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Dead Reckoning: A True Blood Novel
Dead Reckoning: A True Blood Novel
by Charlaine Harris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars All's not well in Sookie-Land ..., 3 Jun. 2011
I can't believe I'm saying this ... BUT ... I was bored out of my mind reading this book --- not to mention really disappointed! "Dead Reckoning" just didn't feel like a Sookie Stackhouse novel at all. Somehow I couldn't shake the feeling that Charlaine Harris has run out of ideas. It felt like she just stringed together some random thoughts and then embellished them by writing long descriptons of everything to fill up the pages. Ask me a week from now about what actually happened in this book and I probably will have a hard time remembering --- there just wasn't anything memorable in the book!!!

The story basically consists of irrelevant happenings and absurd situations, none of which do anything to enrich the overall storyline of this series. There were more continuity errors than I could count. Secondary characters made short appearances for no apparent reason (those cameos certainly didn't help the story along or anything). Seriously --- what was that with Alcide suddenly popping up in Sookie's bedroom??? Was there any purpose to Lily and Jack Bard's visit? A real purpose I mean? What about Sandra Pelt? If Ms. Harris had made any of them an integral part of the storyline of this book --- fine. But the way she did it just felt completely random, and really didn't make a lot of sense.

As for the other characters --- everyone behaved completely out of character. Sookie and Eric had me rolling my eyes or wanting to smack them fairly frequently --- and that's never a good thing!!! Calling their relationship cold and dysfunctional would be an understatement, and personally after this novel I don't really see a happy ending coming for them. And then there's Amelia --- I really liked her in previous books, but Charlaine Harris managed to turn an intelligent and likable character into ... well ... the exact opposite!

After the first half of the book I found myself wishing for the end to come quickly, and when I got to the last 60 pages I actually started skipping and skimming paragraphs because I just wanted to be done with it. At this point I have to say I find myself hoping that Ms. Harris wraps it all up with the next book!

Beauty Queens
Beauty Queens
by Libba Bray
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.60

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crazy and hilarious!, 31 May 2011
This review is from: Beauty Queens (Hardcover)
A group of plane-wrecked young beauty pageant contestants on a deserted island ... no food ... a secret military compound ... giant snakes ...raging hormones ... ship-wrecked pirates ... let the games begin ... LOL!

"Beauty Queens" is often silly and totally off-the-hook crazy, and yet I really enjoyed it!!! Think "America's next Top Model" meets "Lost" and combine it with the sarcasm of "American Dreamz" and you will have some idea of what you are in for if you decide to read this book (and read it you should!!!).

The writing is good and definitely very creative and imaginative! While reading the book I was often baffled by the ingenious ways Ms. Bray found for her characters to cope with their new situation! Not only do they survive, but they do it in style (pun intended). They build huts, a whole arsenal of weapons (using the most unlikely of materials ....!), and when it comes to their new diet (mostly grubs and coconuts) they simply consider it a good way to stay in pageant-shape ... ;o)

There is nothing Libba Bray doesn't make fun of in this book --- beauty pageants, reality tv (and tv shows in general), boybands, overly ambitious parents, politics, dictators in foreign countries, designer clothes, the idolization of celebrities ... you name it, it's probably in there! And in the tradition of a true satire there often is a lot of truth to what she writes.

Then there are the footnotes and *oh my gosh* are they great! They are mostly about products sold by the dubious "Corporation" (insert name of any big corporaton of your choosing here ... LOL) and about fictional celebrities that Ms. Bray created for this book (it's often easy to figure out who they were based on ...). She also came up with some truly memorable song titles for the former boyband "Boys Will B Boyz" (they were really big until "Hot Vampire Boyz" came along) --- I mean, we can all totally see "Let me shave your legs tonight, girl" as a chart-topping hit, right?

Mind you, despite all the silliness there is an underlying message about female empowerment, about being who *you* want to be (as opposed to who or what others want you to be), and about not letting yourself be restricted by other people's expectations and opinions. The girls --- many of whom come across as really dumb and personality-free in the beginning --- show a surprising tenacity and resourcefulness in their quest to survive (just wait and see what items they turn into weapons!!!). The longer they stay on the island the more they realize that it's not actually such a bad thing. Far away from parents, beauty coaches, peer pressure and society in general these girls come into their own. In essence, by getting lost they end up finding themselves.

