Sunday, November 6, 2011

Remember Me 2: The Return by Christopher Pike

This is book two in the Remember Me trilogy.

I found this to be a decent follow up to the first one. Despite it's dense format, I found it to be a page turner. While I didn't appreciate the organization of the story (alternated between the characters of Shari Cooper and Jean Rodrigues), I did enjoy watching the story unfold.

Again, this story is poorly categorized as Horror/Thriller, so please don't start reading these books expecting to find these elements because I believe you'll be disappointed.

Horror/Thriller rating: 2/5 stars - sure there's a twist you weren't expecting, but it just wasn't enough to call this a thriller or a horror novel

Mystery rating: 2/5 stars - while this was a strong element in book one, it's a weak element with this book.

Paranormal rating: 4/5 stars - again, the main character is a ghost

Spiritual rating: 5/5 stars - you'll just have to read the book to find the spiritual element! :)

Again, I felt this a decent read. The more I think about it, the more I feel this trilogy is a great way to help a teen coping with the loss of someone close to them or struggling with their own pain, and can be a great tool to open the lines of dialogue about life, death, souls and the afterlife. While these topics can be considered taboo, for the teen struggling with the death of someone they know or the worth of their own life, these topics need to be discussed to help them get through the problems and succeed in life. The author does a great job of covering these aspects without really bringing specific religion into it. Pike merely uses basic spiritual concepts which can be religious or not, it all depends on how broadly you consider each topic.

Remember Me by Christopher Pike

This is book one in a trilogy.

I've had this book for years and just never read it even though the premise intrigued me enough to buy it from a library resale fundraiser. Years later, I picked up Remember Me 2: The Return - probably from the same library - and it ended up in a stack of books next to my bed. I haven't touched this stack in quite some time. I kept looking at the books, but every time I did, I either had a migraine or the topics just didn't capture my fancy.

Finally, on October 31st of this year, this book caught my attention, and not just because of the topic, but because it dawned on me that I had the first book in the series. I figured that since they were considered horror/thrillers, they would feed my need for scare this year, so I went through my bookshelves and located Remember Me and started reading.

I'll admit, while this book didn't give me the horror or thrills I expected, the story itself wasn't bad. The fact that I went on to read book two (Remember Me 2: The Return) and am contemplating borrowing book 3 (Remember Me 3: The Last Story) from the library, is testament that I found these books enjoyable.

Horror/Thriller rating: 3/5 stars - in this sense, this trilogy just doesn't deliver.

Mystery rating: 5/5 stars - it's quite interesting to follow Shari as tries to uncover who killed her and why!

Paranormal rating: 4/5 stars - the main character is a ghost that has to learn how to be a ghost, and you can't get more paranormal than that!

Spiritual rating: 4/5 stars - you'll have to read the book to discover how it fits into this category! :)

Anyone looking for a spiritual paranormal mystery YA story will find this book a great read!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Brazen by Carly Phillips

First published in 1999, but don't let that fool you. Just because it was her first release with Harlquin, don't think for one minute this book is missing anything that makes Carly the terrific best-selling author she is!

After I plowed through Under the Boardwalk, I felt compelled to read this one. While it didn't offer me a crime story and even though I really did feel romanced-out, I found I could not put this book down either.

Honestly, I really sat down and thought about what it was about this one and Under the Boardwalk that made them enjoyable despite the fact that they were both romances.

Well, the crime element in Under the Boardwalk makes that a no-brainer for me. The romance feels in the background to the crime element woven around the main characters.

However, finding a reason for Brazen to be enjoyable even though I feel saturated by romance seemed first. After giving it some more thought, I realized that the same reason applies here.

If you've read the book's blurb, you might be scratching your head and asking, "Huh?"

Honestly, it's true. The romance itself isn't really the driving force of the story, but a consequence or happenstance of it. Plus, there are characters like the three old men in here that just crack me up! Bear's father - can't remember his name at the moment - has to be the best.

I know some readers felt these characters were flat and unbelievable, I didn't feel that and I'm certainly no pushover when it comes to characters. You knew what the characters looked like, and you knew what drove them.

In a nutshell, Samantha Reed felt beholden to look after her father, and agreed to a marriage of convenience for the sake of money to save her father - just as many women were expect to do in Victorian London, and some women even in today's society will do. She's on her way to a resort thinking she'll hook-up with some guy for a last, "hurrah," before she gets married. On the way through the desert, her rental car breaks down. She happens to remember that she passed a local bar, so she decides to walk the highway the couple of miles to it. Like Joan Wilder in Jewel of the Nile, Samantha didn't pack clothing and footwear with the expectation of hiking, so she ended up walking barefoot on the stones rather than risk turning an ankle wearing her heels. She walks into the bar, and the bartender - Mac - takes one look at her disheveled appearance/clothing and realizes that she's not a townie. To create some distance between her "future" and her "now" Samantha tells Mac to call her Sam. However, he doesn't like that name and doesn't feel it fits her, but he ends up calling her Sammy Jo. As the story unfolds, Samantha begins to feel comfortable as Sammy Jo, and begins to cast off some of the inhibitions she has as Samantha.

