Monday, March 31, 2008

All Night Long by Michele Albert

I first read Michele Albert as an AOM several years ago and unfortunately my selection of Absolute Trouble was not the best choice since I found it lacking. It took me a while to give her that second chance I always give new authors but I'm happy I did.

Anne Beckett is searching for truths. For the last ten years, the photojournalist has been following the trail a Civil War soldier took to his disappearance. Lewis Hudson was a soldier that had a sweet heart waiting for him at home, he had a mother and a community that cherished him and he had a strong sense of honor and duty, yet the records list him as a deserter after he disappeared. Anne, who finds herself distantly related to Lewis, is looking for the truth so she can clear his name. Her search leads her straight to the farm of Rik Magnusson.

Rik is a farmer that lives more like a hermit. He doesn't want anyone at his farm and he especially doesn't want Annie, but with a drought that threatens to put him under he needs an influx of cash and when Annie offers to pay him to allow her to look over a part of land where she suspects Lewis disappeared he decides it's the lesser of two evils (or so he thought).

This story has such a great rhythm it was a pleasure to pick up. There was no rush to get in bed for these two but the tension was there. Annie had strong abandonment issues having been raised in the foster care system and Rik had serious trust issues since his wife ran off with his best friend. These two had to tear down the walls around their heart before love could flourish there.

This was the first book I read on my new Sony Reader and it was so nice to be able to enjoy reading the book so comfortably!

I have another of Albert's books in my eTBR pile, and I will not wait too long to attack it.

Grade: A
Format: ebook

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Collectors by David Baldacci

David Baldacci is always a pleasure to read. He is among the authors that write fiction that I can sink my teeth in, always a mystery to solve, always a conspiracy to pursue, always characters to love. This book was one that I needed to listen to long before now and I just had not gotten my hands on the Audio version. I finally did and loved it!

This is a second installment of the Camel Club adventures. The first book, aptly titled The Camel Club, suffered a bit getting off the ground but had recuperated by the end of the book. What was important about that book is that it introduced us to a group of characters that stuck with you and after reading this one you just love these guys!

The Camel Club is comprised by four older men that at first seem not to have anything in common but when they get together they are a force to be reckoned with - they seek to uncover the truth hidden among those that promise to serve the country in Washington, DC.

Oliver Stone (whose real name is John Carr) is the head of the group, he has a mysterious background that we know has a lot to do with killing for his country. Milton Farb is the one with the photographic memory, a computer genius that can get into any system out there. Ruben Rhodes, the muscle among the group and Caleb Shaw, a reference specialist in the Library of Congress who swims among the sharks and brings the information home.

The Collectors starts off with murder and keeps the bodies rolling, page after page. First to go down is Senator Bradley, the Speaker of the House and third in line to the presidency, but although that assassination was public and claimed as an act of terrorism, the Camel Club finds that it is connected to the death of Jonathan Dehaven, the Director of the rare book division in the Library of Congress. When Caleb is proclaimed the literary executor of Jonathan's personal rare book collection, the Camel Club needs to find the link between these murders to insure that Caleb is not found dead as well.

As the team investigates the murders, more bodies keep piling up and ever page brings us closer to uncovering an espionage ring that is selling off America, one secret at a time.

A side story brings Annabelle Conroy to join the ranks of the Camel Club. She is the greatest con artist of her time and has taken on as an enemy Jerry Bagger, one of the most dangerous casino owners in Atlantic City by stealing 40 million from under his nose. The con was a personal one since he had murdered her mother when she was a child. She is now on the run but when she hears about Dehaven's death (who was her ex-husband) she heads to Washington and joins Oliver and the gang in their investigation.

Baldacci has a talent to bring to life a montage of characters, all with their distinct personalities and melt them into a cohesive plot that keeps us glued to the story, page after page. We know the players up front but the how did they do it and can they get away with it, drives the story forward.

The book leaves a big loose end (on purpose) which has me scrambling to find a copy of the next book in the series, Stone Cold. In a sense I'm happy I had not found this book until Stone Cold was published because I would be killing someone if I could not find out what is going to happen next.

