Today's Grateful List/20 December 2014

  • Cotton puff grey clouds
  • Cats on catnip
  • Grown up girls
  • Some more shopping done
  • Feeling better!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

First Thoughts On First Frost

I finished Sarah Addison Allen's First Frost last night and as I write this review, it occurs to me that I have several strong thoughts/opinions to share. But first, a bit of background: First Frost picks up the story of the Waverley sisters, Claire and Sydney, back home in Bascom, NC, living settled, mostly happy lives in the shadow of their family legacy and the same, spirited apple tree living in the back yard. While all seems mostly well, there are undercurrents of dissatisfaction, and not just between the sisters: Bay, now 15, has revealed her feelings to Josh Matteson, who doesn't reciprocate, and nine year old Mariah, who has suddenly developed a friendship with a girl no one knows. There is also the presence of a mysterious stranger who doesn't seem to have the Waverley interests at heart.

So, on to my thoughts:

1) This book is filled with beautiful, luxurious statements that had me pausing to savor the words. A couple of my favorites: "...happiness isn't a point you leave behind. It's what ahead of you. Every single day." " was like she's brought the entire month of July with her." Gorgeous writing.
2) A story doesn't have to be about a big, sweeping tragedy or event to make it worthwhile. It can be about a series of small events that resonate with your life and cause you to think.
3) A touch of magical realism never hurts anything and generally helps.
4) We believe what we choose to believe.
5) Visiting with old friends, even old friends who need a good lecture, is always a welcome thing.
6) Sometimes, all it takes to get you out of a reading slump is one fantastically engaging book. This is it.

I loved this story, even if I did get frustrated at times, especially with Claire. I love all the characters, especially Evanelle and Fred; their interactions were genuine and touching. If I'm still not sure about the ending with Violet and Sydney (no spoilers here), I can still believe in it. Allen's writing is so vivid and alive, I would probably go along with an ending that involved unicorns and talking frogs (neither of which make an appearance, thankfully).

Every time Sarah Addison Allen releases a new book, I'm practically giddy until I finish it, and this is no exception. My biggest problem is that now I'll have to wait more than a year for her next entry. First Frost is as good as it gets, and I suppose I'll just have to bask in its glow until the next one.


Monday, November 10, 2014

A Thousand Pieces of You

Marguerite is mourning the sudden, violent death of her father, a famed physicist who, along with her mother and a couple of graduate students, has perfected a device that allows individuals to travel to alternate life dimensions. In a desperate attempt to track down Paul, the grad student accused of killing her father, Marguerite and the remaining student, Theo, grab the Firebird devices that allow them to go to other dimensions, and take off after him, determined to bring him to justice. Of course things do not go as planned, and it doesn't take long for Marguerite to begin to question Paul's guilt and her own convictions as she first slips into a futuristic world, then into a Russian world that hasn't advanced much past the turn of the last century, and finally into an oceanographer's dimension. In all of these worlds, she is Marguerite, but a slightly different version of herself; she occupies the bodies of the other Marguerites while trying to discover whether Paul has actually betrayed her father.

Confused? Well, yeah, it is confusing, but it's also not all that hard to follow, either. While my description doesn't really do the complexity justice, I found that as I read, I really did know what was going on and did understand what Marguerite was trying to accomplish (even when she wasn't precisely sure herself). There is some technical language that really doesn't make all that much sense as far as alternate dimensions go (though really, it's a novel, so it could be done however the author decides). What bothered me was the slipping into the alternate bodies and consciousnesses of the "other" Marguerites...where did they go while OUR Marguerite occupied their bodies? I never really got a satisfactory explanation, but again, if you don't think about it too much, it works.

Marguerite's a bit hard to get to know, and her immaturity (even with two graduate students seriously interested in her seventeen-year-old self) often made me want to scream. I understood her need to avenge her father, but she's often reactive rather than proactive once she arrives in another dimension. I'm not sure I buy the relationship she forms with one of the graduate students; there just didn't seem to be much chemistry between them. But Marguerite is brave and determined, and she uncovers layers of the mystery with every dimensional jump until the final big twisty reveal (which I actually figured out ahead of time...woot! for me).

