Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I'll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable

When looking for a new book to read, I always head to a few of my favorite sources: Instagram, the New York Times Best Seller List and Goodreads.  I've also been known to browse my local chain bookstore to snap pictures of interesting new releases.  When I'm done browsing, I add the interesting books to my library queue and wait for them to come.  By the time I actually get the book, I've very often forgotten what its about or where I found it.  This is one of those books.

Summary:  It's fall 2001.  Annie Haley is a recent college grad with no job, few prospects and a loss for what to do next.  Except for marry her new boyfriend, and handsome Marine deploying to Afghanistan.  Since she has nothing but time on her hands, she agrees to a girls trip with her Mother, who has business in a small town outside London.  On the even of their departure, Annie spies her mother holding a mysterious book, lost in thought.  On a whim, Annie smuggles the book away from her mother and begins to read a mystery about a Lost Duchess.  As Annie and her mother settling into a local inn, Annie's interest in the mysterious book grows as she learns that it takes place in the same small town in which she is staying.  Annie soon finds a talkative local who gives her more detail about the Lost Duchess, but also tells her the story behind the story.

My Thoughts:  I didn't expect to like this book, and almost didn't continue reading it after the first 50 pages.  For some reason, I took an instant dislike to Annie.  She came across whiny, unmotivated and self-centered....or basically a general stereotype for millennials.  As a millennial myself, I had no interest in Annie's journey.

And then the story within the story began, and I was hooked.  I was absolutely enthralled by Mrs. Spenser, a bawdy, crazy, completely captivating old woman who drove not only the plot but was the puppet master of everything she encountered for decades.  I could have done without the rest of the story and would have been quite happy with a fake biography of Mrs. Spenser.

The central plot (or at least the one I found most interesting) in "I'll See You in Paris" was the developing story of Pru and Win, two young people who's lives are forever changed by their association with Mrs. Spenser.  Their discovery of self as the story unfolds - both from a viewpoint in the 1970s and via Annie's perceptions in 2001 - was brilliantly done.  The characters were believable, interesting, and flawed in such a way that I wanted them to succeed.

Rating:  It's worth a library visit

Also Read By Author:  Nothing

Reviewed By: 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Sign of Seven Trilogy by Nora Roberts

As my newest pregnancy hits full swing, I find that I have to keep my reading/media on the light-hearted side of things.  Anything too heavy gets the hormones going, and nobody wants to cry over a book...at least not very often!

The Premise:  On the even of their shared 10th birthday, best friends Caleb, Fox and Gage embark on a glorious adventure: little debbie snack cakes, warm cans of coke, bike rides and camping - alone - in the forbidden Hawkins Hallow wood at the mysterious Pagan Stone.  As midnight and their birthday approaches, the boys use Caleb's boy scout knife to swear themselves as blood brothers.  They speak an oath and combine blood...and unleash a dark madness that was trapped under the Pagan Stone.

Now every seven years for seven days the demon the boys unwittingly unleashed on their birthday reigns terror upon the town and people of Hawkin's Hallow.  Buildings are burned, people murdered and only Caleb, Fox and Gage seem to remember that it even happened.

As their 31st birthday approaches, Caleb, Fox and Gage know in their guts that this Seven is their last chance to save their town from the Demon...if they can just figure out how.

Blood Brothers:  In the months before the Seven hits Hawkins Hallow, Caleb Hawkins feels the signs starting earlier and stronger than ever.  Animals are acting strangely, the woods behind his house seem to bleed, and a sense of wrong invades his dreams.  Which is why he agrees to an interview with paranormal writer Quinn Black.

Quinn comes to town with an open mind and isn't disappointed in what she finds.  Inexplicably, Quinn can see the signs as well, although she's not local to the town.  As Quinn digs into research and settles into Hawkins Hallow for the next few months, she learns that she's connected to what happens in the town.  And to the oh so handsome Caleb.

The Hollow:  Fox O'Dell is town hippie-turned-lawyer and a solid presence in Hawkins Hallow.  His ties to his family and friends keep him in town even when darkness descends for a week every seven years.  As the next Seven looms, Fox digs in to fight what he knows is the last battle between the darkness and the light.  What he doesn't expect is for the darkness to hit harder, stronger, and earlier than ever.

But hope isn't lost.  With the help of his best friends Cal and Gage, and sophisticated newcomer Layla Darnell, Fox starts to see that the future may not be all darkness and loss.  In fact, with Layla's help, he sees that the future is worth fighting for indeed.

The Pagan Stone:  Gage Turner doesn't feel tied to his home town of Hawkins Hallow, or to the father that beat him from the time he was a small boy.  But he does feel tied to his best friends Caleb and Fox.  So every seven years he returns home from wherever his wanders have taken him to help his friends fight to keep Hawkin's Hallow safe from the demon that terrorizes the town.  This Seven feels different from the last.  Not only is the demon coming on stronger than ever, his friends have help, in the form of Caleb's Quinn, Fox's Layla and their friend, researcher Cybil Kinski.

As the group of people come together to learn all they can to fight the demon, Gage feels himself pulled to Cybil.  But can he trust in love when he may only have weeks to live?

My Thoughts:  I'm torn about this series.  I absolutely love the premise: three childhood best friends are fated to unleash a demon when they are just boys.  For a week every seven years, the demon reigns terror over the town, causing its inhabitants to do unspeakable things, of which they will not remember when the Seven is over.  The three boys, Cal, Fox and Gage, aren't without weapons--they heal fast and can't be infected--but are totally outclasses by the demon.  As the final Seven approaches, three women come to town and end up saving the day.  Their fresh take and ruthless research help the men find the tools to face the demon with a chance of not only surviving but riding the town of evil for good.  This is right up my alley.  This is genius.  I shouldn't have been able to put this series down.  But I could and did frequently.  I think what this series lacks (for me...others will not agree) is the lack of balance between story, romance and characters.  I loved the story, thought the romance was OK, and didn't like some of the characters.  Usually a Nora trilogy sucks me under, and this one just didn't.

