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Friday, March 23, 2012

Book Review: Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

I was always drawn to fantastical tales. When I was a little girl, my mother had bought for me a copy of Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was one of my favorite books. I was more familiar with the Greek legends than the Roman legends, but the older I got, the more diverse my reading became. I would look for collections of folk tales from around the world, fairy tales, mythology, chivalrous tales, anything I could get my hands on.

So when I found Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini, I was intrigued. The cast of characters included The Furies or The Fates and that was enough. There have been other stories about the gods offspring. There is Oh.My.Gods and Goddess Boot Camp by Tera Lynn Childs, the Percy Jackson series, Avalon High by Meg Cabot to name a few, but it is an old story. Starcrossed, to me, was a new take on an old story.

Book Description:
Publication Date: May 31, 2011 | Series: Starcrossed

How do you defy destiny?

Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it's getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she's haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they're destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.

As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart.

My Review:
The gods have ever interfered in the lives of mortal man. Being lesser beings, man is seen as the playthings of the gods. But there are times when the gods may become enamored of a mortal and a child would be born of the union. While the gods have since removed themselves from the world of man, their offspring still survive with each generation getting stronger with more godlike powers.

Helen has always been different. She has superhuman abilities that she has to hide from the people around her, which is difficult as Nantucket is a small island and everyone knows everything about everyone. She is successful at hiding her full abilities until a new family moves into town. They've moved to the island from Greece and they are the talk of the town, but Helen doesn't really seem to care much until she runs into Lucas at school and tries to kill him. She is visited by The Fates who seem to spur on her fury with their wailing and she can't stop herself. She is dragged off to the office as well as Lucas to explain herself, but how do explain the desire to kill a total stranger? She decides she just needs to stay away from him, but that seems easier said then done. He seems to turn up around every corner and The Fates won't leave her alone. It's not just her, though. He also seems to want to kill her. However, through a selfless act, Helen and Lucas save each other and that seems to break the hold The Fates have on them. They stop seeing the visions of The Fates and can no longer hear their wailing or feel the bloodlust.

Now that they are not trying to kill each other, Helen learns of her ancestry and Lucas's. She is descended from a god and part of one of the four households. Each household is descended from a different god and the scions of the house are imbued with the powers of that god, though not all scions have the same range of powers. The bloodlust felt in the presence of The Furies dates back to the Trojan War. They appeared then to avenge the sins committed by the Houses during the long, bloody war, setting house upon house and have been doing so ever since, until it seemed that the Houses were all but eradicated with the exception of the house Lucas belongs to.

Helen and Lucas may not be at each other's throats, but somebody is trying to kill her, but the assailant's identity is unknown. The Delos family offers her protection and training so that she can learn how to use her powers and defend herself in the face of an attack. The two of them are slowly drawing closer together, but will tragedy rip them apart?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book Review: Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors

What is the greatest love story of all time? And do love stories necessarily need to have a happy ending? Sometimes I feel the tragic love stories are the most powerful stories. For example, I cannot seem to ever get through 'The Way We Were' without crying. I know how it ends. I've seen it a million times, but it doesn't stop the tears from flowing. I must say, though, that I do tend to prefer my love stories with a happy ending. It is more satisfying to me that everyone ends up with a happy ending. Life can be tragic enough. But there are some stories that may not have a happy ending ending, but they have the perfect ending. That to end the story in any other way would do no justice to the tale. Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors is one of those stories. While it is not a tragedy per se, there is a darkness to the prose, which at times blew me away. Yes, there is sadness, but there is also joy and the story ended in the only way it could.

Book Description:
Publication Date: January 4, 2011

When you're the daughter of the bestselling Queen of Romance, life should be pretty good. But 16-year-old Alice Amorous has been living a lie ever since her mother was secretly hospitalized for mental illness. After putting on a brave front for months, time is running out. The next book is overdue, and the Queen can't write it. Alice needs a story for her mother-and she needs one fast.

That's when she meets Errol, a strange boy who claims to be Cupid, who insists that Alice write about the greatest love story in history: his tragic relationship with Psyche. As Alice begins to hear Errol's voice in her head and see things she can't explain, she must face the truth-that she's either inherited her mother's madness, or Errol is for real.

My Review:
In my opinion, and it is only an opinion, Ms. Selfors weaves magic with her words. "Loneliness had moved into my apartment as if it had no better place to go. It rubbed up against me like a hungry cat when I stepped inside."

