Monday, December 27, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games: Book 1
The Hunger Games: Book 1 by Suzanne Collins

I know I'm a little behind the game on this series, just getting it into my reading now, but it was worth the wait.

Katniss lives in the 12th district, the poorest district there is, with her mother and her sister, Prim. She sneaks out under the fences during the day to poach in the forest for food to eat and trade with her friend, Gale. They support their families and keep from starving, but the consequenses of being caught could be deadly.

The day of the Reaping is here. The Reaping is the day two children, a boy and a girl ages 12-18, from each of the 12 districts are chosen to participate in the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are a deadly showdown forcing the children to fight for their lives. There can be only one winner....the last one left alive. Katniss is shocked when her sister is selected from the list to participate and quickly volunteers to take her place.

In the Capitol she is prepared for the games with her fellow selection from district 12, a boy named Peeta. They strike up an unusual friendship that Katniss is scared will only interfere with her winning the game so she can return to her family. Once the game starts she strikes out on her own, hoping to outlast the other contestants. But the gamemakers seem to be forcing her to make a decision. A decision between her life or the life of Peeta. After all, there is only one winner.

This book may sound gory and bloody and rather harsh. Parts of it are, but not so much that it took away from the tale of Katniss discovering who she is and who she can be. She learns the meaning of friendship and trust, compassion and revenge, and above all, what sacrifice really means.

The other contestants in the game are written in a way that they stand out as individuals, but not so much that they take away from the characters of Katniss and Peeta. I'm looking forward to continuing to story to see what the gamemakers have in store.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Book Review: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riodan

The Lightning Thief   [LIGHTNING THIEF] [Paperback]
The Lightning Thief   [LIGHTNING THIEF] [Paperback] by Rick Riordon

The gods exist. We just don't realize it, or at least not all of us. But then one day Zues's master lightning bolt is stolen. He blames Poseidon, all because of an ancient vow that he has broken. A vow not to have children with mortals. The demi-gods are too powerful and could potentially overthrow the gods themselves. Percy Jackson, is this son. And not only did he not steal the bolt, he doesn't even know what he really is.

As a result of the bolt being stolen, the immortals launch an attack on Percy to try and get the bolt, either to give it to Zeus or keep it for themselves. When Percy's family and his best friend, Grover, find out they take him to Camp Half-Blood, a safe training grounds for the demi-gods to grow and learn their past and how to defend themselves.

From Camp Half-Blood Percy is given a quest to find out who really did take the bolt to avoid a battle of the gods that would detroy modern civilization in the process. His quest will take him across the country, from New York to LA, from the Underworld to Mt Olympus. He must confront a variety of mythical creatures, some that offer to help, and some that are set on him failing.

This is a great book (much better than the movie, which is actually a completely different story). The characters are likeable and hateable, they are just enough surprises to keep things interesting without being too confusing for the young adults.


I was a little shocked at how different the movie was from the book. The movie takes half the book out and makes up the middle part of the story completely. There are several major gods missing, and few extras thrown in to make up for it. Percy's father, Poseidon, is shown in a completely different angle that makes many of Percy's reactions seem a bit odd. It's probably the more different movie adaptation I've ever seen.

Book Review: The Van Alen Legacy by Melissa de la Cruz

The Van Alen Legacy (Blue Bloods, Book 4)
The Van Alen Legacy (Blue Bloods, Book 4) by Melissa de la Cruz

Schuyler has been on the run since the from her own people, the Blue Bloods of New York, ever since the fateful day the Silver Bloods were fully revealed (end of book 3). She seeks refuge with a group of Blue Bloods from Paris, only to witness their almost destruction as the Silver Bloods and the demon that was accidently released wreak havoc on their annual ball.

She returns to New York to live in secrecy from her friends and try to find the secret her family has hidden for years. With the help of her human conduit, smuggling books out of the archives, she stumbles upon what her true mission should be. While one mystery begins to be solved, many more unravel around her as dark secrets are revealed, and the romance between her and Jack resurfaces.

A good series that I have enjoyed so far. The characters all change very dramatically in this book. It seems to be a major turning point in the overall story. It got a little soap opera-ish with some of the back and forth hidden lives and secrets. At times it almost made it a little hard to follow what everyone was really doing.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Book Review: A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire

A Lion Among Men (The Wicked Years, Book 3)
A Lion Among Men (The Wicked Years, Book 3) by Gregory Maguire

The story of the cowardly lion is a very interesting one. The third book walks us through his childhood, how he met Dorothy, and the part he is to play in the future of Oz.