Despite my misgivings about Marguerite, I did love the storyline and Ms. Gray is a very good writer who holds the reader's attention quite well throughout. The idea of alternate dimensions is fascinating, and while I might prefer the take of Anna Jarzab's Tandem (Many-Worlds) this is indeed a good entry that keeps you entangled in the story. I'm ready for Book Two.


Saturday, November 01, 2014


Full Disclosure: I didn't realize this was the second book in the series when I decided to read and review it. So perhaps I might have missed a bit of relationship building (okay, I missed a lot) and some background information that it might have been handy to know (sure, I was confused a few times). But for all that, Invisible is a rollicking good story that kept me swept up and reading, figuring out what was going on and keeping me intrigued enough to want to know more.

Joy Malone is involved with a Scribe from The Twixt, the enchanted world humans know nothing about but co-exists alongside ours. Joy has the Sight, which is normally a condition that means blinding by the Twixt, but apparently she's done things in the past that have saved her and others and resulted in her relationship with Ink, the hunky, hot, not- human Scribe. She is also friends with his sister Inq, and on good terms with a giant frog-like Bailiwick known as Graus Claude. Joy has ignited the wrath of The Tide, and they have defied an Edict of Protection by sending a lethal Red Knight to kill her. While evading the Knight, Joy becomes involved with a) a side business with the Bailiwick which puts her at risk, b) the Cabana Boys and a Den of Iniquity, c) her brother's strange behavior, and d) a wizard. When Joy's best friend Monica gets hurt during one of Joy's encounters, Joy risks her life and her relationship with Ink.

I really enjoyed this story, even if I didn't understand all the references to the first book in the series. Still, the author does an excellent job of world and character building, even if Joy at times acts rashly and a bit immaturely. But she is always loyal and brave, and above all, determined. Biggest gripes? I don't need to know what each of the Bailiwick's hands is doing every time we see him, and Ink comes off as wooden way too often (even if he is just learning to experience human emotion). But I'm in! I'm on board for the next book in the series and feel certain the first book must be just as engaging as this one since we know that the second books in trilogies often suffer from slow plot and pacing. Fun story and well worth the read.


Friday, October 10, 2014

The Reapers Are The Angels

How to describe The Angels Are the Reapers? Sure, it's a zombie story, but it's so different than most other books with that theme that it's hard to know precisely what to say. I finished the book a few days ago and I'm still digesting the story, and I imagine I'll still be thinking about it long after I finish this review.

The Angels Are the Reapers is the story of fifteen year old Temple, born after whatever it was that caused the dead to start returning as zombies happened. It's the only life she's known; she has no clue who her parents were, having grown up in an orphanage very quickly. When the story opens, Temple is alone on a small island with a lighthouse, thinking she's safe for the time being, but it doesn't take long for the "slugs" to begin to invade and Temple has to go back into "civilization", such as it is. It's obvious there's more to Temple's background, but we're only teased about it; Temple finds a community to join, but things go downhill rapidly and she's forced to flee almost as soon as she arrives. How a fifteen year old invokes the deadly wrath of a fellow warrior in the fight against the zombies and finds herself on his personal hit list is only part of the story; how she manages to take on an adult, intellectually challenged male in her travels, abide for a time in a genteel southern home, and face off against mutants round out the tale but still doesn't fill in all the gaps.

Temple may be the young adult heroine of this story, but it's not really a YA novel in tone or message. Temple is fascinating in so many respects, revealing layer after layer to her personality even though she seems not to be sophisticated enough to know what she does about people. She faces down her enemies in deadly fashion, yet it's obvious she still has a conscience. She adapts to her world because that's all she's ever known, showing a grudging respect for the man, Moses Todd, who is determined to hunt her down and kill her. She shows compassion when necessary and is ruthless almost all the time. Her story is going to grip you hard and won't let you go.

If there's anything I disliked about The Reapers Are The Angels, it would be the ending. I'm not going to spoil anything, but I will say that I was disappointed. Though it's well written and entirely believable, I wanted more...more emotion, more explanation, more redemption, more revenge, more everything. And maybe that's the point of the whole story: It is what it is. I know I'll be thinking about it for a long time to come, and I suspect that was the author's purpose all along: To get in there without apology.