Mac also happens to suffer from "white-knight" syndrome - meaning he can't turn his back on a woman in need. Instantly, he feels the physical chemistry and believes there could be more between them. His past heartache leads him to lie by omission as to who he really is. Yes, his name is "Mac", but there's much more to it than that. Of course, she's not so truthful either and neglects to mention that she has a fiance waiting for her at the resort. That plays a big part in their story...while lies can protect your heart, they don't make for a good relationship foundation.

Sure, it's a bit convenient Sam's rental car breaks down, but hey, maybe there were signs telling her to turn off her air or the car will over heat. Maybe someone shirked duties at the rental place and sent out a car that wasn't really road worthy. It surely wouldn't be the first time a rental broke down on someone. Hey, I suffered a high-grade ankle sprain, and even though I can walk normally and have rehabbed my ankle, it's not strong enough anymore to wear heels, so I say she was pretty smart not to risk it! Those who say Samantha and Mac are flat or unbelievable do not realize the strength a death promise can hold over you or how money changes your life and can bring out the "diggers". Tom Selleck is a rich man, but he lives on an avocado ranch and does quite a bit of the work himself when he's not making movies or tv shows. So, why is it so hard to accept the fact that a rich guy might pretend to be an average-Joe to weed out gold-diggers in order to find someone who can like him for he is not how much money he has?

Sorry, but I found the story credible enough, and I found the characters to be complex enough given that the story is shorter than most stand-alone novels. If you're a Carly Phillips fan, this one should be a must read! :D

Friday, November 4, 2011

Under the Boardwalk by Carly Phillips

I've read a book or two by Carly before, and have interviewed her for Moonlight, Lace and Mayhem, so when I found this book as part of a library fundraiser, I had to buy it. However, I found myself romanced-out, so this book along with Brazen sat in a pile next to my bed for at least a year waiting to be read. As a reviewer, I receive many books to read, and I happen to have many books I haven't yet read. A couple of times, my husband made a crack about reading the books I already have before saying I'll review any more.

Well, this comment sat with probably because he said it more than once, and probably because after suffering with continuous migraines for almost a year - I still suffer them if I don't consume a certain amount of caffeine, and yes, I went caffeine free for that time - I found myself wanting to read the books that have been sitting there. Remembering Carly's talent for playful, realistic banter and really wanting to read a crime story, this story helped me accomplish all my goals in one:
1. read a book from my TBR mountain range
2. read a crime novel
3. read a Carly Phillips book :D

This book had plenty of laugh out loud moments! You know how things just seem funnier when you add a monkey? Well, Carly capitalized on that by adding Spank - that's right. This is the epitome of Carly's humor. How can you not laugh at Spank the monkey! - Hey! I can't help it if your mind wanders into the cutter! It's not my fault, I didn't name the monkey! The Costas family did.

Seriously, that's not all the Costas family has done, but I'm not telling! That would be cheating! *at this point, Spank just might lift up her dress and moon you, or blow raspberries at you. One never really knows what to expect from Spank!*

Oh, and Quinn isn't bad on the eyes either!

But Carly isn't all fun and games though. She can be downright serious, and the crime element is a great example of her talent. If you haven't read this book, I hope you will!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Crusade Trilogy

Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie have teamed up again for this latest trilogy (Crusade - book 1, Damned - book 2). This trilogy definitely makes for a good read!

I'll apologize now because I can't help thinking about a few favorite vampire males when I read vampire stories: Angel and Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Nick Knight and Vachon (Forever Knight), Michael Glass (Morganville Vampire series by Rachel Caine) and Braden Knight (Hunter Series by Sandra Cox).

Each time I pick up a vampire story, I can't help it, but I inevitably compare other vampires to these guys. Sorry, I can't help it! It's very much like how you compare your current significant other to those who have come before to see if he/she measures up to or surpasses what you've had.

This story was no different. with this story, though, I found the strongest connections to favorite characters from the famed Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, and not just with one character, but with several.

Cast of Crusade Characters
Jenn - human female, leader
Antonio - male vampire with humanity
Skye - human female, white witch
Holgar - male werewolf
Jamie - human male, IRA background
Eriko - human female, given elixir to make her "The Hunter"

Unlike in BtVS series, Vampires are taking over the planet - or have taken over. Humans exist and fight them. The goal of the vampire hunters in this trilogy is to take the planet back while offering strength and hope to those humans currently living under and accepting vampiric rule.

How are the characters similar?

So far, Antonio kept reminding me of Angel. I guess it's the tortured soul/humanity line. There are definitely enough differences to make these characters unique from each other, but I still felt like Angel was there in some respects.

While Holgar was born a werewolf, his beliefs and actions are similar to that of Oz, the character that ends up bit by a werewolf. Not only that but Holgar has deep feelings for Skye, the witch, much the same as Oz did for Willow, the resident witch of BtVS' "Scooby Gang".

This leads to Skye. Yes, Skye and Willow are different characters and have different paths, I still found myself thinking of Willow on more than one occasion with this character. Maybe it's just the fact they are both white witches...but it felt like there was more to it. I can't seem to put my finger on why, though.

