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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Prior Bad Acts By Tami Hoag

ISBN: 055358359X
Pub. Date: February 2007

Judge Carey Moore has a tough job, and has to make even tougher calls. Sometimes they aren't the ones that the general populace wants to hear. After making a ruling in favor of a feared, and despised killer, she unknowingly sets off a chain events that threaten her life. Detectives, Kovak and Liska, now need to get to the bottom of who is behind the attack on Judge Moore, while trying to catch the killer she ruled in favor of, as he has now escaped custody.

Ms. Hoag is an author who has quickly become one of my favorites. She can weave a wonderful thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat, while making you chuckle with the witty dialog her characters speak. She writes characters that are easy to bond with in numerous ways. You will love them, or hate them (depending on which she is going for). Ms. Hoag also finds room for a little romance, without letting it detract from the overall plot.

Like most of Ms. Hoag's novels that I have had the pleasure of reading, I found myself reading to all hours of the night, and trying to fit in more reading at the most unbelievable times. This was a very hard novel to put down. It had my attention from the beginning and didn't let go until the last page. I enjoyed the characters so much that I even wanted a few more chapters to enlighten me on what became of them after the mystery was solved. This isn't to say that the novel left the reader feeling deserted on the last page, because that certainly isn't the case. Not the a sequel would not please me.

Ms. Hoag is a remarkable author with a gift that I am glad she shares with those willing to pick up her books. This was one of her many masterpieces.

The Ghost by Danielle Steel

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ISBN: 0440224853
Pub. Date: November 1998

Charles Waterson thought his life was perfect. He was a respected architect living in London with his wife, whom he loved, Carole. Much to his emotional devastation, Carole leaves Charlie for a much older man, and he is left with the memories of their ten year marriage, and is now struggling to move on. It is shortly after the loss of his marriage that his company moved him back to New York, a city he is not fond of at all, and into an office environment that leaves much to be desired. He feels trapped and alone. Taking drastic measures he decides to take a sabbatical and try to get his life back together.

He leaves New York without a second thought and heads for the ski slopes of Vermont, and immediately feels free. During his road trip to Vermont a snow storm traps him is a small town in Massachusetts, and he takes a room at a boarding house of an elderly widow. He soon learns that the elderly widow has another home, one much older, secreted away in the woods. Charlie falls in love with the house upon first sight, and convinces her to let him rent it.

Strange things begin to happen in the old house, and soon Charlie realizes that it isn't the neighbors playing tricks on him, but in fact a ghost. The ghost of Sarah Ferguson to be exact, and with Sarah's help Charlie gains the courage to move on with his life and out of his past, as well as the ability to grasp a future that is spread out right in front of him.

This book had my attention from page one. I had to put it down from time to time, as I have a child and a chaotic life, but doing so wasn't an easy task. I was captivated by the story, and wanted to know what was going to happen next. It was a very fast-paced novel, and at times seemed to have two independent stories traveling along at the same time, but the two intertwined beautifully, and guided one another along. The story was a heart warming, and touching. It brought to life that pains that can be inflicted on a person's heart, and the anguish people suffer when hearts are broken. I showed that although times may change and technology progresses, the human heart has always remained the same.

This is a novel that I enjoyed throughly, right up to the end, which completely and totally fell flat. I was into the story, and enjoying it immensely, and still gripping the book with both hands wanting to know what happens next and then, nothing happened. I am not sure that I could use that one flaw and call the novel a flop, as I still took a lot away from reading it. It just left me hanging, and sorely disappointed after hours of being enthralled. It was kind of like a Christmas when the only presents you got were boxes, and boxes of underwear, and socks, after spending six months thinking you were going to get something much more cool.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Honored Enemy by Raymond E. Feist and William R. Forstchen

Buy Honored Enemy (Legends of the Riftwar, Book 1) at

Book One of Legends of the Riftwar

This book is a side story to Feist’s breakout Riftwar series. If you are looking for another installment of the epic series, you will be disappointed. It is a stand alone story set in the mythology of Midkemia. But this should not deter you from reading the story. It is a spectacular read. The collaboration between the two authors is obvious as the style of the story is very different from Feist’s other books.

It takes place in the far north of the Kingdom of the Isles territory where the invading Empire of Tsuranuani has gained a foothold. The Riftwar has been dragging on for over 8 eight years.

The story revolves around two commanders. Dennis Hartraft is a Kingdom Squire. He is a ruthless warrior fighting for revenge as much as for defense of the realm. His group of Marauders operates independently from the main army. They range far behind the enemy lines, attacking the enemies less defended rear areas.

Force Commander Asayaga is a warrior from a minor house in the Empire. He has been on Midkemia for the entire war and is getting worn out from a war he is increasingly against. His dissatisfaction with the leadership and politics of the Empire is starting to show.

The two forces are set to attack each other when they are faced with a mutual threat. The Moredehl, the evil elves of Midkemia, are on the move and attacking mankind in force. While the two human forces are starting to engage one another, the Moredehl attack, forcing the humans into unfamiliar mountains.

The two human leaders are forced to work together, setting aside nine years of hatred and enmity, for their forces to survive.