Grade: A
Format: Audiobook

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My Journey to eBook Reading

I love my paperback collection. There is nothing like having a paperback to pull out when you're waiting for life to move on. The turn of the page, the smell of the ink, it's all part of the experience.

Now, with that said and out of the way, I am also a practical person who loves technology and how (in most instances) it makes life easier. I had been debating for a while on purchasing an eBook Reader. I have a fairly decent eBook collection from authors who's work I discovered in electronic format. Lots of these authors I can find in print now a days but every day there is a new author waiting to be discovered but is publishing in only eBook format. I would love to read their work but my eBook TBR pile was competing with my paperback one because I hate to read on my computer. I sit in front of a computer all day and the last thing I want to do is come home and read my books on my laptop. So I decided I really wanted a portable reader. Now came the decision on which one I wanted to invest my money in.

There are so many great readers out there and each has different pros and cons but I narrowed things down to two. The Cybook's Gen3 and Sony's Portable Reader PRS-505. Both books had great features but it boiled down to eBook formats and accessibility.

The Cybook could read PDF files and Mobipocket books which are formats that most books can be purchased in but the company was an overseas company and I really couldn't actually hold the product before purchasing it. It promises great things for future software upgrades but for me the company was unknown and not being able to touch it and play with it before shelling out 350 dollars was a big issue.

Now the Sony is a well known brand for me, it is not a first generation product so it has already gone through a series of bug corrections and I could walk down to the closest Sony store (or Borders store) and give it a test run. Downside... it has known problems with PDF files and did not read any of the mainstream eBook formats. It has it's own proprietary format for the eBooks it reads and those can be found on Sony's eBook store front. This smacks me as greedy and just not reader friendly. So I started my research on the models I was focusing on.

I was lucky to be directed to the Dear Author's blog (which has become one of my favorite blogs to read). They had recently done a comparison on the main stream readers and I was able to discover that the major problem I had found on the Sony Reader was not much a problem at all since there was a large community of techies that had been working on conversion programs for some time. I not only found that I could convert my PDF files into rtf (a format the Sony reader is comfortable with) but I could also convert my MS reader books (those with .lit extensions) and HTML books into a Sony reader friendly format. Having found a solution to this drawback, two weeks ago I headed to the Sony Style store in Dallas to pick up my new Portable Reader PRS-505.

Well, I actually had to order it because the store didn't have it in silver and the dark blue looked more like black and it really wasn't doing it for me. I also had it engraved with the same saying I have on the blog "Fairytales are beyond stories, they are written dreams".

FedEx delivered it to my door on Good Friday!

I found it funny that the box had this big sticker saying it could not be re-routed. I told my sister we were just lucky that we had the day off from work because if not I would have had to take time off from work to sit and wait for the box to arrive.

I was all excited and was happy it was well packaged because the way i was cutting the tape I might have stabbed my little reader before it even had a chance to see the light of day.

My sister couldn't believe I was taking the time to document my purchase. I told her that with all the headaches I had to decide on one I needed to keep the event on image for prosperity!

And there she is!

I was a bit disappointed that the cover it came with was brown. I really would have preferred the black but it came with the unit and I won't complain anymore... I want the Dooney and Burke cover for mother's day anyway.

It's a tiny little thing (the size of a category romance book) but it is actually heavier than expected. It's not a big issue but it was one I never really thought of.

You can't really notice the engraving on the pictures here but it's between the two navigation buttons (the two round buttons on front).

I spent the weekend converting many of my TBR pile in a readable format and then loaded them into the Reader. I had a few hitches here and there where the text was not aligned properly in the Reader but looked fine on the computer. I tweaked things around enough to know what settings work for me and so my future conversions will go a lot smoother.