Sexuality (and the awakening of it) is a frequent subject in this book, and I can already see conservative parents everywhere go up in arms because of this. Yes, this is a Young Adult book, and yes, there are fairly graphic make-out scenes in it --- and not just of the girl/boy variety. Anyone who is easily offended by that might want to steer clear of this book ...

I have seen some negative reviews for this book where people stated that they didn't think the story was realistic or that they just could not believe some of the things in this book would really happen this way. Seriously? I don't think those people understand the word "satire". It doesn't *have to be* realistic --- that's the beauty of it ... ;o)

Personally, I really hope that Hollywood is going to snatch this up and make movie of it!!! "Beauty Queens" was *made* for the big screen ... :o)

Madame Tussaud
Madame Tussaud
by Michelle Moran
Edition: Paperback

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The terror of the French Revolution ..., 27 May 2011
This review is from: Madame Tussaud (Paperback)
"Madame Tussaud" is a mostly well-written work of historical fiction, and I have no doubt that it was also meticulously researched. Still, it took me well over 100 pages to really get into this book --- the beginning read a little like a dry history textbook --- but somewhere around page 150 the story finally started to grip me and I found myself turning page after page to find out what would happen next.

I must confess that I did not know all that much about the politics of the French Revolution beyond the basics --- people starving, fall of the bastille, angry peasants, king and queen beheaded --- before I started reading this book! I've read a handful of novels which used the French Revolution as a backdrop but none of them went into as much detail as Ms. Moran's book did. I've also seen Sophia Coppola's movie "Marie Antoinette" which I loved and thought was very well done ... even though it doesn't really tell you much about the Revolution --- it's really more a character study of Marie Antoinette.

Anyway, having finished "Madame Tussaud" I now feel almost like an expert on the subject ... ;o) ... That is to say, the book is very political and the writing is very detailed as far as the reasons for and events during the French Revolution are concerned. It did at times feel a little like a really long lecture by a history professor but apart from the first 130 pages or so I didn't really mind. That is probably because the writing became much more vivid and riveting as the story progressed.

The characters were definitely well-crafted and I felt that I got to know them quite well over the course of the book. I only ever knew "Madame Tussaud" as the person after whom the wax cabinet in London was named --- I can't say that I gave much thought to the real person behind that name. It was surprising to me that Marie Grosholtz (= Madame Tussaud) played such a big (if unwilling) part in the French Revolution.

Ms. Moran did a really good job at conveying the sheer terror of those days when no one was safe from the hysteria and the angry mobs. People were condemned or killed based on rumors --- no questions asked. No one knew whom to trust or how to act because for a long time it wasn't clear who would win this "battle for France" --- the revolutionaries or the royalists. The tension and indecision that comes with such uncertainty was definitely well-portrayed in this novel.

One thing that did bother me a little was the so-called romance between Marie and Henri. I liked both characters but their was just absolutely no spark between them. I guess one could say there was nothing romantic about their romance ...! It was clear that Henri was in love with Marie, but apart from a few mentions of "her heart beating faster" there was nothing to show that Marie might feel the same way about him. In short --- their romance did not ring true for me at all ...

Overall, this was an enjoyable read and definitely much better than Christine Trent's "The Queen's Dollmaker" which has a very similar setting. The story started off a little slow and dry but improved the further I read. So if you've just started reading this book and find that you are struggling then don't give up rightaway --- it *will* get better ... ;o)

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
by Morgan Matson
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best detour ever ... :o), 24 May 2011
I loved this book so much!!! Seriously, after I was done reading it I just hugged it to my chest and grinned like an idiot --- which, by the way, got me some really strange glances from people sitting near me on the subway ... ;o)

There are many words that can be used to describe this book --- wonderful, great, brilliant, beautifully written, captivating, delightful, touching, funny, poignant, cute, memorable, enjoyable, enchanting, amazing, charming ... well, I'm sure you get the drift ... ;o)

Amy and Roger are such wonderful characters --- likable and real, and I could really relate perfectly to them. They both have been broken in a way --- although admittedly Amy's father dying is much worse than Roger's girlfriend breaking up with him without giving a reason. Not only are they virtual strangers at the beginning of the trip but they are each vulnerable and have to learn to trust again. Watching their relationship change from wariness and "unsureness" (they don't really no how to act around each other at first, but then that's what it is often like with strangers) to friendship and finally to romance was such a joy!