Rating:  This was good for a one time read, but I won't pick it up again.

Reviewed By:  Tami

Also Read by Author:  I've read almost all of Roberts' catalog, which you can find at her website.  You can check my other reviews on Robert's books by searching for Nora Roberts in the quick search on the right hand side of the page, or by clicking individual links here:  Shadow Spell   |   Dark Witch   |   Thankless in Death   |   Concealed in Death  |  The Collector  |  Blood Magick  |  Blue Dahilia  |  The Liar  |  Dance Upon the Air  |  The Obsession

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"A Court of Mist and Fury" by Sarah J. Maas

This is a follow up book to A Court of Thorns and Roses so obviously I had to pick it up and read it immediately.  This book has some PG-13 to Rated-R moments....read at your own discretion.

Summary:  Feyre survived Under the Mountain and battled her way to happily ever after.  Except she's anything but happy.  Feyre can't cope with the cost of her freedom, even though thousands were saved along with her.  As Feyre sinks into a deep depression, her fiance Tamlin struggles with issues of his own.  Determined to protect Feyre at any cost, he locks her in his manor house, isolating Feyre from the very things that give her hope.  On the day of Feyre and Tamlin's wedding, Feyre realizes that she absolutely can't marry Tamlin.  As her heart wishes for someone - anyone - to save her, the High Lord of the Night Court appears and whisks her away, claiming that it's time Feyre makes good on their bargain to spend time at the Night Court.  Feyre's time in the Night Court helps her heal her soul, but also plunges her into the dangerous world of High Fae politics and the potential of a brutal and terrible war.

My Thoughts:  I liked this sequel, even though it wasn't what I expected.  Although longer than your usual YA novel, "A Court of Mist and Fury" was jam packed with plot, character development and action that made turning the pages quick and fun.  And now to the meat...

First of all, how did I not notice that Tamlin was such a dirt ball in the first book?  "A Court of Mist an Fury" paints Tamlin as a fairy equivalent of an abusive boyfriend.  While Tamling never raises a hand to Feyre, he locks her in the house when she asks to go outside.  This is not ok and is actually really scary, as at first Feyre seems to think its OK as Tamlin claims to be protecting her from the creatures on the lose in his realm.  Further, Tamlin mentally abuses Feyre by convincing her not to take an active role in his life, or even in her own.  He undermines her sense of self by convincing her that she's not as capable as she is.  Maas tries to use the excuse that Tamlin was damaged by his experience Under the Hill (and I think that it right on) but it is done in such a secondary way that it seems like it comes out of nowhere.  I felt this was sloppy on Maas' part, and an excuse to break the epic love story of Feyre and Tamlin a part.  I think its fine for the characters to grow apart, I just wish there had been more of a buildup instead of a lot of the action taking place between books.

Secondly, I disliked Feyre much less in this book.  I will even admit that, at times, I may have even liked her.  While I found her depression and lack of will in the first few chapters frustrating, I thought it was well done and true to depression as I've seen it experienced.  I also enjoyed Feyre's journey into self reliance and self discovery.  Her time with the Night Court and the relationships explored there help her become if not a certified bad ass, well on the road to bad-assery.  Don't get me wrong.  Feyre is still petulant and cocky, but her heart grows to care for others in a way I wasn't sure was possible.

Lastly, I really enjoyed the setting and character development in "A Court of Mist and Fury".  Maas has a masterful sense of description - I could see the lights of Velaris, see the beauty of the Night Court Palace and imagine every fabulous outfit worn by the main characters.  The new supporting characters were interesting and integral part of Feyre's development.  I wanted to learn more about them even as they skimmed in and out of each chapter.

Rating:  Definitely read this, if you've read the first series.  I'm going to re-read books #1 and #2 again as I feel if I missed a ton of setup in ACOTAR.

Reviewed By:  Tami

Also Read By:  A Court of Thorns and Roses (Book #1)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

"Old Man's War" by John Scalzi

I found this book at a library book sale and I immediately thought, "Hey, I have a friend who loves Scalzi!" So I paid $0.50 and took it home.

Summary: Humanity has colonized uncounted worlds and found that we are not alone. As the Colonial Union literally and figuratively rockets forward, they leave Earth in the dust. John Perry is 75 years old and not particularly interested in being old any longer. The Colonial Defense Force has the technology to make people young again, but they haven't shared that with Earth scientists. The only way to benefit from it is to enlist. And if you enlist, you can't go home again.

Perry says good-bye to his whole life and signs up for a second chance. He and a thousand other recruits are trained in the art of combat. People from all professions are there with the same goal of extending their lives, which means politicians, farmers, scientists, teachers are all brought together with a lifetime of experience and emotional investments that make them a particularly unique fighting force. They are the front line defending humanity from the exotic dangers of the galaxy and having nieces, nephews and grandchildren back home gives them that added incentive to do their best.

What I Liked: Something about Scalzi's writing style is perfect for me. Each sentence seems to be exactly what it needs to be to get the point across and introduce you to the next sentence. I read this book very quickly (by my standards) and I am eager for the sequel. He does a great job with foreshadowing so that there are a series of mysteries throughout the book, keeping me interested.

What I Didn't Like: The faster-than-light skip drive gives me the shivers.

Rating: Must Read.

Also Read by this Author: None.

Reviewed by: Nick