After days of pursuit, the two enemy forces manage to set aside their differences and learn to fight as a unit. The leaders learn to respect and admire each other, using the strengths and weaknesses of each force to forge an efficient fighting force. But will it be enough to defeat the evil elves and return back to their war?

Honored Enemy spins a wonderful story, highlighting the differences between the humans of Midkemia and Kelewan as well as showing the Moredehl society. It is a good read, with gripping action and wonderful scenes. Feist’s characters are as good as ever. I am looking towards book two.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Catherine Jink's "Evil Genius"

I am in love with villains. They are usually my favorite part of any novel. “Doro” from Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed and Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series (especially since he is being portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in the upcoming movie) are two of my favorites. Because of my love of a good villian, I was extremely excited to read Catherine Jinks's Evil Genius.

Evil Genius attempts to answers the questions: what if there was a university which served to educate the evil geniuses of the world. Who would the teachers be? What subjects would they cover? What would the students be like? Likewise, what would happen if you put all these evil geniuses, teachers and students, were in the same place?

The novel starts out simple enough and a little misleading as the reader is introduced to Cadel Piggot a seven year old genius who has a habit of dismantling his adoptive parents’ security system, hacking into high-security computer networks, power grids, and bill pay services. This atypical behavior lands Cadel in trouble with the law. As a consequence, he is referred to Dr. Thaddeus Roth, a renowned psychologist for troubled children.

Dr. Thaddeus Roth is not your everyday child psychologist. He takes his troubled patients and encourages their antisocial behaviors. Giving the children three words of advice: never get caught, never admit to anything, and never trust anyone.

Immediately Cadel Piggott’s world is turned upside down as the blonde, doe eyed, genius connects with someone. Six years later, at the age of thirteen, he graduates from high school and with the suggestion of Dr. Thaddeus Roth, Cadel is enrolled in the Axis Institute. A university that from the outside looks like any modern, privately funded college but is actually a school for the evil inclined: Axis Institute for World Domination. Yes, A Hogwarts for modern day evil people.

The first years include a set of twins known as Jemima and Niobe Johnson. The twins communicate telepathically, possess a cruel streak, and they are ever so good at shoplifting. Then there is Abraham Coggins, a paranoid young man who whose sole mission in life is to create a race of vampires. Then there is Clive Slaughter who has the abilites to start fires. Least of all, I say least because he doesn’t have an evil bone in his body, is Cazo Kovacs who emits a smell so vial people are rendered unconscience.

In the begining, Cadel feels at home with his new class mates. But one person keeps him from achieving his full evil genius potentioal and that is Kay-Lee. With the help, love and support of Kay-Lee, Cadel is able to see the Axis Institute and Dr. Roth for what they are. But can he get away from them before he is destroyed?

Catherine Jinks has a great writing style and I was hooked from the beginning. I have to give Jinks kudos. The first two chapters were a perfect mix of style, description, and character development. Being in love with her writing, helped pull me forward doing the middle when there were all sorts of complicated plans working through Cadel's mind.

This book is recommended for Teens (Ages 12 and up) and I would agree. Some of the computer jargon was hard to read and I have an engineering degree. There was also many instances of death in the book that were in some instances pretty flippantly mentioned. Jenks tried to linger on the deaths but it was pretty hard because there were so many deaths. Yes, these characters were truly evil.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who remotely liked Harry Potter and especially for anyone who secretly (or not so secretly) dreams of being an evil genius!For fun go to, take the quiz, and see if you qualify for an evil genius. Sadly, I didn't.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Night Life by Elizabeth Guest

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley (April 3, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0425214826
Price: $ 6.99

Night Life is the first book in Elizabeth Guest’s Pharaoh’s Rising series. The first thing that caught my eye, besides the cover, was the blurb on the back from Stella Cameron: “He was beautiful. He was lethal. And Elizabeth Guest has let him have his way with our minds- our senses. You will give in without a fight.” How could you possibly resist that?

Adrian King is what the Ancient Egyptians called an Eater of Blood and a Breaker of Bones, in modern terms a vampire. Once he was a God King, a warrior, ruling Egypt until he was betrayed by those closest to him. Now he owns the Royal Palace in Las Vegas, a casino and hotel done in an Ancient Egyptian theme. He is a king still but over a different sort of land.

Christine Day is an Egyptologist who has had ‘waking’ dreams about Ancient Egypt ever since she can remember. As she grew older they became more intense, growing romantic in nature. When she comes to Las Vegas for a conference she is immediately drawn to the Royal Palace by its authenticity.

While looking at the reproductions and artifacts from Egypt Christine has another of her ‘waking’ dreams, highly erotic she wakes from it shaken to come face to face with Adrian, the man she has just been dreaming about.

Of course Adrian recognizes her and sets out to convince her that she is his destiny. But how is a mortal woman going to take the idea of an ancient Pharaoh walking around? But this soon turns out to be the least of Adrian’s problems when he learns that enemies of the past have risen and are stalking into his present.

So while this book is definitely a romance it does have a few twists of mystery thrown in to keep you turning pages. Sexual tension usually drives romance novels but some of that is lacking here. Both character jump into their erotic relationship early on and the rest of the story concentrates on peeling back the mystery that is Adrian.

