Darkest Powers Series by Kelley Armstrong

I’ve had a hard time keeping with the book reviews this summer.  Too much having fun, I guess!

Anyway, I’ve really been into YA series lately.  Can’t seem to get enough (I know, I said I was going to read some classics, but, right now, I’m hooked on the fluff).  I discovered the Darkest Power series and am really enjoying it.  I just wish I didn’t have to wait until May, 2010 to read book #3.

While I vacation, I read the first book, The Summoning. The series starts off with Chloe, a 15-year old who finally reaches puberty and discovers her supernatural powers — she’s a necromancer.  Of course, she doesn’t know what this is and thinks she’s going crazy.  She ends up in a group home for teens and discovers she’s not the only one with supernatural powers.  And, the group home isn’t what it seems.  Chloe hooks up with some of the other teens and escapes the group home.

This book had me hooked right away.  It was interesting to tap into other supernatural powers besides the typical vampire stuff, which I can’t seem to get enough of, either.  I think the author did a great job of tapping into the teen angst and the confusion of this age.  I enjoyed all the characters and they are all described well.  There are “click” issues presented and typical teenage relationship angst.  It seemed to have a whole new dimension with the supernatural stuff thrown into it.

The next book, The Awakening, picks up right where the first book left off.  I would definitely read these books in order.  The author does do a good job summing up the events of the first book, but you would miss a lot if you didn’t read the first book.  The relationships wouldn’t make as much sense.  I enjoy how Chloe seems to be maturing.  I also like the development in one of the other characters, Derek.  It’s actually funny to me how these two characters seem to change over the novel while the other teens seem to stay mostly the same.  I think that will change as the series progresses.

This book does offer some twists I didn’t see coming.  That makes the book even more fun.  It’s not quite as predictable as some of these novels can be.

I’m definitely looking forward to Book #3.  If you want to check out more about these books check out this the series website.

Back from Key West with Classics on the Mind

I just got back from my 10th anniversary trip with my husband to Key West.  We spent four wonderful nights in this beautiful place:  relaxing, eating, shopping, touring, and, of course, reading.  I was able to finish three books in this time, all fun reads and to think about what I’d like to add to my list in the near future.

First, I finished The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James.  This was a good read that I picked up from BEA from the lovely Jennifer over at Book Club Girl.   The story focused on Charlotte Bronte’s relationship with the man she finally marries as well as her road to publication.  I truly enjoyed this book, as it read kind of like a P&P type story.  However, it seems to be based on fact and lots of research.

And, this is where I find my first book for my TBR.  I have never read any of Charlotte’s books (I know, it’s a shame).  I did recently read Emily’s Wuthering Heights, which was mentioned several times in this book.  Now, I can’t wait to read Jane Eyre. I love reading books after I have some information about the authors.

I also finished The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, for bookclub.  I loved it!  I’ll review more later after our club discusses it at the beginning of August.  I’ll let you know what the rest of the group thought, too.  BTW, I have tried to convince my husband to read this one now.  I think I’ll wear him down.

I then returned to my young adult vampire phase with the first book in the Vampire Beach series by Alex Duval.  A fun, quick read.  Not much to review, but I will be going into the next book when I get a chance.

I just started another of L.J. Smith’s vampire series, Night World. What’s fun is that you get three novels in one.  I finished the first one last night about a girl who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and her vampire friend breaks all of the Night World’s laws to “save” her.  Again, a fun read!  I look forward to the next two novels.

You must be wondering about the rest of the classics that are on my mind since Key West.  While YA vampire books are fun, they are definitely NOT classics.  Well, while in Key West, my husband & I visited the Hemmingway house.  We took a tour and learned a lot about this author.  I love to get the background stories of these famous people, you know, the stories they don’t tell you in school.  They should because I think I would have been more likely to  have read the books I should have read in HS.

Anyway, Hemmingway was quite the character, incorporating people from his life into his books.  Since hearing some stories, I now want to read A Farewell to Arms and Old Man in the Sea.  That’s right….. I haven’t read either of these before (although, I’m pretty sure I was supposed to in HS).

