Booking Through Thursday 12/31

It’s the last day of the year, and you know what that means … nostalgia and looking back.

What were your favorite books of the year? (Books that were new to you in 2009, if not necessarily published this year.)

– Oh good question and a wonderful way to end the year! I’d have to say, some of the books I’ve read that I enjoyed this year are:

The Strain – Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro

The Constant Princess – Philippa Gregory

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

those would be my top three books for 2009. What are yours? 🙂

Happy New Year to all my fellow book bloggers and my beloved blog readers!

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Review of High Stakes

High StakesOkay. Before you smack me. Yes. This book is romance. It has scenes I would rather skim through. But. BUT. It’s got vampires. Also, lately I’m in the mood for light reading until I hit the heavy books. So yes I did pick up a romance book even though I don’t like the genre itself.

High Stakes is the story of Alexis Baldizzi who storms into a casino owned by Ethan Carrick (a very sexy vampire) who has her sister “hostage”. Things change however, when Ethan decides Alexis is the woman he actually wants to make his campaign as President of the Vampire Nation attractive to his voters. Within this growing romance, you also have another story line between Alexis’ sister Brittany who falls for a banished French vampire named Corbin, and a plot to get rid of Ethan for good.

I had to grudgingly admit (this is coming from someone who runs away from the romance shelves) I actually liked this book. Alexis is a great likable character; she’s got wit, she’s stubborn as an ox, she knows how to fight back (literally), and her sense of humor is hilarious. With a main character like that, it was thanks to her that got me so interested in this book I read at least more than half of it in one morning and then finished it the next day.

The plot was all right. It does follow the typical romance genre standard plot line but the characters are likable and engaging and they provided so much entertainment, I found myself chuckling a couple of times because of Alexis and Ethan and how they felt about each other at first, and their banter was extremely entertaining. Although the sub-plot of several of Ethan’s enemies trying to oust him from running for President is interesting, I actually wished they focused more on that plot instead of having to spotlight the main couple all the time. It left me with a lot of questions and now that certain events now happened regarding some of his enemies, I really want to know what’s going to happen next. What bugged me was, although they were some trying to kill Ethan, it seemed as if both Ethan and Alexis didn’t really care, they were too busy being in love with each other – which caused me to roll my eyes in frustration. Yes, I do realize this is a romance novel, but the intrigue plot is so interesting, why give that up to showcase the couple? wouldn’t the plot to kill Ethan be just as exciting?

I also liked the plot with Brittany and Corbin. I thought they made such a cute couple and I was actually wanting more of those two instead of Ethan and Alexis, sure they were fun to read, but as soon as the “mushy stuff” came in, I just wanted them to move on and wanted to learn more about Corbin and his “research”. Although Brittany strikes me a terribly naive and a little on the ditzy side, you can’t help but like her because it’s like she doesn’t have a bad thought for anybody and nothing seems to ruin her day. She’s such an exact opposite of Alexis but it’s nice to see, so at least you don’t see the book through eyes of one side all the time.

There are love scenes for those that enjoy that sort of thing, I particularly don’t care much for them, so those were skipped. They do become more frequent as Alexis and Ethan are closer together towards the end of the book. It does get old, and tiring and the plot just remains stagnant with those two. I do admit, they do make a nice couple. (Although upto the point where they got mushy I switched to preferring Brittany and Corbin). The other problem I do have is it was predictable in some parts. Oh well. I actually expected that in this story. It wasn’t bad enough to ruin my enjoyment of the novel.

Overall, it was a nice light read despite some pitfalls. I was able to tolerate it and I enjoyed it because of such entertaining characters. The story and plot could have used some work though. Those that love romance with vampires in it, give this a try. It’s on the light side so don’t expect things to get too dark.

I give it a 6 out of 10.

Sunday Salon: Review of The Darcys and the Bingleys

Darcys and BingleysI took this book out for my Everything Austen challenge (which I probably won’t be completing, but at least I managed to squeak this book by) I did take it out for quite sometime but always managed to put it off because I had other books to read. Now that I finished the book, I think to myself why didn’t I pick this book up and read it sooner!? it was great!

