Archive | January 2013

Review – The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello

The Romanov CrossThe Romanov Cross is the story of Frank Slater, an epidemiologist, who is dishonorably discharged from the Army (for doing something honorable) and then hired by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology as a civilian.  His assignment is to go to Alaska and investigate an old graveyard that may hold active Spanish Flu cells.  (The Romanov Cross is buried in one of the graves.)  This graveyard is starting to shift and AFIP is concerned that the flu could somehow get out and cause another pandemic.

The underlying story is interesting and I like the movements back and forth in time.  While Frank’s story is current, the Romanov Cross originally belonged to Anastasia of Russia (given to her by Rasputin) so we travel back to learn her story in the early 1900s.  There are also several supporting characters in Alaska.

But, it took me a while to read this book.  It’s a bit convoluted at times.  People survive events and shouldn’t.  There are magical wolves on the Alaskan island.  And, then there is Anastasia’s story.  I won’t spoil anything here because I am recommending the book.  You may have to suspend belief in spots but overall it is an enjoyable read.

3.5/5 stars.  Thank you to Random House for providing me an e-book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review – Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) by Diana Gabaldon

DIA“D’ye think I don’t know?” he asked softly.  “It’s me that has the easy part now.  For if ye feel for me as I do for you – then I am asking you to tear out your heart and live without it.”

Diana Gabaldon certainly knows how to rip out your heart, show it to you and then have you thank her for it while asking for more.

I won’t recap the plot as it would be impossible to not include spoilers.  And, if you haven’t read Dragonfly in Amber (or the first in the Series, Outlander) then you really need to remedy that mistake and purchase them today.  DiA doesn’t begin or end as expected.  Ms. Gabaldon keeps the twists and turns coming and it’s impossible to determine where the next chapter will take you.  I LOVE THAT!  At the same time, there are many difficult scenes to read.  Both Claire and Jamie make decisions that frustrated me.  There were times I thought Claire should take the offer and use the dirk on Jamie (note to husbands – if you’ve been in a brothel and resisted temptation, then you still need to wash off the smell of cheap perfume before you come home to your wife.)  In the end, I couldn’t fault them since both are trying to do the right thing for each other, Scotland and their friends and family.  But the process was painful.

DiA includes a new major character – Roger Wakefield.  I wasn’t sure about him in the beginning but he grew on me and I hope to learn more of his story.  There are also several losses.  Some more surprising than others.  One brought me to tears – I felt like I was there with them holding his hand.

5/5 stars for one of my favorite books.  I cannot wait to read the next in the series but am feeling a little apprehensive.  I am invested in these characters and hope that all turns out well for them.  Can anyone tell me where I can find an Outlander support group?

Review – The Waste Lands (Dark Tower III) by Stephen King

The Waste LandsThe Waste Lands is the third book in King’s Dark Tower series.  We continue the journey to the Dark Tower with Roland, Eddie and Susannah.  They encounter many obstacles along the way and we slowly learn more about their past, this journey and just a little about what the future may hold for them.

This book is difficult for me to review.  The first half was very slow for me and I kept putting it aside to read other books.  But, I flew through the second half.  We are truly in the middle of this story and it’s all about the details now.  There are interconnections throughout this book and parts 1-2.  In book 2 we saw Roland, in another body, save Jake’s life (his original / real life if that makes any sense).  This caused both of them to start to have mental issues because they felt they were split in two.  In one reality (book 1), Jake had died, met Roland and then died again.  In this new reality, Jake is alive in NYC but knows that something is wrong (i.e. he is supposed to be dead).  This leads him to eventually find a way to get to Roland, Eddie and Susannah.  The intricacy of the story is amazing – Eddie remembers seeing Jake when he was younger and it’s the future Eddie who pulls him through the door.  The time ‘twists’ add so much interest but you really do have to pay attention.

