February Reviews: Part 2

I'm going to be disciplined today. I told myself before I could write a post on Twilight, I had to clear away some of the other books on my to-be-reviewed list. (even though adding my unnecessary opinion to the constant swirl of unnecessary opinions on Stephanie Meyer would be much more fun...)

So here we go!
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Happy Endings (Paperback) Happy Endings Adele Geras

This book reminded me of gelato, a kind of Italian ice cream. It was small and sweet with lovely presentation and language. A well done summer-theater story. The characters are well-written and realistic, and the main character is very likable. Not earth-shattering literature by any means, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Rating: 3 stars


Wizard's First Rule (Sword of Truth, Book 1) Wizard's First Rule (Sword of Truth, Book 1) Terry Goodkind

AHHHH!!!!!!! This is the sound of me, realizing that this older fantasy series is amazing. And that I could have been reading it all these years and didn't. And now that they've become more popular, I can't find them for love or money. (Well maybe money, but I don't have much of that.) So I have to wait to read the next one.

I hate waiting.

There's not really space here to describe the plot, but the Wizard's First Rule is this: People are stupid. (Hecks, yeah!) And there's magic and forbidden love and torture... What more could you ask for?

Rating: 4 stars


Behind the Curtain: An Echo Falls Mystery (Book 2) Behind the Curtain: An Echo Falls Mystery (Book 2) Peter Abrahams

This is a solidly good read. Ingrid, the main character, continues to be stubborn, intelligent and funny. She tries to imitate her hero, Sherlock Holmes, as she copes with a suspiciously-beefed up brother, an antagonistic math teacher, and oh yeah, someone kidnapping her and sticking her in the trunk of their car!

When Ingrid escapes and the evidence disappears, she has to figure out who, why, and how to get people to believe her. I didn't like this one quite as much as the first book, but it's well-written and well paced, so I'd recommend it to anyone looking for good YA mysteries.

Rating: 3 stars


Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon (A Meg Langslow Mystery) Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon Donna Andrews

I love Donna Andrews. Who else would set a murder mystery in a computer gaming company office, complete with talking affirmation bears and an incontinent buzzard? I was a bit confused by the absence of a literal loon, but there were plenty of human ones to choose from. The plot could have been tighter, and several of my favorite characters were missing, but it was still an entertaining read.

Besides who hasn't wanted to strangle the office practical joker?

Rating: 3 stars


We'll Always Have Parrots (A Meg Langslow Mystery, Book 5) We'll Always Have Parrots Donna Andrews

Parrots and tigers and sci-fi fans oh my!

This one was amazing. I laughed, I cried. Actually that's a lie. I really mostly laughed. In this book, Meg and Michael,her actor boyfriend, go to a convention for the cult sci-fi show that Michael co-stars in. Along the way there are rampaging monkeys and parrots, adoring fans in silly costumes and a murdered female lead. This is my favorite Meg Langslow mystery so far. Not in the least because of the African Gray that recites Monty Python lines...

Rating: 4 stars


Owls Well That Ends Well (A Meg Langslow Mystery, Book 6) Owls Well That Ends Well Donna Andrews


One of the reasons I like these books is that Meg's family makes my family look like the Cleavers. (This is very hard to do, by the way, we're a lot more like this.)

But when Meg and Michael buy an "as is" house overflowing with junk, they hold an enormous yard sale that brings all of Meg's oddball family out in force, including a lingerie-selling aunt, a cousin who changes her name along with her life philosophy, and Meg's dad, who spends the book running around dressed as an owl, trying to protect the endangered owls in Meg's barn. Which is where the body shows up...

I liked this one a lot. Donna Andrews does a few different things with the plot that make it fresh (not easy to do with a sixth book) and there's a sheep-rounding-up scene that is hilarious.

Rating: 4 stars.
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All right, that's it for today. I'm off to spend the day with some writing friends. Drink some coffee, do some critiques, and try to imagine what a school hallway would look like if I were six inches tall.

Check back on Monday for my Thought for the Week!!

Today I am the White Rabbit.....

