Archives for posts with tag: Women
ImageGenre: Future Dystopia (Is that all you read, Patsy? PRETTY MUCH)
Notes: Book 2/50
Review: This shit is crazy, yo. It is like the Handmaid’s Tale meets the 22nd century. This novel follows a Red. What is a Red, you ask? Let me explain. Future America has decided that prisons and housing inmates costs too much for their ballooning budget. (True. I think we spend more on prisons than schools). In an innovative and novel stroke of genius they decided to chrome (aka dye the skin of) criminals based on their class of crime and release them back into the general population to be basically shunned and harassed and beat up until their sentence has been served. Hannah is a Red. And Red is for murder.
The really freaky/futuristic part of the book isn’t really about the chroming (but chroming is definitely the most interesting) is the fact that Hannah is convicted of murder for having an abortion. Some of the more fundamental Christian state (like most of the South, Texas, and the Midwest/West) has enacted a series of Sanctity of Life laws, much like quite a few of the laws that have been kicked around in Mississippi and even Virginia. These laws decree that abortions are not only illegal, but they are murder. A fetus is a person and has all the rights and liberties of a person.
Hannah comes from a very religious, very Christian, very conservative background. Her parents have taught her that a woman is only meant to be a helpmeet to a man. Men are the unequivocal heads of households and women basically tend to the home and raise babies. So when Hannah starts and affair with her pastor, Aidan Dale, she really has no where to turn when the affair leads to her pregnancy. She would completely destroy Aidan Dale’s life if she told it was he who fathered her child and she would be held in contempt of the court until she revealed the father’s name. She elects to have an abortion and is subsequently caught and sentenced for murder.
While I enjoy the general premise of this book, it really isn’t that original. Other than the chroming, this story has been told before. Definitely taking one star off for lack of originality. However, the chroming is intensely original. Geneticists inject a virus into a criminals body thay dyes their skin a color. The color cannot wash off or be cut off or whatever else you would think to do to it. The only downside is that the virus doesn’t last forever. It only lasts a few months and requires regular injections throughout a person’s sentence. To ensure that chromes come back for their injections, they also implant a different virus that has a delayed release. When a person is overdue for a new injection, the virus causes hallucinations, a whole host of other things, and eventually death. No one can outlast the virus. People have tried. Everyone has failed.
I am also tired of reading books completely slamming religion. I feel that it is too easy. Yes, of course religion can cause a lot of problems and contradictions and oppress people. But I’m tired of reading about religion being like this evil force and only when people get out and experience the world can they truly see that their religious lives were lacking. Hannah struggles with her faith after being ostracized by her family and sees the double standards she was subjected to in her family. (i.e. it was a woman’s responsibility to remain modest and not inflame the passions of men) There are a few brief glimpses of tolerant religion, but the author didn’t explore that deeply enough. Religion and faith are complex and vary from person to person and I wish she had explored Hannah’s feelings further.
Bottom Line: This story has been told before, but it’s really interesting if you like these kind of books. The transformation of Hannah from a shy, sheltered church girl to a ragingly confident woman is particularly intriguing. It’s worth the read!
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Genre: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

Notes: Book 13/50. Beautifully, stunningly written.  Swooned over the writing from page one.

Review: Sigh.  This book is lovely. I’ve never been to the Ukraine. I have no family members who were a part of World War II (at least none that I know) My grandfather was too young to be drafted, but I imagine his father may have been called to service.  I don’t really know.  Genealogy isn’t really my thing and my family is pretty bad at passing our history down.  But I felt connected to the story and its characters in a way I didn’t think possible.

**UPDATE** My mother emailed me to correct the misconception my family doesn’t share our history.  Ahem: My great Uncle as well as my great-grandfather were World War II veterans. My grandfather is a Korean War veteran, her cousin is a Vietnam War veteran,  my father and my uncle served during peacetime, and my cousin just returned from his second tour in Afghanistan. I knew about the more recent ones (cousin, father, grandfather, uncle, etc) but hadn’t a clue about the World War II vets.  Yay for history!

I mean, take the opening:

“There is a Ukrainian legend that once each year, on the night of Ivana Kupala, a magical flower blooms in the heart of the forest.  Anyone who finds it will be granted their heart’s desire: the ability to hear the trees whisper and watch them dance, the power to make anyone fall in love with them, the magic to make barren lands bear fruit and barren women fruitful.  It is a single red flower with several names: tsvit paporot, liubava, chervona ruta.  The legendary bloom can grant wishes, open the doorway to the past, and awaken spirits to visit with loved ones.”

