Friday, August 30, 2013

review: THE COVE by Catherine Coulter

THE COVE by Catherine Coulter
Series: FBI #1
Penguin: Jove
Released: April 1, 1996
Source: Stolen from my mom, many years ago
Page Count: 384

Rating: It was okay

Dear Reader:

The Cove is a quaint little postcard town made up only of old folk who sell the World's Greatest Ice Cream - a secret recipe that brings lots of tourists into town.

Into The Cove comes Sally Brainerd, daughter of murdered Amory St. John of Washington, D.C., seeking sanctuary, and FBI Special Agent James Quinlan who's undercover and after her. He's got a murder to solve, and he believes she's the key. But is she really?

Are you ready to strap yourself in for nonstop tomantic suspense? I'm going to scare you; treat you to mysteries that will, hopefully, confound you; and have you smiling and nodding at an unlikely love story between two of the neatest people you'll ever meet.

Grab hold tight and come into a world where illusion becomes reality and truth is a disguise.

Catherine Coulter

My Thoughts

I first read this book many, many years ago, when I first started pilfering books from my mom's stash. (I was in sixth grade and ready for adult books, goshdarnit! ;] ) I loved everything Coulter wrote and continue to collect her books to this day. I have to admit that part of it is for the covers, though.

Chandra Check out this original cover of Chandra (later reissued as Warrior's Song)! Love! 

That said, this was a tough book to reread. Some books are fantastic no matter when you read them or what life experience you have racked up since the last time you cracked the cover. The Cove, well . . . not so much.

Sally is a strong character in the sense that she overcomes her abusive background to rise above her situation and resolve the problems plaguing her life. However, this time around I just could not get over her stereotypical 90s heroine weaknesses. Additionally, some of the descriptions - especially the ones coming out of Quinlan's mouth - were absolutely cringe-worthy.

The storyline is kind of ridiculous, and Sally's forced institutionalization puts it over the edge. Well, there's another plot twist that really puts it over the edge, but I can't mention it here without a major spoiler alert.

It was very disappointing to come back to this book and discover that I had essentially outgrown it in the last few years. I am reluctant to pick up any of her other books because I don't want to tarnish my treasured memories of them.

If you're looking for a good romantic suspense that doesn't have the typical 90s cliches about women, try picking up Iris Johansen's Eve Duncan series or Tami Hoag's mysteries like A Thin Dark Line instead.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

review: WILDEFIRE by Karsten Knight

WILDEFIRE by Karsten Knight
Series: Wildefire #1
Simon & Schuster: Books for Young Readers
Released: July 26, 2011
Source: Publisher
Page Count: 393

Rating: Loved it!

ASHLINE WILDE IS HAVING A ROUGH SOPHOMORE YEAR.

She's struggling to find her place as the only Polynesial girl in school, her boyfriend just cheated on her, and now her runaway sister, Eve, has decided to barge back into her life. When Eve's violent behavior escalates and she does the unthinkable, Ash transfers to a remote private school nestled in California's redwoods, hoping to put the tragedy behing her.

But her fresh start at Blackwood Academy doesn't go as planned. Just as Ash is beginning to enjoy the perks of her new school - being captain of the tennis team, a steamy romance with a hot local park ranger - Ash discovers that a group of gods and goddesses have mysteriously enrolled at Blackwood . . . and she's one of them. To make matters worse, eve has resurfaced to haunt Ash, and she's got some strange abilities of her own. With a war between the gods looming over campus, Ash must master the new fire smoldering within before she clashes with her sister one more time . . .

And when warm and cold fronts collide, there's guaranteed to be a storm.

My Thoughts

I loved this book so much more than I thought I would. It's nothing against Wildefire or Karsten Knight, but I usually have a hard time connecting with female characters when they are written by male authors. (I think Mark Henry's Amanda Feral books officially ruined it for me.) Wildefire was completely different, though, and I was blown away by the honesty of Ashline's character. She was a joy to read, and I was so excited to be tagging along on this journey with her as she discovered her heritage and dug deeper into the mystery of her being.

The action scenes were also pretty flippin' cool.

Wildefire is the kind of book that makes you sit back when you're done and think, "Hey, I want to read something else like this!" - except then you realize that it's a rather unique concept (imagine that!), and you shake your fist at Karsten Knight for not sharing more of his creativity with the world RIGHT NOW.

To sum: I love love love love love this book!

