Archive | February, 2007

The Angel Makers by Jessica Gregson

28 Feb

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“I have made mistakes. As surely as those eight women are twisting in the wind right now, in my own way, I’ve been twisting in the wind my whole life…”

The year is 1914.

Suspected of Witchcraft, Sari is an outcast in her small Hungarian village of Falucska. Life is hard for most in the village but even harder for Sari. The daughter of a Taltos (a medicine man) and possessor of the Second Sight, Sari is lonely beyond words. Day after day she is gossiped about and made the stuff of urban legend. When her father dies, the rumors and gossip increase tenfold; Sari is sure that she will never fit in, that she will always be an outcast.

The only confidant she has is young Ferenc, a young man enchanted by Sari and destined to be her husband. Ferenc dreams of Sari at night and wants nothing but to possess her, to have her for his own. Sari knows she does not love him, does not know if she can feel love for him. When Ferenc asks her to marry him, she asks him to wait until she is eighteen. Spurned by her refusal, he grows distant.

Judit, the local midwife, takes Sari into her home and begins teaching her the medicines that help and heal. Together they teach each other; Sari teaches Judit of curses and proper use of herbs and Judit teaches Sari the art of birthing babies. The gossip about Sari still runs strong in the village, but soon Sari no longer cares. She has her work and she has Judit and that is enough.

One night, though, Sari has a disturbing sight: she sees men coming, men and battle and blood. She sees men leaving though they do not want to leave and knows that trouble is coming. When Juidit presses her on what she has seen, Sari says that what she saw is not clear. She only knows that what is coming is bad. Very bad.

Then, in 1916, war comes.

War has a way of changing lives. Even the lives in the small village of Falucska, far away from the front lines of the war, begin to change. The men go off to fight and the women who remain must band together in order to retain their sanity and their strength. All the men of the village, including Ferenc, have gone off to fight on the front lines, leaving the woman of the village alone. For once, Sari is not an outcast, not a social pariah and she forms friendships with the women. But then visitors come to the village.

When Ferenc’s family home is turned into a camp for prisoners of war, Sari knows that this will bring nothing but trouble. Several of the woman form relationships with the Italian prisoners; Sari tries to avoid this, tries to avoid letting her heart care for anyone at the camp, but does not count on meeting Marco. They share a love that brightens even the desolate plains of Falucska and Sari feels more alive than ever before.

The two talk of love and of life, knowing that all they share is only temporary, that the war will end and that they will go back to their lives from before; Marco to his wife and Sari to Ferenc. There is no other way. But despite how careful they are with their hearts, fondness grows into love, though both are loathe to admit it.

Then Sari receives a shock: Ferenc is coming home. The year is 1918 and the war is almost over. Shot in the leg, Ferenc is discharged from the army and comes home a broken and very different man. The man who returns does not want to love Sari, he wants to own her, take her, and break her. Sari is shocked when he first hits her, when he first strikes her. She tells herself that it is the war, tells herself that he doesn’t mean it, that it won’t happen again.

But it does. The Ferenc she knew is lost and gone and instead is replaced with someone else. When Sari finds that she is pregnant and almost kills her and the baby, Sari makes a decision: Ferenc must die. But, even in death, secrets have a way of getting out. And Sari is about to learn what happens when women turn murderous…

The Angel Makers by Jessica Gregson is without a doubt the best book I have read in years, period. It has been a long time since I have been so entranced by a book that I wanted to do nothing else but read it; and I’ve read a lot of books. I can’t even begin to describe how good this book is, how incredible it is, but I’m going to try.

This is Gregson’s first novel but it reads like a more mature work; I would have thought it was her third or forth work; the voices are so clear the writing so crisp. This novel is just so bloody refreshing! That she has written such a finely tuned story of war, death, love and revenge in a first novel is incredible and I can only hope that her second novel is just as good.

There are a few things that make this novel so incredible. The main reason is Gregson’s writing. Though the novel covers a good expanse of time, the story never loses its pace; it flows beautifully through one year to the next and never becomes choppy. The novel never loses its stride or its focus; this is a difficult task with so many things happening. Not many authors could write a first novel covering fourteen years with such ease, but Gregson pulls it off with style and grace.