Night Life really does have something for everyone. Vampires are such a hot topic right now but Elizabeth Guest gives this idea a new spin, and while the vampirism element is there, it doesn’t over power the story. It takes place in Las Vegas with the taste of high rollers and decadence while also hitting the historical high points with its Ancient Egyptian theme. Not to mention extremely sexy characters.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind

Richard Cypher is a forest guide in Westland, the land west of the second magic boundary and a land devoid of magic. He meets Kahlan, a Confessor who, to protect him, won't tell him what she is. Instead, they become friends and compatriots in the quest to stop Darken Rahl, the supremely powerful and evil wizard, from collecting and activating the three boxes of Orden. If activated correctly, the owner of the boxes will gain supreme magical power and dominate the world. If done incorrectly or if the third box is not found in time, then Rahl will die, for he has already obtained two of the boxes.

Richard and Kahlan's companions in this quest are Zedd, a quirky old man who turns out to be a First Order wizard himself, and Chase, a boundary warden of Westland who is a supreme mortal warrior. In their quest, they face many impossible choices and situations, dealing with spirits, dragons, strange warriors, evil quads, torture and a very powerful witch. Zedd and Kahlan counsel young Richard, as the Seeker and owner of the Sword of Truth, that he must learn to make difficult decisions. Some of his experiences force him to choose between love of his friends and his heavy responsibility to try to defeat Darken Rahl. Will he be able to give up the lives of people that he loves for a higher purpose? The key to this story is the wizard's First Rule, which is the fact that the masses will believe what they want to hear. So a true wizard may not even need to use magic to influence the masses...or the weak, unaware or arrogant.

There's one theme in this book that I could really do without. (Call me sqeamish or whatever you want.) Violence, especially of the sexual kind, toward children is just a little twisted to celebrate in a novel. I've read lots of books that talked about violence of all kinds to people of all kinds, but I was overly disturbed by that theme. Otherwise, the pace of the book really plays to my likes. I enjoy good action scenes as well as long sections of sequel to give depth to the story. A book is only an event if you don't weave a tapestry of setting and character. Goodkind builds an incredible character in Richard, one that goes against the grain of the typical warrior.

Wizard's First Rule
is the first book in the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Charon's Landing by Jack Du Brul

De Brul's second book brings us back into Phillip Mercer's world. Mercer is a highly paid and respected geologist who happens to be a lightening rod for bad luck. The kind of bad luck that causes worldwide disasters and wars. But, unfortunately for them, Mercer has a knack for fighting through problems and winning.

Mercer is fishing off the Alaska coast, when he and his friends find a derelict boat with three corpses. They call the coast guard and think that is the end of it. How wrong they proved to be.

This is the first clue in an international conspiracy that ties a rebel Arab oil minister, an multi-billionaire oil magnate, a loose cannon ex-KGB agent and a rabid eco-terrorist group.

Ivan Kerikov is the ex-KGB operative who has stolen cold war plans to disrupt the oil pipeline in Alaska. He sells his knowledge to a cabal of Arabs who want to bring America to its knees and bring them into power in the Gulf of Arabia. Kerikov has the plans for Charon's Landing, an old Soviet sleeper plot that has been forgotten by the Russians.

They dupe PEAL, a fringe eco-terrorist group, into attacking the oil line. At the same time, the cabal plans to crash an VLCC (Very Large Crude Carrier) into the West Coast. The combined ecological disaster will shut the oil exploration and drilling in Alaska down, forcing America to turn to the Arab world for oil.

At the same time Iran, Iraq and a rogue United Arab Emirates oil minister are going to invade the rest of the Arabian Peninsula and bombard Israel with chemical and biological weapons. If the US cannot stop them in time, they will control almost all of the world's oil. This would force America and Europe to accede to the new situation.

But none of them counted on Phillip Mercer. After a botched assassination attempt, Mercer is thrown onto the chase. Mercer has a special operations background and is as tough as nails. He is also a take charge, no-nonsense kind of guy. He is ruthless in his pursuit of the enemy. With the help of Aggie Johnston, the daughter of the oil magnate who is invovled with the Arabs, he is tracking the terrorists as they seek to destroy the US economy.

The action in this book is great, the scenes leap off the page. I love the characters Du Brul has created. A story in the vein of Indiana Jones, it is a must read for adventure fans.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Beyond Glory by Larry Smith

Extraordinary Stories of Courage from WWII to Vietnam
Medal of Honor Heroes In Their Own Words

With an introduction by General H. Norman Schwartkopf, this book tells the story of 23 Medal of Honor recipients. General Shcwartzkopf opens with the exact words from the Medal citation. "For conspicuous gallantry an intrepidity, at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty." It sets the tone for the entire book. The General goes on to quote Robert E. Lee on duty. "Duty is the sublimest word of them all."

General Shcwartzkopf says, "Over the years I've met many people who were heroes, and the interesting thing I've found about every single one of them, bar none, was that they do not think of themselves as heroes."

It is a recurring statement throughout the book. These men who were awarded our nations highest award for valor are all very humble. They all talk about their comrades and the heroism they showed. Most consider themselves as stewards of the Medal, holding it for the men that fought and died along their sides.

They say that they were doing their duty. They will say they did not think, they just did their job or that anybody else would have done the same thing. Each and every man in this book is a shining example of the best that America is.

