Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rocket Man by William Elliott Hazelgrove

Title: Rocket Man
Author: William Elliott Hazelgrove
Publisher: Pantonne Press
Publication Date: December 1, 2008
Format: Paperback, 376 pages
Age Group: Adult

Dale Hammer is a struggling writer who has moved his family to the suburbs in search of the American Dream. Rather than finding suburban bliss, Dale is unable to hold his life together as he faces financial problems, marriage problems, and his failures as a father.

While many reviews of Rocket Man have referred to the book as humorous, I failed to see the humor in Dale Hammer's tremendous failures as a husband and father. (Although to be fair I didn't *get* the humor in The Nanny Diaries or The Devil Wears Prada either.) Dale is not a very likable or sympathetic character because it is clear that many of his problems stem from his own actions and attitude. At the same time, Dale is examining his life and sees his failures yet is unable to change his course - like a train wreck that one sees coming but is unable to prevent.

My favorite character in the book was actually Dale Hammer, Sr. because he is essentially my father in law with a southern accent. Dale Sr. is also a tremendous failure but the difference is that he has a spark of life that the main character is lacking. Despite Dale Sr.'s problems he continues to move forward with a vigorous new plan. He is loud, crude, and demands attention - a true salesman in all areas of his life.

Rocket Man is an engaging look at the illusion that is the American Dream. The book is also incredibly timely with the collapse of the housing market and current economic conditions that have many people struggling to maintain their customary lifestyle in the face of financial difficulties. The events of the book are occasionally interrupted by Dale's contemplations of his current situation. While these scenes allow readers to understand Dale's thoughts and motivations, the inner monologues come across as a bit pretentious - would such an epic failure as Dale really be that aware of his own life?

As a novel in the literary/general fiction category, which is outside of my usual scope of reading, I enjoyed Rocket Man more than I expected I would. One caveat - the book does contain quite a bit of foul language which could turn some people off to the story.

Thank you to William Elliott Hazelgrove and Pantonne Press for sending me an Advance Review Copy of Rocket Man.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Personal Demon by Kelley Armstrong

Title: Personal Demon
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: Spectra
Publication Date: September 30, 2008
Format: Mass market paperback, 544 pages
Age Group: Adult
Series: Women of the Otherworld (Book 8)

I am a big fan of Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series so I was really looking forward to reading Personal Demon. I'm happy to say I was not disappointed.

For anyone unfamiliar with the series, each book is narrated by a female character who is some sort of supernatural. So far there has been a werewolf, a witch, a ghost witch, a necromancer, and now a half-demon. Each story is independent, although the characters do crossover and the books definitely follow a time line. Armstrong also produces online novellas and her characters appear in various short story anthologies.

Personal Demon is narrated by Hope Adams, a half-demon. She takes on an undercover assignment that forces her to face who she is and what she is capable of.

This book had two main differences from the previous books in the series. The first is that Hope is not the only narrator. Some of the chapters a narrated by Lucas, a sorcerer from a very powerful family and the husband of a witch. This is the first time one of the men has actually narrated portions of the novel. Armstrong makes it very clear who is narrating which portions with her chapter headings and I did not find it confusing at all.

The second difference in this book is the amount of sex. It is not an excessive amount by any means but previous books had little to no sex in them at all. I am anticipating that the sex is connected to Hope and not going to be a regular addition for all the characters.

Personal Demon was a great read and really kept me guessing up until the end. The clues were all there but it definitely took a while to put them all together. I liked it that I didn't feel that I was ahead of the characters in figuring out the situation (making them appear dumb) or way behind them in understanding (making me feel dumb). Armstrong also does a great job with wrapping up the story while leaving enough open ends to continue the overall conflict in future books.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Title: New Moon
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover, 563 pages
Age Group: Young Adult
Series: The Twilight Saga (Book 2)

New Moon is the second book in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Series. My review of the first book, Twilight, can be found here.

New Moon continues the story of Bella and Edward's relationship and the troubles that they face together or apart. I really want to enjoy these books but that is difficult when I don't like the main character. Bella is moody and self-absorbed through the entire book. She only decides to hang out with Jacob Black at the insistence of Charlie and to feed her need to hear Edward's voice in her head while doing stupid, dangerous things. Bella is very aware of Jacob's feelings for her but decides to use him anyway. Although the vampire family is not physically present for most of the novel, they are never far from Bella's thoughts and motivate many of her actions. Although I can understand the lure of the handsome, mysterious vampire I also think that most teenagers would have enough sense to understand the danger that the vampires (and other supernatural creatures) pose to a mere human. Instead of running screaming, Bella heads straight toward the danger begging the family to make her one of them.