Alice is not strong, she's not brave and she's not confident that she is not losing her mind. At the age of 16, she has, it seems, the entire weight of the world on her shoulders. Her mother is bipolar and hospitalized, not responding to the medical treatmernt she is receiving. Alice is forced to handle all her mother's affairs in secret. The world can't be allowed to know the Queen of Romance is mentally ill, so she lives a lie. Her mother's next novel is past due and the publisher is threatening to sue. Their money has run out and the hospital is threatening to throw her mother out. She had to leave her private school to finish her high school degree online so she could take care of her mother's business. It's a lot to deal with. The only three people who know are the three tenants in the apartment building who were there before Alice's mom bought the building. And they don't know all the things that Alice has had to do to keep up the charade for the rest of the world. Alice lives in the shadows. She feels she can't let anyone into her life because they can't find out the truth. She promised her mother she'd keep their secret. Even when she gets asked out by a cute guy, she has to refuse because she can't let him in on her situation. So she shuts him out even as she wishes she could let him in.

The she meets Errol. He wants her to write his story, the story about the love of his life and perhaps the greatest love story ever told. There's only one problem; he claims to be Cupid. She refuses, but things start to happen in her life that she can only accept as proof that she has inherited her mother's condition. She is convinced he has mental issues as well, but decides to help him and in so doing, help herself. If she can manage to write his story, she can pass it off as her mother's new novel and their financial worries will be over. During the process, however, she finds herself starting to care deeply about his story and realizes maybe he's not so crazy after all.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Review: Don't Expect Magic by

If you had the power of wishes, would you want to have the power to grant other people's wishes? Or would you want to have the power to make your wishes come true? Perhaps for most people, it is a little of both. For Delaney Collins, she doesn't have that choice.
Book Description:
Publication Date: November 8, 2011

Delaney Collins doesn't believe in fairy tales. And why should she? Her mom is dead, her best friend is across the country, and she's stuck in California with "Dr. Hank," her famous life-coach father—a man she barely knows. Happily ever after? Yeah, right.

Then Dr. Hank tells her an outrageous secret: he's a fairy godmother—an f.g.—and he can prove it. And by the way? The f.g. gene is hereditary. Meaning there's a good chance that New Jersey tough girl Delaney is some one's fairy godmother.

But what happens when a fairy godmother needs a wish of her own?

My Review:
Delaney's story begins on a plane. Her parents are long divorced, her father estranged and her mother has just passed away. It is a tragic beginning to her story and it is not surprising that she has a bit of a chip on her shoulder and acts out a lot, especially since she is being forced to move across the country to live with her estranged father who is a celebrated author of self help books. What she doesn't know and what she comes to find out is that he is also a fairy godfather, which is hereditary, but is known to skip generations. He is certain that she does not carry the gene, that is until Delaney starts making inexplicable things happen, usually to the detriment of those she is trying to grant wishes to. In order for her to get her fairy wand, she must find a client and successfully grant them their wish. Granting wishes for others is not an easy as it seems, especially when she finds she has a wish of her own that won't come true if she can successfully grant the wish of her first client. But what she thinks people want and what they actually do want are not always the same thing.

I had a hard time with this book in the beginning because I just wanted to slap Delaney upside the head and tell her to get over herself. She is self-absorbed and doesn't seem to care who she hurts around her. It is a mask to hide behind, though, because she is hurting inside. She thinks her father abandoned her, but as she learns the real reason her parents' split and exactly what his job entails, she finds that she can start to forgive him and understand him. She begins her journey as a fairy godmother for purely selfish reasons, but she starts to change inside and open herself up. She finds that she really does care about the people around her and the new life she has been given. It is a worthwhile journey and I enjoyed her transformation. I found that along the way, I came to care about her, too. I really enjoyed this book and while it is not your every day book about about magic, it is comforting to believe that there is power in wishes.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book Review: love? maybe by Heather Helper

I know Valentine's Day has passed, but I generally have an issue doing anything in a specified time frame. When I was little, I used to wear long pants and long sleeves int eh summer and shorts and t-shirts in the winter. That may actually explain a lot. Enough said. I just finished reading a Valentine's Day themed book called love? maybe by Heather Helper.

