28 June 2012

#1: Spotlight on....Gabriel

*The place where I continue to gush about authors, books, and characters, because the overflow won't fit into a review :D*

Anyone who knows me knows that I like to go on and on and on ad nauseum about the angel Gabriel.

For starters, who is Gabriel? Gabriel is the male lead in one of my most favorite books of all time, Archangel, written by Sharon Shinn. And he is definitely in my top three all-time favorite heroes. The best character analysis for Gabriel comes from the book itself, when his stepmother, Hannah, was describing Gabriel to Rachel, his bride-to-be, also chosen for him by the god Jovah.

"... he takes most things seriously. He can be difficult. He can be very sure of himself, so other people's opinions do not always matter to him. He thinks it's a very easy matter to separate right from wrong, good from bad, so subtleties often elude him. He is not patient. But he is - he is never less than committed to making things right. Everything he does is with the goal of bringing goodness to the world. I can't explain what I mean. There is no evil in him. That is a rare thing to say about anyone, even an angel."

What a wonderful description of a person! It struck me when I first read it, and it strikes me each time I see it.

Gabriel is not a badass - on the contrary, he can be quite uptight and all sanctimonious. But his heart is always, always, in the right place. He will do the right thing every time, even if it is unpopular, simply because it is the right thing to do.

When you read the Samaria series, you notice that there are more 'fun' characters around, and certainly more well-liked by most people (in the series): Nathan. Obadiah. And sure, once or twice they - Obadiah especially - would express outrage at the injustices going on. But that was just in passing. It is Gabriel who speaks out openly against slavery; it is he who is viscerally disturbed at the injustices in Samarian society. Not any of those 'fun' people. For that alone, I'd take the stoic Gabriel over them a thousand times any day.

His seriousness is a big part of his character, but so is his love, his strength, his leadership, his dependability, his dominance, his wisdom. And he can be funny and witty when he wants. Another thing I noticed while reading the series was that even the ones who hated him could vouch for his character. Literally the only insults you could come up with for him are about his being uptight and sanctimonious  and a bit autocratic at times. That was it. Everyone acknowledged (even if grudgingly) that he was an amazing leader, a good man, a fair man, a wise man.

Also, everyone who was close to him knew all of his faults - hell all of Samaria knew the dude's many faults- but they loved, respected and admired him. This happened without fail. Hannah did; Ariel did; Obadiah did; Nathan did; Josiah did... and finally Rachel did.

I love, love, love Gabriel. What is there not to adore about a man who does everything with the goal of goodness in mind, a man in whom there is no malice? If you disagree with me, you are just wrong! (hehe. But I am serious, lol). Gabriel is deeply flawed - and none of those noble and fake flaws you have in PNR/UF either: no possessiveness or feeling overly responsible blah, blah blah, but proper weaknesses. Yet he also has amazing strengths that outshine his weaknesses. He is not 'cool', but he has strength of character that is etched immutably in stone. Again, I'd take that over 'cool' any day! If he were real, I do think I'd marry him if only I could get past Rachel!

26 June 2012

ARC Review: The Darkening Dream by Andy Gavin

*This title is on promotion, and can by purchased for $0.99 until June 29th

* Andy Gavin is also having an awesome giveaway to celebrate the promotion. You can join the giveaway here. *

Author: Andy Gavin

Title: The Darkening Dream

Source: Author

About the Book: Even as the modern world pushes the supernatural aside in favor of science and steel, the old ways remain. God, demon, monster, and sorcerer alike plot to regain what was theirs.