Perhaps the easiest two characters to see a true connection between are Jamie and Xander. They have the same attitudes about vampires and werewolves, even though they are "friends" with one of each. Like Jamie, I do remember Xander never really trusting Angel. In fact, as much as he liked Oz, Xander would not have had second thoughts about shooting Oz or staking Angel if it came down to it. However, that's where the similarities end. Jamie has a stronger background and physique than Xander, and is much more adept at fighting. But again, even though Jamie isn't Xander, I couldn't help but be reminded of him.

Honestly, I'd have to say that Eriko and Jenn seem like two different sides of Buffy. Eriko represents the strong, slayer side while Jenn represents the more human, strong leader side. Like Buffy loved Angel in a seemingly doomed relationship, so too does Jenn love Antonio. Is the relationship truly doomed? As of now (end of book 2), the answer is unknown. We'll see how the relationship unfolds. Unlike Eriko, the "Hunter", Jenn seems to be the stronger leader of the two. Eriko represents the Buffy the that would/might have been if she choose to accept the "demon" the trio of "elders" (I forget what they're called as it's been awhile since I've watched the show) traditionally imbued the previous hunters with when they fought the "first evil". Even though Eriko is given the elixir that gives her advantages when compared to humans, she's not the leader type because the Hunter is usually alone.

At least that's how it's been until the vampires came out of the coffin and took over the world. Now, "The Hunter" has to learn how to be part of a group of "hunters".

Despite similarities between the characters of the two different storylines (BtVS and Crusade trilogy), the Crusade trilogy is different enough to make the series enjoyable and the story never stops moving along. The story never appears to stagnate even through the "down times" for the characters.

It's a good story and decent read, but it didn't exactly blow my mind and the fact I kept feeling a continual connection to the Buffy gang irritating. I tried to forget it, I really did, but the connections just kept resurfacing. The fact that it wasn't through one character but many, probably served to strengthen the connection.

For this reason, I found myself unable to give this trilogy (as of October 3, 2011) full marks.

My Rating: 4/5 stars.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Big Show Stopper

Anyone who may pay attention to my Goodreads bookshelves knows that I have anywhere between 1 and 8 books open for reading at any given time. Sometimes, I find a book that sucks me in immediately, and then there are those that I am happy to just plod along with.

Now, that isn't to say that the book itself plods along, but that I plod along in reading it, by choice. It isn't because the book is slow, or uninteresting.

The truth is very much to the contrary. I'm a fan of detective shows of all kinds: Hawaii Five-O, Bones, NCIS, CSI, Law & Order, Murder She Wrote, Simon and Simon, Jake and the Fat Man, Hardcastle and McCormick, Riptide, and the list goes on.

One thing I noticed after watching them, is that I'm always bummed when they end, or when characters leave. That's kind of what I'm doing here - stretching my reading of the book out like TV series does, and I'm reading it in short bursts. This way, I'm adding suspense to the story, will be able to enjoy the humorous character banter and wonderful sarcasm much longer than if I'd read it right away.

See, while reading this book, I'm getting to remember some of the best moments from some of my favorite shows, so I'm really enjoying this book - so much so that I don't want it to end, which is why I read it only a bit at a time.

Sure, I could hurry up and read the story, but with only 2 books out there, I'm delaying that inevitable feeling I'll get when a book is over for as long as possible.

Now, not all books do this for me. Sure, the story's great while I'm reading it, but afterwords, it's like, "Okay, what book's next in TBR list?" That won't be happening with this book. I know that when I've read both, if there aren't more, I'm going to be seriously bummed because I, as odd and goofy as he may be, like Bear's character. So, rather than spend time being bummed, I'm going to continue to enjoy this book as slow as I can! :)

When I inevitably finish this book, I'll post my review. But until then, I hope you'll consider picking up The Bloody Birthright and The Big Show Stopper by Ken Dalton!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Slippery Willie's Stupid, Ugly Shoes

One of the things I seem to notice with pdfs, or other electronic versions of print media, is that it makes it hard to actually mix words and pictures. As a result, the "picture" books don't often resemble the picture books I'm used to seeing for this age group as the images come before or after the text, and not on the same page with it. Whether it's that way by design, or because of the nature of the media, it loses some of it's effectiveness, I think, in it's storytelling nature.

However, this is merely cosmetic. The story itself has a good message - worry too much, and you can make yourself have a nightmare! It also comes complete with a guide of talking points.

The true test will be what my niece thinks of this story!

I'll add her reactions when I've had the chance to have her read the story, so keep checking back!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Servant of a Dark God

Yes, I read this book before his visit to our Fantasy Files Blog. This book serves as the reason for his invitation as our inaugural featured author.

Until I post my review here, check out what I had to say on Goodreads:

Carrie's bookshelf: mlm-fantasy

Servant of a Dark GodGlory in DeathNaked in DeathThe MoonstoneThe Da Vinci CodeThe Pagan Stone

More of Carrie's books »
Carrie Hinkel-Gill's mlm-fantasy book recommendations, reviews, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists