Saturday, November 30, 2013

Review: Clockwork Angel

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:
Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still.
When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.
Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.
Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.
My Review:
The wait for the next book in the Mortal Instruments seems to be endless so I decided to try Cassandra Clare's prequel series, The Infernal Devices.  I must say... I loved it.  I am completely hooked and plan to grab the next book in the series immediately to see what happens next.

The history/background I got from the Mortal Instruments series made starting this set easier.  I already knew what The Institute was, that Shadowhunters feel themselves to be superior to Downworlders, and that each group dislikes the other.  Familiar characters emerged almost immediately and it was fun to see a younger version of them and how different their life was.  The main characters, Tessa, Will, Jem, Jessamine, Sophia, Thomas, Charlotte, and Henry, all live at the Institute and all have engaging back stories.

Tessa and Will are the central focus.  Tessa was taken captive by the Dark sisters at the beginning of the story and finds out what she can do.  Once rescued and taken to the Institute, she tries desperately to figure out how she became what she is, and how she fits into this new, dark world.  As for Will, well, except for a few brief glimpses of emotion, Will is a closed book.  We learn a bit about how he came to live at the Institute but there are still many unanswered questions.  Will and Tessa come close to being together but Will shuts her out each time a moment presents itself.  Even at the end of the book, we still don't know his secrets or why he keeps pushing Tessa away.  Inquiring minds want to know! Which is why I will be starting the next book this evening even though it is way past my bedtime.  I have a hunch....

I found it refreshing and a bit humorous how Tessa reacts to the Shadowhunter way of life.  Since the story is set in the 1800's, she believes that women do not engage in such activities as fighting, that they should not be wearing trousers, and that they are basically the weaker sex.  She is amazed that Charlotte and Jessamine (when forced) are able to use weapons and protect themselves.  As Tessa is repeatedly thrown into dangerous situations, she must act like a fighter in order to survive and finds herself appalled at first, but then almost elated that she is able to contribute and survive the perils around her and her new family.   At the conclusion of story, she is so courageous and clever that you almost wouldn't recognize her anymore.

No spoilers so I am going to stop there.  Clockwork Angel had a good deal of action.  At one point, I thought for sure Tessa would be captured a second time, but I was wrong.  I also really liked the twist in the story.  It didn't come until I got closer to the end but it was a good one!  I wasn't expecting things to happen the way they did but the events will allow the story to meander down a few different paths as it continues.

If I had an official rating system, Clockwork Angel would get 5 stars.  It was THAT good.  :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review: Deeply, Desperately

Lucy Valentine is back!

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:

Lucy wants to breathe new life into her family’s Boston-based matchmaking company. But how? Even though she comes from a long line of ancestors blessed by Cupid with psychic abilities, a freak accident left Lucy with only one special skill: finding things. Car keys, socks in the dryer, needles in haystacks...and now, in a stroke of professional genius, lost loves!
It’s not long before Lucy’s on a winning streak, helping old flames reunite and create new sparks. Business is booming. But when Lucy finds herself involved in a possible case of murder, she realizes she’s in too deep. Enter Sean Donahue. Lucy’s handsome fire-fighter turned private-eye neighbor, Sean is just the man she needs to help her on the job. Could he also be the man she’s been looking for all along? When it comes to Valentine, Inc., falling in love is always serious business…
My Review:
Just as good as the first book.  Lucy finds herself another mystery to solve, this time it is a missing person she is looking for.  She continues to use her power of finding lost items to help and more and more people are finding out about what she can do.  This is both good and bad.  In this book, we also learn about a family secret that has been kept for years.  All of my favorite characters are here.  Raphael, Dovie, Lucy's parents, Em, Marisol, and Aiden.  Of course, Sean, her love interest is here too but in this book, a small wrench is thrown into the relationship.
The recurring theme in this book is definitely "love."  Finding lost loves, questioning new love, opening up to let yourself love again, and letting go when love is no longer there.  There was a little bit of mystery and suspense but not much.  It was just a quick, fun read. There are a few more in the series but I'm going to take a break and move on to something else for a while.  I'll come back and finish the other books at another time when I am looking for a lighter read.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Feature and Follow

Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison can Read.

Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! or just check out the weekly questions and see what others respond. 