1913, Salem, Massachusetts – Sarah Engelmann’s life is full of friends, books, and avoiding the pressure to choose a husband, until an ominous vision and the haunting call of an otherworldly trumpet shake her. When she stumbles across a gruesome corpse, she fears that her vision was more of a premonition. And when she sees the murdered boy moving through the crowd at an amusement park, Sarah is thrust into a dark battle she does not understand.
With the help of Alex, an attractive Greek immigrant who knows a startling amount about the undead, Sarah sets out to uncover the truth. Their quest takes them to the factory mills of Salem, on a midnight boat ride to spy on an eerie coastal lair, and back, unexpectedly, to their own homes. What can Alex’s elderly, vampire-hunting grandfather and Sarah’s own rabbi father tell them? And what do Sarah’s continuing visions reveal?
No less than Gabriel’s Trumpet, the tool that will announce the End of Days, is at stake, and the forces that have banded to recover it include a 900 year-old vampire, a trio of disgruntled Egyptian gods, and a demon-loving Puritan minister. At the center of this swirling cast is Sarah, who must fight a millennia-old battle against unspeakable forces, knowing the ultimate prize might be herself.


My Thoughts: 

Too much of a good thing....

Rounded down to two stars. This book felt like a potentially delicious meal that was spoiled by having to many spices in it. It could have been very good, but there was simply too much going on for me to enjoy it very much.

Sarah Engelmann, daughter to a Jewish rabbi, is having an afternoon picnic with her Christian friends along with Greek newcomer Alex, when she sees a corpse who was tortured before he was murdered. The next day, when she sees selfsame corpse walking through the village fair, she knows something is up, because it is weird, to say the least, to have a dead body walking about in broad daylight. The book details the adventure Sarah, Alex, Sam, and Anne have in getting to the bottom of this dead-man-walking issue.

The time, effort, and research that Mr. Gavin put into his book is very evident, and so I am sorry to say that it did not work for me, but there you have it.

The characters were sensible, but they behaved completely wrongly for their setting. I could not believe these were teens from 1913, and that threw me out of the flow of the story several times. They acted like 21st-century kids, and not ones I'd expect from 1913. At all.

The writing was good, but again, there was too much going on, too many characters in the midst. Sarah's POV, Alex's POV, Emily's POV, Pastor Parris' POV, al-Nasir's POV..... too many narrators.

Additionally, the mythology didn't work very well for me. I loved the vampiric mythology, but the mix of religions just did my head in. One moment Christian thought and philosophy, the other moment, Jewish, the next, Islamic, all along with I believe, Greek mythology and ancient Egyptian religion. I think there was a succubus in there as well (at least that is what I understood Betty to be). It was just too much, and I reiterate that it did not work for me. Just one or two of the elements mentioned would have led to a much tighter story, I believe, instead of the melange we got. Getting towards the end, I did find myself skimming some parts, because I couldn't be bothered anymore. The ending threw me for a loop. The twist was brilliant, but I was not impressed with Sarah's decision  because it seemed very out-of-character.

An overabundance of good elements, brought this book down.

Too many spices messed this broth up for me big time. It could have been really awesome though. :(
I would like to know more about what happened to Sarah, but if ever there is a sequel, and if it does read like this, I might opt not to read it.



22 June 2012

Review: Play Dirty by Sandra Brown

Author: Sandra Brown

Title: Play Dirty

Series: N/A

About the Book: The seven deadly sins help propel this provocative, sex-fueled thriller from bestseller Brown (Ricochet). Foster Speakman, an eccentric Texas paraplegic millionaire, offers $500,000 to Griff Burkett, a disgraced former NFL quarterback fresh out of prison after serving a five-year sentence for racketeering, to impregnate Foster's wife, Laura. Foster insists the child be conceived naturally (The way God intended). Broke with no prospects, Griff takes the job. Meanwhile, Stanley Rodarte, the crooked detective behind Griff's arrest, is bent on pinning an unsolved murder on him and takes to terrorizing Griff and those close to him in the hopes of nailing him when he self-destructs. After Griff's stint as stud takes a bad turn, the ex-footballer must track down the one man who can secure his freedom. The tension builds as lust, greed, pride, wrath and envy threaten to undo everyone in this tightly told tale of modern temptation.