Isn’t that beautiful?

I stumbled across this book on the Kindle Owners Lending Library tab on Amazon because I was trying to find a book under $1.99. Lupescu was a semifinalist in the 2008 Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Award for this novel, and I thought I would give it a shot.  $1.99 wasn’t too much to lose if it ended up being a shitty book. As soon as I started reading, I couldn’t stop.  I turned down an invite to go out  Saturday night because I was more interested in sitting in my pajamas reading.  (This isn’t unusual – sorry I’m boring, friends)

The story follows Nadya, a sixteen year old Ukrainian girl who lives in a rural village with her family as World War II begins to make Ukraine a really awful place.  Everyone around her dies.  She sees some of the worst things humanity can do to each other (multiple rapes, soldiers burning the skin off of a young Jewish girl’s hands, and soldiers brutally beating her boyfriend while taking him away – probably to his death) but somehow survives and builds a moderately happy life for herself in Chicago.  But the only way she can survive is by burying her past.

The Silence of Trees has a magical quality – almost like a fairy tale.  The magical quality is constantly in stark contrast with the war and hopeless concentration camps, but it reminds the reader there is still beauty in the world.  Nadya explains how spirits, spirits who live in the woods, the water,  the house, and even her own dead, speak with her and guide her in her life.  They push her to keep her traditions alive and not remain silent any longer.

In some ways, this story is typical. War torn survivor, crippled by survivors guilt, leaves her country to start a new life.  Gets tired of holding everything in, feels the need to tell her story before she dies, finds a happy ending (eventually). However, what sets Lupescu’s novel apart is the emotion, power, and folkore of the Ukrainian narrator. I felt her will to survive.  I felt her loss, the wondering about the life she could have had, the yearning for a relationship between her husband that wasn’t based on comfort, but on passion.

Nadya looked for the magical flower on a midsummer’s night – never found it, but wished all of the same. She didn’t wish for love.  Or to be spared from death.  Or for protection of her loved ones.  She simply wished for a happy ending. And you know what? I think her wish came true.

Bottom Line: Yes, the story has been told but the sheer beauty of the writing make it feel new again. Recommend for people who like Historical Fiction!

In A Nutshell

    • Genre: Paranormal Romance, Action, Adventure, Gore, Horror, Drama, Angst.
    • Notes: Weakest premise of all the series so far, but also some of the strongest moments of character development.
    • Recommended For: Fans of Frost, Fans of The Night Huntress Series, Fans of True Blood, Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

If only Frost had laid more ground work for this books premise, it would have been the strongest in the entire series . . . This books plot line has so much to do with my critique that I’m going to put it first:

SYNOPSIS

Her deadly dreams leave her in grave danger

Since half-vampire Cat Crawfield and her undead lover Bones met six years ago, they’ve fought against the rogue undead, battled a vengeful Master vampire, and pledged their devotion with a blood bond. Now it’s time for a vacation. But their hopes for a perfect Paris holiday are dashed when Cat awakes one night in terror. She’s having visions of a vampire named Gregor who’s more powerful than Bones and has ties to her past that even Cat herself didn’t know about.

Gregor believes Cat is his and he won’t stop until he has her. As the battle begins between the vamp who haunts her nightmares and the one who holds her heart, only Cat can break Gregor’s hold over her. She’ll need all the power she can summon in order to bring down the baddest bloodsucker she’s ever faced . . . even if getting that power will result in an early grave.

Before I start to say what I found failing in the book I want to preface it by saying, that although I found the journey weak, the destinations were monumental. That being said, the entire plot line rides on the belief that Cat met a man name Gregor at the age of 15 and was whisked away conveniently to Paris all before she met Bones. But she doesn’t remember any of this because for some reason Mencheres was able to wipe her memories using strong green-eyedness and magic.

OK. Wait- what? The first time I read the beginning of this book I wondered if I could hire Sassy Gay Friend to go have a chat with Frost. I had that similar SGF thought at Frost, “What- What- What are you doing?!”

I can go along with a lot of plot lines – I mean I’m reading about a vampire-human hybrid that hunts vampires with her vampire husband and works for the government. Clearly I’m on board to stretch the realm of possibilities. But when you start to go so far off your own developed storyline to create a fresh villian, I have some problems.

