love the book though! I will finish it!

Reviews of Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich, Death’s Daughter by Amber Benson and Edge of Evil by J.A. Jance will be posted in a couple of days. You’ve been warned. Heh.

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.

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!