Archive | June 2013

Review – The Pirate’s Wish by Cassandra Rose Clarke

pirateThe Pirate’s Wish is the continuation of the story from The Assassin’s Curse.

From Goodreads: “After setting out to break the curse that binds them together, the pirate Ananna and the assassin Naji find themselves stranded on an enchanted island in the north with nothing but a sword, their wits, and the secret to breaking the curse: complete three impossible tasks. With the help of their friend Marjani and a rather unusual ally, Ananna and Naji make their way south again, seeking what seems to be beyond their reach.  Unfortunately, Naji has enemies from the shadowy world known as the Mists, and Ananna must still face the repercussions of going up against the Pirate Confederation. Together, Naji and Ananna must break the curse, escape their enemies — and come to terms with their growing romantic attraction.”

I have to admit that I enjoyed The Pirate’s Wish even more than TAC.  It took some time to get used to Ananna’s horrible grammar – she is a pirate!  And, I started to understand why she was falling for Naji.  He has scars (literally and figuratively) from his past that make him hesitant to open up to her.

There was a bit more sadness in this installment.  Poor Ananna couldn’t catch a break and her heart was broken multiple times.  Luckily, she also had some happy times as well.  I laughed when Marjani explained certain aspects of the birds and the bees to her as a reminder that you don’t need a boyfriend.  Ahem!

Manticores, talking sharks, wizards, assassins, pirates, princesses – The Pirate’s Wish has it all.  This probably would have been close to a 5-star read for me.  I hate to say it, but, I just didn’t like the ending.  Based on what I can find, this is the final book in this series and I feel like there wasn’t enough closure.  I’m sure that was the author’s intention but I was left a bit let down.  Every book doesn’t have to have a HEA with a nice bow around it.  However, I do want to feel like I have a good idea of the path the main characters are going to take.  For me, this just didn’t work.

4/5 stars with a wish for more in this series.

Thank you to the publisher for providing an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review – The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

assassinThe Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke was one of my favorite reads last year.  It was wonderful – my review is here.  So, I was very excited to read The Assassin’s Curse.  While I didn’t love it as much as TMSD, it was not disappointing.

From Goodreads: “Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.  And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.”

Ananna and Naji work as the main characters and their interactions keep it moving.  The writing, while not perfect, did keep me interested.  I read this over a very short period of time and almost immediately started the next book in the series.  The story is fun and I kept wanting to know more about the pirates, the order of assassins and the worlds that they live in.

BUT – as I said, the writing isn’t perfect.  The phrase “licking the grease from my fingers” is used twice in just a couple of pages.  And, a pet peeve of mine, the same words are used in sentence after sentence.  This is something that always stands out to me and keeps the prose from flowing.  (Also, not the writer’s fault, but I can’t read the word ‘menses’ without thinking of Sheldon Cooper.)

There was also a bit of insta-love.  I’m not sure I understand why so many YA heroines fall in love with the person that has tried (or wants) to kill them.  If a guy tries to kill you, it might be best to steer clear of him as a love interest.

Overall, I would recommend this book and hope the writer will continue to put out these entertaining stories.  4/5 stars.

Review – Blockade Billy by Stephen King

blockade billyI am a huge Stephen King fan.  So, when I see one of his books on the clearance shelf at my local bookstore, I almost always buy it.  Baseball isn’t my thing but, hey, it’s Stephen King.

From Goodreads: “Even the most die-hard baseball fans don’t know the true story of William “Blockade Billy” Blakely. He may have been the greatest player the game has ever seen, but today no one remembers his name. He was the first–and only–player to have his existence completely removed from the record books. Even his team is long forgotten, barely a footnote in the game’s history.  Every effort was made to erase any evidence that William Blakely played professional baseball, and with good reason. Blockade Billy had a secret darker than any pill or injection that might cause a scandal in sports today. His secret was much, much worse… and only Stephen King, the most gifted storyteller of our age, can reveal the truth to the world, once and for all.”

This novella (short story?) was just okay.  There is nothing bad about it but there is also nothing special.  The writing is fine.  The characters are fine.  Yes, Blockade Billy was crazy…not crazy ha-ha but crazy crazy.  I just didn’t really care about the story.  For me, King shines when he is able to give me page after page of character development and world building.  This didn’t fit the bill.

