Saturday, February 02, 2008

January Books

Reserved for the Cat by Mercedes Lackey A
I loved this one!
The fifth in her Elemental Masters series. Each of these books is loosely based on a fairy tale, and then placed in England before the turn of the century. I thoroughly enjoy these books, although I admit none of them come up to the standard of the very first one, The Serpent’s Shadow, which is very loosely based on Snow White. Putting a fresh spin on an old and well-known tale is difficult to impossible, yet Lackey pulls it off with charm, humor and simplicity.
Reserved for the Cat is loosely based on Puss in Boots. Lackey adds a bit of ballet, a touch of theatre life, spreads elemental magic throughout, and then tops it off with just a hint of romance. And once again, her recipe for excellent fantasy delights. Her characters are sympathetic, interesting and believable. The period touches add fun and weight. Bonus: Lackey’s thorough knowledge of the time period grants the reader insights into the major upheavals of the time: racism, changing gender roles, class struggle between the aristocracy and general British citizenry, the industrial revolution’s effect on people’s lives…

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince A
Re-read. Loved it! Good to read a favorite through again.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling A
I loved this… I bought it the day it came out and I’ve put off reading it forever. I just couldn’t bear to read it. I guess I thought if I hadn’t read it the series really wasn’t over, which is silly. Cuz yes, she wrote it, so yes, it’s over. I was satisfied. I’m so glad Snape wasn’t an evil villain. I didn’t want him to be! I was sad Dumbledore was really dead. There were way too many deaths, and there was a section in the middle that just d-r-a-g-g-e-d… But I loved it. And the ending wasn’t too schmaltzy for me. I was glad to have those questions answered. The best review of this book was done by Stephen King and can be found on the Entertainment Weekly site here:,,20044270_20044274_20050689,00.html
I love how King compares the draggy section of The Deathly Hallows to the part of Robinson Crusoe where he’s out in the middle of the ocean and keeps going ashore to different islands in search of food…

Outlaw Mountain J.A. Jance A
A Sheriff Joanna Brady mystery. Very good.

Partner in Crime J.A. Jance A
Sheriff Brady meets Homicide Investigator J.P. Beaumont. They don’t really get along. Excellent.

Wizard’s Daughter by Catherine Coulter A-
Silly fantasy/romance. Interesting mystery that kind of peters out at the end. The buildup was really good, but the ending was a bit of a let down… .

Birds of Prey J.A. Jance A
Homicide Detective, J.P. Beaumont takes an Alaskan cruise ship directly to murder.

The Gift by Richard Paul Evans B
Kind of a ‘spiritual’ book… About a kid with the power to heal others, but that power comes with a severe price: each time he heals someone he gets sick- really, really sick, leukemia-type sick.

Armageddon Summer by Jane Yolen & Bruce Coville A
Excellent YA. This book is told alternately by two teenage characters: Marina & Jed. They have each been dragged by a parent into a freaky millennialist/survivalist cult which has set itself up on the top of a mountain to wait for the end of the world. The leader of this cult preaches that the end of the world will come on a specific day, July 27 2000, and that only 144 will be saved… The story is funny, charming, disturbing and very sad.

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods
Gregor and the Marks of Secret
by Suzanne Collins both A
These move quickly and are well written. Clear believable characters, humor and tragedy, a fully developed world. This series started out as an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ adventure, but has developed into more of a young ‘Lord of the Rings’ adventure. I have thoroughly enjoyed these and would recommend them to anyone. (Donna, that means you!) Very clean. Very fun.

The Calhouns by Nora Roberts B
Enjoyed these very much. Five sisters search through the past to save their home.

Desert Heat by J.A. Jance A
The first Joanna Brady mystery. Excellent. Joanna’s husband dies and she must figure out what’s going on and why everyone’s saying he committed suicide when she knows he didn’t…

Tombstone Courage by J.A. Jance A
The second Joanna Brady mystery. Also excellent. Joanna is the new sheriff & must take on her first case…

Pandemic by Daniel Kalla A
Disturbing book about a seriously wicked flu virus and a seriously demented Jihadist… Very good.

Sorcery & Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia Wrede & Caroline Stevermer B
SLOW start, but it ended up quite well. This is a book based on the letter game (2 people writing back and forth as different characters- just playing around really). After they were done killing off the bad guys they got together and realized they’d written a book. ‘Sorcery’ takes place in an alternate England just after the Napoleonic wars where magic abounds. There’s much about manners with just enough silliness to make it fun… My impression is that it took them about half the book to figure out what they were doing, and that it got quite good after that.

The Grand Tour by Wrede & Stevermer A
Second in the ‘Sorcery & Cecilia’ series. Much better than the first- they’ve definitely gotten good at this whole letter game business. Grand Tour takes place in Europe on the cousins’ honeymoon tour and is a rollicking good magic/historic/mystery/romance tale. I enjoyed it immensely.

Tiger Eye & Shadow Touch by Margorie M. Liu B+
I enjoyed these very much… They’re paranormal romances/mysteries, and they’re fun, but a little wordy/effusive. I love seeing books with the same characters. She’s a young writer and is still using way too many words to say what she needs to say, but they’re still fun.

Spiderwick Chronicles, Volume 1- The Field Guide by Tony DiTerlizzi & Holly Black A
I thought this was funny & silly… Took me 20 to 30 minutes to read and I found it enchanting. Fairies, brownies, trolls. My girls have looked over and over the illustrations… They love them!

The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years Later by Wrede & Stevermer B
This is the final one in their ‘Sorcery & Cecilia’ series and takes place back in England. Fun & silly, but not as good as their second one.

Shoot/Don’t Shoot, Dead to Rights, & Skeleton Canyon by J.A. Jance A
Three, four & five in the Joanna Brady mystery series. I like these and am finding them a little addictive. Sympathetic characters, solid & interesting plots, intriguing mysteries. My favorite was Skeleton Canyon- I don’t know why particularly- Maybe ‘cuz I really liked the ending. It’s clean and one of the main characters has a drastic change of heart. There are some interesting messages in these about forgiveness, justice, duty and God’s faithfulness…

Gregor & the Code of the Claw by Suzanne Collins A-
I’ve just devoured these. Great adventure/coming of age type books. But this one was a disappointment. It’s the finale, and just didn’t live up to its potential, in my opinion- I didn’t think it was as good as the others, plus it didn’t really wrap anything up. There’s a ‘boy, war really sucks’ kind of message slapped at you at the end, and I was left going, ‘what on earth was that??’

Edge of Evil and Web of Evil by J.A. Jance A
Books one and two in a completely different series with different characters. These revolve around a 40-ish TV reporter who’s kicked out of her anchor chair because she’s ‘over the hill’. She then discovers that her executive husband is having an affair. And to top it off, her best friend is found dead… These stories are good. Interesting to me because in both of Jance’s other series (Joanna Brady, J.P. Beaumont) the reporters are the BAD guys. And here we have a reporter as the good guy.
I find the situations she’s in a little unbelievable because she ends up in so much craziness- 3 gun fights in one night, for example. She’s a reporter! Not a police officer… And most police officers aren’t in multiple gun fights…. However, I’m still enjoying them… Just kind of going along and suspending my disbelief for the sake of the story.

Blood Dreams by Kay Hooper A
The first in another one of Hooper’s FBI/Bishop Special Agents trilogies. Hooper writes about FBI agents who defeat psycho sickos using paranormal gifts. The main character in this one has some precognitive vision-type powers which give her warnings about upcoming events. And the good guys are trying to catch a whacko serial killer.
Hooper is a real ‘hit or miss’ type writer- some of her books are excellently crafted with interesting plots and great characters. And then you’ll pick up another book and it reads very much like a first book by a total newbie author. It’s weird. Beth and I both read her stuff and enjoy them very much, but some of her books are so frustrating! We know she can do it. She’s done it before. She has interesting concepts. Some of them are rip-roaring… But then you’ll get one of her duds and be like ‘What happened? Did she fall asleep at the computer? Did her editor cut tons of stuff out? Why is this so bad?’ Anyway, Blood Dreams lives up to its’ potential. Yay!

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