The Darcys and the Bingleys continues after Pride and Prejudice and focuses on mostly Darcy and Bingley and their antics. Before the big wedding day, Bingley approaches Darcy with a very important question; what to do on the wedding night. Darcy, always willing to help out his friend provides him with a copy of The Kama Sutra. Shocking and flabbergasted, Bingley accepts the book hesitantly but, it teaches him all he needs to know anyway. That’s just one of the main events happening in this book. Basically this story chronicles the first few years of their marriages and brace yourselves, you’re in for a lot of laughs.

There is only one regret I have for this book, and it’s why did I not read this one sooner? it was hilarious! I heard myself chuckle here and there at almost every other chapter. Darcy and Bingley are central to this book as most of the humor surrounds them and their actions. Sometimes it’s their playful banter, other times it’s Darcy’s wit and his ability to take it out on Charles. Other times…well let’s just say when they drink it just gets even more funny. It was a nice side to see to these two men, I’ve always thought they can’t always be so stuffy and formal can they? they have to loosen up sometimes during life! and this book shows the side of the two that you’ve always wondered about. It’s definitely a fun read and a cheerful one.

Aside from the wit and humor, you also see inside of both their marriages and again, it’s a different face to the characters you’re used to reading in Pride and Prejudice. It’s amazing to see both Jane and Elizabeth take charge in their marriages and manage to get their own way when it comes to decisions. I liked seeing Darcy having to give in to Elizabeth’s demands although it may seem very uncharacteristic at first as whoever thought Elizabeth could just order Darcy around and have him coiled around her little finger? (I actually never pictured their marriage to be this way but it’s not that bad to read). You don’t hear much from Lydia or Wickham in this book. Also Mary and Kitty have their own appearances but small ones.

You also get to see a different side from Caroline Bingley (she’s still catty, but she’s actually got a heart) and that, I think got a little too strange and a little too different. The outcome of Caroline in the novel, is nice but I couldn’t really get used to it. Perhaps because with previous Jane Austen spinoffs, Caroline Bingley was always catty, mean, and always had a snide comment here and there as a means of insulting someone “politely”. It’s just hard to picture her being nice and loving (yes..she was loving believe it or not). It’s a different side to Caroline, yes. I suppose it’s the author’s way of showing that Caroline can be human too.

Aside from that, the other problem I had with this book was there were times where present day English would accidentally appear throughout the dialogue. It does take the realism out of the story just a little bit. The characters and their new different “face” might take a while to get some die hard Austen fans to get used to (perhaps they might cry out sacrilege) but the storyline is wonderful, the humor is great, and I’m really looking forward to more from Marsha Altman’s works.

Overall a hilarious read with plenty of fun adventures. It makes you wonder what’s going to happen next with the Darcys and the Bingleys. I recommend this book to those in love with Jane Austen spinoffs.

I give it an 8 out of 10.

Review of Pure Dead Magic

Pure Dead MagicI read this book for the Middle Grade Reading Challenge. I think I got it from just book surfing on Amazon and it interested me when I read what the book was about.

Pure Dead Magic is about the Strega-Borgia family who live in Strega Schloss. The family consists of; Signor and Signora Strega-Borgia, their daughter Pandora, their son Titus, and their little baby Damp. There is also Strega-Nonna who is the great great great great great great grandmother to the family and freezes herself in a freezer (aka cryogenics) while she waits for the cure for old age. Also part of the family, are several pets (not the typical kind of pets like a cat or a dog. These pets include a yeti, a griffin, and a dragon to name a few examples.) The story starts off with Signora Strega-Borgia looking for the perfect nanny while the children attempt to scare her away (like they did with previous nannies). Signora Strega-Borgia is in a bit of a bind, she needs to go to her witchcraft classes and her husband is nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, little do they know that her husband has been kidnapped and he’s trapped with no place to go. The entire household is in chaos and you’re left wondering through the book as one thing happens after another, if all of this is going to work out in the end.

Chaotic is one word to really describe this book. Although it was fun to read what they all go through I think this book would have made a very interesting movie (should it ever go that way). Think of The Addams Family and their kookiness, mixed with a bit of style of Lemony Snicket and add in a bit of Mary Poppins and you get Pure Dead Magic. I enjoyed reading this book! it was a fun light read and there were particular parts of the book that actually got me laughing out loud. It is quirky and kooky and you could say even rather strange at first to read but once you get engaged into the storyline then the reading experience is quite fun.

