Friday, July 29, 2011


It wouldn't be honest to say Robin McKinley's Pegasus was a fast read for me. In fact, it took me two to three times longer than I'd anticipated.

I can't say it was an easy read, either, as some parts were . . . well, not exactly difficult, but more like tedious.

I can't even simply say I enjoyed the book. I wouldn't say that. Because while the writing was experienced, sometimes extremely evocative, and somehow ripe, there were also places where the writing killed off the story, which is about a young girl (starting out with a genuinely childish twelve-year old, and coming in one of the many "Hurry up and flounder" moves, to fifteen-nearly-sixteen/adulthood) being magically (spirtually? mentally? unusually?) bound to her royal Pegasi counterpart, and what the surprising differences to historical bindings this one poses. Of course there's a bad guy who hates it, a thoroughly bad bad guy we all want to smother in his own supercilious robes, and there are wise monarchs, loving maternal figures, and the much-lauded Third-party-OR-ARE-THEY?!?! threats from great Pegasi-and-human-eating beasts.

There, in fact, 404 pages of these things. Or rather, there are 300 pages leading up to these things, 79 pages of the actual STUFF, and then 20 pages of WHOA, CRAP!, followed by 5 blunt pages of me getting very, very angry, because I--a hardcore devourer of books--have just toiled for at least three-fourths of this book to get to the last page to find . . . nothing.

You remember the Looney Toons wherein Wile E. Coyote would be chasing the Road Runner around, hellbent on (I . . . don't actually know. Did he want to eat him? Take back his pride? Square Dance?) catching that bird when suddenly he finds himself three feet out over the edge of some cliff-edge he'd have sworn hadn't been there two seconds ago? You see it before he does, but then he looks down, looks back up at you, and for the two or three moments he has before he waves, gulps, and begins to fall, you both know the very worst of what's about to happen.

That's page 404 of Pegasus. It's not that I don't like books that leave off in the middle of the action, with no real sense of having accomplished anything--wait, no, that's exactly what it is.  I know I'm always harping about book that could have been tightened up, I guess that's just my style, but if a book takes 400-some pages to just get to the big UH-OH, and then either plans on letting you hang, or means to make you wait for a sequel, my reaction is going to be something to the tune of, WTHades, people!? Cut out 200 pages, put in 200 OTHERS to finish out the frakking story, and let's get a real book out of these pulped trees, already!*

I didn't like the book; I liked the story, but I'm not sure I liked it enough to tip the scales. If you're cool with unnecessarily dense run-around, however well-done, you could borrow this from the library, but otherwise, I advise you BYPASS it.

*I have now looked around to find Pegasus does indeed have an intended sequel, which is good for those who find the ending enough of a cliff-hanger to wait for it, but still doesn't really do anything to change my opinion--so I guess it's good it's purported McKinley herself admits readers will hate her for how the book ends, and she's got a good sense of humor about it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

First Person . . .

 . . . To email and ask for the extra Spotify code we've got gets it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Haint Misbehavin'

Haint Misbehavin' by Maureen Hardegree


I'm a big fan of ghost stories (that don't freak me out too much), and Haint Misbehavin' is a fun one for the middle grade audience. Set in Georgia, there's enough flavor of the South to lend an air of plausibility that the ghost of a young girl from the 1800s would haunt Heather, a modern preteen girl.

While I enjoyed the ghost story, I felt enough rage about the unfair treatment Heather got from her parents and the nasty vendetta of her sister that I couldn't rate it higher.

It's a personal pet peeve, but I abhor books or movies that show unfair relationships toward one child with blatant favoritism of another. (minor spoiler) While the family relationships resolve and are all hunky-dory by the end, (/minor spoiler) there is enough of a bias against Heather that I couldn't relax while reading most of the book. I wanted to jump into the story so I could throttle her older sister. I can't imagine anyone being that cruel to a sibling and their parents turning a blind eye, unless it was a Cinderella situation with the rest of the family being evil. But that's not how this family is portrayed. Were it not for the sibling injustice, they'd be an average American family.

Otherwise, it's an enjoyable story and I look forward to the next book, especially since the sibling rivalry won't be much of an issue in later books. I honestly hope my assessment doesn't prevent people from reading Haint Misbehavin', since it does have a fun ghost story, but as Ames would say, this is a borrow and not a buy.

The next book in the series, Hainted Love, just released in March. By the way, the cover of the second book is much better and will appeal a lot more to preteen girls.