I'm absolutely in love with my reader! I wish I had more of my paperbk TBR pile in eBook so I can walk around with 50 books in my purse. I bought an SD card so I can load up to 2 gigs of books in the Reader - not that I have that many, but give me some time and I'll work my way there!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dreaming by Jill Barnett

Jill Barnett was such a treat the first time around I decided to go straight to her next book Dreaming. This one is the sequel of Bewitching, telling the story of Bellmore's friends Richard and Neil. Actually, it mostly tells the story of Richard and the infamous Letty Hornsby.

We first met Richard Lennox in Bewitching where he was the drunkard friend of Alex who was constantly getting himself injured with each encounter he had with a particular young lady called Leticia Hornsby. He had his collar dislocated, his foot injured, his buttocks bitten by a dog and last we heard he had his eye blackened. It seemed that the poor man just could not catch a break and that the Hornsby chit was jinxed. This book confirmed it.

It has been two years since the events in Bewitching and the Earl of Downes has returned to his ancestry home. He would have preferred to avoid the need to go back to a home haunted with memories of his father and older brother but it was unavoidable. The first night of his return he goes up to the cliffs near his property which are commonly used by smugglers. It being a dark night, he actually sees a smugglers ship making it's pickup. He doesn't think much about it but when life throws Letty Hornsby at him he finds himself captured by the smugglers and held captive in the ship bound to god knows where. The worse part of it all is that his traveling companion turns out to be the Hornsby chit and her faithful blood hound.

Letty really doesn't mean to cause problems but it seems as if bad luck follows her everywhere. Her first season ended when she returned home humiliated after all the mishaps with Richard took place. No one would get near her and mid season she returned home to let the tongues die down. As neighbor to the Downes, she had a been waiting for Richard to return home for two years and when she finally heard he was back she sneaked out of the house and followed him to the cliffs where her faithful dog (who hates Richard by the way) caused such a ruckus the smugglers discovered them and took them captive. Since Letty has loved Richard since she was a child, the captivity is not much of a sacrifice, but the bad luck that she brings onto the ship has the crew considering if they should just throw her overboard.

Now, I looooved Barnett's voice in Bewitching but the constant stupidity that came out of Letty's mouth was just too much. I never really encountered a TRUE heroine that I could say was TSTL (too Stupid to Love) but I finally I have found her. Letty was a floor mat to Richard, she humiliates herself time after time in the name of love. She was like a dog that kept getting kicked but kept coming back for more, most dogs eventually get a clue and eventually bite back but Letty never does. She kept forgiving Richard even after he has told her over and over again that he does not love her. In one scene, Richard asks her if she has no pride? I wondered the same thing. I really was going to give the book a very low score but Barnett caught me unaware at the very end and because of the growth seen in Richard and because of HIS healing, I could not kill it.

I said the book also included the HEA of Neil, Viscount Seymour, who was the superstitious friend of Alec in Bewitching. Seymour's story is very small and is related in just a few paragraphs here and there so don't expect much on that end but it was nice to see him get a few lines in the book.

On a side note, there is more on Alec and Joy. We find out how Alec ended up naming all his daughters Mary even though he swore that would never happen and we also see his reaction on breaking the tradition of having the first born be a Male.

If you are thinking about reading this one, you should go in with proper expectations. This book is not of the same caliber as the first in the series and really could be skipped if need be.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bewitching by Jill Barnett

Jill Barnett is a new author for me. She was recommended by my fellow Yahoo Group readers several years ago and I proceeded to pick up this one and its sequel at the time but quickly got diverted by other books. I think what really turned me off was that the blurb was not very enticing and really didn't give much away:

"She had bewitched the most serious, snobbish, and handsome Duke in England. Joyous MacQuarrie...the pixie-like, green-eyed beauty had appeared from nowhere and fell unashamedly into his arms. And all that his society friends knew of the mysterious lady was that she was Scottish and that her grandmother had been a Locksley. Even her fine bloodline didn't make Joy quite proper enough to be a Duchess, but a proud nobleman like Alec, Duke of Belmore, did as he pleased...and he wanted to marry the beautiful girl who aroused his desire.