I did greatly enjoy the section of the story when Bella is thinking about Edward and Jacob and is comparing her situation to Romeo and Juliet. It is clear that Bella is very aware of her actions and how she might hurt Jacob but she manages to rationalize their relationship. Despite knowing how many people she might hurt, Bella continues to forge forward with reckless abandon. I realize that teenagers can be full of angst, especially in first love relationships, however I feel Meyer pushes it a bit over the top in Bella. I do want to like her and these books but I am finding it very difficult to do so.

I will finish reading the series since I'm already halfway through and now I want to know what happens to Bella and Edward but unless Bella becomes more sensible and likable I doubt my reaction to the last two books will be more favorable.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Kin by Holly Black

Title: Kin
Author: Holly Black
Illustrator: Ted Naifeh
Publisher: Graphix
Publication Date: October 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover Graphic Novel, 144 pages
Age Group: Young Adult
Series: The Good Neighbors (Book 1)

Although I do not normally read graphic novels I won a copy of Holly Black's Kin as part of my prize package from a contest on Brooke Taylor's blog. I'm so glad Brooke introduced me to this graphic novel because I probably wouldn't have found it any other way.

Rue Silver's mother has disappeared and when a student at the local college is murdered Rue's father becomes a suspect in both cases. As Rue struggles with her mother's disappearance and wonders whether her father was involved, she begins to see things in a new way. People and places look different as she sees what is truly there and not the normal images that the faeries want the humans to see. In order to save her mother, Rue must unravel family secrets and discover her true heritage.

Holly Black does an amazing job at writing very sparse narrative that conveys a complex story. Rectangular text boxes let the reader in on Rue's thoughts while conversations take place in the conventional word bubbles. The characters' motivations are complicated and Black reveals the drive behind the characters' actions with a measured pace that fits well with Rue's investigation.

The black and white illustrations by Ted Naifeh fit Black's dark story perfectly. Each frame fits with the mood of the characters and shadows are used heavily to convey the unknowing. The characters are often sharp lines and angles with heavy facial expression.

The narrative and illustration work well together in expressing the depth of Rue's emotions as she struggles with so much uncertainty.

Kin is the first book in The Good Neighbors series and I can't wait to read the rest and find out how Rue handles her new knowledge and what happens to her mother. The second book is scheduled for release in 2009 and the third in 2010.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chainfire by Terry Goodkind

Title: Chainfire
Author: Terry Goodkind
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: January 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover, 672 pages
Age Group: Adult
Series: The Sword of Truth (Book 9), Chainfire Trilogy (Book 1)
Related Television Show: Legend of the Seeker (The CW)

Chainfire is the ninth book in Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series and the first book in the Chainfire Trilogy. At first, I was confused about why a book would be considered a part of two series but after reading it I completely understand.

The Sword of Truth series follows Richard as he learns about his family history, his destiny, and his role as the Seeker of Truth while fighting epic battles along the way. He is joined in his adventures by Kahlan, who is the Mother Confessor, his grandfather Zedd, various Mord-Sith, and Sisters of both Light and Dark. The initial books detail the battle against Darken Rahl as he attempts to extend his cruel rule. However, there is an even larger threat to the people coming from the Old World. As the new leader of D'Hara, Richard must find a way to defeat the Imperial Order. Each book in The Sword of Truth series reveals another obstacle that must be overcome as a part of the overall battle for the people's freedom.

Chainfire begins with Richard fighting for his life after being wounded in a battle he doesn't even remember. When he wakes from unconsciousness, he discovers that Kahlan, his wife, is missing. However, the worst part is that his companions do not remember that she even exists. They insist that he does not have a wife and that all the Confessors were killed in the initial battle with Darken Rahl. Richard insists that Kahlan is real and that he must rescue her from who or whatever wounded him and captured her. Cara and Nicci begin to fear for Richard's sanity and wonder if the injuries he sustained have altered his memories. As I read the book, I felt Richard's frustration as he tried to convince his friends that Kahlan was real and that he was not crazy. The book essentially follows his search for the truth even though all evidence seems to be against him. While he is searching for Kahlan, the D'Haran forces are facing overwhelming odds against the Imperial Order in the larger battle.