Another plus about the novel is that it never becomes needlessly depressing. Most historical fiction or novels detailed around the First World War leave you wanting to down your sorrows or wandering around in misery. The Angel Makers is different because, while it is by no means a happy novel, it manages to make the grimness of war beautiful. Gregson doesn’t focus on the war itself but those affected by the war, pulling you gently into their story at first. By the time you’re half way through the novel and the tone and story pick up pace, you’re emotionally involved with the characters; you live and breathe Sari’s plight. Not ever author can manage such a deft trick of emotion.

I can honestly say that The Angel Makers is one of those life changing novels; one where you really, truly, know the characters inside and out by the time you have finished reading it. I felt these characters, ached for them, breathed for them. I have never been so exhausted by the end of a novel as if I too had been on the characters journey. Gregson helps you live alongside these characters and I am changed because of this. I don’t know that I will look at any other book I read the same way again having read The Angel Makers.

But why take my word for it? Do you want to find out what makes an angel? Do yourself a favor and read the best book to be published in years, hands down. I can promise that you won’t regret it. I am going to be haunted by Sari for years to come and couldn’t be happier.

Morrigan’s Cross by Nora Roberts

28 Feb

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There is an evil that hunts during the night. An evil so terrible that it would feast upon the flesh of humans. There are stories of these beasts, these demons; they are called the Vampyre. Hungry for flesh and the blood in our veins. Lilith, the darkest vampyre of them all, is preparing for war. And she’s very hungry.

Having lost his brother Cian to Lilith’s kiss, Hoyt Mac Cionaoith is charged by the Goddess Morrigan to gather his own forces. He must gather five others: The witch, the warrior, the scholar, the one of many forms, and the one he’s lost.

Together, with Hoyt as the Sorcerer, the circle will be complete. Morrigan takes Hoyt to The Dance of the Gods, where he is to meet his fate. There, traveling through time, he is thrust from the mythical town of Eire, in the region of Chiarrai, in the year of 1128 to modern day New York, in the year 2006.

There he meets Glenna, the fiery Witch with red hair. He also meets his brother, the long dead Vampire and Larkin his sidekick and protector. They also save Moira and Larkin, royalty from Chiarrai.

Together, they form a circle that stands together against the most evil Vampire of all time. Lilith is bent on world domination and will stop at nothing until Morrigan’s Circle is all dead…

If this sounds a bit far fetched, that’s because it is. This is the first book in the Circle Trilogy and Robert’s first stab at all out fantasy. Though she’s had fantasy and paranormal elements in her novels before, this is the first time she’s strayed completely into that territory.

And boy does it show. That’s not to say that Morrigan’s Cross is a bad novel. Far from it. Once the novel finds it’s feet somewhere after the first two hundred pages, oddly enough once Roberts leaves the fantasy setting. But rest assured, once the story gets going you’re going to be hooked.

Morrigan’s Cross has all the trademarks of a Nora Roberts novel that you’ve come to expect: Great characters, snappy dialogue, wonderful sub plots and well written sex scenes hot enough to make the pages damp. And the plus is that, once the story has found it’s feet in Morrigan’s Cross, there’s no turning back. The next two books in the trilogy, Dance of the Gods and Valley of Silence, are incredible books that make you wish they went on forever.

But every trilogy has to start somewhere. And, for the Circle Trilogy, its starting point is Morrigan’s Cross. If you don’t like it at first, keep reading. It gets better, I promise.

It Had To Be Us by Harry and Elizabeth Lawrence

28 Feb

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What would you do for love?

After a marriage filled with hard times and harsh words, Harry and Elizabeth have been divorced for nearly twenty four years. One Christmas, they meet at their daughters, not knowing that they are both about to receive the best Christmas present of all: a lost love.

It has been nineteen years since they had seen each other and both Harry and Elizabeth are nervous at the prospect of meeting again. What will she think of me? Harry ponders. Does he still have feelings for me? Elizabeth muses. The two share an embrace that Christmas that starts a fire under the old feelings that are bubbling to the surface.

Another year goes by befor ethey see each other again and this time, the love they shared for each other is strong and neither can deny that it’s there. The walls they had put up to guard themselves against the feelings they were feeling were crumbling. Despite nervousness, the two agree to go to a movie on New Years Day and there, more of the old feelings come to light.