But Alec soon discovered he could not do what he pleased with Joy Fiona MacQuarrie. Bubbling with laughter, filled with spirit, she turned stately Belmore Park upside down with merriment and strange occurrences. She might even have gotten Alec to laugh -- and to cherish her -- if it had not been for the truth she hid. Though he turned to fire when he tasted her petal-soft lips, he turned to ice when he discovered that this winsome lady was, in fact, a witch. A witch whose powers of white magic were not always perfectly under control....Too late, Joy knew she was desperately in love and that nothing could stop the course of their destiny -- the scandal threatening to destroy her and the passion that held them both spellbound in a forbidden, irresistible match of two enchanted hearts"

I NEED DETAILS PEOPLE! GIVE ME DETAILS!! I have gotten burned so many times by blurbs that misrepresent the book that when something is that vague I tend to shy away from it. Well, with Portrait of a Lover being a bust I needed another 'crafty' book and so I fell back on my most reliable literary craft... Witchcraft!

Joyous MacQuarrie is one of the worst witches of her clan. She is of mixed heritage so her blood has been thinned by mortal taint. She is very naive and is always dreaming this and dreaming that but most of all she dreams of a happy ever after. When her Aunt, the great MacLean goes on a sabbatical to the Americas, Joy is to travel to Surrey to be with her other side of the family. With her incantation laid out and her bags packed, her bad luck just creeps right in and causes her to burn the paper that her Aunt had written the travel spell. Desperately trying to get to Surrey she gives the spell a try from memory... She falls straight into the lap of the Duke of Bellmore.

Alec has retired to his hunting lodge after his fiancee jilts him the night before they are to wed and runs off with a mere Capt. She tells him that he is stiff and predictable and that she wishes for a love match. Alec was raised with a stick up his dukish arse and is completely humiliated. He does not show it to the world but his pride has taken a swift blow. He was raised in a very strict environment with a family history that goes back 700 years. He was drilled the standards of the Dukes of Belmore since he was in nappies and has lived his life based on those stds. When a Scottish lass falls from the heavens into his arms and the gossips from London run into him while Joy is being tended by a physician, he takes his first step outside the path his ancestors had laid for him and decides that he will prove to everyone that he is not predictable and at the same time regain some of his pride. He asks Joy to marry him!

Joy thinks she is in a dream and she tries to be upfront with Alec and tell him she is not all that she appears to be, or better said she is much more than she appears to be, but he will not listen. He railroads her into marriage and then when he learns the truth he freaks! Well that is when the remolding of this high strung Duke starts!

This book was actually the funniest and yet poignant book I have read in soo long that it has become my favorite of 2008 (as of right now). It also has earned a spot in my keeper shelf (with the other 5 books I hold there).

There were scenes that had my laughing out loud (like when she brought to life all the statues on the roof of the estate and Alec found her) and then other times that I actually had to blink to stop from crying (like when he thought they were going to die in the blizzard). I think I can count in one hand the books that have EVER made me feel that emotionally connected.

Grade: A

Friday, March 21, 2008

Redwall by Brian Jacques

I thought for a while what to say about a book that had so much sentimental value even before I turned the first page. Those of you that know me, know I'm a single mom of a 20 year old daughter. She is a Junior in a college that is on the other side of the nation. Before I ever became a mom I made of list of many things I wanted to do with my children as well as those that I would never do. I was blessed with one child and I have been lucky enough to do everything I had listed, and then some.

One of the most important things on that list was to share my love of books with her. She is an avid reader. Before she got into more adult books, she went through the classic children books and Brian Jacques was her favorite. To this day she still has the complete Redwall series on her shelves. After much prodding I thought it was time I pickup a book in the series and see what made her love it so much.

It's a gifted person that can read a book and see it through the eyes of a child. I am not very gifted so I cannot say this was a book that I absolutely loved, but it is a book that will be unforgettable to me. The story is so very well written it brings to life all the woodland creatures of Redwall Abbey. It transports the reader to Mossflower and you become part of that group of critters fighting to save the only home they have ever known.