*If you would like to follow me, you can do so by GFC, Bloglovin, Goodreads, Google +, or Twitter :) Just let me know if you are a new follower and I will follow back!  Thanks! 

Question: You Are It! We are playing #FF tag this week. Comment on as many blogs as you can, even if they aren’t participating in #FF. Just say Happy #FF! At the end of your comment. Keep a running total if you want and update your post with it. I'll be commenting on as many as I possibly can!  Have fun! 
Laura  :)

Review: Truly Madly

Even though my TBR pile and my wishlist on Barnes and Noble are quite extensive, I still find myself sometimes in the mood for a specific type of story.  Once I satisfied my ghost story craving with a couple of Heather Graham's books this month, I found myself wanting a mystery that was a bit lighter.  Since I am still waiting ever patiently for the next Mary Russell mystery, I started browsing and finally settled on Truly, Madly by Heather Webber.  This is the first in the Lucy Valentine series and its teaser promised mystery, humor, and just a little romance.  I dove in hoping for a nice light read.

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:
Lucy Valentine is as smart as can be, as single as you can get, and so not qualified to run a matchmaking service. But when her parents temporarily step down from the family business, Valentine, Inc., it’s Lucy’s turn to step up and help out—in the name of love.
Plus, her rent is due.
Here’s the problem: Lucy doesn’t have the knack for matchmaking. According to family legend, every Valentine has been blessed by Cupid with the ability to read “auras” and pair up perfect couples. But not Lucy. Her skills were zapped away years ago in an electrical surge, and now all she can do is find lost objects. What good is that in the matchmaking world? You’d be surprised. In a city like Boston, everyone’s looking for something. So when Lucy locates a missing wedding ring—on a dead body—she asks the sexy private eye who lives upstairs to help her solve the perfect crime. And who knows? Maybe she’ll find the perfect love while she’s at it…
My Review:
This book was exactly what I wanted.  I loved Lucy.  She was real.  She had extremely wealthy parents and could have everything, but instead chooses to go it on her own without using any of their money.  She has tried several careers, but hasn't yet found her niche.  She tends to take in animals in need, and because of this has a three legged cat and a one-eyed hamster. She also believes that her love life is cursed so has no hope that she will ever have a lasting relationship.  She also has a great sense of humor and I found myself chuckling several times throughout the story. When Sean enters the picture, she is immediately attracted to him but determined to stay away because of the curse.  This strategy, of course, doesn't work.  I like however, that the romance doesn't overtake the story.  Lucy is her own person and makes her own decisions and Sean isn't consistently coming to her rescue.
The book also has a good plot.  Lucy and Sean find a body and Lucy needs to figure out who the murderer is so they dig deeper into the possible suspects to try to solve the crime.  During the investigation, Lucy also has trouble with the police because they want to know how she knows so much.  The plot has a few good twists and turns and the minor characters like Dovie, Em, and the lieutenant add to the fun of the story.  You can tell that these will be more prominent characters in future books.  One of my favorite minor characters was Raphael, who is the driver and who has known Lucy since she was three.  He calls her Uva (which means grape) because when she was little, she had such a meltdown, she looked as red as a grape.  She calls him Pasa (which means raisin) because when he was yelling at her during that meltdown, his face was squished like a raisin.  He isn't in the story much but you can tell he is a big part of her life.  I look forward to seeing more of him.  The end was a surprise to me which I also liked because I don't like a predictable story.
All in all, this was a fairly quick, light read that was fun but also included a mystery and some suspense/intrigue. The end was a surprise to me which I also liked because I don't like a predictable story. Is it deep?  Not at all. But I wasn't in the mood for deep.  I enjoyed it enough that I immediately grabbed the next book, Deeply Desperately, and I will be starting it today.  I have to say that I am looking forward to seeing what happens to Lucy next!  :)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: The Night is Forever