So, my TBR is ever-growing, but I’m adding some old ones instead of the new releases.  After reading all these wonderful “new” books, I feel like it’s time I become well-read, in the classic sense.  And, with the stories behind the stories, I’m ready to do just that!

Everything Austen Challenge – Take 2

I saw it, I bought it, I read it.  My daughter found Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith on a shelf a Barnes & Noble and grabbed it and said, “Look Mommy, it’s vampires like Twilight.”  Well, not quite, but now you know what I’m always talking about at home.  My 6-y-o knows me so well!

I did buy it thinking in my head it was Mr. Darcy, Vampyre  (which I now realized doesn’t come out until later this Summer).  But, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies still fits the challenge (although not on my original list).  And, it was a fun read!

I’ve seen lots of reviews of this one from the Challenge page.  Most everyone seems to like it, but I did read one review that hated it.  That reviewer seems to be a Jane Austen purist.  So, I understand her qualms.  This is NOT a serious Jane Austen book.  It’s just a silly, funny read.

This book is Pride & Prejudice retold with the addition of zombies.  Elizabeth and her four sisters are master warriors engaged by the Crown to fight the unmentionables.  Other differences are: Mrs. Collins turns into a zombie, Lady Catherine is a celebrated zombie killer, and Mr. Darcy also is a strong combatant.  Otherwise, the basic story is the same.

At first, the book seemed almost too silly for me.  Elizabeth was a killing machine who often thought about killing zombies as well as regular people who hurt her pride.  But, once I got over it, I really started to see the humor in it all.  And, it was hilarious.  I laughed out loud more than once (always a good sign for a book).  My favorite, funny part is:

Elizabeth and Darcy merely looked at one another in awkward silence, until the latter reached both arms around her.  She was frozen — “What does he mean to do?” she thought.  But his intentions were respectable, for Darcy merely meant to retrieve his Brown Bess [musket], which Elizabeth had affixed to her back during her walk.  She remembered the lead ammunition in her pocket and offered it to him.  “Your balls, Mr. Darcy?”  He reached out and closed her hand around them, and offered, “They belong to you, Miss Bennet.”

You must also overlook the fact that provinicial Elizabeth and her sisters travelled to China twice to study the killing arts.  The author did stay true to the Bennetts still not uppercrust, since most zombie fights train in Japan.  And, also, the fact that everyone still travels around despite the dangerous “unmentionables” problem.  Elizabeth is almost a superhero, with others being killed easily by a zombie while she can put down more than a dozen alone.

If you are an Austen fan and like a funny read, definitely check this one out.  However, if you think you’ll be offended by such a satire, I think you should pass.  Have fun!!

Another Faust by Daniel And Dina Nayeri

Here is another book I picked up at BEA 2009.  The cover of the book intrigued as well as the description in BEA’s program.  So, I got in line to get a copy and got to meet the two young authors of this work, Daniel And Dina Nayeri.  The brother/sister team wrote, Another Faust, which is due out on August 25.

The description of this book on Amazon reads:

One night, in cities all across Europe, five children vanish — only to appear, years later, at an exclusive New York party with a strange and elegant governess. Rumor and mystery follow the Faust teenagers to the city’s most prestigious high school, where they soar to suspicious heights with the help of their benefactor’s extraordinary “gifts.” But as the students claw their way up — reading minds, erasing scenes, stopping time, stealing power, seducing with artificial beauty — they start to suffer the side effects of their own addictions. And as they make further deals with the devil, they uncover secrets more shocking than their most unforgivable sins. At once chilling and wickedly satirical, this contemporary re imagining of the Faustian bargain is a compelling tale of ambition, consequences, and ultimate redemption.

Now, I need to admit, I did not know what a Faustian bargain was.  But, I figured I’d figure it out when reading the novel.  I definitely got a good idea, but was still not sure of the true legend.  So, for the few of you out there that may also be in my boat, here’s a quick recap of the Faust legend (provided by Faust.com).

Faust (pronounced ‘fowst’) is a fictional black-magic sorcerer who sells his soul to the Devil.