The story starts with an evil rat called Cluny, the Scourge, invading Mossflower with a horde of 400 rats, weasels and ferrets who are constantly getting themselves killed due to their ineptitude. Cluny decides that the Abbey would make a perfect center of operations and takes steps to take it over. What Cluny wasn't prepared for was resistance. Redwall Abbey will not fall under Cluny's attacks but they suffer great blows that weaken their morale.

A young mouse from the Abbey's order is called to test his skills as a warrior when he sets off to find the sword of the Redwall legend, Martin the Warrior (which has a book of his own). Matthias shows he is made of strong stuff in his quest for the sword, overcoming many obstacles and walking away with many loyal friends who he can call upon in the last battle.

The book is divided in sections where we see how the Abbey is being defended against the many attacks Cluny puts forth and following Matthias in his quest. At first the book was a bit on the slow side and I really had to push myself to continue reading (something about the characters being badgers, squirrels and mouses puts a damper on most stories as an adult) but after Matthias sets off on his quest, the book just picked up the rhythm and you found yourself cheering on the inhabitants of the Abbey.

I would like to have read the series in chronological order since Martin the Warrior played a significant role in the story and yet, he was long dead. The list of the correct chronological order can be found on the Redwall Abbey website.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has a child and wants to give them a good solid story with characters that demonstrate courage and have strong values. I think I will eventually revisit Redwall but for now, I will personally hold out from visiting the critters of the Abbey.

Grade: B
Format: Audiobook

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Portrait of a Lover by Julianne MacLean

I had this book staring at me for over three years in my TBR, so when the Book A Month challenge said March's theme was Crafts I searched high and low for a book that had some type of craft in it and found this one... Craft reference... she's a painter.

Annabelle Lawson is a painter who suffered a great heartache 13 years before when the enemy of her stepbrother pretended to be someone else and stole her heart.

Magnus Wallis didn't know who the charming young lady he met on the train was until after he was completely taken with her. Although he tried to stay away from the one woman that was not his to take, he just couldn't and he fell for her as hard as she did.

Now what happened after they fell in love which caused the drift over 13 years? I wouldn't be able to tell you because I just could not continue reading the book. I was on pg 100 and it had taken me a week and a half to get that far. There was nothing that made me want to come back to the story. To say it was slow was an understatement.

The book moved from past to present but most of the of it took place in the past (at least in the 100 pgs I read). I just wanted to get to the here and now, the retrospect was just not working for me. I realized that if the part where these two fell in love was not allowing me to make the connection with the characters then I really wasn't going to care for their HEA. At that point I closed the book for good.

On an aside note, this book is part of MacLean's American Heiress series.I also will say that I never really had a good feeling about this book just because the cover was sooo horrible!

Still, MacLean has given many great reads over the years and will chuck this one as simply a blimp on her great record.

Grade: DNF

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton

Hamilton is not necessarily a new author for me since I had the pleasure of listening to Seduced by Moonlight over 4 years ago when it first came out. I didn't really know what the book was about but when I saw the audio book on the shelves of my library I fell in love with the cover and took it home for a spin. I immediately knew I was walking into the middle of a series and also knew I had to read the rest of it, starting from book one!

I have a tendency to read or listen to my books in the format that I first find it and since I had picked up Seduced by Moonlight in Audio, I refused to read it in any other format. Thus the four years it has taken me to break down and buy the series in paperback (I'm a bit stubborn like that). This also says alot about how much I wanted the darn books to start off with, since I gave in and forced myself to step out of my comfort zone!!

For those that are not familiar with Laurell K. Hamilton she is the author of the Anita Blake series which was recently picked up by Marvel Comics to be serialized as a comic book series. She also writes a less known series called The Merry Gentry Series which tells the story of an exiled Sidhe Princess who is pulled back to the Unseelie court to produce an heir.

A Kiss of Shadows is the first book in the series.