There was a bonus story in the second half of the book – “Morality”.  It was pretty messed up.  Basically, a husband and wife are living paycheck to paycheck and barely making ends meet.  The husband is a substitute teacher and wannabe writer.  The wife is a personal nurse for a pastor who had a stroke.  Her patient has lived a life filled with goodness and he wants to experience sin vicariously through her.  He offers over $200,000 if she will punch a random child in the face and videotape it so that he can see.  Long story short – she agrees to do it and it ends up turning her life upside down.  She doesn’t get caught but turns into a violence junkie.  I felt a little sick to my stomach while reading.  Would someone really be willing to do this?  I guess so but I don’t want to read about it.

Overall, I’d give this 3/5 stars for the technical aspects of the writing.  But, this won’t be a Stephen King re-read for me.

Review – Day by Day Armageddon: Shattered Hourglass by J.L. Bourne

Shattered HourglassMy zombie apocalypse obsession continues with the third installment of the Day by Day Armageddon series by J.L. Bourne.

The story of the small group of survivors from Hotel 23 begins with them onboard the USS George Washington.  Our protagonist, Kil, is sent to one of the few remaining US subs (the Virginia) on a secret mission to China to find CHANG, believed to be the first carrier of the virus.  Another team of military officers is sent to Hotel 23 to secure the nuclear bomb that is housed there.  We also meet a very small group of survivors from an Arctic outpost.

I’m giving this 3.5 stars because if you can kind of turn off your mind for a while, it’s an enjoyable time.  However, I much preferred the first book in the series and feel that the journal format used in books 1-2 was more effective.  This standard format with just a few journal entries thrown in wasn’t as compelling.  And, I started to feel that the author was adding in everything and the kitchen sink.  We had some malevolent force that was overseeing everything (I think it may have been AI  a la Robopocalypse), aliens (I’m sick to death of references to Roswell), time travel, government and military conspiracies.  There was also ALOT of military jargon that wasn’t as noticeable in the first 2 books.  It was too much and took away from the core story.  When we stuck to the interpersonal relationships and to the primary action (fighting zombies, duh!), it is at its’ best.

Will I continue to read this series?  Yes, for now.  But I hope that he goes back to basics with the next one.

Recommended for hard-core zombie or military fiction fans.

Review – The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon

the scottish prisoner“But it marks you, killing.  No matter why it’s done.  It’s a brand upon your heart, and while it may heal, the mark canna be removed, save by a blade.  All ye can hope for is a cleaner scar.”

“Lord that she might be safe. She and my children.”

The Scottish Prisoner is technically considered the 3rd book in the Lord John series.  However, it should also be noted as a mid-novel in the Outlander series.  Both John and Jamie Fraser are the main characters in this story.

From Goodreads: “London, 1760. For Jamie Fraser, paroled prisoner-of-war, life is coming apart at the seams. In the remote Lake District, where he’s close enough to the son he cannot claim as his own, Jamie’s quiet existence is interrupted first by dreams of his lost wife, then by the appearance of an erstwhile comrade still fighting to rally the Irish. But Jamie has sworn off politics, fighting, and war. Until Lord John Grey shows up with a summons that will take him away from everything he loves—again. Lord John is in possession of explosive documents that expose a damning case of corruption against a British officer. But they also hint at a more insidious danger. Soon Lord John and Jamie are unwilling companions on the road to Ireland, a country whose dark castles hold dreadful secrets, and whose bogs hide the bones of the dead.”  (I’m not sure that the synopsis is 100% accurate – Jamie is actually blackmailed into assisting John (against John’s wishes) by Hal.  I’m kind of picky about these things and, more and more, some of the summaries seem to be twisted to make the book sound like something it isn’t.  Just a pet peeve.)

I am going to backtrack on something I said in a recent review of the 2nd Lord John novel.  That synopsis played heavily on Jamie’s involvement and it was so minor to that story.  Lord John should be able to (and can) stand on his own as the main character of these novels.  However, for this novel, it was important to see more of the interplay between John and Jamie.  And, we got to fill in some of the blanks regarding Jamie’s time at Helwater.  The result gave us not only a thoroughly enjoyable Lord John mystery but also a story that will help round out the Outlander series.