Advance copy provided by the publisher and NetGalley.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


There are few books that have done to me what Amy MacKinnon's Tethered has done, which is to take me through a solid, somber tale, leading in a very certain direction and with an expected pleasurable conclusion and then blow it all to hell in the last five pages.

What I thought was going on? Not even. Going back and checking details against what really was happening? Makes TOTAL sense. All of it. A retro "ah-HAH!" moment, or rather, a barage of them, because it was great, and it all fit together like a thousand-piece jig-saw.

And I can't even tell you anything specific about the brilliance, because as River Song would say, "Spoilers!" I suppose I'll need to keep it simple, then.

The narrative--from the perspective of Clara, a withdrawn, somewhat broken undertaker--has a quiet, steady pace, calming even with the often disturbing subject matter. It isn't that Clara regards these things with any sense of flippancy, rather the opposite; her ability to process grief is so underdeveloped it's as if tragedy slides right off of her, until a certain little girl gets under Clara's skin and Clara becomes concerned with the child's home life.

Before it's all over, just about every (living) person in Clara's life is somehow connected to the young girl's circumstances: The compassionate couple who run the funeral home where Clara works, and who consider Clara their child; the older detective assigned to the little girl's case; the younger officer eager to help solve it; and not a few of the former residents of the bodies Clara works on.

Maybe I should have paid closer attention when I put a hold on Tethered with my library, because the novel is labelled "suspense", which might have given me some better idea of what was coming, but then again, maybe not. All I can say about it was that it was awesome.

So, do I recommend you buy Tethered or do I suggest you just borrow it? Well, that depends. How much do you love suspense novels? Are you the kind of reader who appreciates the craftsmanship in a good mystery enough to read it again, even after the mystery is solved, or not? If so, BUY, if not, BORROW. Either way I expect you'll enjoy yourself.

Friday, July 15, 2011


In the movie Legend the faerie Oona asks the hero, Jack, "Am I not sweet?" He answers her, "Sweeter than bee pollen on a summer wind," which is kind of how I feel about Ingrid Law's Savvy.

Savvy is wonderful and wonderfully understated. Mostly thirteen-year-old Mibs Beaumont has a magic inside her, just like the rest of her family, and I don't just mean the calm, lying in the sweet grass kind of cadence to her first person narration throughout the book. Law masterfully blends the absolute certainty and passion of childhood faith with a sort of Judy Blume-esque lesson about becoming a member of the adult world, and then she wraps it all up together with a simple, deep-roots-strong language.

What kind of savvy--her magical gift--will Mibs have after she blows out her thirteen birthday candles? Will it be strong enough to right the sudden, frightening wrongs in her life, or will it be so powerful it only complicates them?

I won't answer those questions for you, but I will tell you, the answers Mibs finds are colorful and perfectly-fitted to the rest of the story and its inhabitants.

Buy the book, and then come back here so we can talk about all the subtle, crafty things that makes it so great. Go ahead; I'll wait.  And come to think of it, pick up the second book, Scumble, which my partner Michelle had the good taste to review a while back. I probably wouldn't have picked up Savvy without it, which would have been a shame.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kiss of Snow

Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh will do well with the adult paranormal romance series crowd. I had the disadvantage of coming late to the party, so to speak, as I'm not familiar with any Ms. Singh's earlier Changeling/Psy novels and found myself tripping over terminology I'm sure fans of the series would read over without a hitch, but that's my fault, not that of the writing.

Basically, this novel is a solid, interesting-though-format-driven series installment similar in feel to series by Christine Feehan, Sherilyn Kenyon, and Gena Showalter.

Adding personal inspiration and viewpoint to common character templates, Singh creates an alternate universe populated by three main races; changlings (weres of different breeds), Psy (try to twist your brain around a completely biological mesh of ESP-gifted humans and cyborg, with interconnecting consciousnesses), and humans. With these different races comes a bushel of conflict, most of the focus of which covers the friction in interracial romantic relationships. It goes much deeper than skin or culture, ensuring the reader's eagerness to read on, learning more--not only about the resolutions, but even the problems faced by these couples.