My Thoughts:

*This book came as a bonus gift in a Goodreads giveaway that I won, so much thanks to Sandra Brown and Goodreads for that.*

I most definitely enjoyed the book. I picked it up this morning and didn't stop until I was done. I thought the main character was drawn especially well. Griff is a former pro-NFLer who cheated, by intentionally throwing a SuperBowl game. His team lost, he got found out, he went to jail, and earned the undying hatred of NFL fans everywhere, but especially in his home state of Texas. Griff is released from jail with nothing to his name and is trying to make his way. Then he gets an offer he can't refuse from the very wealthy Foster Speakman. A hundred thousand dollars to impregnate his wife, five hundred thousand once a baby was conceived, and a million dollars a year for the rest of his life if he'd keep the whole deal secret.

The blurb on the back of the book says something about a "web of deceit and lies....", but really, there was not much suspense or intrigue or web of anything. It just didn't read like that to me. What caught me was the main character himself. Watching Griff try to pick himself up after such a spectacular fall from grace was quite gut-wrenching. Several times I think I wanted to cry. Just the sheer magnitude of what he'd lost - everything - and the vitriol people harbored towards him, how his "friends" behaved....all of that was not easy to watch, and Ms. Brown did a fantastic job showcasing that. I was wholly in Griff's corner, and that is what made this book for me.

I also quite liked the romantic aspects of the novel - it's another one of the things Ms. Brown does well. It's only a small part of the whole entire story, but she manages to make it integral.

So although this book is classified under suspense, it was not so for me. It read more like a character study with a nice romantic element and some drama. The revelation at the end COMPLETELY blindsided me! Completely, and I thought it was brilliant.

Well anyway, I really enjoyed myself and would most definitely recommend this one. Just be ready for not-suspense :D

21 June 2012

On the Fence #1: The Black Dagger Brotherhood

My diary page is for books and series I am wary of starting. 

I am a werewolf/shifter kind of gal, and I don't like vampires, especially the traditional undead incarnations of them anyway. I didn't know of this series until two things occurred in 2011: I joined GoodReads, and my discovered my flatmate loves paranormal romance as much as I do. That was how I initially heard of the BDB. At first I was wary of starting because of the thought of reading about vampires. And then I was hesitant to start because of all the drama surrounding recent books. I know this series is much-loved, as well as much-hated, but its many detractors do put forth salient points. I am not sure my heart can take all the drama.

So then, the question is 'BDB yay or nay?'

19 June 2012

Quickie Review: Hard Evidence by Pamela Clare

Author: Pamela Clare

Title: Hard Evidence

Series: I-Team #2

About the Book: After the murder of a teenage girl, a mysterious man in a black leather jacket was seen lurking near the crime scene. Investigative reporter Tessa Novak has him in her sights as the culprit…  That man was Julian Darcangelo, an undercover FBI agent working with the Denver police. He’s closing in on the trail of a human trafficker and killer. Tessa’s accusations could blow his cover, and he wants her off the investigation. But just as Tessa has made Julian a target of interest, she is now a target of the killer. And as they are forced to trust each other, their physical attraction escalates as intensely as the threat from a ruthless murderer who wants to see both of them dead…


My Thoughts:

I'm in the minority here. I enjoyed its predecessor way more than this book.

It's a great story, but I feel like it dragged out too long. And I didn't like Tessa too much. The things I'd found cute about Kara I found annoying in Tessa. And I am not too sure I buy that her reasons for wanting to publish the stories are more sound than the reasons Julian and the police wanted the information under wraps. So it was iffy for me. I really liked the hero, though.

1. Extreme Exposure - Excellent

15 June 2012

TGIF @ GReads #7: Most Valuable Books

TGIF is hosted over at GReads every Friday, and features many thought-provoking questions that are fun to answer.
Today's Question:
Most Valuable Book: From your personal collection of books, which ones hold the most value to you - is it signed by the author? or maybe it's your favorite story of all time? Share it with us.

Hmm. The most valuable books I have are the books I have loved enough to share with all my friends and/or the books I love enough to save/note so I can buy them for my kids. Yes, I am going to be THAT mom who makes her kids read all the books she loved when she was a kid and then demand to know what they think, haha.