With each book, Lord John continues to become one of my favorite protagonists.  His sense of loyalty, friendship, family and fun are refreshing.  I especially enjoyed the expansion of his relationship with Stephan.  My hope is that their foundation of friendship will allow them to continue on in each other’s lives.

Duels – were they so common in the 1700s?  It seemed like one of the men was always challenging another to a duel for some real or perceived insult.  There was one major fight and, whew, it was a doozy!  Diana’s writing brought it to life so that my heart was in my throat the entire time.

We also learned more about Minnie’s history.  As Hal’s wife, I assumed that she had always been a member of a privileged family.  BUT…she used to be a spy.  With her father!  And, Jamie knew of them in France.  This was a nice surprise and actually allowed me to like Hal a little more. He’s not quite the stuck up Duke that I thought.

Overall, this was a great addition with a lot of heart and adventure.  5/5 stars.

Review – The Vengeance of the Vampire Bride by Rhiannon Frater

20130614-082219.jpgThe Vengeance of the Vampire Bride is the 2nd installment in the Vampire Bride series. Typically, 2nd books can be a let down. Not this time – Rhiannon delivered an even stronger story.

Glynis drained Vlad and received his powers at the end of the first book. She banished him to his coffin and left the brides with him. Her new powers allowed her to hide the castle from others. She fled to Buda to try to begin a new life on her own.

I read an interview with the author several months ago and was shocked when she mentioned that the title wasn’t referring to Glynis’ vengeance but that of another bride. I had assumed that Glynis would take her revenge on those that had helped Vlad entrap her and kill her family. Yes, she did still crave this vengeance but there are others out there as well with thoughts of revenge.

This book was tightly written, emotionally exhausting and a great story of love, hate, friendship and, yes, vengeance. Glynis is starting to grow up and learn to deal with the nuances of living in the real world. Not everything is black and white. Each of us have good and evil within us but you have to decide who you want to be.

Adem, a new addition as Glynis’ bodyguard, became one of my favorite characters. I hope we see more of him in the next installment. Laura and Katya – we will see. Not sure they will end well. And, finally, Ignatius really grew on me. I can see what Glynis is so attracted to – his loyalty and love.

5/5 stars. Waiting impatiently for the next in the series.

Review – The Dark Tower (The Dark Tower VII) by Stephen King

the dark towerIt’s been over a week since I finished the final book in the Dark Tower series and I’m no closer to being able to articulate my feelings.  On one hand, it was a wonderfully well-written story full of the fantasy and heartache that we’ve come to expect from King.  But, it was also, I have to believe, a VERY different book than King planned when he first started writing this series in the 70s.  I can understand others’ frustrations with some of the convenient ways he solved crucial plot points.  And, the ending…I know many hated it.  Personally, I found it satisfying and knew that it was the ‘right’ way for it to end.  Did we really expect Roland to get to the tower, climb to the top and live the rest of his days happily and peacefully there?  If you did think that was going to happen, you probably don’t want to read this book.  And, who am I to question King’s ending?  This book has been blowing its’ wind at him for decades.

The mythology of this series is so complicated that I won’t even bother with a synopsis of this installment.  It’s about the final leg in the journey to the Dark Tower.  That’s all I’m giving you.

I cried no less than four times while reading (once was fairly uncontrollable).  There were additions to the series – who adds more major characters in Book 7?  King does.  Sheemie (remember him?)  makes another appearance and his twin in the Keystone World plays a major role.  Breakers, billy bumblers, robots, vampires, emotional vampires…I’m exhausted just typing this.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“And will I tell you that these three lived happily ever after? I will not, for no one ever does. But there was happiness. And they did live.”

“Unfound has become Found.”

“Roland of Gilead walked through the last door, the one he always sought, the one he always found.  It closed gently behind him.”

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

And, a few quotes from other sources that came to me as I was reading:

All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.”  Battlestar Galactica

“The Matrix is older than you know. I prefer counting from the emergence of one integral anomaly to the emergence of the next, in which case this is the sixth version.”  The Matrix Reloaded

“I told you. I wake up every day, right here, right in Punxsutawney, and it’s always February 2nd, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”  Groundhog Day

5/5 stars for a satisfying conclusion to a series that is, I’m sure, the Keystone of King’s writing life.