Later in the year, the two decide to go to Las Vagas together for the opening of the Debbie Reynolds museum. Little do they know that, in Las Vagas, their lives will change forever….

What can I say about IT HAD TO BE US except that it makes my heart sing? I have been a lover of romance novels for a long time but there is something in the realness of this true story that outshines all of those. IT HAD TO BE US is better than any novel by Nora Roberts because the love is real, it isn’t fiction. Harry and Elizabeth let their love for each other bloom again despite the years and hard feelings between them.

IT HAD TO BE US is the ultimate story of forgiveness, of letting yourself love again. I especially loved the way it was written with Elizabeth in first person and Harry writing in third person. The contrasting styles helped give the characters their own voices and their honest let you see right into them, let you love and breathe along with them. Thoug though this novellete is short (clocking in at a mere 56 pages) it packs quite the punch. I found myself thinking of past love and new love.

IT HAD TO BE US actually touched me, actually got under my skin and made me feel. It’s a rare accomplishment for an author to make their reader feel; Harry and Elizabeth accomplished this with aplomb. It also is one of the best love stories ever written. It’s clever, funny, charming and very heartfelt. I was sorry to see it end after only an hour or so. I wanted it to go on forever.

Do yourself and your heart a favour and read IT HAD TO BE US. For isn’t love one of the greatest things to read about?

Click here to read more about the book and to purchase a copy:
http://www.theromanceclub.com/authors/lawrence/

Someplace To Be Flying by Charles de Lint

28 Feb

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There is a myth that is as old as time. The world was created by Raven, the dark bird of mystery, as he stirred magic in an old black pot. The pot created more than the world: it created the Animal People, spirits as old as time itself. They are the First People and they roamed the land, able to change forms.

Out of the pot came the Blue Jay, the Wolf, and The Crow. There also came the Coyote, the Trickster. Always up to no good, he is the outcast of the First People. Most of his mischief is harmless, little tricks to amuse. But sometimes, he causes more trouble; enough trouble to slip through to our world.

Trouble starts when Lily, a photojournalist, goes looking for the famed “animal people” that are supposed to roam around Newford. One night while investigating the stories in a dark part of town known as the Tombs, a strange gray man attacks Lilly. Coming to her aid is Hank, no stranger to the Tombs and the rougher side of life.

He goes to her aid and the man attacks him as well. Lilly and Hank fight there attacker until something distracts him: two small girls who came from nowhere. They finish off the man with small switchblades that fell from their sleeves and Hank and Lilly are left stunned.

Tending to their wounds, pain disappearing at their touch, the two Crow girls sing a soft song with a haunting melody: The cuckoo is a pretty bird, he sings as he flies. He sucks little birds’ eggs, and then he just dies.

Dazed from the attack and the subsequent healing of two little girls, Hank and Lilly wander way, changed forever. They can now see the world of Fey, the world of the in between. Unbeknownst to them, they are now entangled in what will become a web of mysteries, a tryst. They have stumbled upon war.

There is murder in the darker underbelly to Newford than either could have imagined. They have stumbled upon the war of the Caenid against the Corboe: Bird against Dog. This is a war where no one is safe and the fate of both worlds will be affected. Hank and Lilly must learn to fight in order to save their lives and the life of others.

And so the story goes…

Charles De Lint has created a novel for the ages. “Someplace to Be Flying” is an incredible voyage through myth, through story, through dreams. This has remained among my favorite of De Lint’s novels and perhaps one of his most eloquent. There is layer upon layer of story here and the only way to work your way through them is to become involved in the story.

More involving are all the types of myth within the story: Celtic, Native American to name just a couple. De Lint has managed to weave the story of many people and many different faiths into one whole work that just sings with magic. He has managed to create characters that you can really care about and a story that is part mystery, part myth and part comment on our time.

If you haven’t read “Someplace to be Flying,” you don’t know what you’re missing. From the moment the Crow Girls come into the story, you are drawn into a labyrinth of words and dreams. The only way out of the maze is to finish the book; but you may never be the same again.

The Colorado Kid by Stephen King

28 Feb

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I am a new fan of the Hard Case Crime series. I stumbled upon the book “Branded Woman” by Wade Miller one day and was astonished. Hard Case Crime is bringing back all the old pulp novels of yesteryear and publishing new pulp novels by some of today’s most amazing writers. I thought, what a great idea! I had never had a chance to read an old pulp novel but now I was being given my chance!