Also, Roland compares his current ka-tet of Eddie and Susannah with people from his past.  There is a bridge that reminds everyone of the GWB in NY.  Are the similarities a coincidence or not? Ok…I’ve got to stop.  This is making my head hurt – but in a good way.  Thinking about these books is almost like thinking about space (no end, no beginning – how the heck does that work?)  If you think about it too long you’ll give yourself a tummy ache.

Each King book I read gives me something new for my nightmares.  This one has an evil train.  If I keep reading, I will never get a full night’s sleep again.

Overall, a great book but it wasn’t one of my favorites.  4/5 stars.  A must read for the series and for Stephen King fans.

2013 Reading Challenge

I have challenged myself to read 52 books in 2013.  This is a little less than 2012 but I have a lot of very large books on my list.

There are a few series that I hope to catch up on completely:

  • Outlander – 6 books (#2-7).  I will also read book 8 if it is released this fall as planned.
  • The Dark Tower – 4 (#4-7).  I may also read some of the other related novels (ex. The Wind Through the Keyhole).

Favorite Author Books:

  • Stephen King (already have the Dark Tower series to read):
    • 11/22/63 (up next)
    • Dr. Sleep – a follow-up to The Shining coming out this year.  Will pre-order!!
    • Bag of Bones
    • Carrie (re-read)
    • Salem’s Lot (re-read)
    • It (re-read)
  • Diana Gabaldon (already have the Outlander series to read) – hope to start the Lord John Grey series.
  • Anne Rice – The Witching Hour (re-read).  There may also be a follow-up to The Wolf Gift.  I will read it but need to keep my fingers crossed as I didn’t love the 1st in this series.
  • Joe Hill
    • 20th Century Ghosts
    • Locke and Key (series)
    • NOS4A2 – comes out in April.  Cannot wait!

Classics (I really need to read more classics!):

  • Frankenstein
  • North and South
  • The Last of the Mohicans
  • Anna Karenina

I also have a ton of E-books to get through and want to leave some openings for new authors.  Does anyone have any suggestions for me?  I would love to hear about your most anticipated novels of the year and your own reading goals.

You can follow my progress at my Goodreads page:  Wish me luck!!

Review – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

OutlanderOutlander was originally published 20 years ago! 20 years! I am heartbroken that it has taken me this long to find this series. But, the good news is that Diana Gabaldon is still writing books so I can read and enjoy the next six books in this series without waiting YEARS to get to the next one like so many of her fans.

Review May Contain Spoilers –

Claire is in Scotland on a second honeymoon with her husband Frank in 1945. They’ve been married for several years but she has been working as a nurse with the English Army (WWII) so they haven’t spent much time together. Frank is researching his family history and Claire is exploring the countryside. One day she goes to one of the local henges (ring of stones), Craigh na Dun to gather herbs and flowers. She is taken back in time 200 years and finds herself in the middle of a very different Scotland. The Highland clans are still in power and she becomes a prisoner of the Clan Mackenzie (after meeting and being attacked by an English officer who looks so much like her husband Frank that she is momentarily fooled). One of the Mackenzie men who saved her from the English / kidnapped her as a spy is a young man named Jamie Fraser.

Diana Gabaldon made me feel like I was in Scotland and travelling right along with Claire. The writing is beautiful and intricate. There is a scene very early in the book where Frank sees Jamie (or a version of Jamie) looking up at Claire in a window of the B&B. At the time, you don’t know that it’s Jamie, but that’s the beauty of the story. The connection between Jack Randall (English officer in 1700s) and Frank Randall (Claire’s husband in 1945) make the story that much more interesting and emotional. Gabaldon’s description of castle life and the politics of the time fit so well and add a layer that so many authors wouldn’t have given us.

There are a few scenes or plot points that seem to have turned off some readers. For me, they made the book more realistic – I don’t expect (or even want) the characters to be perfect. Their mistakes and struggles are part of their story.