He is a frustrated educated man who foresakes God and makes a pact with the Devil to attain forbidden knowledge and power which belongs to God. In this regard, the story of Faust can be seen as a medieval cautionary commentary on the rise of scientific inquiry, and of other great advances of the Renaissance.

Anyway, I don’t think this book has any commentary on the use of scientific inquiry, but it definitely looks at good versus evil — in a way I’ve never seen it done before.  This book is very uncomfortable, but one I couldn’t put down.  While I tended to be confused much of the time, I just kept plodding along trying to figure it all out.  It wasn’t confusing in a way that turned me off, but in a way that made me want to understand.

The five teens in this book have extraordinary powers that seem to change as they make different deals with their governess, Nicola Vileroy.  These teens, well at least four of them, do not use their powers for good, but purely for self advancement.  However, there are great prices to pay for these abilities.  It does make one wander what people are willing to give up to realize their ulitmate dreams.

The governess found these children when there were ten.  The story starts with describing the difficulties of these children’s daily lives, some of which are not physical hardships, and what they truly desire.  It picks up five years later with the teens now entering a new school to use their powers to advance their own desires.  I’m still a little shaken up with how easily the governess was able to get these children to give up their lives and be “adopted” by her.  It did make me appreciate my family.

It was also difficult to watch the treatment of the governess.  In my mind, she adopted five children she wanted to succeed.  However, that’s not the story.  Her interference in the five’s relationships with each other and the rest of the world shows just how evil she really is.  She is definitely evil incarnate.

The end of the novel offers some hope, although not as much as I would like.  It was a fitting ending and it does tie up some of the questions I had throughout the novel.  I wasn’t as confused when I got to the final page.  But, I am still unsettled by this novel.    I guess that shows what a good story and writing was involved.

I’m not sure to whom to recommend this book.  I wish someone I know had read it because I would love to discuss it.  But, it is definitely not a light, YA read as you may expect from the cover.


Guest Post — Boston Scream Pie Co-author Larry Mild

Today, I have a special guest.  One-half of the husband/wife writing team of Rosemary and Larry Mild has offered to write a little something for you all to enjoy:

Rosemary and Larry Mild coauthor the Paco & Molly Mysteries: Boston Scream Pie (new!), Locks and Cream Cheese and Hot Grudge Sunday. They teach mystery writing at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland. They’re members of Mystery Writers of America and both the Chesapeake and Hawaii chapters of Sisters in Crime. Visit them at www.magicile.com. E-mail them at roselarry@magicile.com

I, MANUSCRIPT

By Larry Mild

One gloomy afternoon I was feeling low, way down after a few too many rejection slips. So I picked myself up by writing the following tongue-in-cheek piece. I took the point of view of a manuscript so as not to jeopardize my future chances as an illustrious author.

Hello! I am Manuscript, a neglected one at that, and whether you know it or not, stories like mine have feelings, meaning, and purpose. My creative parents have endowed me with certain of their finest attributes, and I have an obligation to convey these to my readers. Despite my eagerness to please and inform, I am also bound to endure a long and arduous journey.

One doesn’t easily forget the anxiety of being suppressed in the dark recesses of a mind—mulling, gestating, and waiting for a life on paper, or at least a trial at lip service. During my struggle to exist, I’m called many things; finally, I’m baptized with a working title. My initial exposure to the monitor is terrifying. I’m in my first draft and shaking. My prenatal experience is filled with disruptive punctuation, spelling, re-phrasing, and annoying forethoughts and flashbacks. Then, emotionally torn from my birth printer, I arrive in complete innocence—all eight-and-a-half by eleven inches and twenty-pound bond of me. If I am not perfect, how can this be my fault? I had nothing to do with my origins. In fact, I appeared on the purest of blank pages made from humble rag and mere pulp.

I crave my parents’ affection. Do they think me precious and commendable? If I’m rejected, what will become of me? I could be thrown in drawers to jaundice away, shelved to gather layers of dust, locked up in loose-leaf binders to serve some guiltless sentence, crunched and mutilated beyond repair in deep round baskets, and utterly abandoned for eternities.