So I was equally amazed when I head that one of my favorite authors was going to be writing a novel for the series: Stephen King! Yes, that’s right, the master of horror would be writing a hard-boiled pulp crime novel. I was excited to see what King would write for the series; in fact I was excited to read what he would write at all.

King had hinted that, with the end of the Dark Tower series now published, he might be retiring from writing. King wasn’t sure that there were any more stories in him with the series finished. What with the Dark Tower flowing in and out of his different works through out his career, with the ending finished he wasn’t sure there would be anymore stories.

Thankfully, he was wrong. I waited with bated breath for close to a year to get my hands on “The Colorado Kid” and, needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed. Though I had never read a mystery by King, I was taken on a roller coaster ride through the world of mystery.

Our story starts with Stephanie McCann. Working for The Weekly Islander before she starts out into the big world of newspaper reporting, Stephanie is astounded to learn that Vince Teague and Dave Bowie, the two old cronies who run The Weekly Islander, are hiding a real unsolved mystery inside their gray haired heads. The two old men decide to let Stephanie in on the unsolved mystery, hoping that it will make her one of them, an Islander.

The mystery revolves around The Colorado Kid, a man who was found on the beach one morning by two teenagers. He had been found with grease on his hand, a piece of steak lodged in his throat and a pack of cigarettes with one cigarette missing. No one knew who he was or how he had come to be on the island. He was wearing clothes unsuitable for cold island weather: A white shirt with no jacket, slacks and loafers with no socks.

Who was the Colorado Kid? How did he come to be on the island? Did he meet with fowl play? As Dave Bowie and Vince Teague take Stephanie through all the mysteries surrounding the Colorado Kid, Stephanie will learn that not everything is what it seems at first and that answers can be a long time in coming. Will she find the answers she is seeking or will she remain shrouded in the shadows of mystery? Only the Colorado Kid knows for sure…

Having never read a pulp novel by Stephen King, I wasn’t sure what to expect from “The Colorado Kid.” Reviews of the novel were split right down the middle; King even says in his afterward to the novel that you will either love “The Colorado Kid” or hate it. There will be no ground in between. Thankfully, I am one of the people who love it.

Not simply because the story is written by King, however. There have been many times that King has let me down and one of his books has either fallen short of my expectations or the story just didn’t grab me. Nope, “The Colorado Kid” wowed me because of what King was trying to say with the pulpy little novel.

While some would complain that “The Colorado Kid” isn’t a hard crime pulp novel, like it should be, I would have to agree. This is what makes “The Colorado Kid” such a treat. Instead of another potboiler like it’s predecessors, King presents a novel about the mystery of mystery. You will understand what I mean when you read the novel and it will be well worth the read.

King has done something beyond average here. It left me breathless. The novel reads like the hardest of crime novels but is something more: a commentary on the mystery that runs in our lives. “The Colorado Kid” was one hell of a read and I, for one, am glad that I went along for the ride.

Pick up “The Colorado Kid.” It’ll take you an afternoon to read it and your life will be much the richer for it.

The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket

28 Feb

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When we last left the Baudelaire Orphans, they were fleeing from Count Olaf and entering a car with a woman in the back seat who they had never seen before. That woman was Kit Snicket. Kit Snicket, one of the many on the right side of the schism, takes them to The Hotel Dénouement. There, they hope to learn the answers to some of the questions that plague them.

There, treachery is a foot. No one is who they seem to be and lies are a plenty. Kit informs the Orphans that they must rescue the sugar bowl and it’s precious contents before Count Olaf finds it. If he finds the sugar bowl, they are all doomed. How are they to infiltrate the Hotel Denouement, however? Surely they will be recognized? Their picture is in the Daily Punctilio every day, with details of false crimes they have committed.

Kit solves this problem by providing the Orphans with clever disguises. They will dress as concierges so that they can infiltrate the hotel unnoticed. There is a catch, though. They will also be Flaneurs. “Flaneurs,” explains Kit, “are people who quietly observe their surroundings, intruding only when absolutely necessary. Children make excellent flaneurs, as so few people notice them.” In doing this, the Beaudelaire Orphans hope to lend a hand to the V. F. D (The Volunteer Fire Department) and find what treachery may be under their feet.