Monday, August 26, 2013

review: WOLF AT THE DOOR by Christine Warren

WOLF AT THE DOOR by Christine Warren
Series: The Others #1
Macmillan: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Released: May 2, 2006
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 336

Rating: Liked it

Christine Warren's spellbinding new series takes you into the enthralling world of the Others - mystical creatures who have long kept their true natures hidden from human eyes. Now, these werekin, shapeshifters, vampires, and witches must choose between revealing their powers or fighting a sinister sect hell-bent on their destruction . . .

WHEN DANGER MEETS DESIRE . . .

Sullivan Quinn didn't travel 3,000 miles from his native Ireland and his wolf pack just to chase rabidly after the most delectable quarry he's ever seen. Quinn is in America on a mission - to warn his Other brethren of a shadowy group willing to use murder and mayhem to bring them down. But one whiff of this Foxwoman's delicious honeysuckle fragrance and he knows that she is more than a colleague or a conquest . . . she is his mate.

Anthropologist Cassidy Poe is a world-renowned authority on social interaction, but the overpowering desire she feels around Quinn defies every ounce of her expertise. Working by his side to uncover the Others' enemies poses risks she never expected - to her own safety, to those she loves, and to her heart, as every encounter with Quinn proves more blissfully erotic than the last . . .

Now, with no one to trust but each other, Quinn and Cassidy face a foe that's edging closer every day, threatening to destroy the life they've always known, and the passion they've just discovered . . .

My Thoughts

I had been thinking about picking this series up for a while, but I kept putting it off because my trusted bookish friends hadn't read them yet either. Now, I'm not normally such a pansy when it comes to trying a new read, but every once in a while I really want someone else's opinion on a book before I buy it for myself. Then I stumbled upon most of the series on a closeout website for a great deal, and, well, I just couldn't say no.

Warren pulled me into the story right away. Some authors can't pull off male POV in romance, but that is certainly not the case here. Quinn's character felt genuine, and I fell in love with him by the end of the first chapter. I also loved Cassidy's spunk that was tempered by her academic nature - she's a very easy character to relate to, and her inner strength is admirable. Lastly, the set-up was intriguing. The Europeans want to convince the Americans to reveal Other society to the world? How will they do it? What are the consequences? I love that type of plotline.

There were a few things that I didn't love, though. The biggest of these was the sex scenes. Some of them made me giggle, which was probably not the reaction Warren was going for with her writing. (That may not be a fair critique, though, as most sex scenes make me giggle. They're always so corny!) I didn't understand why a "world-renowned" anthropologist was only a non-tenured assistant professor. Surely Columbia would cough up some big bucks for the prestige of employing such a well-known anthropologist. I also felt that I was missing some backstory throughout the book. Is there a short story somewhere that I missed? If there is, it's not necessary, per se, but I always like to know as much as possible when I'm reading a series.

Ultimately, Warren is a great writer who has created a unique and thrilling universe in this series. I can't wait to jump back into the world of the Others.

Friday, August 23, 2013

review: WOLFSBANE by Andrea Cremer

WOLFSBANE by Andrea Cremer
Series: Nightshade #2
Penguin: Philomel
Released: July 26, 2011
Source: Blogger trade
Page Count: 390

Rating: Loved it!

When Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemies, she's certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer - one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack - and the man - she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive.

My Thoughts

Oh my god!!!! Andrea Cremer writes some ridiculous cliffhanger endings! It's a good thing this is only a trilogy, because I don't think I could take much more. :]

Wolfsbane, somewhat ironically, has a much less "wolfy" feel to it than Nightshade did, instead focusing on the relationship between Calla, Shay, and the Searchers. I was initially disappointed in the lack of Ren in the book - I was really starting to warm up to him at the end of Nightshade. However, I was quickly drawn into the story and couldn't bear to put it down.

If you haven't picked up this series yet, well, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

review: HEART OF THE DRAGON by Gena Showalter

HEART OF THE DRAGON by Gena Showalter
Series: Atlantis #1
Harlequin: HQN
Released: September 1, 2005
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 372

Rating: Liked it

Searching for her missing brother, Grace Carlyle never dreamed she would discover a secret world populated by mythological monsters--or find herself facing a sword-wielding being whose looks put mortal men to shame.

But there he was, Darius en Kragin, one of a race of shape-shifting warriors bound to guard the gates of Atlantis, and kill all travelers who strayed within its borders.

Now Grace's life was in his hands, and Darius had to choose between his centuries-old vow and the woman who had slipped beneath his defenses and stolen the heart of Atlantis's fiercest dragon.