  • Archangel by Sharon Shinn, which was shared with me by Simone, and which I shared with all my friends.
  • The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede, which was one of my earliest encounters with a dragon and a feminist princess (my kids will most def be reading these books).
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare- one of my earliest love stories, filled with sensible people, and a lesson in prejudice. 
  • The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews - because I recommend this to everyone I know who reads UF and because of the joy I get in immersing myself in pure awesomeness
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis - do I even need to explain this one?
  • Daring to Draw Near by John White which very fundamentally changed my view of prayer.
  • Prayer by Richard Foster which expanded on my changing views of Prayer
  • Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton - which helped me think through my own philosophy of faith
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis - which showed me that Christians could be thinking people too
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, which was one of my earliest journeys into sci-fci and fantasy, and showed me that weak people can be strong heroines too, something we seem to have forgotten nowadays.
To name a few, these are some of the treasured books in my library. There are so many more where those came from.

14 June 2012

Not for Me #1: Faythe's Shenanigans

Some books are not good reading experiences for me. Sometimes these are books everyone loves that I just don't enjoy. There are books I steer clear off because I know I won't like them. So here's my diary page for the books and series that are just not up my alley.

The Shifters series by Rachel Vincent

shiftersbk1 shiftersbk2 shiftersbk3 shiftersbk4 shiftersbk5 shiftersbk6

Rachel Vincent is probably one of my favorite UF authors. I love her writing - love it! And her world-building is fantastic. Her settings are so, so unique and oh-so memorable. You won't find them, or a worthy facsimile of them anywhere in UF-landia. When you come across something similar, her world is always the superior one, always.

But - and it is a major 'but' here - for me, her characters leave a good deal to be desired.  They drive me to violence. I often want to sit them down and beat some common sense into them; or just beat them bloody. It took five books for me not to want to kill Kaylee in the Soul Screamers series. I still want to badly maim all the other characters in that series except for Tod. Same issue for her Unbound series. The response the characters have to revelations or their knee-jerk reactions just frustrate the daylights out of me! To borrow one of the many British phrases I am learning, her characters just take the piss.

Without having ever read a single book in her Stray series, I can say that this series is not for me. I have read several reviews as well as a couple of discussions about the series. Just about everyone - lovers or haters of the books - complain about Faythe, the protagonist. I tend to believe the complaints because they're almost unanimous. And I know I just can't. Her well-loved characters give me pause, so how much more this almost universally panned one? Great world-building or no, I won't be able to deal with Faythe. So I pass over the Shifters series every time I come across it without blinking an eye. It is loved by many of Ms. Vincent's fans, and probably with good reason too. I would love to read more of Ms. Vincent's adult books, since she creates such fantastic settings. It's a shame really, but this is one set of books that are just not for me.

12 June 2012

Review: Tough Customer by Sandra Brown

Author: Sandra Brown

Title: Tough Customer

Series: Mitchell and Associates #2

From acclaimed bestselling author Sandra Brown, "Tough Customer" is a heart-pounding tale about obsession and murder, the fragile nature of relationships, and, possibly, second chances.
Colleagues, friends, and lovers know Dodge Hanley as a private investigator who doesn't let rules get in his way -- in his private life as well as his professional one. If he breaks a heart, or bends the law in order to catch a criminal, he does so without hesitation or apology.That's why he's the first person Caroline King asks for help when a deranged stalker attempts to murder their daughter . . . the daughter Dodge has never met. He has a whole bagful of grudging excuses for wishing to ignore Caroline's call, and one compelling reason to drop everything and fly down to Texas: guilt.
Dodge joins forces with local deputy sheriff Ski Nyland, but the alarming situation goes from bad to worse when the stalker begins to claim other victims and leaves an ominous trail of clues as he lethally works his way toward Berry. Sensing the killer drawing nearer, Dodge, who's survived vicious criminals and his own self-destructive impulses, realizes that this time he's in for the fight of his life.