Five things you need to know right now...

1. I finally read Twilight. (Which will get a separate post all its own soon.) My take was, and I quote: "Huh."

2. Agreeing to work a short evening shift after an open shift and a meeting when you have to open tomorrow is a sure way to drive yourself up the wall. (And become the White Rabbit. Late! Late!)

3. I am saving up many a review for you my pretties, oh yes, and your little dog too. *evil cackle* There may be more of those reviews posted tonight for your reading pleasure.

4. I say may because my husband and I are buying new phones today as joint anniversary presents, and then I might have to hie me home and try to grab some sleep before the ungodly hour of 4:00am rolls around

5. I'm fooling around with the idea of doing a short post on Mondays. What do you think?

February Reviews: Part 1

Okay, I knew I was a reading addict, but even I'm a bit dazed by the number of books I've read in the last week or so. (12 since last Friday alone... ahh!)

There are some good reasons for the sharp uptick though.

1. Vacation. Two six hour car rides, waiting for my husband to finish a hour-and-a-half meeting, and one glorious Sunday afternoon with few interruptions. As far as reading time goes, it was practically Mecca.

2. Recovering from vacation. I did not (for various reasons) get much sleep last weekend. And while I got a lot of reading time, it was almost always in the presence of other people.

In fact I was not alone for more than an hour the whole four days. (The Shrinking Violets would be horrified!) So of course the first thing I did when I got back was take some serious alone time. With a book or two, of course...

3. Mystery series, plural. That's all I've been reading lately: the Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus books, the Rabbi Small mysteries and the Meg Langslow bird series by Donna Andrews. And when I'm reading a series, I tend to be very focused. Not to mention that mysteries are not generally heavy reading. (Especially the Rabbi books.)

None of this of course changes the fact that I've read 11 new books since the beginning of February.

Wow, I just read that sentence again. *shakes head* And the number of new books is going to go up because I just put a bunch of books on hold at the library.

Dang.

The upshot of all of this is that is I have to spend the next two or three blog posts giving you reviews. So I apologize ahead of time...

Let's get started:
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Click Here For Murder (Turing Hopper, #2) Click Here For Murder (Turing Hopper, #2) Donna Andrews

I see by scanning past posts that I have not reviewed the first book in this new mystery series, which means I read it in 2008. So a brief recap: Turing Hopper is an Artificial Intelligence Personality who has achieved both sentience and the ability to think critically. After solving the mystery of her disappearing programmer in the first book, Turing wants to download herself into a different system to attain a measure of protection and independence. But when one of her co-workers is murdered, her plans are put on hold, as she tries to solve the murder, and protect her system from a ruthless and determined hacker.

I really like these books. Donna Andrews does a fine job of creating a likable protagonist, despite the limitations of having her be a computer program. These limitations are more apparent in the second book, and some of the novelty has worn off. However, a lovely plot twist at the end left me anxious to read the next book in the series, so all is not lost.

Rating: 3 stars


Incantation (Hardcover) Incantation Alice Hoffman

I found it very hard to critique this story--set in 16th century Spain--about a girl named Estrella who discovers that her family are secret Jews. It's an vivid story that starts with a book burning and goes through love, betrayal and tragedy.

This is one of those rare books that I liked mainly for the language. The plot didn't grab me as much as I wanted it to, and I had a hard time getting invested in the character. However he prose itself is detailed and lovely and resonates with passion. It was the passion that stayed with me. Two weeks later I couldn't remember the main character's name, but I can still remember the emotions I felt while reading the book.

Rating: 3 stars


Garden Spells (Hardcover) Garden Spells Sarah Addison Allen

Speaking of lovely prose, I was very impressed with this book. It's about a family with odd magical gifts, the garden they take care of, and the town that they live in. The gifts were my favorite part: there's an older woman who gives you exactly what you need before you know you need it, a woman who can read people from their hairstyle and a little girl who always knows where things--and people--belong.