My Thoughts

When I think of Atlantis, water is always the next thing to come to mind - hence why I chose it for a beach read. It was a little difficult to me to grasp the concept that water might not feature heavily in this book, but, once I got past it and reconsidered my view of Atlantis, it was quite an enjoyable story. Showalter certainly knows how to create unique worlds (and, perhaps more importantly, some very sexy men!). I was not a huge fan of Darius - he's very much a he-man. Grace, though, is a very likeable heroine. This series is definitely worth a second shot.

Monday, August 19, 2013

review: UNDERCURRENT by Tricia Rayburn

UNDERCURRENT by Tricia Rayburn
Series: Siren #2
Egmont USA
Released: July 12, 2011
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 352

Rating: Really liked it!

STOP RIGHT HERE if you haven't read the first book, Siren, and don't want any spoilers!!!


Nothing has been normal since Vanessa Sands learned that her sister was murdered by sirens - femme fetales of the watery depths - and everything she believed about her family was a lie.

Simon had been Vanessa's constant source of comfort, but now he's back at college, and Vanessa finds herself with Parker. Doubting her relationship with Simon, unsure of Parker's intentions - and of her own toward him - and terrified by what she's learned about herself, Vanessa has never felt so alone.

But personal problems must be put aside, because the sirens are back for revenge. Now, Vanessa must face her past and accept that she is every bit as alluring, and every bit as dangerous, as her enemies.

The eagerly anticipated second novel of the Siren Trilogy, Undercurrent is a sizzling paranormal romance that will leave you will chills.

My Thoughts

This is an excellent follow-up to Siren (which I reviewed here). I was a bit frustrated with the love triangle aspect, as usual, but other than that I was very happy with the angle Rayburn took with this second installment -  digging up family secrets and generally creating chaos. It's a very frustrating read in the sense that it's pretty much just a lead-in to the last book in the trilogy, but it's compelling nonetheless. I highly recommend this series.

Friday, August 16, 2013

review: APPLE PIE FOURTH OF JULY by Janet S. Wong

APPLE PIE FOURTH OF JULY
by Janet S. Wong
Illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine
HMH: Harourt Children's Books
Released: May 2002
Source: Library
Page Count: 40

Rating: Really liked it!

No one wants Chinese food on the Fourth of July, I say. We're in apple-pie America, and my parents are cooking chow mein! . . . They just don't get it. Americans do not eat Chinese food on the Fourth of July. Right?

Shocked that her parents are cooking Chinese food to sell in the family store on this all-American holiday, a feisty Chinese-American girl tries to tell her mother and father how things really are. But as the parade passes by and fireworks light the sky, she learns a lesson of her own.

This award-winning author-illustrator team returns with a lighthearted look at the very American experience of mixed cultures.

My Thoughts

I stumbled upon this book while looking for multicultural books to feature at the library for the summer reading program. It's so adorable! The main character is the daughter of two Chinese immigrants who own a Chinese restaurant, and she can't understand why they are cooking up such a storm on the Fourth of July. I don't want to say too much more about the plot, because it would give it all away. However, I love that this book is about immigrants and a first-generation child, because that truly reflects the American experience.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

review: SIREN by Tricia Rayburn

SIREN by Tricia Rayburn
Series: Siren #1
Egmont USA
Released: July 13, 2010
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 344

Rating: Really liked it!

Vacationing in Winter Harbor, Maine, is a tradition for Vanessa and Justine Sands, and that means spending time with the Carmichael boys. This summer, Vanessa is determined to channel some of her older sister's boldness, get over her fear of the ocean, and maybe turn her friendship with Simon Carmichael into something much more.

But when Justine goes cliff-diving after a big family argument, and her body washes ashore the next day, Vanessa is sure that it was more than an accident. She is more certain of this, when she discovers that her sister was keeping some big secrets and Caleb Carmichael's gone missing. Suddenly, the entire oceanfront town is abuzz when a series of grim, water-related accidents occur, with the male victims washed ashore grinning from ear to ear.

Vanessa and Simon team up to figure out if these creepy deaths have anything to do with Justine and Caleb. But will what Vanessa discovers mean the end of her summer romance, or even life as she knows it?