Sunday, October 05, 2014

Trust Me I'm Lying

Julep Dupree is a grifter--she cons people for a living. She may only be fifteen, but she's been well-trained by her father in the art of deception and conning people into doing what she wants. It's paid off; she attends the most prestigious private school in Chicago from funds obtained through her "business". But Julep has plans; she's going to Yale someday, and she's going to leave the illegal world behind. Until then, grifting is her way of getting ahead.

Things take a major turn for the worse, however, when Julep returns home one day to find her apartment ransacked and her father missing. Along with her best friend Sam, Julep, who knows her father wouldn't leave without clues, begins searching diligently because she knows it all has to do with a con gone wrong. The problems begin to mount when she is followed and the clues they find only seem to lead to dead ends. Mix in a new relationship with Tyler, the hottest boy in school, and Julep's continued illegal activities, and you've got the basis for a mystery that's going to require every faculty to decipher.

I liked Trust Me I'm Lying a lot, mostly because, despite her questionable profession, Julep is smart yet vulnerable. The mystery is layered and takes a turn into international illegal immigration/sex slavery (though nothing explicit is ever described as far as the sex trade goes), and Julep and her friends more than hold their own when pitted against bigger, badder people who will stop at nothing to get what they want. Julep's desperation to find the only parent she knows runs through the novel, giving her a human side that she often tries to hide from her friends and the reader. She's a tough cookie, but she's still a high school student.

What doesn't work? Well, the book is set in a posh private school and Julep runs with people she'd probably never be able to associate with in real life. Don't get me wrong; I liked her interactions with everyone, even when she's trying to hold herself aloof because of her innate differences. I just don't see it all really working in the real world, but I'm willing to suspend belief for the sake of the story. I also found it odd that Julep could miss school and classes time and again and never really suffer any consequences. But maybe that's being nitpicky in a story that has the elements of an epic heist film and pulls it all off fairly well.

Trust Me I'm Lying is a good read, with a strong story line and even stronger heroine. If her morals are often questionable, Julep still manages to pull you over to her side and draws you into her illicit activities with the ease of a practiced con. I'm hoping there is a sequel because there's a few unanswered questions; nothing major, but enough that I don't quite think Julep's story is done just yet.


Friday, October 03, 2014

Shifting Shadows

This collection of stories from the world of Mercy Thompson is a must read for any fan of the series. Each story (none of which I'd read before) stands alone well and sheds more light on the overall world. I found as I read that I'd become totally immersed in that particular story and when a new one started, I'd be reluctant to move on because I'd invested so much of myself in the one previous. Some tales involve characters we know well, and some are of ones we've only heard fleetingly. So which were the best?

For me, "Silver" was the least of all the stories, a fact that surprised me greatly. I'd thought I'd be swept away in the story of the meeting of Ariana and Sam, but instead, I just wanted the plot to move along. It's still good, and it gives insight into the history that's been alluded to throughout the series. Still not the best, however.

Beyond that one misstep for me, my favorites include "Gray", a terrific Gothic tale of love lost and ghosts of all sorts. "Alpha and Omega" and "Roses in Winter" are both riveting; I read each in one big gulp. But the best, by far, is "Hollow", an official Mercy story that has her right back battling otherworldly spirits just after her almost fatal outing in Night Broken. Absolutely perfect Mercy, as usual.

I'm not a big short story reader, so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this collection. Fans of the series will delight in glimpses into the past and present of our favorite shifter and her world.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Infinite Sea

I have to admit, it was hard to read The Infinite Sea. I absolutely adored The 5th Wave, and I was so afraid The Infinite Sea would not live up to my expectations. I shouldn't have worried, even though there were things I really wanted that I didn't get. And that's still okay.

Be forewarned...things might get a spoilery ahead.