Yes, Claire did marry Jamie even though she was already married to Frank. They didn’t meet, court and fall in love. The marriage was one of necessity for both of them. Did they fall in love and become more than convenient spouses? Yes – can you blame them? I don’t think so. (Let’s just be honest – even when Claire has the chance to go back to Frank, she chooses Jamie saying that he is her heart and soul. Jamie loves her so much that he is willing to let her go if she wants but she stays. There is something to be said for fate.)

OK – now on to the infamous spanking (some say beating) scene. This one is tough. I didn’t like Jamie hitting Claire. He warned her that there would be consequences if she ran off and endangered the men. She did just that (I agree that she had to and I even think Jamie agreed that she had to give it a shot once he knew the full story). Jamie was also in a tough situation. The men expected repercussions for Claire’s disobedience and at this time in history, Jamie couldn’t lose the respect of these men without potentially horrible consequences to himself and those he loved (i.e. Claire.) I don’t believe that Jamie enjoyed hitting Claire – I believe he enjoyed the fight she gave him. He loves her strength and this would be attractive to him. After this happened, I wasn’t sure what to think of Jamie. But, Claire made it clear to him that he would NEVER hit her again. He agreed and she forgave him and moved on. As a reader, I did the same.

Lastly, the torture of Jamie at the hands of Jonathan Randall was the hardest section for me to read. Beautiful writing about horrific acts. I expect that we will continue to see repercussions of this through the rest of the series. Claire is one tough woman though. Breaking in to a prison to save her man! Loved that.

Overall, I loved this book. It was one of my favorite reads in 2012 and I’ve already started the second in the series. I cannot wait to learn more of Claire and Jamie’s story. 5/5 stars. Recommended to anyone who can handle the violence – you will get some romance, history and sci-fi all in one book!

Review – Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason

TGFThree Graves Full is a quirky book that is a lot of fun to read.

Jason Getty is living an average life in an average home.  But, he has a horrible secret that he is keeping.  There is a body buried in his backyard and he put it there.  Every day, he worries that someone will find the body or his neighbor’s dog will dig up a bone.  His worst nightmares come true when some landscapers (who were only hired to work in the front yard, thank you very much) find a body.  But, wait, this body is buried in the front yard.  When the police come, they find yet another body on the other side of the front yard.  It’s a game of cat and mouse from there between the police, Jason, Leah (the widow of the first dead body found) and many more.

Three Graves Full is a kind of dark comedy.  Jason has killed someone but you pull for him.  He is a little crazy, though.  Let’s just be honest.  Leah isn’t a bad person but sometimes thinks she is.  In the beginning, I didn’t care for her very much but she did grow on me.  It wasn’t easy to keep up with the story of Boyd and Bart but that kept it interesting.  My favorite character was Ford Watts – a Sheriff’s deputy.  He and his dog were a great addition.

There were a few strange transitions and breaks but they are forgiven in this ARC.  4/5 stars.

Thank you to Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books for sending me an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review – A Christmas Surprise by Janelle Taylor

CSWhen I requested A Christmas Surprise from Netgalley, I was hoping to find a nice, easy story to get me into the Christmas spirit.  It didn’t work out quite as I had planned.  First, I wasn’t approved until 12/26 so the Christmas spirit had already left the building.  Then, when I read the book, I almost hurt myself by rolling my eyes so many times.

It’s not a bad story – Betsy and Tommy (newlyweds of one year) are headed out-of-town for Christmas.  They are each keeping a secret that they need to share with the other.

What almost killed me was the sickeningly sweet dialogue.  “I love this place and I love you.” “Mrs. Reed, do you know how much I love you?  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express how I feel…” “Oh, Tommy, you are my world….”  It is all just too much.  Real married couples do not have these conversations.

And, who says “rear a family” or “menses” (other than Sheldon Cooper) in 2012?  It just sounded outdated.  They also put up a Christmas tree (lights, ornaments and all) for ONE DAY.  Does anyone really do that?

2/5 for the story idea.

Thank you to Belle Bridge Books for sending me this e-book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.