My Thoughts

For years, Vanessa and her older sister, Justine, have spent every summer with their parents up at the family beach house in Winter Haven, Maine. This year starts as every other year has in recent memory - with Justine and the two Carmichael boys cliff jumping, and Vanessa too chicken to join in. She's just too scared of the water, and she's happy to use the incoming storm as an excuse to back out of the jump. Later that night, though, after a big fight, Justine stomps out of the house and is found a few days later, drowned and washed up on the shore. Vanessa and her parents return home to Massachusetts for the funeral, but she can't stay. Everything, including the room she shared with her sister, holds too many memories, and she needs to get away for a while to cope. Some things about Justine's life just aren't adding up, though, and Vanessa soon finds herself drawn into the mystery of her sister's death . . .

I'm torn on this one. I loved the concept, the story, and the characters, especially Vanessa and Simon. However, the pacing was a little off for me, and I sometimes felt that I was missing something that Vanessa - the first-person narrator - knew. It was frustrating to be so drawn into a story yet be so confused at times about what was going on, because I didn't want to stop reading to go back and figure out. So that's what the mixed grade is about - B+ for pacing, but A- for the story itself. I will definitely be picking up the second book, though - it's not a cliffhanger, but I really want to know what happens next!

Siren is a highly original concept (at least IMHO), and I would recommend it to anyone who can withstand the siren's song! ;) Seriously, though, it's a good book. Just read it slowly.

Monday, August 12, 2013

review: SEA CHANGE by Aimee Friedman

SEA CHANGE by Aimee Friedman
Scholastic: Point
Released: June 1, 2009
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 292

Rating: Really liked it!

Sixteen-year-old Miranda Merchant is great at science. . .and not so great with boys. After major drama with her boyfriend and (now ex) best friend, she's happy to spend the summer on small, mysterious Selkie Island, helping her mother sort out her late grandmother's estate.

There, Miranda finds new friends and an island with a mysterious, mystical history, presenting her with facts her logical, scientific mind can't make sense of. She also meets Leo, who challenges everything she thought she knew about boys, friendship. . .and reality.

Is Leo hiding something? Or is he something that she never could have imagined?

My Thoughts

Miranda Merchant is spending the summer at her late grandmother's house on Selkie Island, helping her mother sort out the estate. She needs an escape, and Selkie Island is the perfect place to do just that. Peace and quiet just isn't in the cards for her, though, especially when she meets the mysterious Leo. Miranda is determined to find out more about him - but what exactly is he hiding?

I read this book right around the time it first came out, so my memory of the details is a little fuzzy. All I remember is that I was unhappy with the ending and dying for a sequel (which does not appear to be in the works). That said, I can definitely say that my original grade for this book has increased with time - the more I think about it, especially the ending, the more I like it.

I would recommend Sea Change for teen readers who enjoy light mystery and romance and can handle an ambiguous ending.

Friday, August 09, 2013

review: GODDESS OF THE SEA by P.C. Cast

GODDESS OF THE SEA by P.C. Cast
Series: Goddess Summoning #1
Penguin: Berkley Trade
Released: October 1, 2003
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 352

Rating: Liked it

On the night of her twenty-fifth birthday, alone in her apartment, Air Force Sergeant Christine Canady wished for one thing: a little magic in her life. After drinking way too much champagne, she performed, of all crazy things, a goddess-summoning ritual, hoping that it would somehow make her life a little less ordinary...but she never believed the spell would actually work!

When her military plane crashes into the ocean, CC's mission overseas takes an unexpected turn. She awakens to find herself in a legendary time and place where magic rules the land—occupying the body of the mythic mermaid Undine. But there is danger in the waters and the goddess Gaea turns this modern, military gal into a beautiful damsel so that she can seek shelter on land.

CC is soon rescued (literally) by a knight in shining armor. She should he falling in love with this dream-come-true, but instead she aches for the sea and Dylan, the sexy merman who has stolen her heart.

My Thoughts

On her twenty-fifth birthday, Air Force Sargeant Christine Canady wishes for magic in her life. She just doesn't expect it to happen in such a big way! When CC's plane crashes into the ocean, she somehow trades bodies with a mermaid and is transported back in time, where she us supposedly rescued by a handsome prince. Only, things aren't quite what they seem at the abbey, and CC is soon fighting for her life. The question is: can she save her life AND the magic that just entered her life, or will she have to choose?

