Thursday, September 30, 2010

September reading list

Here's my list for September - Total 9 books

Chosen by Jeanne Stein *****
The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell ******
Queen of Shadows by Dianne Sylvan **
Grimrose Path by Rob Thurman *****
The Darkest Edge of Dawn by Kelly Gay *****
Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire *****
A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire *****
An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire *****
On the Edge by Ilona Andrews *****

It was another slow month for me for various reasons. Can I say I'm glad September is behind me? Not because of the books, just life. Books are what save my sanity and this month's list is filled with good books.

With the exception of one (which I'll talk about last), this month's books are 5 stars (or more, really, in the case of The Angels are the Reapers - you can read my separate blog about that). All have strong female characters, well developed worlds, intelligent dialogue, action, believable relationships and are just plain excellent.

Chosen by Jeanne Stein - This is the 6th in the Anna Strong series. Anna is a vampire - not by choice. This book delves more into the relationship with her new boyfriend while she struggles to come to terms with herself & what being a vampire means to her future. Oh - and she's totally bad-ass when necessary. I love this series.

Grimrose Path by Rob Thurman - This is the second in the Trickster series. Trixa is a bar owner & a trickster god. Leo is her friend, a fellow bartender & a god himself. Griffin & Zeke are my favorite part of this series - I love their relationship because its so sweet & crazy at the same time (an angel & demon in love? *g*). Rob is an incredible writer. Trixa does not think like a human and she tries to trick the reader in the story (hey, she's a trickster). I love that.

The Darkest Edge of Dawn by Kelly Gay - This is the second in a series. It is better than the first book. Charlie is a cop & mom to a budding teenager. The relationship between her & Hank her partner develops in interesting ways. Charlie is tough, with a lone wolf attitude that takes some serious adjusting in this book. I really love the story in these books, with one minor frustration. In the first book, her male characters sometimes seem interchangeable in description. BUT Hank & Rex both developed nicely in this second book.

Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, & An Artificial Light by Seanan McGuire - I've had these in my TBR pile for a while. I deliberately waited until the 3rd book came out to read them. October Daye is half fae & a private investigator. The series starts off with her trying to rescue a fae queen & princess only to fail & be turned into a koi by the bad guy...for 14 years! When she wakes from the spell its to find the world has moved on without her - her boyfriend and daughter are lost to her & she's not only alone, she's pissed at the world. She's working in a grocery store when she gets sucked back into fae politics. Tybalt, the King of Cats, is comparable to Curran from Ilona Andrew's Kate Daniels series. I love him. Seanan isn't afraid to kill off main characters and October goes through a lot of crap. These books are fantastic. I highly recommend them.

On the Edge by Ilona Andrews is about Rose, who lives in the Edge - kind of the space between the human world and the fae word. She's not a blueblood fae, but she has the power of one & that makes her a hot commodity for lesser nobles intent on breeding stronger children. She's not too happy with that. She's got enough trouble raising her two young brothers, dealing with her zombie-like grandfather and paying the bills. Her latest suitor? Declan. Enter some evil and it makes for a fantastic story. Ilona Andrews is actually a husband & wife team & never fail to deliver. In fact, they post short stories on their website to entertain fans. How can you not love that?

Finally, Queen of Shadows by Dianne Sylvan - 3 Stars - This is a tough one to recommend. I wanted to like it. It's well written...the characters are well developed, the world is well developed, the story is there.... My problem with it is this... The main character, Miranda, is weak. Not only is she weak, she's kind of pathetic. She's a psychic who can hear people's thoughts & its driving her insane. Her only escape is her music. She meets a guy - David (who is the head of the local vampire house) at a gig. They have an instant attraction that can't be pursued because he's hunting vampires who are on a killing spree (she of course doesn't know any of that). Anyway, after the gig she's headed home & is attacked in an alley and violently & horrifically gang raped. She somehow in the moments before being murdered manages to kill her attackers pyschically. David finds her & brings her home with him where he teaches her to control & use her gift while she heals physically & mentally. In the meantime, he's dealing with rogue vampires who are trying to bring him down. I didn't like the victimization of women in this book - they were all portrayed as these weak creatures practically begging for abuse from anyone or anything that crossed their path. Or at least that's how it felt to me. Maybe I'm just over critical. I've read other books where women are raped - its a theme a lot of authors use to build a strong character. It doesn't usually bother me*. This did - mainly because it was unnecessary when the character was already a fucked up mess. Still, its not a badly written book, just not my thing. So it gets 2 stars.