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:
What happened here, on a historic ranch outside Nashville, during the Civil War? And what's happening now?
Olivia Gordon works at the Horse Farm, a facility that assists patients with mental and physical recovery; her specialty is animal therapy. She's always loved her job, always felt safe…until now.
People are dying, starting with the facility's founder, whose body is discovered in a ravine on the property—site of a massacre in 1862. And before every death, Liv sees a horse and rider, wearing a soldier's garb, in the night sky…. Warning? Omen? Or clue?
Liv calls in her cousin Malachi and his Krewe, an FBI unit of paranormal investigators, to discover the truth. New Krewe member Dustin Blake knows they need Liv's involvement in the case, yet he's worried about her safety. Because he and Liv quickly become more than colleagues…and he doesn't want to lose her to the endless night.
After finishing, The Night is Alive, I went right for the next book.  This time, our murder mystery is happening present day but we also learn a little bit about the civil war time period.  We see the characters from the last book, Malachi and Abby, but it is Malachi's cousin Olivia and agent Dustin Blake who are the main characters in this book.  
I liked this book, but not as much as the previous one, The Night is Alive.  I think I liked the history of the last book better with the pirates and the underground tunnels in Savannah.  This book had some Civil War era info. but it just didn't draw me in as much as The Night is Alive.  I did however, enjoy the characters more in this story. I didn't really connect with Malachi in the last book.  I couldn't get a clear picture of him in my mind and his personality wasn't overly impressive. Dustin seemed more real to me for some reason. 
The plot was interesting.  I wasn't able to figure out who the killer was until close to the end and that is always  good thing.  This book has a little bit of everything.  Murder mystery, suspense, a little action, romance, and some moments of humor as well.  Out of all of the Heather Graham books I have read, this trilogy is still my favorite.   

Friday, November 15, 2013

All Souls Trilogy Update!

After an incredibly long wait (in my opinion anyway), Deborah Harkness, author of the All Souls Trilogy, has put up news on her website about the third and final book titled, The Book of Life.  The first two books, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night, were incredible (again, in my opinion), rating in my top 25 books ever!  No official cover yet but I will be watching and waiting.  The book is set to release July 10, 2014.
My countdown begins!  
Click the book below to the Deborah Harkness website

Synopsis from
After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review: The Night is Alive

Heather Graham's series about the Krewe of Hunters continues with this installment. I really enjoyed this one. Read on...  :)
Overview from Barnes and Noble:
It's a city of beauty, history…hauntings. And one of the most haunted places in Savannah is a tavern called The Dragonslayer, built in the 1750s. The current owner, Gus Anderson, is a descendant of the original innkeeper and his pirate brother, Blue.
Gus summons his granddaughter, Abigail, home from Virginia, where she's studying at the FBI Academy. When she arrives, she's devastated to find him dead. Murdered. But Abby soon learns that Gus isn't the only one to meet a brutal and untimely end; there've been at least two other victims. Then Captain Blue Anderson starts making ghostly appearances, and the FBI's paranormal investigation unit, the Krewe of Hunters, sends in Agent Malachi Gordon.
Abby and Malachi have a similar ability to connect with the dead…and a similar stubbornness. Sparks immediately begin to fly—sparks of attraction and discord. But as the death toll rises, they have to trust each other or they, too, might find themselves among the dead haunting old Savannah!
My review:
There are several reasons why I enjoy Heather Graham's books so much.  First, I love ghost stories and it is hard to find a good ghost story these days.  She also has the historical element to all of her books, which I find to be both interesting and a lot of fun.  They are fairly easy reads and aren't usually more than 400 pages so you don't have to worry about an overload of details.  You begin reading, you learn some interesting history about the setting and background of the story, and the plot begins.  There are always interesting characters, some romance between the two main characters, and I like guessing who the real criminal is before the end of the story.  Sure... there is an element of predictability in that the stories usually have happy endings and everything wraps up nicely but that is ok.  I always know I can rely on this author for an enjoyable read.
Something else I appreciate is that, although all of her books are about the Krewe of Hunters, the books are divided into smaller, "trilogies" and different characters are represented in each one.  Old characters do come back but the main characters are always new.  I think that helps keep the series from becoming tiresome.
In The Night is Alive, I especially loved the pirate theme.  The fact that there really are tunnels running under Savannah Georgia that were used in the 1800's and earlier by pirates and to bury yellow fever victims is fascinating.  I actually went on-line and there are YouTube videos and many articles about the tunnels so I learned a lot more about the tunnels.  It was so interesting to me how the author incorporated these elements into the story.
The characters in this book were of course beautiful to look at and conveniently single and drawn together as the story progresses but I don't think that this element took away from the book at all.  The romance wasn't overpowering, and the murder mystery kept me on my toes.  I didn't find myself bored at any time and didn't realize who the killer was until almost the end of the story.  I'm starting the next one, The Night is Forever, today. :)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Review: Allegiant