It’s not that I don’t think the premise is a good one – It’s actually pretty interesting. The problem is it’s weak hold onto the rest of the canon. How can I believe that all of this back story happened when in earlier books Frost has gone out of her way to show that Cat can’t be “green-eyed”. The only hint Frost gives that there was any ground work for this exposition is that Cat has always disliked and distrusted Mencheres. So I’m not saying it’s completely impossible in canon, I’m saying that it seems a little too convenient. Like a sewed patch on a pair of jeans. It fits, kind of, but you know it’s patched on after the fact.

The first time I read this it took me awhile to get into the story. I couldn’t get over the critiques I’m mentioned, but let me say I am glad I did.

While I don’t applaud Frost’s method of getting to where she does in this book, I do applaud her outcome. This book has one of the most, if not the most important character development scenes in the Cat & Bones relationship. Many of their underlying issues, some of which as a reader I didn’t notice until they were named, are addressed in the way I like them to be – ANGST ANGST ANGST.

I’m an angst fan, I’ll admit. And I don’t mean Harry Potter Book 5 whiney-angst. I mean betrayal and heartbreak and what-ifs. That is the angst I find dramatic. Pre-pubescent bitching isn’t angst.

This book delivers in the angst category, but it also defends the purpose. While I am a fan of angst, I’m not a fan of poorly written, meaningless angst. There is nothing meaningless in the drama between Cat & Bones in this story. This may be the darkest their relationship gets – atleast so far in the series.

Beyond the wonderful angst there is also a sub-plot that Frost develops in preparation for the next book. I’m not going to say what as it is a spoiler, but I wanted to bring it up to point out another amazing thing Frost does as a series writer. Frost is able to fully develop and maintain a rising action, while introducing a new exposition or introduction for the next book. Which is why I criticize so harshly the exposition for this book. She doesn’t introduce it at all or even hint at it in any of the previous novels. The reader is truly blind-sided by it, making it even more noticeably awkward in the scheme of the whole series.

Overall, my only complaint is the weak justification of the exposition, but I absolutely love reading this book after you get over the initial “WTF?!”

After all that I wonder – did anyone else feel it was shoddily constructed in the beginning? I’d love to know what you thought.

★★★1/2

In A Nutshell

  • Genre: Paranormal Romance, Action, Gore, Adventure, Fiction.
  • Notes: I love the plots in this but it feels a little like 2 books in one.
  • Recommended For:Fans of The Night Huntress Novels and Frost, People who loved Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Fans of The Sookie Stackhouse Novels.

Cat and Bones are back and they are going after everyone who’s come after them and again . . .You can’t go into this book thinking that you’re going to read a slow paced and emotion-centric novel. There’s plenty of emotion, but it goes quickly. I don’t want to give any spoilers away so here’s the synopsis.

SYNOPSIS
Some things won’t stay buried . . . at grave’s end

It should be the best time of half-vampire Cat Crawfield’s life. With her undead lover Bones at her side, she’s successfully protected mortals from the rogue undead. But though Cat’s worn disguise after disguise to keep her true identity a secret from the brazen bloodsuckers, her cover’s finally been blown, placing her in terrible danger.

As if that wasn’t enough, a woman from Bones’s past is determined to bury him once and for all. Caught in the crosshairs of a vengeful vamp, yet determined to help Bones stop a lethal magic from being unleashed, Cat’s about to learn the true meaning of bad blood. And the tricks she’s learned as a special agent won’t help her. She will need to fully embrace her vampire instincts in order to save herself—and Bones—from a fate worse than the grave.

What I will say is that I really like this book. It’s full of action, the characters are true-to-form, the plot makes sense, and it keeps the books themes moving. It is honestly everything you want out of a Night Huntress Novel, and in that way it is extremely successful. That’s not to say I’m not critical about any of it.

There’s a major plot line that is introduced from the first moment and when that comes to a head it’s rather abrupt and unexpected. Not that I like long and drawn out, but I felt like after the first plot line is concluded (in a manner of speaking) I felt like I’d finished the book, but there were still like 200 pages left. Then it leads into a completely new plot line and, if you’ll excuse the BTVS reference, an even bigger baddie.

Amidst all this adventure, Frost is able not only to continue Cat & Bones relationship, but to investigate and revel in the inner workings that are a struggle for any normal couple: trust, honesty, having a past, etc. That was a huge plus for this book. It’s really rare to find a novelist who can continue working her characters while maintaining a steady, strong, and detailed plot line.

As for supporting characters, Frost does an excellent job of giving us insight into Bones relationship with his comrades Ian and Charles as well as his grandsire, Mencheres. This all comes in handy later when/if you read the 2 spin-off novels involving Charles (First Drop of Crimson) and Mencheres (Eternal Kiss of Darkness.)