I survive, but there are worse travails ahead for the likes of me. My pages are deemed worthy to travel to one or more meccas of literary processing gurus—there to be judged, not only for gems of wordsmanship, style, content, or cohesiveness; but mostly for the possible wealth and privilege I can generate in the publishing field. My touted attributes and my parents’ pedigrees are included in many initial query letters to addresses obtained on websites that vociferously solicit submissions of my particular phylum, family, and genre. I try to contain my emotions when I see these letters eliciting only a modest number of form letter responses—a few with invitations to submit in the future and a considerably larger number to effectively take a literary hike. I’m further insulted when the message is “My stable is full,” or “We’re not taking any new clients until the next millennium,” or “We are no longer accepting submissions of that genre.” The negative responses make me wonder why they are still soliciting on their websites. Yet the affirmative few turn a bright new page in my life.

What happens next? I’m forced to lose weight, shed numerous words, and even endure a physical makeover. My margins need to be girdled to accommodate some ideal figure. My header is messed with and my footer is stepped on or truncated. My pagination requires a new location. And all of these hoop jumps are the result of fickle cosmetic forces called submission guidelines that are specified on very differing guru websites. These same guidelines warn against simultaneously submitting my cloned siblings elsewhere, even though the decision on my submission may take up to a year. Good grief! At that rate, we’ll all be in the Great Filing Cabinet in the Sky before very many gurus can be queried. Only a writer who believes in the tooth fairy complies with that one.

With mixed feelings, my cloned siblings and I finally leave home for the first time, but not alone. Accompanied by an SASE, a cover letter, and an acknowledgment-of-receipt postcard, I am slipped into a manila envelope, sealed into darkness, and stamped abruptly on one shoulder before being dropped altogether in some postal receptacle. Getting there is grueling—thin air, rough handling, more stamping, and finally, I’m deposited in someone’s In basket. My package is opened, and my cover letter perused by one or more recent English majors of school-teacher proportions, who make the first level decision—either I’m someone they’d love to read or not. The nots are redirected toward the dreaded “slush pile,” unopened, but not quite refused—yet. There’s the slim chance that I’ll see sunlight again if another first-level decider wants a look before automatic rejection time. The pile containing my cohorts and me is picked over periodically, and if I haven’t been orphaned from my SASE, I am returned home to Momma with a rejection slip. Otherwise, I am listed as dead and sent to the Potter’s Field of manuscripts. All the while, my parents eagerly await word of their beloved offspring. The non-replies hurt most.

But wait! A publishing house pronounces my plot fit, of sound meaning, and full of promising dollar signs. Apparently, I also have enough luck and talent to get past first readers, editors, marketing sages, and executive councils. And so my creative parents are offered a publishing house contract. I’m so excited I can feel the words pumping through my sentences. Wow, a lowly member of the Manuscript family like me being promoted to Book! And with covers, too!

When the initial excitement wears down, I find that I have been sold on the block like some slave with neither basic nor extended rights. I learn that I’ll be indentured that way for years to come. I’m to serve in darkness, not knowing my actual publication date, nor any other milestone in my development. I have no approval in how my appearance will be altered. Suddenly, e-mails and phone calls go unanswered. Have I been forgotten? Or worse, lost? What has become of me?

One day, my text, clothed in a fixed format, arrives for proofreading. My parents examine me line-by-line and my faults are duly noted and transmitted back in record time. Weeks pass, and an out-of-nowhere cover design turns up. Not exactly what I had in mind, but I can live with it. Hey, I’ve got an ISBN number and a price tag now. And my parents’ names, they’re in large print. That’s got to mean something. Still no publication date yet.

That is, until a package finally finds its way to the front door. Undressing me from my plain brown wrappings, my parents find a revelation within. I have my arty covers and hundreds of printed pages. I am dedicated and acknowledged as well. I am truly Book.

La Petit Four — More YA

My friend, Stephanie, offered me La Petite Four by Regina Scott since she knows how much I like YA fiction.  Am I trying to relive my youth?  Am I living vicariously through these books?  I often wonder why women in their 30s with young families connect so well to YA fiction.  I know I’m not the only one.