Their detour --- which takes them from California to Connecticut by way of Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee and quite a few more states --- is also a healing trip. It gives both of them time to face their demons, so to speak. In the beginning, Roger is still hung up on his ex, Hadley, and is on a mission to find out why she broke up with him. Amy, on the other hand, is still dealing with the aftermath of the car accident in which her father was killed --- the accident for which she blames herself. Over the course of their trip both Amy and Roger come to realize that sometimes the only way is forward. And - as Roger so aptly puts it - often the best discoveries are the ones you weren't looking for ... the ones you just stumble across.

In addition to Amy and Roger, the book also boasts some truly great (and interesting) secondary characters, all of whom enrich the story in some way.

Last but not least, I absolutely adored all the little touches throughout the book (very creative!) --- the photos, playlists, receipts, postcards, the little drawings and side notes. It all made the story feel so much more real --- more even, it made me feel like I was right there with Amy and Roger, doing "Hike-U" at Yosemite, driving along "the loneliest road in America", eating Derby Pie and "Crumbly Burgers" with special sauce and playing Twenty Questions!

In fact, right now I'm just itching to clear out my bank account, buy myself a plane ticket from Germany to California, and drive across America in a car to have my very own "epic detour" ... LOL!

Anyone up for a road trip???

Hard Bitten: A Chicagoland Vampires Novel (Chicagoland Vampires Series)
Hard Bitten: A Chicagoland Vampires Novel (Chicagoland Vampires Series)
by Chloe Neill
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Be prepared for a shocker of an ending ..., 15 May 2011
I have no words. Or, rather --- I have a lot of words but I'm too stunned by the ending of this book to string them into sentences. Anyone remember the tv show "Alias"? At the end of the last episode of each season something would happen - some huge, mind-blowing, completely unpredictable and totally shocking turn of events that made you question everything that came before and left you wondering how *this* could possibly be fixed again. Why am I telling you that?

Because, well, that's exactly what happens at the end of "Hard Bitten". Oh, don't worry - I won't go into details here because I don't want to spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that yes, it's a huge shocker and something you won't see coming in a million years (there really is no advance warning in the book ...!).

I thoroughly enjoyed "Hard Bitten" - despite the fact that the ending made me want to rant and rave (after I'd gotten over the initial shock which left me just plain speechless ...). As always Ms. Neill did a great job at characterization ... she's very good at creating (and maintaining) characters with depth, and that is something many authors of this genre sadly don't seem to care much about. "Hard Bitten" is an emotional roller coaster for various reasons, but one that is very well-written. There's lots of witty banter (as always) as well as some truly heartbreaking moments between Merit and Ethan. I daresay if you liked the first three books in the series then you will love this one!

Chloe Neill has asked us to trust her (in regard to the storyline), and so I will do just that. I don't know how she's going to do it, but I have every faith that she's gonna make things right again in the next book, "Drink Deep", which will be published in November 2011.

The Mortal Instruments 4: City of Fallen Angels
The Mortal Instruments 4: City of Fallen Angels
by Cassandra Clare
Edition: Paperback

10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Choppy, angsty relationship drama ...!, 18 April 2011
When I finished this book it took me a while to decide on how to rate it. On one hand, it wasn't all bad. On the other, compared to the first three books (which I really liked) this one was a disappointment.

As a fourth book tacked on to a supposed trilogy, "City of Fallen Angels" was better than Stephenie Meyer's abysmally-bad "Breaking Dawn" (which remains the only book I disliked so much that I still wish I could "un-read" it --- just scratch it out of my mind completely!). And yet, I can't say that I really enjoyed reading it. For one, the characters felt flat and often behaved like spoilt and immature little children.