Allegiant is the final installment in the Divergent trilogy, written by Veronica Roth.  I definitely have a few things to say about it, but first.... the synopsis from Barnes and Noble:

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?
The explosive conclusion to Veronica Roth's #1 New York Times bestselling Divergent trilogy reveals the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

First off, this book had me reading well into the night.  It was very good.  The point of view flips back and forth from Tris to Tobias with each chapter which actually worked really well.  I liked seeing his side of the story and the events still flowed smoothly.  It's funny because it seems to me like these two characters have almost switched personalities since the first book.  Tris now being the true risk taker and Tobias being more fearful and unsure of everything.  Their relationship however, grew and endured through the multiple problems/tragedies within the story and I was happy that they didn't give up on one another.  

I thought this book was the darkest of the three.  The plot begins where Insurgent left off and Tris is freed from prison by overcoming the truth serum and convincing Evelyn she is not a traitor.  Things in the city have not changed for the good.  There may not be factions any longer, but the factionless are in chaos and still unable to make their own decisions about how to live.  A group including Tris and Tobias decide to leave the city to see what it is like on the other side of the fence, hoping for something better, but what they find doesn't end up being much better than what they left behind.  In this story, many characters risked everything for what they believed was right.  Some were separated from their loved ones, and there were quite a few deaths, both good people and bad.   

That brings me to the end.  I don't believe in spoilers so I will not say anything about what happened except to say that I both loved and hated the ending at the same time.  I liked what the author did because I felt that one of the characters got the wish they have been dreaming of and it was fitting.  However, I hated the fact that I didn't get what I wanted as a reader.  That's all I will say for now... bring on the comments because I have a lot more to say but I don't want to put it here because it will ruin the story for those who haven't had the privilege of reading it yet... and it was a privilege.  I am sad that the story is over.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selections are (because I couldn't decide on just one):  

Hollow City (The sequel to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children)
Publication date: January 2014
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was the surprise best seller of 2011—an unprecedented mix of YA fantasy and vintage photography that enthralled readers and critics alike. Publishers Weekly called it “an enjoyable, eccentric read, distinguished by well-developed characters, a believable Welsh setting, and some very creepy monsters.”
This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.
Complete with dozens of newly discovered (and thoroughly mesmerizing) vintage photographs, this new adventure will delight readers of all ages.

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
Publication date: May 2014
The spellbinding, seductive finale to the bestselling Mortal Instruments series.
Darkness returns to the Shadowhunter world. As their society falls apart around them, Clary, Jace, Simon, and their friends must band together to fight the greatest evil the Nephilim have ever faced: Clary’s own brother. Nothing in the world can defeat him—must they journey to another world to find the chance? Lives will be lost, love sacrificed, and the whole world change in the sixth and last installment of the Mortal Instruments series!

Review: The House of Hades

Being a mom and a fourth grade teacher, plus a lover of fantasy and mythology, Percy Jackson is one of my all time favorite characters and I have read all of the books featuring his character.  I love this series almost as much as I loved the Harry Potter books.... almost.  :)

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:
At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy's instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea's forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors from both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape?
They have no choice. If the demigods don't succeed, Gaea's armies will never die. They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood. The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus.
I was anxiously awaiting this book since there was such a cliffhanger in the last book.  I still really like the way the point of view changes every few chapters.  We get to see what's happening to each of the main characters in two to three different places until we get close to the end where everyone is together again fighting the final battles of the story.  No spoilers here so I won't say much but this book had, in my opinion, the perfect combination of personal back stories, action, and fun.  There were times when I laughed, when I was on the edge of my seat, and when I was empathizing with what the characters were going though.  I have my hunches about how the series will end just from how most stories go but I'm hoping that Rick Riordan still has a few surprises up his sleeve.  The next book can't come soon enough for me, but alas, I have to wait another year...