"Duty, Honor, Country." This is the motto of the US Military Academy at West Point. It is a motto that some people in this country ridicule, but this book celebrates the men that live that motto. Their lives, their words, their stories printed here in black and white.

Although this book is about 23 heroes who went above and beyond, it is also a homage to all the men and women who have served our nation. When I read it, I was impressed with the class and character of all of them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Lone Drow by R.A. Salvatore

Book two in The Hunter's Blades Trilogy

Another story in the world of the Forgotten Realms, continuing the story where the Thousand Orcs left off.

The renegade Drow, Drizzt Do'Urden has been cut off from his friends durring the battle at Shallows. Witnessing the battle from a ling distance, he watched the tower fall, seeing his greatest friend Bruenor, King of the Dwarves of Mithral Hall, fall to his doom. To his dismay, the town is destroyed by the orcs, leaving him alone in the surface world.

Drizzt, full of rage, slips back into his Hunter mentality. He turns into a remorseless killing machine that knows no fear. He turns his rage upon the Orc armies, attacking whenever and wherever he can, waging a one Drow war of destruction.

What Drizzt does not know is that his friend are very much alive and retreating toward the Dwarven Citadel at Mithral Hall. Bruenor lies near death and the Dwarves continue to battle on.

The Dwarven forces are joined by unlikely allies from Mirabar, a Sorceress and a Alchemist gnome. They were sent by the Marchion Elastul to sabotage the Dwarves, but they rebel against the orders and join the fight against evil.

Drizzt fights his one man war, almost seeking a suicidal end. While the Dwarves retreat from the onslaught that is Obould.

This story relies less on the history between the main characters and concentrates on the current events. It is a good read. Salvatore weaves a complex story with many separate elements that lead to a complete whole. His characters are likable, especially the dwarves. He has created an interesting society in Mithral Hall which drew me into the story completely.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

On Call in Hell ~ CDR Richard Jadick

In November of 2004, the Marines engaged in the Second Battle of Fallujah ~ one of the bloodiest battles in the Iraq War.

CDR Richard Jadick volunteered to be there. He had served as a Marine officer after college, left the Corps, gone to medical school and was in the Navy. He volunteered to deploy with the 1/8 on their tour to Iraq.

When the battle of Fallujah began, he realized that he had to get medical treatment to the Marines and Soldiers sooner than the transport back to the hospitals allowed. He moved forward and established an Forward Aid Station. The FAS was in the midst of the fighting.

For eleven days, CDR Jadick and his Corpsmen tended to the wounded, stabilizing them before sending them on the journey back to the hospital. He was awarded the Bronze Star with V for Valor for the remarkable job he did. He considers it a unit commendation for all of those who were involved.

This book reads like a novel. CDR Jadick tells his story 'warts and all'. This book may be the closest I ever get to combat, but I feel the combat surround me.

This is an exceptional story of the Second Battle of Fallujah and those who tended to the fallen Americans and Iraqis.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert

ISBN: 0525950036
Format: Hardcover, 416pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Release Date: April 19, 2007
Price: $24.95

Mesmerizing from the first sentence to the last, each word in Season of the Witch is perfect; never are you jarred from the wild ride you take with Gabriel and the Monk sisters. Part thriller, fantasy, love story, and mystery, Season of the Witch balances all of these elements naturally with a sensual and brilliant voice.

Gabriel Blackstone is an information thief with a talent for remote viewing. He lives a life on the edge, but completely comfortable with his choices, and has beautiful things around him to show for it. But his past has horrors lurking on the cobwebbed edges and in his imperfection lies his great appeal.

When his old flame Frankie comes to ask for help in the search for her vanished step-son, Gabriel agrees to help reluctantly. He quickly learns that the step-son was last seen in the company of the Monk sisters. Morrighan and Minnaloushe. One of starlight, the other of sunlight, they are the most beautiful as well as possibly the most dangerous women he has ever met. Confident, even cocky, Gabriel has never met his match - until now.

The Monk sisters are solar witches, studying the Art of Memory and alchemy. Together the two have built a house in which everything has an order, everything a place. A house with a million doors that holds the key to all knowledge. Gabriel catches his first look at the house in all its beautiful brutal glory early in the book and each time he visits it seems to become more fantastic.

Gabriel is quickly drawn into the sisters' alluring world, almost forgetting his original goal of discovering what exactly happened to Frankie’s step-son. Soon events have spiraled out of control and Gabriel is faced with the fact that the Monk sister he loves could be a murderer.

What I loved most about this book was that it took everyday things and made them magical. Small things were brought to your attention, the smell of roses or a silk scarf, and suddenly they held a hidden meaning.

Season of the Witch, Natasha Mostert's fourth novel, is simply and completely stunning. When I closed this book the only word that came to mind was ‘Wow’; still overloaded with images and sounds, the feel of the book in my hands, I let the final sentence echo in my head. “Oh yes, most certainly a love story.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"Showdown" - Ted Dekker

“Showdown,” by Ted Dekker, is a novel that takes place in a Paradise. Colorado. Paradise is a quaint little town with a population of less than 500 people. One day a man named Marsuvees Black arrives and he declares that he has come to bring hope and grace to the town of Paradise. Not long after his arrival Paradise soon becomes a place of ultimate evil and is everything but what the name of the town suggests.