*by doesn't bother me I do not mean rape doesn't bother me - I mean this...rape is an act of violence & it is horrible, vile & disturbing. It's the absolute worst thing a female character can suffer, but also something that can explain their bad-ass fight-back attitude. I don't like to see it in a story, but I'm not going to condemn a book because the author took that route to develop their character.

So, that's my rundown for September. Hopefully, October will be a month where I can crank through my growing stack of TBR's. Ugh.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Passing of Jennifer Rardin

I went online today to read the latest news from my favorite authors and was deeply saddened to discover that Jennifer Rardin passed away. For those who don't know, she's the author of the Jaz Parks novels. (Once Bitten Twice Shy, Another One Bites the Dust, Biting the Bullet, Bitten to Death, One More Bite, Bite Marks & two more books in the series that have not been released yet.) I love these books, not just because they're a wonderful blend of adventure, action and humor...

I love these books for very personal reasons.

You see, when my son was diagnosed with aspergers syndrome (originally the diagnosis was high-functioning autism) my life stopped. It was already revolving around him and his struggles, but that diagnosis ended my world as I knew it. Suddenly life became about doctors and therapists and proper school services and fighting systems that just don't care that your kid needs something extra to develop. Autism/aspergers became all consuming. Every minute of every day was taken up with it. Everything that made me me, everything that I loved was put aside. I had no time for anything, and when I did have time, I was too exhausted to do anything with it.

Then one day a little over two years ago my son & I were at Barnes & Nobles. My son was 12 at the time, being homeschooled (because school wasn't working for him) and we were shopping for books for him. Once Bitten Twice Shy caught my eye. I stopped. I picked it up. I read the first page while he paced beside me. And I added it to my stack of books. That night, after he was in bed, I read about Jaz and Vayl. I stayed up late into the night reading until my eyes wouldn't focus anymore. And I remembered. I remembered how much I used to love reading. I remembered how much I loved urban fantasy. I remembered what it was like to have "me time". How could I have forgotten that?

The next day, I got up and dragged my son to three different bookstores to find the rest of the books in the series. And I read every chance I could. I laughed at the craziness of the characters. I laughed - something else I'd forgotten how to do. When I finished Jennifer's books, I went out and bought other urban fantasy series. I made "me time" an essential part of my day. I started crafting again. I started writing again. (I have a degree in journalism and since 1st grade teachers have encouraged me to become a writer. It was another something I loved but had abandoned.) I entered a short story contest on Deadline Dames and won!

In effect, reading that first book woke me up. It reminded me to be me. To take the time for me. It found me in the dark, took my hand and guided me into the light. I never met her, but Jennifer gave me my life back.

I visited Jennifer's blog every day. Her short stories based on readers' imput made me laugh on days when laughter was hard to come by. I entered a contest (and WON) & now proudly display a signed copy of Once Bitten Twice Shy on my bookshelves. Those bookshelves are filled with urban fantasy books I now own because she reminded me I LOVE to read! I started this blog because of my love of reading and my desire to share the books I love with others.

I joke with my son that someday I'm going to have an outfit like Jaz's & I show him the picture on the book. All that black leather .He lectures me that mothers don't dress that way, asks if he can have the katana and then we laugh together. Its our standing joke.

So, God bless you and keep you Jennifer Rardin. My heart and prayers go out to your family. You have no idea what you did for me. I wish I'd had the opportunity to tell you. I'll miss reading Jaz & Vayl tales; I'll miss your blog; I will miss you.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

on computers and geeky kids

Bow your head.
Dear God, watch over my poor pathetic piece-of-crap Compaq as it makes it's way to the great computer heaven in ... um ... India??! Amen.