The lion, Brrr, has quite an eventful past, and the way he received the name "cowardly" is very entertaining, and yet very sad. Brrr's entire life has been trying to fit in, somewhere, anywhere, and the fear that he never truly will haunts him.

We are introduced once again to the strange character of Yackle, the old woman who has followed the story of Oz through all three books so far. We also get a glimpse into her history and why she seems to be so eternal. We meet the Clock of the Time Dragan and it helps us to tie many of the loose ends together. Although the series still seems to lack a true conclusion, most of what has been on my mind was cleared up throughout this book.


Book Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

The story of Mariam and Laila. Two Afghan women raised in vastly different ways that find themselves living in the same household with the same abusive (to western standards) husband. We see both their histories and understand their point of view and personalities as they meet and get to watch them grow from bitter rivals, to the closest of sisters. Covering a period of Aghan history about 50 or 60 years, we see the change of regimes over and over and how life was constantly changing for the people.

I'm not even sure where to start with this one. It was amazing on so many different levels. The characters were whispering in my ear their stories as I read . The country of Afghanistan came alive on the pages. I wanted to cry and celebrate and hope with the two women every step of the way.


Book Review: The Nymph King by Gena Showalter

The Nymph King (Atlantis)
The Nymph King (Atlantis) by Gena Showalter

The third book in the Atlantis series. This time we are brought into the lives of the nymphs, briefly introduced in Jewel of Atlantis. A race of man-like creatures that no woman (of any type) resist. They have taken over one of the portals from the dragon-men, and raided the surface (Earth) for women. Apparently, nymphs grow weak if they don't have sex a few times a day. Most of the women come willingly, except for Shaye. The nymph king, Valerian, instantly feels a bond to her and wants to claim her as his own, but one of his warriors has the same idea.

Meanwhile, the dragon-men want their portal and castle back and are planning on launching a full scale attack to kick the nymphs out. Then out of nowhere one of the gods (think ancient Greek) appears and starts meddling with things.

Back with the nymphs, Shaye is slowing losing her resolve to fight against the attraction she feels for Valerian. I enjoyed both the characters of Shaye and Valerian. They were constantly evolving as they learned more about eash other and how best to get along. The supporting characters, both nymph human and other, were developed perfectly for the role they played.

Until the very end I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Then things sort of fell apart...or fell together as it may be...just a little too neatly. It seemed as if she had written her characters into a place she couldn't get them out of.


Book Review: Jewel of Atlantis by Gena Showalter

Jewel of Atlantis
Jewel of Atlantis by Gena Showalter

The second book in the Atlantis series. Atlantis is a world hidden below the ocean by the gods to contain all of their creations before the humans. The only way in is to discover one of two secret portals...guarded by men that can change into dragons and are ordered to kill all who try to come in.

Grayson James has managed to sneak through these fearsome guardians (not sure how) in search of the mythical Jewel of Dunamis. A jewel that has the power to tell the future, read minds, and separate lies from truth. His company wants to get the jewel before some government can get ahold of it and use it to their advantage during a war. Now, this reason seemed a little far fetched, because if no one can get to Atlantis to retrieve the jewel, then how can they use it? But, OK, I went with it.

Grayson soon realizes that the Jewel of Dunamis is not a gem, but a beautiful woman that is being held against her will by the demoms (one of the many creatures living in Atlantis), to take advantage of her gifts. This being a romance, sparks fly when they meet and Grayson must find a way to rescue her and keep her with him always.

I really enjoyed a lot of the tensions between Atlantean races the author allowed to spring up throughout the story. From dragon men, mermaids, gorgons, minotaurs, demons and vampires, they all had reasons for wanting the jewel in their hand and their reactions to her were unique and real. I enjoyed her character very much, while I found Grayson a little dull. It was a great read to follow up the first book, Heart of the Dragon, and parts of the storyline stem directly from the events that ended the first in the series (which I have found is unusual in romance series).


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book Review: Valley of Dry Bones by Priscilla Royal

Valley of Dry Bones (Medieval Mysteries)Valley of Dry Bones (Medieval Mysteries) by Priscilla Royal

A religious, medieval mystery, I was excited to start reading it because I love the time period. I wasn't overly thrilled with much of this story. There were so many false clues and speculations dropped that it was hard to tell where the plot was actually going at times. The characters were hard to open to, with the exception of the hermit, which I loved.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Book Review: A Cup of Friendship by Deborah Rodriguez

A Cup of Friendship: A Novel
A Cup of Friendship: A Novel by Deborah Rodriguez

Sunny is an American who owns a coffee shop in Kabul. She is surrounded by a merging of the two worlds of Afganistan and America. She toes the line between following tradition and pushing forward, allowing her employees to live as they will.