For another, nothing much happens in the book!!! I mean, seriously, more than 400 pages and there really isn't anything happening!!! Add to that the fact that several storylines that are started in the beginning of the story just sort of trickle away over the course of the book and that there are plot holes the size of Lake Michigan --- well, it all makes for a story that feels forced and a little bit like a first draft, not the final version of a book.

One of the plot lines in this book is the murder of several shadow hunters. But hey --- there's a wedding coming up so of course it's much more important to focus on finding the right dress than on finding the killer. Gotta have priorities, right?

There was some witty banter that was fun, but most of the dialogue felt wooden and contrived (and in some scenes even cringe-worthy ...). The writing felt choppy which certainly didn't help. At times it felt like I was watching an episode of a badly-written soap opera --- all angsty relationship-drama and not much of a plot.

Getting back to the characters ... I'll come right out and admit it --- I *loved* Jace in the first books. Yes, he could be arrogant and often eyeroll-inducing, but despite it all I really liked him. This time around, though, he grated on my nerves. In fact, he made me want to smack him over the head most of the time --- preferably with something heavy.

For example, Jace suffers from horrible nightmares in which he always ends up hurting/killing Clary. Now, what do you do when you have continued nightmares about the same thing? Talk to someone? Get help? Therapy, maybe? Or you could just behave completely jerk-ish (and I realize that's not really a word), not give any explanations, not talk to anyone and make yourself and everyone around you miserable. Jace went for the latter of those options. Why I have no idea.

Clary and Simon also have their moments of utter stupidity, and Alec's jealousy of all of Magnus's exes was ridiculous. I mean - the guy's immortal and has been around for a really long time ... Alec must have know before he started dating Magnus that the guy would probably have a string of exes.

To sum it up, "City of Fallen Angels" had good parts and bad parts. It's not like I wanted to quit halfway through or anything, but I don't feel compelled (or even tempted ...) to read the next book, either.

Downton Abbey - Series 1 [DVD]
Downton Abbey - Series 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Hugh Bonneville
Price: £5.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely pitch-perfect!, 6 April 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It is very rare that I find a television show that is so well-done and such a pure unadulterated joy to watch that there isn't a single thing I would change --- "Downton Abbey" is such a show!

I was intrigued right from the beginning of episode 1, and for me there was not a dull moment in the entire series. The story follows the daily lives of both the residing family and the staff of the house, and I found both to be utterly fascinating.

Every character is lovingly drawn, every actor's performance absolutely spot-on, and every scene is done with incredible attention to detail. All of this --- along with the great writing and directing and the beautiful cinematography --- adds up to a series that is simply pitch-perfect!

If there is one complaint I have then it is that this first season was much too short! Only 7 episodes --- that really isn't much. I wish there had been more episodes, but from what I hear they are filming season 2 right now so I can look forward to that ... :o)

Lark Rise to Candleford - Series 4 [DVD]
Lark Rise to Candleford - Series 4 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Olivia Hallinan
Price: £7.00

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The end ... but sadly no real ending!, 1 April 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I am a huge fan of "Lark Rise to Candleford" (I absolutely loved the first three seasons which deserve 5 stars each!!!) but I must say that this fourth (and last) season was disppointing compared to the earlier ones. The storylines were much less interesting than they used to be --- it felt like the writers/producers just wanted to get it over with, so to speak, and didn't really put much thought into those final six scripts.

Despite that it's still "Lark Rise to Candleford", which is to say that it wasn't all bad! The first five episodes definitely had their good moments but overall there was just something missing. Laura and Daniel's romance moved as slowly as ever (I really would have liked to see more of them as a couple), just like that of Minnie and Alfie. Dorcas got a little romance, too, although it did not really ring true for me.

The sixth --- and final --- episode was a huge letdown! After I was done watching it I just thought "This is it???" .... I just could not believe that they would leave the fans hanging like that.

I mean, what was the point of bringing back Caroline in the last episode? If they had brought her back at the start of season 4 then that would have been fine, but the way it was done the whole story of her coming back and her strained relationship with her children felt rushed and didn't fit in the with the rest of season 4 (such as it was). They should have either brought her back earlier or not at all.