Still reading? Okay, here's what I didn't like. I was put off that the story basically opened on Ringer's point of view, especially since I considered her a secondary character and I am so. emotionally. invested. in Cassie and Evan. It's not that I dislike Ringer, but I wanted to get right inside the action with Cassie immediately, and that didn't happen. But okay, I can cut some slack, even if Ringer was acting a bit like an automaton and still seemed very distant. But what happens...well, let's say it sets the stage really well for a big, big reveal later on, so all is forgiven.

I also feel let down on the Cassie/Evan front, mostly because my time spent with each was separate and quick. I still got a lot from their interactions, and Evan still managed to make me mad with all his self-sacrificing stuff. Necessary story building, but still frustrating. Plus the constant bickering between Ben and basically everyone felt a bit like filler material. More story building.

BUT...the story really took off mid-way and didn't let me go until I closed the last page (and even now, I'm still thinking about it). I totally love how Cassie has developed over the course of the books, and what happens with Ringer...well, my perseverance paid off big time as what I'd begun to suspect was confirmed. There's so much left unanswered, I know the author will never get it all tied up. But I have faith that he will. Right?

The Infinite Sea is a solid second entry in the series, one that furthers the story while making it murkier still. I'd say that's a confusing statement, but it's not. While it's not the mind-blowing plot that began the series, it still packs a hard punch and offers its own twists and turns. Now I'm just mad that I have to wait another year for the final book.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

In a Handful of Dust is the sequel to Not a Drop to Drink, a post-apocalyptic novel I enjoyed greatly. While this one is good, it's not quite as enthralling as the first installment. Let's recap.

In a Handful of Dust focuses on Lucy, not Lynn, and it's obvious that Lucy is still young in many ways, though we learn she's sixteen. Still living in Lynn's house, disaster breaks out when polio hits the small community and many children and adults die or are paralyzed. As the epidemic is studied by Lucy's grandmother, it becomes obvious that the outbreak is centered on either Lucy or her friend Carter as a carrier. Forced to leave the community, Lynn and Lucy trek across the country with a goal of California, which they've heard has desalinization plants for ocean water. Along the way, their path is filled with peril, not least of which arrives in the form of other people, including a horrifying stop in Las Vegas.

This novel seemed to move much more slowly for me than Not a Drop to Drink; there's a lot of action but I just wasn't as engaged for some reason. Not that it's not good by any means; the dangers the women face are real and brutal and there's never an assurance that they will reach anything worth the travel. I suppose I just got tired of Lynn's continuously dour demeanor and Lucy's rather childish actions. The final payoff is quite short and could have stood at least a couple more chapters of explanation and resolution. But overall this is a good book and it continues the story in a mostly satisfying way.


Monday, August 25, 2014

The Half Life of Molly Pierce

Molly Pierce has a secret, but she doesn't know what it is. Everyone else around her does, but they won't share. Oh, and it's about Molly. If she wants to know what it is, she's going to have to peel the layers back and find out for herself.

I have to say, this book kept me guessing. I read it in one day because I needed to know what was going on and how it was all going to play out. There's just enough revealed at a time that you start to glimpse the bigger picture at least by midway, but it's still unclear as to details, right up until the very end. There's death, there's love, there's friendship, there's family, and there's Molly, trying to make sense of it all, just as we are.

I won't give away the secret here, but I will say it's plausible in a lot of ways, and not so plausible in others. The idea that so many people actually know what's going on yet they all allow Molly to figure things out in her own frustrating time wasn't the most realistic experience, in my opinion, but since it works in the book, I could go with the flow. And flow it does; one page leads to another quickly as you just have to find out what's going on. It's not the best writing in the universe, but it is engaging and it is a page-turner. I'll be thinking about this one for a while.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Robin Williams

I hesitate to write this post because maybe it's silly to mourn someone you never met, but I do. When word of his death appeared on my Facebook feed, it hit my gut like an ice cold knife. Robin was one of my Top Four guys--along with Billy Crystal, Dick Button, and Scott Hamilton--guys I "claimed" as my own, who touched me deeply in some way. I never, ever thought I'd lose him so young and so tragically.

I know I'm not alone in my grief, and that's comforting. I really don't care if you "don't get it" or don't understand why I was devastated. These feelings are mine, and for me, I've lost a friend.

Rest in Peace, Robin. God hold you close.