In a nearby canyon a monastery is hidden in the mountains and has been shut off from modern society. This monastery is schooled with orphaned children who have been sheltered from society and protected against any form of evil as part of an experiment. Only known by the head master but within the building their lies a place that contains a power that threatens to lure the children from their lives of peace and love and will drive them to do the most unthinkable acts when given the power to do so.

In a nutshell “Showdown” is basically a story of good versus evil and the reader does not know what the outcome of this battle will be until the final pages are turned. Be forewarned; just because this is a “Christian fiction” novel do not judge it as a “feel good” novel where good always prevails. In fact there are moments when I am reading it and I forget that this is a Christian author’s creation. Dekker has definitely stepped out side of the box in writing this book. “Showdown” is a well-written and suspenseful novel that can and will give Stephen King and Dean Koontz a run for their money. This is a must have book for any fan of suspense and fiction.

Frank Peretti - "This Present Darkness"

This Present Darkness"

Synopsis: Ashton is just a typical small town. But when a skeptical reporter and a pastor begin to compare notes, they suddenly find themselves fighting a hideous plot to subjugate the townspeople--and eventually the entire human race. A riveting thriller, This Present Darkness offers a fascinating glimpse into the unseen world of spiritual warfare.

What can I say. It's simply an awesome book. Frank does a great job weaving a tale about spiritual warfare. Say what you will, but the premise of the book is very true. I can honestly say this book scared the willies out of me. Had me looking for demons in every shadow. Don't let the Christian theme fool you, this book is a horror story in and out. I would love to see a movie come from this book.....

The Thousand Orcs by R.A. Salvatore

Book One of The Hunter's Blades Trilogy

A return to the world of the Forgotten Realms, the story brings us back to the life of Drizzt Do'Urden a renegade Dark Elf that has turned his back on his evil heritage and walks the path of a hero.

The Orc king Obould Many Arrows has bounced back from his previous defeat at the hands of the Dwarves. Under the manipulation of the Drow (Dark Elves), Obould has allied with the Queen of the Frost Giants, Gerti. They have started mounting small scale raids against the Dwarves, killing several small bands.

At the same time Bruenor, the new Dwarven King of Mithral Hall, is travelling home with Drizzt and his heroic companions. They stop by the rival city of Mirabar and are rebuffed by the human leaders. This is an affront to Mirabar's Dwarven population and sows the seed of rebellion which will lead to further strife.

King Bruenor continues his travels home, to find the last two survivors of the Orcs raid on a dwarven trade caravan. Bruenor quickly gives them shelter and orders an all out search for the raiding Orcs. The battle that insues is very one sided, even with the Orc's Giant allies.

Queen Gerti orders that the killers of her Giant kin must be destroyed, a command that leads to the momentous events of the climax. The Orc King leads his people in an overwhelming attack against the Dwarven host.

The Dwarves are eventually driven to the small human outpost of Shallows. Shallows is ruled by a wizard who has built its walls high and strong, but they were not designed to take on an army of Orcs and Giants. The battle brings Elves, Dwarves, and Men together to defend Shallows from the forces of evil.
The story and characters are well written. Even though it is the first book in the trilogy, the characters have a long background in the other books that the author has written in this world, so I would not recommend reading this book out of order with the rest. It is a fast, gritty and entrancing tale of swords, sorcery and intrigue. The action and adventure is very good. For fans of the fantasy genre it is a must read.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Girls' Poker Night by Jill A. Davis

Ruby Capote , a New York columnist, is good at picking relationships where she will be the first one out the door. She refuses to set herself up for failure in anything, including the Wednesday night games she holds with her friends in Girls' Poker Night.

But there are reasons why Ruby lives her life in a shell. The divorce of her parents at a young age and then the death of her father keeps her in therapy. Ruby’s column is filled with her friends' lives sprinkled with bits of her own, but always things that keep the rest of the world out.

Life, however, isn’t about playing it safe; you have to take risks to get the things you want out of life. When Ruby falls in love with her boss, Michael, she learns these hard lessons firsthand.

The writing is sharp and funny; Ruby’s internal dialogue is biting at times. Her friends, while not fully developed, provide a good backdrop for Ruby’s character. But you wonder at the end where their lives ended up. You get a peek but the loose ends are not tied up.

I also have to admit that I found myself irritated with Ruby when she pushed Michael away for not being as perfect as she thought he should be. It fit with the character, fit into the story, and made sense, but it made me mad. While she does redeem herself later and the ending of the book is happy one, it was hard to like her after blundering about and being so self-righteous about it.

Ms. Davis’ newest book, Ask Again Later, has some strong similarities to this one. Both lead characters have family problems with dead fathers and both have commitment issues and run from not perfect but great guys. Not to mention the sessions of therapy. In my opinion Ask Again Later is the better of the two novels. A more mature gentler read but still containing the humor and sharp insights.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Truly, Madly Viking by Sandra Hill

Image Hosted by The story line in this novel was far fetched. Jorund Ericsson is a viking warrior from the 9th century. He makes a trip through time on the back of a Killer Whale whom he amazingly is able to communicate with through telepathy that he didn't know he had. He ends up in modern day Texas at a marine park (like Sea World), and promptly lands himself a spot in a psychiatric hospital.