A wonderful cast of characters comes and goes through the shop and we are lucky to get to know many of them. From a country widow to a glamorous British journalist. From a traditional Afghan man to the Americans men willing to risk their lives to save a young Afghan woman. You grow to love them all for their good qualities and want to help them overcome their faults.

An interesting look at Kabul through the eyes of an American living and working in the city, surrounded by her new friends and family.


Book Review: The Magic Warble by Victoria Simcox

The Magic Warble
The Magic Warble by Victoria Simcox

Kristina is an unpopular grade school girl that can't seem to find anyone to like her, except for her pet rat. She is the recepient of a very special gift from her teacher, but it doesn't seem like much to begin with. A small ball that seems to make a funny little noise. But this is no oridinary trinket. Getting this to the right place could mean the life or death of all the magical creatures in the fairy tale world Kristina finds herself in.

The reader is introduced to gnomes, dwarves, fairies, and talking animals. There is betrayal, intrigue, sabatoge, and new friendship. This is an amazing book for young readers (my daughter is currently reading through it at 8 yrs old and loves it).


Book Review: The Next Queen of Heaven by Gregory Maguire

The Next Queen of Heaven: A Novel
The Next Queen of Heaven: A Novel by Gregory Maguire

This book has one of the most diverse cast of characters I've ever seen. We start out with the rebellious teenage girl (Tabitha) and her super religious mother (Leontina - a Pentacostal). The two brothers of the family - one an attention starved young man that would do anything to please and the other surprisingly like Tabitha. Next we meet the Catholics (they share a parking lot with the mother's chuch). The way we meet them is rather interesting. Leontina sneaks into the Catholic church one morning to "borrow" some cream and gets knocked out by a falling virgin Mary statue.

This is where things really get interesting as Leontina seems to have lost her mind and is left at home with her three children to care for her. But back to the Catholics. My favorite was Jeremy, the gay choir director, and his two friends are trying to find a place to practice for an AIDS benefit concert. Well, the only place they can find is a nunnery. A nunnery full of old retired nuns that ask only for some conversation in exchange for letting the boys used some space there.

Somehow Maguire manages to get all these people tied up into the same story line as Christmas is quickly approaching. I won't want to say too much more or a lot of the surprises would be spoiled. An amazing book, that actually has you looking at a few serious issues of the world in a new way without even realized it until you're finished.


Book Review: The Flappers: Vixen by Jillian Larkin

Vixen (The Flappers)
Vixen (The Flappers) by Jillian Larkin

Let's go back to the 1920's, to the days of flappers and prohibition, and young lady's trying to make their mark on the world. Gloria Carmody seems to have everything...the money, the boy, the lifestyle, and friends. But she's just not quite happy with any of it. One night she sneaks out with her best friends, Lorraine and Marcus, into the biggest speak easy in town. She falls in love with the music, the atmosphere, and the people.

Lorraine has always been jealous of Gloria. She had everything, the perfect life, but at least she could tag along and absorb part of the glory as her best friends. Then one day she finds out that Gloria is hiding a secret from her, a big secret. She holds Gloria's future in her hands - what will she do with it?

Gloria's cousin, Clara, has come to town to help Gloria plan for her upcoming wedding. She also comes to escape a wild lifestyle back home and get back on track the way a proper society girl should. Little does she know that all her secrets are at risk of spilling out and ruining her new life.

This book in one of the memorable reads for 2010. The characters were developed perfectly and the story was captivating. I don't think I've ever read a novel about the 20's and it was fascinating to read about the time period. Jillina Larken is going on my watch list for authors, I can't wait until she releases the next in the series.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Book Review: Dracul by Bram Stoker

Dracula (Qualitas Classics)Dracula (Qualitas Classics) by Bram Stoker

A favorite classic story of many I know, I finally found time to read it myself. The story was very interesting and I was surprised to see the character of Van Helsing appear (although I guess he had to enter the world of vampires and werewolves somewhere). The story moved fairly quickly. It was a very traditional vampire tale, but this is were so many came from I didn't really expect much more. I found myself disliking several of the characters that I was supposed to feel sympathy for. They were just too good. Overall a good book that I'm glad I found the time for.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Book Review: Dragons of the Valley by Donita K. Paul

Dragons of the Valley: A NovelDragons of the Valley: A Novel by Donita K. Paul

Chiril is in danger. An invading force is sneaking their way through the borders led by a terrible beast known only as The Grawl. A group of friends must fight once again to save their country, with the help of dragons.