Chainfire is part of two series because it does continue the overall storyline of The Sword of Truth Series. However, there is one main difference between this book and the previous eight. In all of the other books in this series, the conflict for that book is resolved by the end even though the overarching battle against the Imperial Order continues to thread through each one. In Chainfire, there is very little resolution by the end of the book. Richard does find evidence that convinces his companions that Kahlan is real and discovers how she could have been erased from everyone's memories. He also learns what needs to be done in order to counteract the magic that caused the Chainfire event. However, he is unable to act on that knowledge immediately and has not found Kahlan by the end of the book. I will have to read the second book, Phantom, and the third book, Confessor, to see how the rest of the story goes. Confessor is also the final book in The Sword of Truth series.

The Sword of Truth series has become more political and philosophical as it has grown. In Chainfire, the explanation of the magic is complicated and rather confusing. Goodkind did an excellent job at portraying Richard's frustration at being unable to convince anyone of Kahlan's existence, his worry over her disappearance, and his self-doubt as he found no evidence to support his memories. As the reader, knowing of Kahlan's existence from earlier books, I was felt Richard's confusion and frustration along with him.

Overall, I greatly enjoy this series and am looking forward to reading the final two books. The CW currently has a show called Legend of the Seeker which is based on the first book in The Sword of Truth Series, Wizard's First Rule. My husband and I attempted to watch the initial episode but we found ourselves very frustrated with the substantial changes that had been made in the initial storyline and the relationships between the characters. If you are a fan of the books, I would not recommend the show.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Title: Twilight
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover, 544 pages
Age Group: Young Adult
Series: The Twilight Saga (Book 1)
Movie Release: November 21, 2008

I realize that I am a bit behind the times in reading Stephenie Meyer's Twilight. My only excuse is that there are too many wonderful books and simply not enough time to read them all! However, since the movie is being released in a mere eleven days, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and finally get this book read.

Bella Swan makes a difficult decision at the beginning of this story to move to Forks, WA to live with her dad so that her mom doesn't have to choose between spending time with Bella or her new husband who frequently travels. When Bella makes this decision, she has no idea of the incredible impact moving to Forks will have on her future. In Forks, Bella faces being the new kid in high school but it doesn't turn out to be as bad as she anticipated. Most of the students are actually quite friendly. Then there are the Cullens who are beautiful and mysterious. They stay apart from the rest of the students in Forks, only socializing with each other. Bella is incredibly drawn to Edward Cullen and his mysterious actions only intrigue her further. Edward, in turn, is also drawn to Bella even as he tells her that it is dangerous for him to be around her. Eventually Bella learns Edward's secret, that he is a vampire, but instead of scaring her away this only makes Edward more attractive. While Bella and Edward attempt to figure out how a human and a vampire can safely fall in love, they face other dangers together.

While I did enjoy this young adult novel, it didn't quite live up to the expectations generated by all the publicity and the fan hype in anticipation of the movie. While Bella seemed older than her seventeen years in some ways, like making the decision to move so her mother would be happy and cooking meals for her father, she was incredibly innocent when it came to Edward. Despite being told many times by Edward that he was dangerous and she was not safe with him, Bella continues to trust him implicitly even before he had done anything to earn that trust. Then there is Edward knowing that he poses a danger to Bella just by being around her and yet being unable to stay away from her. While the attraction is mutual and unmistakable, the fact that Bella and Edward could not stay away from each other could have easily been demonstrated by their actions rather than the very repetitive conversations about why their relationship was a bad idea. These were the two main flaws that I found in the book. The story itself is very enjoyable and I will be reading the rest of the series and probably watching the movie at some point.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

the godmother by Carrie Adams

Title: the godmother
Author: Carrie Adams
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: September 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Age Group: Adult

Tessa King envies her friends - their relationships and their children. She is surrounded by families while she struggles to pull her life together after losing her job. However, when Tessa returns from an extended vacation she begins to see that her friends' lives are not full of happy endings either. Tessa ends up racing from one friend's crisis to the next, all while trying to find some balance in her unsettled life. All four of Tessa's godchildren also need her help during the course of the book.

This book was a good read, although I found it a bit depressing rather than humorous. I'm not sure that I 'get' books that overwhelm the main character with so many issues that it is supposed to be laughable. Tessa and her friends are all incredibly overwhelmed with stuff in this book to the point that you wonder how much more any of them can take. Adams' writing is fast paced and lets the reader really feel the stress of the characters.

the godmother is Carrie Adams first novel and is available in both hardcover and paperback. Her second book, The Stepmother, will be released in hardcover March 3, 2009.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland

Title: Any Given Doomsday
Author: Lori Handeland
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Publication Date: November 4, 2008
Format: Mass market paperback, 352 pages
Age Group: Adult
Series: The Phoenix Chronicles (Book 1)

I was very excited to receive an Advance Reading Copy of Lori Handeland's Any Given Doomsday from the Library Thing Early Reviewers Program. From the description I thought the book would fit perfectly with my library of urban fantasy, traditional fantasy, and paranormal titles. Unfortunately, I was ultimately disappointed in this book.