Don't pass judgment on this story just yet. The author, Sandra Hill, has amazing talents that you won't get to see if you don't pick this book up and give it a read. She manages to do what many wouldn't even attempt to pull off. She makes the unbelievable something a person can believe in. The main characters are soon as unforgettable as the story line simply for the originality while remaining very human and true to life. They are witty, smart, and passionate. Their lives are a whirlwind of sorrow, love, and joy, and all is painted in words that will etch the scene into your mind. The secondary characters aren't as secondary as one would think either. They are just as memorable, with just as much life, and play an important role throughout the book.

This book caught my attention after reading the blurb about it on the back. I picked it up because I just had to see how an author would try and pull off a story line such as this one. I was completely impressed. Ms. Hill captivated me with her amazing character development immediately. She further surprised me with her sensual scenes, emotional trials, and complete understanding of human nature. I am so glad that this is not a novel I passed up.

The Runelords by David Farland

The Runelords is the first in newer fantasy series about a world where power flows from those who have accumulated runes or endowments from others. Ideally, these endowments are given by commoners or other citizens to their king or soldiers in order to defend their lands. Brawn, wit, stamina, metabolism, grace, voice and glamour are some of the endowments that can be given. Receiving certain endowments can have a downside. Too many metabolism runes can drastically shorten your life. If you have given endowments or are a vector for endowments, then you have lost those abilities. Losing wit leaves you an idiot. Giving up glamour makes you ugly. Giving your sight or hearing leaves you without those senses. An honest receiver of these powers (i.e. a good king) is charged with protecting those who have given their abilities to their lord. If the Dedicate (the one giving the ability) dies, the runelord loses that ability, as it will go with the Dedicate to his death. If the receiver dies, then the ability goes back to the Dedicate.

As the harvest festival gears up at at Castle Sylvarresta, the evil Wolf Lord, Raj Ahten, is massing his army to attack. Raj Ahten has also amassed many thousands of endowments to himself. By using his ill-gained Voice power, he smoothly talks his way into conquering the Castle and the kingdom without any bloodshed. Prince Gaborn, son of Sylvarresta's good friend, Orden, king of Mystarria in the south, is on his way to Sylarresta to ask for Princess Iome's hand in marriage. They are both caught in the conflict and escape.

As the kingdom's line up to fight the Wolf Lord, Gaborn has been chosen to be the Earth King, an appointment that has not been given in over a thousand years. He must grow in this new role and learn to be able to fight Raj Ahten, who has proven himself almost unbeatable.

I enjoyed this book because it almost reminds me of a role playing game in that the number of runes a person has somewhat determines if you can be defeated by another person. One theme that is common in this book is the need to take care of the earth. The oath that Gaborn takes as the new Earth King ensures that he will, if he wins, take care of the earth.

This book has many common elements of modern fantasy. Wizards, heroes, villains, and a multitude of mystical beings. Swordplay, battles, treachery and magic. I look forward to reading forward in this series.

Demon's Delight

I stumbled across Demon's Delight (by MaryJanice Davidson, Emma Holly, Vickie Taylor, and Catherine Spangler) on a trip to Barnes and Nobles to get some serious science fiction. The cover art waved at me from the sci-fi section. I picked it up and turned it over. It was listed as a paranormal romance.

I had a little taste of a paranormal romance from Holly Black's Valiant when the protagonist hooked up with green troll, but Demon's Delight would mark my first official trek into the territory. Thankfully, it wasn't in the romance section, so I felt no embarrassment when people walked by and saw me reading the back cover.

Demon's Delight is composed of four novelettes: The first story in its arsenal is MaryJanice Davidson's "Witch Way." Davidson's story begins at the burning of a witch, Christopher De Meer, by Tucker Goodman during the Salem witch trials. Jumping ahead a few centuries finds us with Rhea Goodman as she's told that she, the eldest, is destined to kill the eldest descendent of Christopher de Meer.

Meanwhile, Chris Meer (he dropped the "de"), the oldest descendent of Christopher De Meer, wants to be a good witch. He goes in search for the Goodman destined to kill him in hopes for a truce. He finds Rhea Goodman and this is where the fun begins.

The next story, "Street Corners and Halos" by Catherine Spangler, revolves around a prostituting vampire named Rachel Styrker. She doesn't really have sex with her clients; she only plants the images in their head as she sucks their blood - and goodness, we get to see the images she plants. Yep, I have to say this is not like the romance novels my mom used to have on her bookshelves.

Rachel Stryker, the prostituting vampire, was turned into a vampire at a Jewish concentration camp while the guards were raping her. Did I mention her entire family was killed at this concentration camp? Yeah, pretty heavy. Rachel has decided to live her un-dead life with no connections, love, or aspirations.

In walks Gabriel Anthony, an angel sent from God (who is a woman in this story). Gabriel is on a mission to bring Rachel out of her unhappy shell and show her she can have a meaningful and purposeful life as a vampire. Gabriel is also a good looking, well dressed, expensive car loving, and sexual man. I can only imagine some of the hate mail Spangler will be getting from offended Christians, but then again, what is a Christian woman doing reading a book called Demon's Delight?