This story was a little too out there for me - CC wishes for magic, is turned into a mermaid, and is transported back in time to an abbey somewhere in feudal Europe where a hot merman just happens  to fall in love with her and rescue her from the abbott's clutches? Not to mention the love scenes between CC and her merman, which left me alternately blushing and giggling. Oh, dear. It was an interesting mythology, though, and Cast certainly knows how to tell a story. I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in an updated version of an old legend. (Or merman sex . . . just sayin'. :] )

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

review: BLOODLUST by Alex Duval

BLOODLUST by Alex Duval
Series: Vampire Beach #1
Simon & Schuster: Simon Pulse
Released: May 29, 2006
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 208

Rating: It was okay

THE A-LIST BITES

Jason Freeman is stoked when his family relocates to exclusive DeVere Heights, Malibu. The in-crowd at his posh new high school is surprisingly friendly -- soon Jason's hitting all the best parties. He even meets the token hot-but-unattainable girl.

Determined to enjoy his almost postcard-perfect new life, Jason tries hard to ignore the many strange things going down in DeVere Heights. But then a girl washes up dead the morning after one off-the-hook party -- and with no explanation but a suspicious-looking bite mark. Now Jason has to admit that what you don't want to know can hurt you.

My Thoughts

I bought the omnibus editions of Bloodlust & Initiation and Ritual & Legacy at least a year ago, but I don't like to start a series until I have every book. It wasn't until recently that I was able to track down the last book - Simon Pulse didn't rerelease the last two in the new omnibus editions. But I've been chomping at the bit to read this series, so I was excited to finally get started!

Bloodlust is the story of Jason Freeman, a fresh transplant from Frasier, Michigan (!!!), to DeVere Heights, California. Jason quickly gets into the popular crowd, as he moved into the exclusive DeVere Heights gated community. Soon, though, he begins to realize that the crazy parties are hiding something sinister, and that deadly secret comes into the light after he finds one of his classmates washed up with what looks like needle marks in her arm.

While it's not the greatest vampire book I've read, Bloodlust certainly has all of the hallmarks of a good vampire story and is, if nothing else, a fast and easy read, clocking in at just under 200 pages. The setting and quick pace make this the perfect beach read. I liked it because the male narrator is not a vampire - the female love interest is. Jason was also a very easy character to like. He's not perfect, but he recognizes when he's made a mistake and attempts to rectify it. That's a lot more than I expected from boys when I was in high school! The friend, Adam, is a little strange, always carrying around is videocamera, but I grew to like him too over the course of the story. I definitely plan on picking up the second book soon.

Alex Duval is a pseudonym for Laura Burns and Melinda Metz, co-authors of the Crave series.

Monday, August 05, 2013

review: THE LIGHTNING THIEF by Rick Riordan

THE LIGHTNING THIEF by Rick Riordan
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1
Disney: Miramax Books
Released: June 28, 2005
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 375

Rating: Didn't like it

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school...again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus's master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus's stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

My Thoughts
The book didn’t do much for me, but the movie was surprisingly good. It follows the book almost exactly, but seeing it in the visual medium made it much more appealing, though still not a favorite. As much as I love stories about the Greek pantheon, I don’t think I will be continuing with this series.

Percy Jackson shares many traits with Harry Potter, a young man who has no idea of his family legacy and is thrust into a new, fantastical life. Riordan knew what he was doing when he wrote this book, and kids keep eating it up because he included so many things that kids love: a sympathetic hero, fantasy, adventure, courage, and, of course, a strange but very cool best friend.

Friday, August 02, 2013

review: BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA by Katherine Paterson

BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA by Katherine Paterson
HarperCollins
Released: 1977
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 143

Rating: Really liked it!

A secret world of their own

Jess Aaron's greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. He's been practicing all summer and can't wait to see his classmates' faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new kid, a new girl, boldly crosses over to the boy's side of the playground and outruns everyone.

That's not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. It doesn't matter to Jess that leslie dresses funny, or that her family has a lot of money -- but no TV. Leslie has imagination. Together, she and Jess create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits. Then one morning a terrible tragedy occurs. Only when Jess is able to come to grips with this tragedy does he finally understand the strength and courage Leslie has given him.

My Thoughts

I read this book many years ago and watched the movie with my younger siblings a couple summers ago, enjoying both of them at the time. It was great to be able to go back to the book, though, as I found that I had missed being away from it for so long.

The death of a friend is a tough topic for kids, but I think the magical nature of Terabithia helps to make it easier for them to handle. All the kids I know who’ve read this book, or watched the movie, love it. Even my little brother, who hates everything vaguely emotional, loves it and begged me to watch it with him. I think having a male narrator who’s actually in touch with his emotions is what makes this such an accessible story.