Book Description:
Publication Date: January 5, 2012

Just because Piper's birthday is on Valentine's Day does not mean she's a romantic. In fact, after watching her father and then her stepfather leave, she's pretty sure she doesn't believe in love at all. Then her friends concoct a plan to find them all Valentine's dates, and somehow Piper finds herself with the most popular guy in school. But true love never follows a plan, and a string of heartfelt gifts from a secret admirer has Piper wondering if she might be with the wrong guy.

In this heartwarming romance, true love is more than a maybe - and it might be closer than you think.

My Review:
I found this to be a delightful read. I felt sympathy with Piper because, like her, I have never been really into Valentine's Day. I mean sure, everyone would love to have a Valentine, but I find the seasonal marketing for the holiday to be way too over the top. Piper is cynical, but she is still easy to love and has people around her who care about her. She has been disappointed a lot in life by those she loves and she closes her heart so she doesn't have to fell the pain of further disappointment. When her best friend, Claire, gets dumped by a guy who is less than worthy but hard to get over, Piper and her other friend, Jillian devise The Plan in order to help Claire get over her heartbreak. Although she really doesn't want to be part of The Plan, she makes the sacrifice for the sake of her friend, and in the end learns to start opening her own heart. Who does he end with on Valentine's Day? You'll just have to read to find out.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Book Review: Persuade Me by Juliet Archer

I have to admit that I am a huge Jane Austen fan.  I am not alone in this passion.  Otherwise we wouldn't have countless movies, miniseries and books of Jane Austen's and about Jane Austen.  I find it amazing as she didn't actually write that many books.  Still, I have to admit that I have quite a few versions of Pride and Prejudice on DVD, as well as Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion.  It is hard for me to say which male character is my favorite, but I can say without a doubt that Elizabeth Bennet has always been my favorite female character.  Dare I say I find something of myself in her.

My passion is not reserved solely for film adaptations.  I can't get enough of the written word either.  There is an entire Austen genre which include further adventures of our favorite characters, modern retellings of our favorite stories as well as alternate world versions.  And yes, I did pick up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  I just haven't finished it yet.  I think Amanda Grange might have been the first author I picked up that was a alternate version.  It was Mr Darcy's Diary I believe and just I couldn't resist reading one of my favorite stories from the male's perspective.  I have been building up quite a collection of Austen stories whether an historical or a modern retelling and perhaps I will make a list of them all and compare them.  But for today I want to talk about a book I just read on my Kindle called Persuade Me By Juliet Archer.

Book Description:
When do you let your heart rule your head?

When it comes to love, Anna Elliot is stuck in the past. No one can compare to Rick Wentworth, the man she gave up ten years ago at the insistence of her disapproving family. What if she’s missed her only chance for real happiness?

Since Anna broke his heart, Rick has moved on – or so he thinks. Out in Australia, he’s worked hard to build a successful career – and a solid wall around his feelings.

The words ‘forgive and forget’ aren’t in Rick's vocabulary. The word ‘regret’ is definitely in Anna’s. So, when they meet again on his book tour of England, it’s an opportunity for closure.

But memories intrude – the pure sensuality of what they once shared, the pain of parting … And she has to deal with another man from her past, while his celebrity status makes him the focus of unwanted attention.

With Anna’s image-obsessed family still ready to interfere and Rick poised to return to Australia, can she persuade him to risk his heart again?

This contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s last completed novel is the second book in Juliet Archer’s Darcy & Friends series, offering fresh insights into the hearts and minds of Austen’s irresistible heroes. 

My Review:
I have to tell you, I couldn't get enough of this book.  The thing is that with any retelling, you know how the story is going to end, but for me, it is how you get there.  I thought the characters were wonderful.  While the story held true to Jane's vision, Juliet Archer took a lot of liberties with the back drops and characters that made this feel shiny and new.  Anne is a professor of Russian Literature and does not live at home.  Mary has a drinking problem.  Elizabeth, well, she will always be vapid and self absorbed, but now she goes to the gym.  Rick is a marine biologist and an author who is coming home for a book tour.  Charles likes to fish to get away from the house.  One of the things I really liked about this story is that the author uses her own voice in her retelling.  In too many instances have I read a modern adaptation where the author is styling the prose in an Austenesque fashion, which usually falls short.  This retelling was full of flawed and wonderful characters that spoke with voices that made them real for today's world.  Juliet Archer brings a fresh new voice to the Austen genre and I can't wait to get started on her other book; The Importance of Being Emma.