While I can't honestly say Kiss of Snow blew me away, I'd definitely recommend it to readers of the genre, or  include the series to a starter list for an adult reader wanting to explore APRs.  This one's right on the line between Borrow and Buy; I probably would borrow it (which, in fact, I did), rather than buy, but I know many readers who would enjoy rereading the book, therefore making it a good purchase for them.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tiger's Curse

Tiger's Curse  by Colleen Houck reads a bit like a list of things NOT to do in a debut novel, including almost all "telling" rather than "showing", excessive use of weak, generic adverbs (and redundant description, in general), awkward plot transitions, contradictory conclusions, and much, MUCH, extraneous narrative, sometimes poorly disguised as introspection by the main character.

I wanted to enjoy this book, I did. I mean, look at that gorgeous cover! And tigers! Tigers are COOL, cursed tigers, even better. India? Great! I'd like to know more about India, and it isn't an overdone setting. Reading about it like I'm surveying a shelf of BROCHURES on India? Not so much.

In the end, I couldn't overlook the inexperienced writing enough to enjoy such a good premise--namely a normal girl recruited by an Indian gentleman, a many-armed goddess, and a tiger prince to help lift a centuries-old curse.

So, could Tiger's Curse have been a great book? YES. Was it? No, I'm sorry to say it was not. It get's a Bypass.

P.S. I must admit, I did rather like the character Phet. He made me giggle.

*Disclaimer A. After reading much of the book and wondering how an editor would knowingly let an author put out a book with so much still to be done, I scanned the back flap copy and Acknowledgments pages hoping to find an answer, and I kind of did.

Originally a self-published eBook*, Tiger's Curse enjoyed success and was then picked up by a publishing company, who then--in my opinion did the author a disservice by not encouraging her and guiding her in polishing the novel, thereby reaching its potential, before hitting the mainstream market. A friend of mine, formerly an editor at a publishing house, explained a common practice for these self-pubb'd eBook pick-ups is to edit solely for typographical errors, possibly due to First Print rights already having been taken, a concept I understand in theory, but still feel is negligent and morally shady. Obviously, this is speculation on our parts, but such a reason would go a long way in making me understand, if not necessarily agree with it.

**Disclaimer B: I don't feel self-published authors are in any way inferior to traditionally published authors. Just the opposite actually. If you want to see some fantastic, enviably talented self-, indie-,e-published authors, boy have I got a list for you.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Countess Below Stairs

Eva Ibbotson's A Countess Below Stairs is sweeter than bee pollen, to quote an old Tom Cruise movie, and I mean that in a good way. If you're a mom and you've got a tween daughter who wants to start on romance novels with like-age protagonists, or if you just want to experience an old-fashioned innocent-but-touching romance, this is your book.

I myself began reading adult romances at thirteen, when my mother handed me a Jude Devereaux novel in hopes it would keep me from mourning (read: bawling) the entire fifteen-hour drive move from my best friend, and that was okay, but let's face it. Jude's got sex scenes in her, and while she does them tastefully, thirteen might not be the best age to introduce them.

Countess on the other hand, is romantic without being lustful. It was a nice breather from books with insane hormone swings and heaving hearts. The book includes simple but entirely creditable characters (with the possible exception of the main character being just a bit too selfless and optimistic, but only just a bit), which went a very long way in winning me over.

Without meaning to imply the book is in any way childish, let me just say, if you at all liked the animated film Anastasia you will really dig this novel. I'm going with a Buy on it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Need and Captivate

Need by Carrie Jones: Book Cover         book cover of 


 (Need Pixies, book 2)


Carrie Jones

I've mentioned being a fan of Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series, so it's not much of a surprise I'd pick up Carrie Jones's first and second pixie novels, Need and Captivate.

The books follow a pretty basic concept; girl experiences tragedy, moves far from home, realizes she and/or people in her new town aren't exactly normal, and then comes to find out why.

This one was both a hit and a miss for me. Pluses? The narrative flows pretty well, with likable (if sometimes a bit cookie-cutter) characters, some bright points in dialogue, and an interesting turn with looking at Pixies as their own culture, rather than a subset of other faeries, not to mention the inclusion of Norse mythology regarding Ragnarok (the Viking version of the Apocalypse--not just a killer move in Final Fantasy franchise games, who knew??). Negatives involve a lack of real tension, any breakaway character development or world-building, and a shortage of description in certain areas.

Jones's books are a nice, easy read, and would do well to snack on for those whose appetites for Fae fare have gone a while without a richer main course, but as I didn't consider them quite rich enough for my personal tastes, I'm giving the first two books a BORROW. However, who knows; after I've read the third ( and I think--don't quote me--final) book in the series, Entice, I may have to come back and reevaluate. ;)