Elizabeth Phoenix is a psychic and ex-cop who wakes up after a four day coma. She was found lying next to her foster mother's murdered body. Elizabeth is about to enter a world she didn't even know existed, filled with creatures from myth and legend. Her psychic powers have been greatly enhanced and expanded and now she must learn quickly because the fate of the world may rest in her hands. She is aided in her quest for knowledge by Jimmy, an ex-lover and half vampire, and Sawyer, a skin-walker who Elizabeth hoped was in her past.

The story in this book sounds promising and I might have enjoyed it if it had been executed in a different fashion. I had never read anything by Lori Handeland before and did not realize her background as a romance author. While I have read some romances that I enjoyed, it is definitely not one of my primary genres. Handeland's romantic background came through very strongly in her descriptive passages and the book contained a large amount of sexual scenes. While I do not object to the occasional sex scene in a book, I do not like it when the sex becomes a primary plot device as it did in this book. Handeland compares The Phoenix Chronicles to Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series and I think that is a very accurate comparison when talking about the most current Anita Blake books. I was a fan of the Anita Blake series before it became bogged down with all the sex but the increase in sex and subsequent decrease in an actual plot line has me wondering if I will continue to even read them. Fans of the current Anita Blake books would probably enjoy Any Given Doomsday.

Find out more about The Phoenix Chronicles and Lori Handeland's other books at her official website. There is also a short story about Elizabeth Phoenix on the website which takes place before the book. Any Given Doomsday is scheduled for release on November 4, 2008. Book 2 in the series, Doomsday Can Wait, is scheduled for release on April 28, 2009. If our local library picks up this series, I will probably check out the second book and then make a decision on the series as a whole.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sleepless by Terri Clark

Title: Sleepless
Author: Terri Clark
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: September 2, 2008
Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Age Group: Young Adult

Terri Clark's debut young adult novel is a fast-paced, thrilling read.

Trinity Michaels has the ability to dream walk. It is ability that she doesn't want as it often leads to her seeing the darker side of people and their secrets. The worst by far was dreaming of Kiri the day after her parents reported her missing. Trinity was able to help the police find her but it was too late - she had already been murdered. Her killer, Rafe Stevens, was sent to a mental institution instead of jail. Now Rafe has escaped and he has developed the ability to invade people's dreams and mix them with reality. He is after Trinity in her dreams and if he kills her in her dreams she will die for real. At least Trinity doesn't have to face the danger alone as she finds an unlikely ally in Dan Devlin, the son of the lawyer who kept Rafe Stevens out of jail.

Terri Clark writes fast paced action and witty dialog that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. The novel is dark and twisted while also containing humor and even some romance. Clark peppers the text with contemporary references that today's teens will easily relate to. Her characters are interesting and dynamic with solid motivations for their actions. While there is no word currently about future books starring Trinity, Clark certainly leaves the possibility open.

Find out what Terri Clark is up to at her official website, Terri Clark Books and at her blog Confessions from Young Adult Author Terri Clark. I can't wait to hear what Terri will be publishing next!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Captain's Fury by Jim Butcher

Title: Captain's Fury
Author: Jim Butcher
Publisher: Ace Hardcover
Publication Date: December 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover, 464 pages
Age Group: Adult
Series: The Codex Alera (Book 4)

The Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher centers on Tavi, a young man from the country who lacks the ability to control the elements of nature. The use of fury crafting is expected among his people and Tavi feels like an outsider without this gift. It is this lack of fury crafting which forces Tavi to be creative in his thinking when he is thrust into battle, defending the realm against enemies from outside as well as in.

Butcher has created a highly political series where fast thinking and intuition must often triumph over brute strength. In the fourth book of the series, Captain's Fury, Tavi has risen to command a legion in the battle against the Canim. To win this fight, he must politically outmaneuver his personal enemies while trying to minimize the losses on the battlefield. The Codex of Alera series gets even better with each book as Tavi learns more about his personal history and how it intertwines with the history of the realm.