The third story, "The Demon's Angel" by Emma Holly, is almost as risqué in nature as "Street Corners and Halos" - not so much for the religious aspect, but for the sexual taboos it pushes and then surpasses. This short story also mixes speculative fiction and romance to a greater extent than the two previous works. A species of beings called the Yama, who look upon humans as an inferior species, share the earth with humans. Dr. Khira Forette, a Yama geneticist, is instructed to kidnap a human off the streets to perform a series of genetic tests. She, of course, falls in love with the human.

The fourth and final story is "Angel and the Hellraiser" by Vickie Taylor. The style of writing isn't as catchy as the three previous writers, but it's still a good story.
I have to say this is one of the best anthologies I've read. It's short, the chosen authors are clearly the best at what they do, and the characters are fully developed. I will be looking for future works from these authors and I won't feel like a romance novel reader because their books are usually listed as "paranormal" and therefore I'll be sticking to my sci-fi junky code of honor.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Exit to Eden by Anne Rice

Open even the first page of this book, and you may find yourself checking around to be sure no one is watching you read it. Like all of Anne Rice's books, the level of sensuality in this book is extreme. This book tells of a forbidden love between Master and Slave, and their forbidden sadomasochistic affairs from behind closed doors. This story is set in modern times, the location is a hideaway island out in the ocean where The Club lay. The Club is a vacation getaway where for a price you can own your very own sex slave to do your wildest requests. Lisa, the main character of the book, is one of the creators of The Club, and one of the best trainers of the new slaves. The slaves are regular people that submit to a contract for any length of time and come to the island with pay to submit to the lowliness and bondage of a sex slave. Elliot, one of the new slaves, happens to be picked by Lisa to be trained. However, a spark occurs between them and Lisa spirits him away from the island (which is never done), and what follows is a tale of two people falling in love, and trying to flee the ever watchful eye of The Club.
Okay, the beginning of the book tells quite frankly about sadomasochism, but the overall story line is two 'outcasts' making their way through a world of loneliness and finding each other. I really liked the book, and in fact, I own it.
Other books by Anne Rice that are similar are the Sleeping Beauty Chronicles.

We the People: A Story of Internment in America by Mary Tsukamoto and Elizabeth Pinkerton

Many of us haven't even heard of the Japanese Internment in the United States during the second world war. It is a very important part of history if we are to learn from our mistakes.

I grew up in Elk Grove, California, and the Japanese Internment during World War II hit hard in that area. Is is a suburb just south of Sacramento. The area was full of Japanese farmers with strawberry fields, most were American Citizens, and a good number were 2nd and 3rd generation. Upon the bombing of Pearl harbor they were systematically rounded up and sent to live in camps around the country. Their lands and possessions were lost unless they had a neighbor (non-Asian of course) who would handle their affairs during their internment. Although the condition of these camps was better than what the Jews were forced to endure during the same time frame, it was still a tragedy.

The author of this novel recants the hardships her family and friends faced during this time, and the out come of our government's actions. She speaks from first hand knowledge, and does a remarkable job of retelling a portion of history that many would have liked to have seen swept under the rug. I was amazed not only by the way the author presented the story, but that I didn't feel any resentment presenting itself in the re-telling. This attests to her skills as a writer as there are not many who can write a novel on a part of history that was not only sad, but that we were also personally involved in without showing a great deal of resentment towards the wrongs we endured.

Billy Budd by Herman Melville

This is not a novel that can be judged by length or the picture on the cover. It looks simplistic and straight forward, but it is anything but. This is actually a surprisingly tough read at times. Melville puts a vast deal of energy into developing characters. Less time is spent in dialogs, and this may be hard for some readers to follow at times.

Billy Bud is young, and innocent, quiet but kind. He is well liked except for those few that are jealous of him, and his ability to boost morale through his quiet gentleness. Those that are jealous of Billy are unseated by his seemingly flawless looks and personality. Billy is human however, and Melville reminds the readers of this by inserting a few character flaws in Billy. He stutters when overwhelmed, or becomes completely tongue tied. He also lashes out violently when this occurs.

I couldn't give this novel an excellent rating because it took me longer to read this 90 page novel than it usually takes me to read a 400 page novel. I had a tough time following Melville's constant leaps from place to place and from time to time. This is a novel with a great story line, and I have a feeling that I would have enjoyed it more if I had simply skipped Melville's sections of over explanation and simply read the story. I feel a story loosing something very important when the reader must read someone else's over-analization. Having said all of this, I know I still took something away from this read, and would recommend this novel to anyone with one warning: "When Melville starts to over explain, skip a few paragraphs and start reading again. Chances are, you won't have missed too much. You can always go back and read those paragraphs later if you feel you needed them."

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Subterranean by James Rollins

Subterranean was Jurassic Park meets Journey to the Center of the Earth, but with a lost tribe of marsupial humanoids. It was just great. Great action, great adventure, great suspense, great mystery, and even some great romance — this book had it all.

