Tag Archive | book reviews

10 Books that changed me / made me/ got me through it

So there’s a meme going round on Facebook, where you give people some variation on the subject of the 10 books that stayed with you/ made you a better writer/ made you into a reader/ that you re-read…..

And my first thought after being tagged not once but twice was…. Only ten???

Hehehehehehehehe

Some of these are more author than books.

1. The Secret Garden & The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnette. These two books captivated me and made me into the reader that I am today. I fell into those worlds on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, I have continuously owned these books since third grade. My last reread was a couple of years ago, when I had an idea of doing a homage to them. Might need to reread and then start writing that.

2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. This book made me fall in love with Science. I wanted to go to MIT, I wanted to fly to the stars… What I didn’t realize is that this was my introduction to Sci Fi. I’d later devour titles such as Have Space Suit, Will Travel… but this one stays with me.

3. Xanth Series by Piers Anthony. OMG. If Madeleine L’Engle got me to appreciate Science Fiction, Piers Anthony gave me fantasy worlds that played, had characters that you liked and were dealing with sometimes funny things, sometimes big things. But always, always with a dose of humor. I owe him a huge debt.

4. Lynn Flewelling, Tamir books. These books were rich and complex and gorgeous. And even though they are a prequel to the Night Runner novels, they showed me that writers can write wildly different types of books, even within the same genre and world. I loved Seregil and Alec, but The Bone Doll’s Twin– that book took my breath away.

5. The Black Jewels series by Anne Bishop got me through one of the roughest times of my life. Thank you, Anne.

6. Cathy Lamb, specifically If you Could See What I See, well, that helped to put me back together after those tough times.

7. Henry V by Shakespeare. I love this play, it’s always been my favorite. The St Crispin’s speech floors me every. single. time.

8. The Queens Pleasure, by Brandy Purdy. Her use of language is so beautiful I actually marked up my book, highlighting the good bits. I haven’t done that since college, but wow. Amazing.

9. Eloisa James & Julia Quinn… for always giving me a good read, one that makes me feel better no matter what.

10. Charlie and the Chocolate Factoryby Roald Dahl. My flash fiction piece I just submitted is a homage to this. I love it. That candy garden captured me as a child and has not left me… I’ve even infected my child with my love for it.

So there you have it. These have all influenced me in ways that reverberating throughout my life and my writing. And my writing life. Hehehehe. What books / authors would you add to the mix?

Book Review: The Confession of Piers Gaveston

the confessions of piers

I received a copy of The Confession of Piers Gaveston from the author, Brandy Purdy. At first, I wasn’t sure how to approach it. Even though, strictly speaking, she doesn’t write a series of books, they are all tightly clustered around the same theme. Royalty, and those who surround them.

I almost never read backwards in a writers catalog. But I am glad that I did with this one.

The language that enthralled me in The Queen;s Pleasure starts to bloom in this novel. If you ever want to find out about a Brandy Purdy novel, I am becoming convinced that you should read the first paragraph. It’s all encaspulated right there, in one beautiful package, if you know what to look for.

This novel was hard, for other reasons. The narrator is not at all reliable. At first, it can be mistaken for a new author’s handling… but no. I believe that the narrator has deluded not only everyone else… but himself as well. The cycle of abuse winds its way through the novel, and Pier’s romantic relationship with the king.

I’m glad that I read this one. It’s not my normal style, and definately breaks the tradition of going in an author’s back list (except for romance authors). But the seeds are there, sprouting into a glorious rose…..

It’s not a comfortable read. It’s disturbing. It stays with you.

Just like great fiction is supposed to.

Ta for now, my lovelies. I’ll write more soon!

Book Review: The Choclate Touch by Laura Florand

The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand

Publication Date: 7.30.13

Advanced Reader Copy provided for review

 

I loved this book. The newest entry into the series, The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand, does something that not many romantic novels do: open from the hero’s point of view. And what a hero he is.

Dom is flawed. Really, really flawed. But he has fought his way to where he is, and is so restrained and tender when dealing with Jamie that it almost breaks your heart. Jamie herself was almost broken, before she came to Paris, before Dom.

This one sits with me, still. I finished it last night, and it’s lingering on my palate like a good chocolate should. Just enough to make you crave more.

I think Dom and Jamie’s story is staying with me because of the insecurity. Both of them are riddled with insecurities, real, honest to goodness insecurity. In one of the sweetest parts of the book, Dom goes to see a psychologist so he can learn how to be perfect for Jamie.

He doesn’t realize that the very things he hates about himself is what she loves. Watch, in the book, when they talk about his hands. The scars, their weight and heft and the fact that the cocoa butter has softened them. It’s more than holding hands, it’s more than just sex. (Although that was well done, too!) It’s almost a metaphor, carried out subtly and quietly, and it stays with you.

I’m not going to do the plot in a jot on this one, because I’m pretty sure that you can figure out what the story’s about from the post LOL.

 But I will give it 4.5/5 whispering whimsies.

 

 (Special Shout out to both Kensington and the author: THANK YOU FOR NOT MAKING ME WAIT ANOTHER YEAR FOR THE NEXT ONE! I think I saw that it comes out in December.)

 

Review: Scrapped by Mollie Cox Bryan & Suprising Lord Jack by Sally MacKenzie

The two books that I’m blogging about tonight are on the surface completely different. One is a modern day cozy mystery, the other a historical romance. And yet here we are. I always said I was a little ecclectic, so now is when we put it to the test.

Please note: Both books were provided as ARCs from Kensington Books. Both are the second books in a series, but you don’t need to read the first books to get into them.

I was excited about Scrapped by Mollie Cox Bryan, I really enjoyed the first book, Scrapbook of Secrets. This one… I enjoyed the novel, but I’m not sure about where the author is taking a few of the characters. By the end of the book, Annie seems to be headed for some no-no action with Detective Bryant, and Vera is embroiled in a no strings relationship that quite frankly, I just don’t get. They’re still great friends, the mystery moves right along… But I’m not sure I’m going to follow on the next book. The friendships in the novel are still solid, Annie’s involvement in the mystery is a little more believable… overall, it was a good book. My trepidation is a personal thing.

Surprising Lord Jack is the historical romance, and it has all of the conventions that you would expect. But what you don’t really expect is for the heroine, Frances, to be quite as headstrong and as determined as she is. I liked her fire, her spunk. Even though she is perfect for Lord Jack, and you’re rooting for the two of them… You almost wish that they had been in a time/place when she wouldn’t have to marry to save her reputation. However, this one was exactly the way I like them: fast, funny with a strong heroine who isn’t afraid to voice her opinion. It is the perfect building block from the previous novel… but I think I actually like this one a bit more 🙂

So, two stand alone sequels to two very different novels. As readers, I want you all to go out and buy more books. But as a writer, I have to ask…Why is one so much more successful than the other? It’s not genre: even though they are in different genres, both are pretty much what I call bubblegum. Great to read, enjoy, breeze through an afternoon.

I think the main thing is that one (Surprising Lord Jack), takes on 2 different characters, with other characters making a reappearance. The other one (Scrapped) revolves around a group of friends, and the focus has remained on the same characters. This makes it harder for an author, because you not only have to bring your loyal readers along with you— you need to make sure that the characters have some kind of growth and change.

You just have to be careful to keep your readers with the characters as they do it.

For me… I think as a writer I prefer the first way. I’ve tried writing a sequel to one of my (unpublished) novels, and while I love the character… I think I’d have to just forget that I had ever written that first novel. Use it as back story. How about you?

If you have written a series— how do you handle it? If you’re a reader– which way do you prefer? All the same characters with a few new ones thrown in? Or new main characters, with your favorites from stories past making appearances?

Gardens, Secret, Forgotten and otherwise

Image

I had not read any of the accolades  on this book before reading it. I picked it up because it intrigued me, quietly and simply.

I didn’t expect to be so immersed, or for it to bring up so much of The Secret Garden (by Frances Hodgson Burnett). Frances Hodgson Burnett is largely responsible for me wanting to learn how to craft a story. But more than that, to craft a story that people can fall into, fall in love with, and never want to leave.

I’m still reading her books, all these years later. They still resonate, still inspire me.

And apparently Kate Morton feels the same way about Frances. Because not only does The Forgotten Garden takes The Secret Garden, grows it up and deepens it. She adds a family history, takes the male cousin and makes it another female, shakes and stirs and just adds so much to the tradition it humbles me.

I really wish I could write like this.

But I am so glad that someone out there does, in fact, write for girls like me. Girls who want to go beyond the Secret Garden and find out the mystery of life.

Oh, and to add Burnett as a character in the novel? Near where the secret garden and the maze was?

Priceless!

 

 

Forgotten Queen

The latest book about the Tudor’s to be devoured by me was The Forgotten Queen, by D.L. Bogdan (Kenisington Books). And the title is actually befitting, because she has for the most part been… well, forgotten. As was her older brother Arthur.

Not. A. Clue.

If I had ever known that Henry VIII had an older brother (let alone sisters!), it flew out of my head trying to remember all the wives he had!

Most of the annoying bits in this can be attributed to the main character’s age. She is incredibly young. While Princes are trained to run a kingdom, a princess is trained to be a wife. What then, when her foolish husband goes off and gets himself killed, leaving her regent of an infant king?

From this point on, Margaret’s decisions become… questionable. Yet she deals with them. Perhaps not in the way you and I would, but in the only way she seems to know how. The only way afforded to women in that era.

This one gets 3/5 stars. While it was a solid read, I’m not sure i have the stamina to read her story again. It’s a great ride, and as I don’t remember her except from what I read in this novel, the take on England and Scotland and their relations was fresh.

Ta my lovelies— I’m off to read some books I got from my Barnes and Nobles birthday trip. I’m not sure when I’ll be back on, but by Monday, definately!

Editing, Endings and Evolution

Well, I “met” my editor for my short story and… It wasn’t as bad as I feared. Me, being me (as it’s inconvient to be anyone else right now), had figured something along the lines of “OMG, they realized they hated the story and don’t know how to tell me… or maybe it’s SO horrible it’s taking so long and they hate me and and and…” Yah, I have the tendency to go waaaay past normal and into worst possible case scenario LOL. (In my defense— I do try not to involve too many people in my drama, and I always ASK someone I trust before I go flying off the handle with all the “nobody loves me” stuff.)

ANYHOO— was very nice. Not very painful, at all. Mostly grammar and such, which I get. Well, I understand that the changes need to be made, and made them and sent it back all neat and tidy. SO… that hurdle was cleared and we’re marching onwards toward PUBLICATION! YAY!

 

Ok. So enough tooting my own horn. Lets get down to business.

Specifically, endings.

I don’t claim to have the secret to great endings. I *know* I’m relatively untried as a writer, however… As a reader, you’ll be hard pressed to name 10 people you personally know who reads more than I do unless it’s for their job. And that’s not even counting the books I put down because I can’t get it to them.

There were two great books, one of them A Vintage Affair by Isabell Wolff and the other was Redoubt by Mercedes Lackey. Books held my interest all the way through… And then the endings.

With Wolff’s book, I hadn’t read one of her’s before. Maybe it’s her style. But I honestly thought I skipped a chapter. On my Nook, no less. I went back and forth, through the chapter thing that you can jump around in,… and nope. No missing pages. But to take a book, a really good book, and blow it like that?

Heartbreaking.

You can’t have the heroine telling someone that she’d found someone, but someone who’s currently only a friend, and then in the blooming next chapter holding hands and planning to meet his parents. If you’re going to end it ambiguous, do that. Don’t put the holding hands and plans for future in there. That would have been fine. F I N E. I personally LOVE a happy ending, but not all great books have them.

They do, however, feel COMPLETE. Not as if the publisher had left a chapter out.

Now, I’m going to throw this one out there. First of all, I’ve got nothing but love for Mercedes Lackey. She is one of my all time favorites. The Foundation series that she’s writing right now? I’ve bought all except the current one. In hard back.

I really like this author.

And it sucks that there’s a niggle of doubt over the e-book version of Redoubt, because it is a great read. Oh.. my… gawd… it gets GREAT. And when he realizes what love is, what it truly truly is deep down inside, you feel like crying.

And then you feel like throwing the Nook against the wall when you get to the end and realize… there’s not going to be a reunion between the friends where they can hash things out. For the first time in the series, it doesn’t end with Bear, Lena and Mags huddled up in the Hearler’s college, trying to figure out what’s next.

Now, that could be cuz these kids are growing up. Bear and Lena have gotten married. The second half of the book really picks up and goes and has you by the throat…. and then Dallen is there and you’re cheering, and then… IT’S FREAKING OVER.

And it’s really only a problem for 2 reasons. #1– it didn’t end as the others had, with the friends together and #2…. Someone posted on B&N in their review posted that the publisher had not put everything that is in the hard cover into the Nook version. That it had been EDITED DOWN.

What the heck?!???!!!!

Now, in the first book, I will say in no uncertain terms that I felt as if Wolff had forgotten a chapter. But for Mercedes Lackey? It might just be that it felt too quick because I was gripped into it and wanted more… I wanted the resolution and the kicking of butts to commence. I wanted to find out what it *meant* to Mags… but this could just be a great cliff hanger for the next book.

However…

I can’t tell. Because the pagination in e-books is wonky.

So….

For A Vintage Affair by Isabelle Wolf: Grade B. Solid book, even if it read weird for me. The romance part of it wasn’t really the main part of the story, and the REAL story was taken to it’s full conclusion.

 

Redoubt, by Mercedes Lackey…. I’m going to grudingly give an A to. It would be an A plus, except I STILL (weeks later) feel cheated. Dang it, Ms. Lackey— WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

 

Sorry I’ve been a little wonky myself on posting. I went to doctor’s yesterday— it’s my annual upper respitory / sinus infection time. yay me. But as I am taking my medication, hopefully will be gone by weekend.

 

Ta for now, my lovelies.