This book embellishes the angst in the series and as I’m usually a fan of angst in my RomNovs, I really liked that part. The only issue was, there is a certain, defining, event that takes place and as a result Cat makes a choice. Which is then never discussed between Cat & Bones again. I don’t mean to confuse those of you who haven’t read this book, but this applies to you as well. It wasn’t until much later that I found, on Jeaniene Frost’s website, deleted scenes from this novel and this particular scene I think should have been included. Edited, but included. If when you read you want to see what I mean, she suggests reading it at the end of Chapter 25. If you have trouble opening that go to her page here and go to the ninth link down.

I enjoy this book a lot. I think it’s a great addition to the series, if a little rushed in the beginning and ends, but it gives way more than that takes away. You really should check out the series if you love vampires and romance and kick-ass heroines and supernatural fun.

★★★★

In A Nutshell

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Contemporary, Action

Notes: I almost count this as #1.5 since I rushed right form #1 to read this and devoured it almost in the same day as the first book.

Recommended For: People who enjoyed the first book. Seriously read the first book first! People who like vampire romance (i.e, True Blood aka The Sookie Stackhouse Novels)

Cat is back but she’s now got some government backing . . . If you haven’t read the first book in this series, Halfway To The Grave, you should. This book and all the subsequent novels in the series are meant to be read in order and as I reader and lover of these books, I can assure you that it would be confusing to read them out of order. It also could spoil you for some great twists and reveals.

SYNOPSIS

Half-vampire Cat Crawfield is now Special Agent Cat Crawfield, working for the government to rid the world of the rogue undead. She’s still using everything Bones, her sexy and dangerous ex, taught her, but when Cat is targeted for assassination, the only man who can help her is the vampire she left behind.

Being around Bones awakens all her emotions, from the adrenaline rush of slaying vamps side by side to the reckless passion that consumed them. But a price on her head – wanted: dead or half-alive – means her survival depends on teaming up with Bones. And no matter how hard Cat tries to keep things professional between them, she’ll find that desire lasts forever … and Bones won’t let her get away again.

I found this book to be a fast-paced, action packed, sexy sequel to it’s predecessor. I read it in a single day (mostly because I shirked all other responsibilities and curled up in a chair with a blanket and this book.)

This was a great sequel for a number of reasons, in my opinion. First, it quickly gets to the plot that was left as a cliff-hanger from the first novel. Second, it introduces new characters subtly but with strength while re-introducing old characters and maintaining our attention the whole time. Third, Frost picks up this new plot line while setting up the next plot line seamlessly. As far as structure goes, this might be my favorite novel in the series. It’s not hard to see why. Frost set up all the exposition in the first novel, while still having a great plot, but in this novel she really picks up from where she left off and you get right into the action.

Another reason I devour these books is because it’s a singular and unique adaptation of an over-used premise. A book series about a girl who fights vampires. Been there – a lot – done that. Right? Well when was the last time this girl had government backing? If you respond Buffy The Vampire Slayer season 4 you would still be wrong. Riley has the government backing and they just try to use the slayer. In this version, the entire program is essential built around Cat. And she thrives as a leader.

I have to admit, my biggest weakness in novels is characters and Frost knows how to write good, interesting, lovable, hatable, annoying, sympathetic, you-get-the-idea characters. I mean, I usually hate spin-off novels, but when it gets to her two spin-off novels about the characters “Spade” and “Mencheres” I read those too and liked one and loved the other.

If I had to give a criticism to this book? . . . I’d say it went too quickly. But that’s just because I glutton myself on this series.

If you haven’t read this series but you love paranormal (especially vampire) romance? You must read this series. “It’s a moral imperative.” If you found this review intriguing but you want to know more about the first novel, go ahead and click the title here: Halfway to the Grave

★★★★★

Smooth Talking Stranger Cover Image In a Nutshell

  • Genre: Contemporary Romance, Chick Lit
  • Notes: Arguably my favorite book in the Travis Series. Certainly the fastest moving one of the trilogy.
  • Recommended for: Fans of Kleypas, Anyone who’s read any of the first two, Fans of Contemporary Romance.

A book that shows sometimes the only obstacle between you and what you want is yourself . . .  This book is, as I said above, arguably my favorite in the Travis Series. As opposed to Sugar Daddy and Blue-Eyed Devil, the beginning of this book gets right down to business.

SYNOPSIS

Billionaire playboy, and all-around ladies’ man, Jake Travis has a reputation as big as the state of Texas. He drives too fast, lives too hard, and loves too many women to count.