One character they should have brought back for at least the last episode is Robert Timmins. I realize the actor has a job on a different tv series now, but I'm sure he could have spared a day or two to make a short appearance on the final episode of "Lark Rise to Candleford".

Then there's Margaret's behaviour towards Thomas --- totally out of character and completely unnecessary. If this had been an episode somewhere in the middle of a full season then it probably wouldn't have bothered me so much, but why do something like that in the *final* episode? I just don't get it.

And if you're going to end a beloved show like this one .... why not give the fans what they want? They could have ended the series with a double wedding for Laura and Daniel and Minnie and Alfie, for example (or at least a single wedding for one of the couples). That would have been much preferable to what they actually did.

It's sad enough that they shot only 6 episodes for season 4, but to then not even to give the show a real ending --- one that is deserving of such a great show and the wonderful characters --- makes me sad and angry. It really is disappointing to see that such a wonderful show (and its fans) got such bad treatment by the BBC!

The least that they could do is make something like a two-hours special to give us a real ending --- perhaps one with a wedding or two ... and a christening ... ;o)
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 19, 2012 2:18 PM BST

His Last Duchess
His Last Duchess
by Gabrielle Kimm
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating and beautifully written!, 30 Mar. 2011
This review is from: His Last Duchess (Paperback)
I really loved this book! The story, the setting, the characters, the writing --- everything was absolutely superb. Ms. Kimm's style of writing is so wonderfully descriptive without ever being overburdened by unnecessary details. Right from the start I was drawn completely into the story, and truly felt like I'd been transported right back to Renaissance Italy. In that way, reading this book felt very much like watching a movie --- the scenes unfolded right before my eyes.

The characters were all vividly drawn --- they all felt absolutely real to me, particularly Lucrezia, Alfonso, Francesca and Jacomo! And I have to say, they stayed with me at all hours. They kept me from falling asleep at night and crept into my thoughts during the day.

Lucrezia, the happy, carefree girl who is suddenly thrust into a situation she doesn't understand (and how could she?!?!). She's such a charming heroine that I kept hoping and wishing for her to have a happy end.

Alfonso, who seems charming at first but who quickly turns out to be a coldhearted, controlling man for whom Lucrezia is not much more than a possession to show off. Alfonso is a cold and distant man whose thoughts are often disturbing, and who is slowly driven into a sort of madness by his inabilty to have a sexual relationship with his wife. There is a darkness in him from the start, and it only intensifies as the story unfolds.

And Jacomo, who truly loves Lucrezia and wants nothing more than to see her safe and happy. Sweet Jacomo who is light where Alfonso is dark.

"His last duchess" is a captivating and beautifully written novel of historical fiction, one that kept me immersed in its story from the first page to the last, and one whose characters I will not soon forget. There was even a point in the book at which I seriously considered calling in sick at work so I could keep reading --- it was that good!!!

I will definitely re-read it in the future, and I look forward to the release of Ms. Kimm's next book, "The Courtesan's Choice".

Descent Into Dust
Descent Into Dust
by Jacqueline Lepore
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.38

4.0 out of 5 stars Dark and atmospheric!, 23 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Descent Into Dust (Paperback)
A good old-fashioned gothic Victorian novel!!! The characters are well-drawn and likable, the setting is dark and atmospheric, and the writing is very good. There was definite chemistry between Emma and Valerian, and although their romance is slow and doesn't go very far in this book I found their attraction to be believable.

There are vampires in the story, but they are of the creepy evil "Dracula" kind and not of the "romantic vampire hero" variety. Compared to many more recent vampire novels this one is pretty much "Back to Basics" --- meaning that the author stuck mostly to the myth created by Bram Stoker instead of inventing her own.

Why only 4 stars? Because, well ... there were a few moments in the story where that which happened (or which was being said) didn't seem very plausible to me. It wasn't enough to really annoy me, and it didn't take anything away from my overall enjoyment of the book, but I just don't feel that this is a 5 star book.

Still, I really liked "Descent into Dust" and am looking forward to reading the sequel.

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