This book is currently available in hardcover and will be released in paperback on November 25, 2008. The fifth book in the series, Princeps' Fury, will also be realeased in hardcover on November 25, 2008. The first 6 chapters of Princeps' Fury will be published on Jim Butcher's website between now and the official release date.
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Breaking Up is hard to do

Title: Breaking Up is hard to do
Authors: Niki Burnham, Terri Clark, Ellen Hopkins, & Lynda Sandoval
Publisher: Graphia
Publication Date: May 5, 2008
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Age Group: Young Adult

Four fabulous young adult authors come together in this short story collection to bring teens tales of love, heartbreak, and hope. Each author brings a unique voice to the collection and the stories represent a range of characters, story lines, and styles while centering on the theme of love and loss.

Niki Burnham shares the story of Toby, a high school junior with a gorgeous girlfriend. Things seem to be going great for Toby as the school year starts until his girlfriend starts pressuring him to have sex. Burnham does a great job writing about not being ready for sex from the male perspective as Toby struggles with his conflicting feelings.

Newcomer Terri Clark provides a fast paced story about Dark Dee who gains the ability to hear other people's thoughts after being in a car accident. This leads to the unpleasant realization that her boyfriend has been dating her to gather information for a book on how to get girls from a variety of cliques to fall in love with you. Dee and her friend, Pixie, decide to reveal the boys scheme before they can con anyone else. In order to do this, they must bridge the gaps separating the various social groups at school. Clark engages the reader with snappy dialogue and well drawn characters.

Ellen Hopkins offers the reader a story in verse form, breaking the prose of the rest of the book. Her main character, Lisa, feels plain compared to the other girls in Palm Springs. She is happily surprised when a boy comes in to the coffee shop where she works and eventually asks her out. As the relationship develops, Lisa finds herself changing her outward appearance to please her new boyfriend. She adapts to the relationship in ways that make her uncomfortable especially when her boyfriend starts putting on more pressure. Hopkins verse is shaped to fit the content and the emotions of her narrator.

Lynda Sandoval shows another side of love when Mia's girlfriend, Paige, breaks her heart at the beginning of the school year by hooking up with the school's hottest guy and outing Mia as a lesbian. Mia rides an emotional roller coaster as she deals with the scenario that her summer love is actually straight and having her sexual preference known by the entire school. Sandoval writes in depth characters and carries the reader along for the emotional ride.

All four of these stories revolve around first loves and heartbreaks. While this could be a very depressing collection, each author also injects strength into the characters to overcome the heartbreak and offers the characters hope for future relationships. A great read for mature teens!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Enlightenment for Idiots by Anne Cushman

Title: Enlightenment for Idiots: A Novel
Author: Anne Cushman
Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books
Publication Date: April 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Age Group: Adult

Amanda thought that by 30 she would have life figured out or at least be on track toward something. Instead, she has bounced from one odd job to another until she begins to regularly write "For Idiots" travel guides. When she receives the assignment to write "Enlightenment for Idiots," which includes being sent to India to study with various meditation and yoga masters, Amanda is thrilled and hopes to find the answers she has been searching for.

India does not turn out to be all that Amanda expected and she continues bouncing from guru to guru in search of the elusive enlightenment. During her journey, she makes some odd friends while also facing her own history.

While most of us are unable to take months off to head to India in search of enlightenment, I believe that many people can identify with Amanda's search. We are often looking toward someone or something else to provide us the answers that will make us happy or enlightened. A set of specific directions, a guidebook, or a road map to life. Despite Amanda's struggles, this book is a light and humorous read that also makes one think about their own life.

Author Anne Cushman is a contributing editor to Yoga Journal and Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. She has also published several essays and co-authored From Here to Nirvana. Enlightenment for Idiots is her first novel.
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Vision for Library Girl Reads

First, a little about me: My name is Angela and I have worked in libraries for over 10 years. I absolutely love to read and have since I was a kid. Summer nights my mom would find me in bed with a book and a flashlight long after lights out. Five years ago I married a wonderful man who also loves to read. It won't be too long before we need to buy another bookshelf! We are expecting our first child within the next few weeks so I'm now going to be a stay at home mom.

My vision for this blog is to share books with others by posting my thoughts and opinions on a variety of titles. While our home collection is mainly fantasy fiction and historical fiction, I am a frequent visitor to our local library which expands my range of reading. I hope to review recently released titles often; however older titles will also appear as I reread some of my favorites. I also participate in an Early Reviewers Group at Library Thing so I may have the opportunity to review some titles that have not yet been published.

While the focus of this blog will be on books, I may also post reviews of products on occasion. These posts will be rare as I will only review products I feel extremely strongly about (whether positively or negatively).