My Thoughts:

Rating: Somewhere between "Good" and "Excellent."

I won this book from a GoodReads Giveaway - my first time ever to win any book! - and I really enjoyed it. Berry Malone's coworker is stalking her and now he's escalated to violence.

Caroline King, Berry's mother, calls in Dodge Hanley, a private investigator to ask him to help. she's been estranged from dodge for thirty years. Beery is their daughter, but Dodge has never met her.

Although I didn't feel it was very suspenseful, I will say that this novel is more of a suspense novel than most of the suspense novels I've been reading lately. Those were more romances with suspensful elements; this one was more of a suspense with romantic elements. I liked the change. I think it was a solid mystery and a solid chase to find the killer before he got to Berry.

The reason why I didn't find it too suspenseful was because I was totally focused on the relationship dynamics between Caroline and Dodge. Even though it occupied only a minor space in the book, their history was so rich and fraught with - everything: joy, sadness, love, anger, pain, hurt, hope... it was wonderful to read about. I thought it was genius that Ms. Brown managed to weave the flashbacks of the days when Caroline and Dodge were young seamlessly intot the main storyline of the present-day issues: Berry and her stalker. I liked the scruffy irreverent Dodge, and was glad he and Caroline got an HEA after 30 years, can you imagine!!

What I didn't like was the twist. I didn't see that coming, but when it happened, my reaction was more "What the heck?" as opposed to "oh wow, what a cool twist!" But anyway, by then, I was more interested in Dodge and Caroline than I was in the whole stalker issue.

In her acknowledgements at the end, Ms. Brown stated that Dodge was a compelling character and she hoped she did him justice. In my eyes, at least, she did him justice and did it very well.

*My thanks to Sandra Brown and GoodReads.*

1. Smash Cut

07 June 2012

#1: Thinking On... Re-Reads

For me, the best part about rereads is coming back to a familiar story. And because I already know the sequence of events, there is no hurry. I can go on the journey again, taking the time to savor it, and in the process I notice new things: subtle nuances (redundant, I know), a character description I missed, someone's POV, an opinion expressed, beautiful prose, striking images - all the things I overlooked because I was s caught up in the euphoria and the drama of the plot the first time around.

I don't often reread books, but when I do, I am usually glad [unfortunately there are a few books that I don't enjoy on reread, and it makes me wonder how/why I liked them so much before].

Here are some of my favorite books to reread, and which I do often:

 Rose, Declan and the boys. Their story never fails to make me smile, and I never, ever fail to be immersed in Declan and Rose's lives. And each time I reread it, I notice something funny that I didn't notice before. I always read this one from cover to cover, and I always fall a little bit more in love with Rose and Declan every time I pick this one up.
Probably my favorite series of all time. Just being with Kate and Curran and enjoying their lives and seeing their world through their eyes is a wonderful experience I keep returning to these books over and over again. I have lost count of how many times I have read the books, especially book 4, my favorite, and the Curran POV's. 

The sheer beauty of Sharon Shinn's writing and the awesomeness of the characters make this book a treat time and again. Gabriel is one of my most favorite heroes in all of fiction. On every reread, I notice something new about him. I notice his flaws more, but I see his strengths more too. Rachel is also made of awesome. For 10 years and counting I have loved this book, and it never goes out of style each time I pick it up.
 Hawke! In all his fantabulosity.... and Sienna .... and the SnowDancer pack.... and Lucas. But mostly Hawke and his beautiful self. I love this world that Nalini Singh has created, and I love spending time with such a wonderful ensemble cast, the most wonderful of whom is Hawke!

Do you have any favorite books that you reread often? Do you reread any books at all?

05 June 2012

Review: Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn

Author: Carrie Vaughn

Title: Kitty and the Midnight Hour

Series: Kitty Norville #1

About the Book: Kitty Norville is a midnight-shift DJ for a Denver radio station - and a werewolf in the closet. Her new late-night advice show for the supernaturally disadvantaged is a raging success, but it's Kitty who can use some help. With one sexy werewolf-hunter and a few homicidal undead on her tail, Kitty may have bitten off more than she can chew?