The book is incredibly balanced between utterly believable and sympathetic characters and subtle dreamlike fantasy. I picked it off the Newer Reads rack while waiting in line at the library, and now the author's on my must-read list. I only hope she wrote more...

Rating: 4 stars
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Okay, I declare this post to be long enough. I'll be back on Wednesday with more books, and you can all enjoy my current mystery obsession.

In the meantime, can anyone tell me WHY February has that awful extra r?

I'm back!

Ten things I learned this weekend....

1. You can get a lot of reading done on a six hour drive, but it gives you the munchies. (Mmm... string cheese...)

2. Moscow has better air than Boise. And even when it snowed, you could see the sun.

3. I've forgotten how to walk up hills. (Ouch, my calves!)

4. Writing death scenes is much more fun if you use run-on sentences. And it was more fun than I thought it would be. Hmm...

5. My parents are insane. (Seriously. Like buying-matching-tee-shirts-and-taking-silly-pictures-in-the-library-insane.)

6. People give you dirty looks if you start taking silly pictures in the university library.

7. College students do not know where the good steak is. Grandparents, however, do.

8. Steak makes a fabulous Valentine's day dinner.

9. Everyone owns this game but me. (Major pout)



10. It is very easy to READ on a six-hour car trip, but it is very hard to SLEEP. Especially when your seat doesn't go all the way back. (And not sleeping in a car when you're very tired turns you into a zombie.)

So that was my weekend. How was yours?

Vacation time for me!!!

Hello, lovely readers, I'm going on vacation! To Moscow. Idaho. Which currently looks like this...



Okay, so it's not a cruise or anything. But I'll get to spend time with my husband and see my parents and not think about laundry or work or malfunctioning computers, so I'm pretty jazzed.

A few quick things before I go though:

1. My computer continues to send and receive email, EXCEPT when I'm specifically trying to send the last two chapters of my WIP to my writer's group. Creepy......

2. However, I just received a rejection from one of the last agents I emailed, (sniff) so I'm pretty sure all of my queries are getting through.

3. Speaking of computers, I just saw the movie Eagle Eye, which is about a defense super-computer run amok. About halfway through the movie, I turned to my husband and said "They should have used the Three Laws of Robotics." For some reason that made him laugh really hard...

4. I'm starting a new WIP! It's a young adult fantasy (of course) about a high-school girl who becomes a kitten. So now I look at everything and think: "Gosh, how would this look if I were very small..." I love this part of the process, when I'm doing all my thinking and planning, and right before I start the book itself. Writing the book is fun too, but very intensive, like a neck-and-neck race between my creative self and my easily-distracted self. The trick is to get the story down before distraction and doubt set in.

5. If there is Internet available to me on vacation, there will be a Saturday post. If not, I'll post again next Wednesday.

No one ever told me my computer would sabatoge me

Quote from my last post: "We'll be back with more No One Ever Told Me on Wednesday!"

Yeah, I meant Saturday. Dang. But here I am as (kind of) promised. And with a brand new problem on my hands.

My computer hates my writer's group.

Seriously. I sent out an email with all of their addresses for last week's meeting. No one got it. I sent out another one a few days ago. No one got it. My computer says it was sent. The addresses have worked for seven months. But now it won't go through.

Hmmm...

This dilemma is made more acute (yah, I got to use the word acute!) by AgentQuest '07. I've sent out several e-queries recently, and now I'm wondering if they were ever received. I may have to send a random email to a friend just to see if ANYTHING is getting through.

If not, I may have to go insane. Possibly with a sledgehammer.

Or a bat...


Now, normally, I would chalk this up to a technology fail, but I just finished re-reading Issac Asimov's The Complete Robot, and now I wonder...

The First Law of Robotics states that no robot may harm a human, or through inactivity allow a human to be harmed. Has my computer decided that writing is a source of potential emotional harm for me?

This email to my writers group is important because it has the last two chapters of my WIP. The agent queries are important because, well duh, they're agents. Perhaps my computer has decided that these responses are too important to me, and is attempting to protect me from rejection.

If so, tough cookies. I am determined to be rejected and disappointed and discouraged and no silly email program is going to stop me!