In this first installment we are introduced to Merry Gentry who is hiding in LA from the Unseelie Queen, her Aunt Andais. She works for a private investigation firm who hire the Fey for their powers. Hamilton has created a completely alternate universe where the Fey have certain rights as individuals among the humans. Laws have been passed to protect the mortals from worshiping the Fey and becoming subservant to them. These laws must be upheld or the Fey will be vanished from society.

Merrideth gets involved in a case where she needs to expose a man who is using sidhe powers to rape women but during the course of the undercover investigation there is an attempt on her life. Now, Merry has lived in hiding for the last three years and has avoided all exposure to the Unseelie Court because of the many assassination attempts that were taking place against her, so when she feels her life once again threatened, she decides to bolt!

This first book takes us into the Unseelie Court (after Merrideth is summoned by her Queen) and we learn about the protocols that have to be followed to stay alive. The intrigue and deception that takes place makes the pages fly by and the erotic scenes are hot hot hot! I couldn't put the darn thing down!

If you expect the book to have a nice bow at the end where you can just put it down and not pick up the next story, you are wrong. Reminiscent of more recent series (Inheritance by Paolini, Gemma Doyle by Bray) the book leaves you with the expectation of much more to come, with her cousin sentenced to 6 month in a torture chamber and her new guards in place, Merry returns to LA to continue her life, but we all know that life will never be the same for the Sidhe Princess.

Grade: A

Thursday, March 06, 2008

To Pleasure a Lady by Nicole Jordan

I had given up on Jordan a while back. She was one of the first Authors that exposed me to the steamer side of the romance genre but her plots had become weak and after reading a few less than satisfactory books from her I decided to retire her from my must read authors. When I heard about the premise of the first book in her new series, I was actually intrigued enough to pick it up.

Lord Danvers has inherited not just a new title, but the guardianship of three very independent young ladies. He would be happy to surrender his responsibility to them since they want nothing less than for him to go to the devil, but his honor does not allow him to do so. He has served as guardian to his sister Eleanor since she was young and he knows that the Loring sisters need protection.

The Loring sisters, Arabella, Roslyn and Lillian, have been up to their neck in scandal for the last four years. Their mother ran off with a Frenchman and two weeks after that incident their father was killed in a duel over his latest paramour. They were taken in by their uncle, the late Earl of Danvers, but he treated them like a charity case and resented every shilling spent on them. This lead the sisters to seek their own means to become independent of any man. They have established an academy of deportment for young, wealthy ladies who are not titled but whose parents aspire them to join the ton. The sisters view the new guardianship as a threat to that independence, especially when the Earl is planning on giving them a large dowry to lure husbands that will overlook their scandalous past.

At Marcus and Arabella's first encounter sparks fly. She confronts him determined to have him see reason and leave them be, but all she does is spark his interest, causing him to ride to his newly acquired estate to become more acquainted with her. Marcus is so attracted to his eldest ward, he proposes to her and offers her a marriage of convenience, where there will be no love but alot of passion. She refuses adamantly until Marcus suggests a wager. He will have two weeks to convince her to be his wife and if he fails, she and her sisters can become emancipated from his guardianship. Thus the war begins.

The beginning of the story actually hooks you a bit, but unfortunately it cannot keep it's momentum. I found the story a bit unbelievable at points and this just distracted me. Arabella was not very consistent in her character and I found myself too often confronted with the Author's pen. What I mean is that I could feel the author trying to plop a scene into the story that just didn't really go with the story itself. Arbella was a smart independent woman that took the reigns in her sisters lives. She was the guiding force that lead to a self sufficient life for herself and her sisters, but she was so easily manipulated by Marcus, a man she really didn't know or trust. The whole idea that she would throw caution to the wind and surrender herself to him was not believable since the author gave us no reason why we should believe.

In the end, the story was enjoyable and it kept me interested enough to know the fates of the other sisters, The characters are strong enough that I can hope that the next book in the series will not destroy the image Jordan has painted of these sisters. I also like that I don't have to wait a year to read their stories since the series is being released over three consecutive months.

Grade: C+
Texas-BookWorm © 2009