Anyway, this is a historical YA romance mystery.  Yes, it has a little of everything.  It’s about four young girls who have recently graduated from a finishing school and they can’t wait to enter society.  However, Lady Emily finds herself engaged to an awful Lord Robert who the girls think is “up to something.”  They launch their own investigation in hopes of rescuing Lady Emily from this marriage.

This is a cute, quick read.  I think it’s actually appropriate for young adults as there are no sexy scenes.  There’s some innocent kissing, but that’s fine for a young teen, right?  It doesn’t go beyond that.  The book strives to stick to the protocol of old England.  There’s a hierarchy, titles, and proper etiquette as well as the protection of the maidens.  The author does a pretty good job keeping the historical time accurate for the readers.

The story is fun.  The authors does attempt to provide alternatives to the bad guys.  However, her hints throughout the novel make the ending rather predcitable.  I don’t think this is a bad thing, though.  I actually liked the ending and it hinted at more romance for Lady Emily in the future without totally making it a “happily ever after.”

At 231 pages, this book packs in several genres and does it with flair.  I enjoyed the mystery, the coming-of-age worries of the girls, and the budding romances, not to mention the historical aspects.  In this novel, we get to use our imaginations a little more in the romance department, which was fun.

This is a quick, fun, summer read.  Enjoy!

House of Night Series

My mother has struck gold!  She recently brought over the first five books in the House of Night Series by P.C. Cast & Kristen Cast (a mother/daughter writing team).  I was hooked immediately and finished all five in less than a week (it would have been even shorter if life didn’t get in the way!)  And, now I’m sorta mourning that I don’t have more of them to read.  This also happened whenever I finished a new book in the Twilight series.  I don’t know what’s with me and young adult vampire series.  I think I need therapy!

Anyway, this series of books is about a young fledgling vampire, Zoey Redbird, and her “adventures” at The House of Night, a vampire high school.  Zoey is very gifted and starts training to become a High Priestess at school.  She is constantly called to fight evil.  Fortunately, she has a close group of vampire fledgling friends who are also quite gifted and very loyal.  As the series progresses, the dangers become, well, more dangerous.  By the fifth book, Zoey is trying to save humankind from a vampire/human war.  Very intense!

This is definitely a series that pays to read in order.  Thankfully, my mother knew about all the books and gave them to me labeled 1-5.  While the authors do try to recap in the beginning of each novel, I’m sure I’d be confused had I not just finished the book right before.  So, proceed in this order:

  1. Marked
  2. Betrayed
  3. Chosen
  4. Untamed
  5. Hunted
  6. ****Tempted (due out in October, 2009  YEAH!!)

This book has typical teenage angst.  It’s just added to with the whole vampire changing thing.  The authors really captured teenagers from thoughts and actions to actually speech.  It was fun reading the whole book from Zoey’s point-of-view.  The authors definitely succeed in making her authentic.

As for the plot, very engaging.  Although, I have to admit it was sometimes a little confusing.  A major event would occur and I would just not remember it happening.  It turns out, the authors just would throw it in there as Zoey updating someone on what’s been happening at school.  That was a little annoying.  Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the plot lines of all books and I was not putting these books down, if I didn’t have to.

Of course, there is a love triangle (or should I say square or hexagon?)  Our little Zoey is quite the amorous one.  She seems to fall for several guys and all at the same time.  At first, I thought it was getting a little ridiculous when she was onto the third guy, a teacher.  But, the resolution of that one kind of helped it out.  Plus, I just watched a Hannah Montana with my daughter about Miley being in love with two guys at once.  I must have forgotten how these things are for teenagers.  Once I got passed that, I starting enjoying the love square.

As for young adult, I’m not sure I’d want my young ones reading this.  It is quite sexy.  Certain sexual activities are discussed early and there is some erotic scenes (not all with acutal sex, but quite sexual).  It’s definitely for an older crowd.

So, I’m waiting patiently (okay, not patiently, but waiting) for the next in this series.  Should I head over and pre-order?