It will not be easy however; they will have to split up to find out as much information as they can. Every volunteer, good and evil, are meeting at the Hotel Dénouement for that all-important Thursday meeting. And things in the hotel are more than what they seem. Klaus knows not to judge a book by its cover; as well, he knows that every book holds secrets. And The Hotel Dénouement is quite the book.

For instance, why is Esme Squalor on the roof looking into the skies with reverse binoculars? What does she hope to see? Why are Sir and his partner Charles there from the Lucky Smells Lumber Mill? Who is the mysterious person with the initials J. S. that they are hoping to meet? Why is Principal Nero from Prufrock Prepatory School there to meet this same J. S? And what is her fascination with measuring things? Why does she hate Indian food?

All these questions and more are raised as the orphans try to infiltrate the hotel and find out what they can. But whether or not they succeed depends on one man, Frank or Earnest, who may be a friend or foe. Not knowing which side he is working for, the Baudelaire’s put into action plans that may spell their doom, or their freedom….

As with any book in the Series of Unfortunate Events, “The Penultimate Peril” is rollicking great fun. I’ve loved the series since the first book, “The Bad Beginning”, and it’s just gotten better with each installment. New questions are raised at every turn, in every book, and one wonders if the Baudelaire’s will ever find an answer to the questions that plague them.

If you are hoping that the second to last book (Penultimate means “Next to last”) has any answers be warned: Few questions are answered here. We see several, if not all, the supporting characters from all the past books and the plans are treacherous indeed, but few questions are answered. The rest, I’m afraid, are left for the last, and final book, of A Series of Unfortunate Events that came out in October 2006.

That’s not to say that “The Penultimate Peril” is not worth reading. Far from it, in fact. The book adds much to the series’ mystery and gives us enough answers to keep reading and keep guessing. The strength of the series lies in Lemony Snicket’s way of spinning a tale and keep us guessing. The orphans are growing up and are learning some grim things in this installment. To fully appreciate how far they have come, how much they have grown, “The Penultimate Peril” is a must. It may, in fact, hold more answers than we know.

The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket

28 Feb

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In the eleventh book in “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, we find the three young Baudelaire siblings in a grim bit of trouble, escaping from the nefarious Count Olaf by riding a toboggan down the Stricken Stream, hoping to find a sugar bowl before he does.

The Baudelaire siblings don’t know what is so important about the sugar bowl, only that it may mean the end of their troubles.Unsure how to get out of the Stricken Stream without drowning, the three siblings contemplate their fate. Violet, the oldest of the Baudelaires, is the best inventor the world has ever seen; even she can’t figure a way out of the mess they are in. Klaus, the second oldest, is as befuddled as his sister.

He hasn’t read anything in any book that would help them escape a river. Sunny, the youngest Baudelaire, can just barely hang on for dear life.Their luck looks like it may be turning, however, when a submarine floats up from underneath them. Climbing aboard the sea vessel, they are introduced to Captain Widdershins and his stepdaughter Fiona.

They are part of the mysterious organization of V. F. D., and have been on the look out for the trio of Baudelaires. The papers have been blaming the trio for all of Count Olaf’s devious deeds and Widdershins and Fiona were able to guess the Baudelaires’ location.They are heading towards the last safe place, which they must reach before the V. F. D. meeting commences on Thursday. Count Olaf plans to commit another act of arson. They must also find the sugar bowl before Count Olaf, otherwise, the trouble has only begun….

From start to finish, I loved this book. I have been a huge fan of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” from its beginning and this is the best book yet. I’m not just saying that either. This book has everything: a little romance, a lot of adventure, evil villains who have perfected their evil laugh (Tee hee torture!), Tap Dancing Fairy Princess Ballerina Veterinarians, mechanical octopus and enough Ayes to shake a stick at.

I couldn’t read this book fast enough. I sucked it back in just about a day and I’m going to read it again; it’s that good. There are so many surprises in this book; there are moments where you will laugh out loud, feel sorry for the Baudelaires as we learn more about their past and learn a fair bit about the three stages of the water cycle. This book has something for everyone.

I can’t stress how much I loved this book. Part Harry Potter, part Charles Dickens, these books rock!