I did not realize this was part of a series until after I started reading it. I really wish that authors would include that on the cover. Because of this, it took me quite awhile to get into the storyline and understand the relationships between the various characters. However, once I figured them out a bit, they were fantastic.

All the characters had just the right mix of seriousness, humor, doubt, and heroism. Lady Peg had me laughing every time she spoke. Paladin had me wanting to meet him so we could talk philosophy. Tipper reminded me of any love struck confused young woman that is trying everything she can to do the right thing.

The storyline is almost your typical good guys vs bad guys, but The Grawl puts an interesting twist on things. I found myself feeling sorry for him throughout many parts of the story. Overall a good read. I may try to find the previous books and see if they are just as good.


Book Review: Tempting the Enemy by Dee Tonorio

Tempting the EnemyTempting the Enemy by Dee Tonorio

Detective Pale Rysin is a werewolf, the leader of his pack. Jade-Scarlett is a member of the powerful order of the Sibile (women with strange magical powers), but she is also half-wolf. When she is sent to help Detective Rysin investigate the murders of several young women, sparks more than one way.

There is an instant attraction between the two, but their worlds have been taught to hate each other for years. Will they be able to overcome their prejudices and work together to solve the murders, or will their differences and desires to work alone hinder them leading to only more grisly deaths.

I loved this book. The characters were forced to evolve as they learned more about each other and the history that taught them to hate. The interactions between them a perfect and drive the story forward even as the events around them shape who they are becoming.


Book Review: Allegra Fairweather: Paranormal Investigator by Janni Nell

Allegra Fairweather: Paranormal InvestigatorAllegra Fairweather: Paranormal Investigator by Janni Nell

Allegra is a detective. A detective of paranormal happenings. Her most recent case takes her to Scotland where a bleeding rose has been discovered. While this may sound odd enough, we get to throw in a banshee, two dead bodies, a ghost, a shapeshifter, and Allegra's own guardian angel.

At first I thought the author was going to have a hard time trying to tie all of these strange happenings up into one cohesive story, but she did an excellent job. I was surprised and excited at the events as Allegra hikes through the small village trying to do her job.

Although initially pegged as a romance, there was not much of it to be found. While it was there, was not the main drive of the story and more of a pleasant background threading its way through. Again the characters were a bit stagnant (my biggest complaint of "romances"), but the plot made up for it quite a bit.


Book Review: The Bloodgate Guardian by Joely Sue Burkhart

The Bloodgate GuardianThe Bloodgate Guardian by Joely Sue Burkhart

Dr. Jaid Merritt's father has mysteriously disappeared...into a portal after performing an ancient Mayan ritual...and she saw it all on her webcam. Jaid heads to her father's dig site (overcoming a childhood fear of digs), to try and find a way to bring him back.

Instead, she stumbles upon an ancient priest, and by ancient I mean thousands of years old, but still amazingly handsome, named Ruin. Ruin is the guardian of the gate her father inadvertently crossed through, which also allowed a few demons from hell into the world.

Jaid and Ruin rush to find a way to close the gate and save their loved ones from eternal torment at the hand of the demons, and to save the world from being devoured by the demons that escaped.

This is an Indiana Jones meets romance style of book, and the author really pulled it off very well. A great read (and not gory), full of action, adventure, mystery, and romance.


Book Review: Motor City Fae by Cindy Spencer Pape

Motor City FaeMotor City Fae by Cindy Spencer Pape

Meagan is a Detroit artist, finally breaking through and making money on her paintings. Then one day she stumbles into Ric Thornhill, and boy does he have a story for her, one that she finds hard to believe. Meagan is not just your ordinary person. In fact, she's a half-elf/half-human, and to top it all off she's an heiress that has an assassin out to get her.

Ric and Meagan must fight not only for their lives, but for the fae city and society. The imagery of the fae world is fantastic. A pleasant mix of several cultures myths. This and the political intrigue were my favorite parts.

A good, quick read. Too bad the characters seemed to be very stagnant and stereotypical.