You ever have one of those weeks? It started out with finding out my 15 yr. old needs his wisdom teeth out - $2700, of which my share is $1600. Then I had my cleaning & it turns out I need dental surgery $1500, my share $900. Closed the pool - new cover because the mice in the shed ate through the (year old) cover we had - $200. Oh, and new pump & filter - somewhere around $500. Old long pants/shirts don't fit growing kid $300. And the final killer....

....on Tuesday night my computer wouldn't start. It's been acting wonky for a couple of weeks, but this time, it showed the Compaq opening logo then went to a fast-flashing curser. It sounded like something was crunching inside. (Maybe there are little computer bugs in there eating the metal?!) The fourth time I attempted to turn it on, the motherboard began to scream and scream and scream. My son (a true giftedcomputer genius - seriously, the kid is building his own operating system from scratch) took it away from me & managed to get it to start. Then he backed up everything on his portable hard drive....documents, photos, folders, favorites, etc. before he let me have it back. I used it for a few hours without incident & shut down.

Wednesday morning, I turned it on and got the same Compaq screen followed by a black screen with flashing curser. On the third try I got ....the blue screen of death! Followed by a message about the bios having a corrupted something or other. The computer then attempted to fix itself. I watched and waited for about 15 minutes as it clicked and groaned. Then...the motherboard started screaming and screaming and screaming. I shut it off & attempted to turn it back on -- nothing except the screaming. It died a spectacular & from the sound of it, a very painful death.

My son came home from school, turned it on (no screaming this time) & got it to the bios screen. He analyzed data for about 5 minutes and declared it dead officially. Then he got in the car with me and made the drive to Best Buy (because I was in serious internet withdrawal) where I purchased a brand new Toshiba Satellite. When we got home, he opened it, cleaned out all the "junkware", loaded all of my software, virus protection, antispam, etc., configured all my settings, downloaded everything he had saved & turned it over to me. So I'm now sporting a brand new kick-ass computer with everything EXACTLY the way I like it and nothing missing --with no mental breakdown in between.

Can I say my son is the most awesome kid EVER?!!!

Oh, computer $500 (on sale) for a grand total of unexpected expenses in one week of....$4000. Egads. Thank you MasterCard.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Trick of the Light & The Grimrose Path by Rob Thurman

The Grimrose Path by Rob Thurman is the 2nd and possibly last book in her Trickster series, which just about breaks my heart. (Because sales weren't great on the first series, the series was cancelled by the publisher.)

I love Rob's books. Her Cal & Niko Leandros series is the BEST series EVER. If you haven't read it...what the hell is wrong with you?!? Her book Chimera is fantastic too (and is going to be a series as well). BUUUT I'm not going to talk about either of those series. I want to talk about Trixa and Griffin and Zeke and Leo...the characters in both Trick of the Light and The Grimrose Path.

These books take place in the same world as the Cal & Niko series, where demons and Pucks and other supernatural creatures walk the earth. In fact, in the second book, a character from the Cal & Niko books makes several appearances (Ishiah).

Trixa is a bar owner in Las Vegas. Zeke and Griffin are two young men who she's taken in and sort-of raised. They have psychic abilities - one can read other people's thoughts, the other their emotions. Leo works at the bar with Trixa. I hesitate to give anything away in this series because its written in a way that you're supposed to wonder exactly who Trixa is and what is going on and I don't want to spoil it. Trixa tells the story as if she's looking back at it from a point after the outcome and she (very sneaky Rob) deliberately leaves out some crucial info as to what she's really up to (Trixa, I mean). It's super clever. I can honestly say I was flat out shocked at the end of Trick of the Light. When I finished it, I sat back, turned back to the beginning of the last chapter & read it again. And had a good laugh. Because I was totally fooled and once I knew the truth of everything, it all made sense -- including Trixa's personality.