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go buy a sledgehammer...

Reviews, awards, etc

It's February!! Which means, among other things, that it's time to clean out January's book closet and give out reviews. So here we go.



The Princess and the Hound (Hardcover) The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison

I picked this up largely because several of my writing group buddies had recommended it as right up my alley. Well it turns out these people know my alley pretty well. I loved it. Super believable characters, lovely writing and no easy fairy-tale answers. It's a surprisingly deep book too, one of those books that you put down and think "Gosh, I'll have to read that again because I'm sure I missed stuff." The last book that hit me like that was Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown, which has since become a favorite. This one is well on its way to becoming a favorite as well.

Rating: 5 stars



The Adoration of Jenna Fox (Hardcover) The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Dang.
That's what I thought when I set this book down. It blew me away. And it's a lovely read, in fact I devoured it in one sitting. It makes you think, which I love, and it escaped fatalism and depression, which are the kiss of death for me and a book. I can't say more because I don't' want to spoil it. Very, very well done.

Rating: 4 stars.



The Fate of Mice (Paperback) The Fate of Mice by Susan Palwick

This collection of short stories about death (eek!) and mortality managed to avoid my depressing radar by being exactly what they were, a varied bunch of short stories. Some of them were more humorous than others, some very sad. (The one about the female werewolf almost made me cry.) But they were all interesting, entertaining and unique, which is hard to do with short stories. I really want to look up this author's novels, as long as she isn't writing more about death.

Rating: 4 stars



Girls Dinner Club (Paperback) Girls Dinner Club by Jessie Elliot

I once had a friend tell me I should write a novel based in real life before I "attempted" fantasy. I told him writing real life was harder, because real life is, by and large, boring.

This book is a good example. It has good writing, and a couple of interesting characters, but I was bored most of the way through. And there seemed to be a lot of predicable and cliched moments. The book had some shining parts, the reasons one of the main characters breaks up with her boyfriend are well-written, realistic and rather sad. But it didn't pull me in. (And that doesn't even take into account all the sex and underage drinking and sneaking out that happens with no serious consequences.) Blah.

Rating: 2 stars



AND THE "OMG, I MUST OWN THIS BOOK!!!" AWARD GOES TO....


The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy (Hardcover) The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy by Leonard S. Marcus,

Okay, I HAVE to own this book someday. And so do you. We're beyond five stars here, and into serious covet. This is a collection of interviews with the giants of children's fantasy, such as Brian Jacques, Tamora Pierce, Jane Yolen, Phillip Pullman and Madeline L'Engle. (who I'm still mourning, by the way.)

The interviewees talk about what kind of kids they were, how they did in school, why they started writing and how events like WW2 had an effect on them. It's wonderfully done and totally engaging. All the fantasy writers I know should read it. And then buy one. And then buy another one and send it to me.

Rating: gimme, gimme, gimme!




And speaking of awards...

A couple of days ago, Joanne over at Whole Latte Life, gave me and two other bloggers the Lovely Award.

The Lovey Award is for "blogs that are exceedingly charming. These kind of bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to three bloggers who must choose three more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

(The award also came with a lovely little picture jpg, which my blog page hates and won't post. You can find it here.)

Thank you Joanne. I love to find friends! And in that spirit, my picks for the Lovely Award are:

PJ Hoover at Roots in Myth

PJ shares my love of turtles, Star Trek and Jurassic Park, and her blog always makes me laugh. What more can you ask for?

Gottawrite Girl


Another person with a lovely blog, Gottawrite Girl is always quick with encouragement and interesting insights on the life of a writer. Yah!

Nic at Rants, Raves, and Random Thoughts.

I don't know about charming... :-) But Nic is very good at being friendly and entertaining. Plus he periodically posts pictures (whoa, alliteration much?) of his kids, who are the most adorable things ever. And I'm not just saying that because they're my niece and nephew....

So check these guys out if you can. And we'll be back with more No One Ever Told Me on Wednesday!
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Fabric art in the header by Carol Riggs.