My Thoughts:

The last 25% of the book is a massive improvement over the first 75% of the book, in my opinion, and major reason I've rated this book as 'good' (3 stars) instead of 'didn't like it' (2 stars). I also think that my feelings about this book have to do in large part with my own expectations gone wrong.

What I Expected:

Before starting this book I'd heard it was about submissive werewolf. That had me majorly excited because in all the werewolf fiction I've come across, dominant, not submissive wolves are the subject. You come across an outlier once awhile, like Anna in Patricia Briggs' Alpha and Omega series, but they ae usually dominant wolves in some weird/different incarnation (like Anna is) or dominant wolves whoa re dormant and waiting for the right time to strike. I wanted to read this book because I thought it would be fun to see an imagined werewolf society through a submissive wolf's perspective. I was also excited because not every strong person is 'kickass', or 'take-charge', or dominant. That paradigm shows us only one side of strength and forces our expectations of what strength should be inside a box (okay soapbox over...I think).

Well, anyway, that is what I expected, not what I got.

What I got:

1. A HELLA whiny heroine. And by that I mean HELLA whiny! Whining in both wolf and human forms, cowering all the time, all over the place. If I had to desrcibe her in one word, it would be whiny, with 'HELLA' in brackets and capitals attached before.

2. NOT a healthy description of a person or a wolf pack. In Kitty's pack instead of being protectors, the dominant wolves seem to be walking abusers, preying on anything weaker than themselves, ans walking man-whores too (no wonder most werewolf mythologies have them as immune to almost everything. They'd all have died from STD's by now if that wasn't the case!) Most of them were asshats. They were more like sadists than a pack of werewolves.

3. A HELLA whiny heroine. She was not a healthy person. As I was reading, I couldn't help thinking over and over again that 'this is NOT what a healthy depiction of a submissive person/werewolf should be!', and 'this is NOT what a healthy werewolf packs should be!

*As the story went on, I liked Kitty less and less, most of that being the way she acted on her talk show. I don't know if she was meant to be a shock jock or something, but I thought the way she spoke to most people was quite rude and uncalled for. I don't like that.

By the end, the writing had gotten really better, but through some unbelievably fake machinations (to me at least), our heroine sorta comes into her own, and discovers that mebbe she isn't really submissive after all. She is growing up; she has more spine; she is probably more dominant than she thought she was. I felt that was a cop-out. She's basically your generic 'kickass, talk-smack' UF heroine, only quite watered down, and slightly gentler. Eh whatever.

Thus I was disappointed in this here story. It was a good case of wrong expectation, but I also think it was a good case of wrong execution too. Even though I enjoyed the last parts of the story much more than I expected, I don't think I will come along for the ride.



01 June 2012

Dying to Get in June: Terrible and Tod

*At the beginning of the month I post covers of new releases I am just dying to get my hands on and why I am so excited. *

 I don't even know what I am going to do with myself this month! The two books I am most dying to get my hands on are releasing on the same day!! Ack! What to start first? To make matters worse, I might be working on that day! Dammit!

 June 26 2012: Before I Wake

I am very interested in seeing how Kaylee and Tod deal with the aftermath of the events in If I Die. I could care less about the other characters, when I am not spending time actively hating them. Ms. Vincent has been dropping really juicy, scary hints about the events in this book. I am so sure I will read the final chapter before I actually even begin the book, I don't want to die of a heart-attack halfway through, hehe.

June 26 2012: Chasing Magic 

I truly like spending time with Chess and Terrible (most especially Terrible). Ms. Kane has created a wonderful, complicated relationship between the two of them, and I love coming along for the ride. For me the mystery and plot always pales in comparison to the moments Chess and Terrible share together. Oh yes, I also want to see how Chess is going to handle this new development with Lex. Terrible better not die in this war or I'll kill Lex myself!

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