As for the characters, Trixa is very unique. She's tough, she's irreverent, and her motives are hard to figure out. There's a reason for it. (But I can't tell you...go buy the book & read it!). She and Leo are a couple-wanna-be. They feel like boyfriend/girlfriend, but they're not. Or not yet. Griffin is a good guy who does the right thing. He has made himself responsible for Zeke, who sees two sides to everything - black & white. God forbid you do the wrong thing for the right reason - he's likely to shoot you dead. Griffin is trying to teach him those important shades of gray (with mixed results). It's funny and horrifying at the same time. The one thing that you know is these two love each other. They're committed to protecting each other against all bad things in the world. It's something that Rob does extremely well - writing about the commitment people make to each other and the extremes they'll go to for each other.

These are not books you can speed read. You won't want to. In fact with this second book, knowing exactly who Trixa is, I found myself stopping and re-reading to try to catch where she might have left out info & guessing as to what that info might be....fat lot of good that did me. She still faked me out. :)

I just want to say I love this series. I hope there's some way the publisher can be convinced to pick it back up again. There is no other character like Trixa out there. I want to know more about her. I want to read more about Griffin and Zeke (they make me smile with their little moments). Leo, Eli, Thor, Ishiah...there's just so much more that could be done with these characters. They deserve more stories.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell - Must Read!!

I don't really like zombies. Sure, I loved Zombieland - it was a funny movie. And Resident Evil is one of my favorites. But Night of the Living Dead scared the everliving crap out of me in college & to this day I've never been able to watch it. (Okay, I admit, one should not go see a zombie movie when one has smoked certain things and is definitely brain altered...)

So, zombie books? Not really my thing.

I was at Borders last week, looking at their Buy One Get One 50% Off shelves. I found Dark & Stormy Knights, an anthology I wanted to read, but I couldn't find another book there. I have a rule that if I can't find that 50% off book, I'm not buying (its illogical, I know). So, anyway, I saw 'The Reapers are the Angels' there. I picked it up. I read the first page and it was....interesting. I decided, what the hell. I'll buy it.

Now, I wasn't even sure if I would be able to read it. Its got a funky style. There are no quotes when someone is talking - I have a BS is journalism - to me that's like not putting on your underwear and wearing a mini-skirt. I think I might rather stick forks in my eyes than read books that are grammatically incorrect. It's also written present tense - another of my pet peeves. She goes here. She does that. Ack. (I'm shivering just saying it.)

So, you'd think with all these issues, there would be no way I'd even read it, never mind make it five minutes into this book, right? Well, I'll admit what I thought would happen. I thought I would pick it up once or twice, attempt to read it, and eventually toss it aside in my 'God help me, what was I thinking?' pile.

But something about those first pages kept calling to me. They were fascinating. Captivating. I had other books lined up to read and I bumped them all to read this book. And I am so glad I did.

It is the story of Temple, a fifteen year old girl. She lives in a world greatly altered by some event that has created a world of zombies. She has never known a world where zombies don't exist, but she still sees beauty in the world that remains. Temple, you realize almost immediately, is struggling with something horrible that happened in her past. Something she did that changed her forever. She can't read or write, she's a loner, a traveler. As much as she's a caring, kind person, she sees herself as more of a monster than the zombies.

Temple finds herself in a town (more of a group of people living in a group of buildings under constant guard), where she attempts to fit in. But she makes a series of blunders that put her in a precarious position where she has to defend herself. In the process she kills a man and finds herself on the run from his brother, Moses, who wants revenge. The story follows her on her trip across the ravaged country where she meets a series of people, picks up a special needs man, all the while being chased by Moses.

This is not a funny tale. Its not even a scary tale (tho it is scary at points). Its a dark, horrible & terribly tragic story of life, loss and the need for redemption. I could not put it down. It grabbed me from the first page and held me in its icy grip as I rushed with Temple from the things that haunted her. It was beautiful and sad, and left me haunted.

The Reapers are the Angels was such a good book, I started it at 10 a.m., blew off everythign I had to do for the day & stayed up until almost 1 a.m. to finish it, knowing I had to get up at 5 to get my son off to school. Nothing was as important as finishing Temple's story. If I were to rate it, I would say it was one of the best books I've read this year. Definitely in the top 10. Seriously. I found myself just pausing today at various points and thinking about it. Its a rare book that does that to me.

All I can say is bravo, Alden Bell. Your book is brilliant in its darkness.