In her advice column, and her love life, Ella Varner is always practical. So when she’s left holding her reckless sister’s baby, she decides to ask Jake Travis to take a paternity test.

Ella is instantly struck by Jake’s bold good looks and easy charm—but she’s not falling for his sweet talk. This big sexy tomcat needs to take responsibility for his actions, and Ella’s making him stick to his word. Now if she can only ignore the unspoken attraction that smolders between them…

Okay, first of all, his name is Jack Travis and has been since the first book. I love the person who completely screwed that up. I could go on about romance novel’s synopsis writers and romance novel’s cover designs, but that should be a post in-0f-itself.

As for Smooth Talking Stranger, I honestly wasn’t overly intrigued by the premise. It seemed to overly similar to the premise of Sugar Daddy. Girl is left to take care of a relatives child. But I couldn’t have been more wrong in my assumption.

First of all, Ella is a completely different character from Liberty in Sugar Daddy. Liberty was eager and and motherly from the beginning of her having to take care of her half-sister, Carrington. On the other hand, Ella is someone who never even wanted to get married let alone raise children. Having a less-than-desirable role-model of a mother, Ella only takes care of her sister’s fatherless child in the beginning because she’s always been the one to “take care of her family’s messes.”

I found the growth of the character of Ella to be a fun and informative read. Having gone to a lot of therapy in college to deal with her childhood home life and eventually becoming a columnist, Ella is very self-aware and truly an independent heroine.

In the character of Jack Travis I was able to see a realistic, lovable hero. He has his flaws, but he has principles and a past. He’s the traditionalist in their relationship, which I found refreshing from many other novels out.

Kleypas does a great job of showing the bond grow between Luke, the baby, and Ella. It’s subtle and believable and also heart-wrenching. I also found the immediate acceptance of the baby by Jack Travis a wonderful, if not completely plausible, part of the book. If I hadn’t read the whole series I don’t think I would have so readily believed his role in Ella’s dilemma.

I would say if you’ve read Sugar Daddy and/or Blue-Eyed Devil and liked either/both of them you are missing out if you don’t read this one.

★★★★1/2

Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir

Notes: The definition of chick lit.

Review: Cry about it, Julie.  In your tiny apartment kitchen.  While you make gross jello molds of calf’s feet that taste like beef.  Cry yourself to sleep.  And then write a book about how much you cried.

Seriously, it’s not like this book is terrible.  But it kind of reads like one big sob story about how Julie (vastly approaching 30 while working a dead end job as a secretary for a government agency) feels she doesn’t have anything to show for her life.  So, in some insane fit, Julie decided to cook her way through Julia Child’s famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  And it’s not a bad idea.  I get wanting to start a project.  I get wanting a creative outlet to get away from work for a bit.  I get waking up and finding yourself living a life you never really imagined for yourself.

It’s not the concept of the book that’s bad.  It’s the execution.

Julie comes off whiny and bitchy.  I don’t know how her husband put up with her for a year.  She screamed about her meringue, she sobbed over her soft boiled eggs, and she threw stuff out of frustration while trying to make mayonnaise.  She means to come off witty and charming with her self-deprecating humor, but it just feels like she tried too hard.  I ended up wanting to shake her, tell her to do the dishes (which she neglects throughout most of the year and gets freaking maggots in her sink), and have sex with her husband.

Julie also overindulges in the TMI category.  Did you want to know Julie Powell once donated eggs to pay off credit card debt?  Or that she has polycystic ovary syndrome and may not be able to have kids?  Oh, well, me neither.  And what does that have to do with her “project?”  It just becomes something she harps her husband about and gives her more fodder for the “woe is me, I’m 30” conversation.  Shut up.

This book follows Julie’s journey of self-discovery.  If you’re interested in hearing about the cooking, the food, or want to learn more about Julia Child, prepare yourself for disappointment.  Julie doesn’t really say anything about how the food tastes, but focuses more on the process of finding difficult foods in the city (canned onions? calf hooves?) and the amount of butter she ingests per day.

Bottom Line: This book doesn’t have a lot of redeeming value, but it did make me want to start a project myself.  I do think Julie accomplished something incredible and needed this journey to find herself.  It reminded me a lot of Eat, Pray, Love (which you can tell from my review that I was not impressed with Gilbert), but the book reads quickly.  Just don’t expect a life-changing read or something that will inspire you.  If you liked Eat, Pray, Love though, you’ll like Julie and Julia.