It starts with some great characters: Ashley, an American anthropologist with her son Jason; Ben, the Australian cave diver; Linda, an American biologist; Khalid, a Egyptian geologist; and Michaelson, the Army man with a hand full of SEALS backing him up. These people form a team that Doctor Blakely has put together to search a cave under the Antarctic continent. There are other characters that come and go, some a little more unexpectedly than others.

In the main cavern, Alpha Base, dwellings have been carved all along one wall. Thousands of years old, maybe millions, these small homes belong to an extinct humanoid creature, or so the scientists believe. There are worm holes leading off the main cavern and the team has been put together to search the worm holes. They discover right before their departure that they are not the first to go down — a team went before them but never returned. They are not only on a discovery mission but also a rescue mission.

What they find in the bowels of the earth is like nothing else. Ben, the man with all the cave experience, claims that it is unlike anything else on the entire planet. They encounter living dinosaurs, species thought to be extinct long ago. All sorts of creatures block their path and obstacles are constantly being overcome, as they move farther and farther down. Alliances are formed and broken as the darkness presses close and they become lost in the maze of caves.

Some of the descriptions were a little light. You get a pretty good feel for the caverns and the different caves but it wasn’t always a clear picture. Sometimes you forget the characters are in a cave but that didn’t happen very often.

The thrill and the action take the front seat and are the driving forces for the book. The action never lets up, leaving you gripping the edges of your book and turning pages at a frantic pace. At every turn something new has happened and you hate to put it down.

Winter Warriors by David Gemmell

Winter Warriors takes place 300 years after the events in Legend. Druss and his life are just that, legends. The Drenai Empire had been invaded by the Ventrians and had emerged triumphant. The Drenai Emperor, Skanda, defeated the Ventrian armies and then magnanimously accepted their oaths of fealty.

Now the Emperor has said his eyes toward conquest. His armies have been at war for over 30 years and he decides to let his oldest soldiers retire. He gives them a pension and sends them back to Drenan under the command of General Banelion, the White Wolf.

The story revolves around three main heroes: Nogusta, Kebra and Bison. They are in their fifties and sixties and have known nothing but war for years. Their loyalty and dedication are not at question, only their ability.

At the same time, the demon lord Anharat has been released from his prison in the void and has possessed the sorcerer Kalizkan. With his help the Ventrian prince Malikada betrays the Emperor and destroys the Drenai army. But the Demon Lord betrays Malikada and possesses his form.

Anharat and his kind are the Windborn, an ancient race of ethereal beings that were born with the dawn of time. Anharat and his brother Emsharas learned to take human form and walk the earth among humans. They touched the Earth and took form from where they stood. Those that took form from the living forests became Dryads, from the river came the nymphs. Some became the shape shifters. Those that came to earth among burial grounds or battlegrounds became vampires and other evil fairy creatures. These evil creatures corrupted the good magical beings and started a centuries long war with humans.

Anaharat chose to end the war, siding with humans, he cast a spell to cast the Windborn into the void, a place where there is not form, a place of eternal torment. Nogusta is his last descendant. In his possession is a charm fashioned by Emsharas and passed down through thousands of years. It is the last hope for humans to defeat the returning hordes.

The Spell of Three Kings is required to open the gates and release the demons. Two kings have fallen, the last is the unborn son of the Drenai Emperor. The queen and her companions flee the possessed city of Usa. They are rescued by Nogusta and his friends. What follows is a life or death running battle with the ten Krayakin, the most deadly warriors known.

The last hope for the survival of mankind rests with Nogusta and a handful of old men, warriors all. Can the legacy of Anaharat save the world once more from the Windborn or will the Demons return to feast on humanity?

Gemmel has yet again crafted a wonderful tale. His use of flawed heroes, past their prime but still game for a fight comes across well. The story is wonderfully done with the action and drama I have come to expect of his work. Unlike his other Drenai stories, this one is self contained and has no ties to the rest of the series. It is a fun read and I recommend it (like I recommend all of his work).

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Many thanks to Nevins Manafe of Barter My Skills (Skillful Nevins) for the assistance in building our new banner. I asked for his help and he created something better than what I wanted. So please leave a cyber thanks!

Monday, April 2, 2007

The White Cascade by Gary Krist

Gary Krist couples his first attempt at non-fiction with great storytelling to recount the gripping incident known as the Wellington Disaster in The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche.

In 1910 the driving force of rolling snow and wreckage demolishes two snowbound trains. An estimated death toll of 96 passengers and crew litter the area with bodies. Buried in snow at the top of the Cascade Mountains, surviving passengers first passed the time by writing letters to friends and loved ones, then complaining and taking care of the children. Some of the lucky passengers slid to the safety of the next station.

After a freak thunderstorm in the early morning hours of the sixth day, a dislodged and massive swath of hard-packed snow and ice slam into the stranded trains, leaving behind a mess of dead and mangled steel and wood.Faint cries for help and excruciating rescues make this a non-fiction story of mammoth proportions.

The vivid picture Krist paints of the scene makes you feel like you’re there in the cold, stacking the bodies for identification with the rest of the workers.All in all this was a good read. The White Cascade is packed full of informative descriptions of the era, which I like in a book of this caliber. The story drags a bit at the front but quickly picks up. The history and descriptions of what it was like to work on the Great Northern rail makes this a railroad gem any person interested in this type of memorabilia and area of interest will want to get for their collection.