The plot was certainly engaging, and by reading the first page it actually takes you into the book head first so be prepared. I liked it, yet on the other hand, I found it a little too engaging. It just seems like there’s just way too much going on and you have a hard time figuring out what’s happening, and it also feels like you need to take a real big deep breath right after each chapter. Sometimes it helps if there’s a small part in the book where everything just take a breather, and the action takes a break while we as readers sort things out with the storyline. The characters are likable and fun, no need for development, or any heavy duty stuff here. Like mentioned before, it’s a light read to take a break from the heavy duty ones.

Overall, a fast, light read, with a lot of room left at the end for several more books ahead. I’ll be picking them up whenever I need the urge to laugh or when I need to take a break from the heavier deeper books. Sometimes it’s good to read childrens novels just to take a break from the serious books and to enjoy the quirky kooky funny ones as well.

Overall I give it a 9 out of 10.

Review of Pride and Prescience

Pride and PrescienceI’ve seen this book in some book blogs while blog hopping. It caught my eye as first, it was a cozy and recently I’ve been in a cozy mystery addiction and also it features the newly married Mr and Mrs Darcy! I’m also starting to like these Jane Austen spinoffs so this book practically gives me double the fix in two genres I’m starting to like a lot.

Pride and Prescience (or, a Truth Universally Acknowledged) has Elizabeth and Darcy newlywed and ready to enjoy their marriage when there’s sudden news; Caroline Bingley is also engaged to be married and the marriage is about to happen soon. Of course Elizabeth find this ill timed, it’s hardly a coincidence that Caroline probably planned this so she can have the limelight as well. Caroline is engaged to a rich and charming American who has decided to move to England and buy land and settle down. All seems well, until strange things happen, horses get spooked, accidents happens in carriages, sleepwalking, and even possible attempted suicide. Elizabeth and Darcy try to get into the heart of the matter, and find a sinister plot with things happening that can’t even be explained rationally.

This is one of the better cozies I have come across so far in my cozy mystery reading experience. It feels like you’re reading one of those old English gothic novels. It has a good mixture of supernatural mystery to satisfy those in need of a creepy but not so creepy experience, and there’s a good plot and regular mystery behind it, making you try to guess who is behind all of these strange coincidences. I liked it how they brought in most of the characters from Pride and Prejudice it was nice to see them once again, and to have Elizabeth and Darcy solving the mystery together can’t get any better than that. They both have the wit, and the sharp mindedness that brings them even closer together. Of course they have their disagreements as well, which is nice to see, as their arguing takes you back to the days when they didn’t get along at all in the beginning of Pride and Prejudice.

I’m happy to see not much drastic change has happened to most of the characters in the book. The scandal behind Mr Hurst seems believable and makes sense considering his vices. Naturally, it was nice to see Caroline hasn’t changed, until later in the book but there’s a reason for it as you will see if you pick up this novel. There are a few twists and turns in the plot to keep you guessing as to who might have been behind the entire plot, although I did figure it out eventually before it was said. That might have become a disappointment as I would have liked to have been surprised, but the action at the end (there’s a fighting sequence!) made up for it and proved to be exciting to read. I thought it was a good book, I was so interested in it, it didn’t take me that long to read, and the ending was satisfying despite it being a little obvious who was behind the plot. I thought the little addition of supernatural “forces” at work was a neat little addition. It was subtle and not too overpowering to make it seem ridiculous. It worked seamlessly with the plot and made it more exciting.

I will definitely be pursuing other books in this series, and I am hoping the second book after this will be just as good as the first one. Overall, a great read, perfect for those that love Darcy and Lizzy, but are in the mood for a cozy mystery as well. Give it a try! it was an exceptional read.

I give it a 9 out of 10.

Musing Monday 12/21

Note: I’m semi back on track here after moving! I now have not one but TWO places to place my books in (my apartment and my dad’s place) so that means more room to fill books with hahah! won’t be doing my usual Monday Combo today, let’s just say I took WAY too many books from the library yesterday and those books still need some reorganizing. So for today just a Musing Monday! enjoy! (it’s an old Musing Monday, but I decided to participate nevertheless)

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about library etiquette…

For the regular library patrons among us: do you have your own idea of what constitutes proper library etiquette? Is there anything you always try to do? Anything you hate when others do?

– Oh gosh where do I start with this one? proper library etiquette…well, cell phones should be turned off or put to vibrate. People shouldn’t eat at the library (I’ve seen people bring in McCrap’s into the place), people should actually LINE UP to get their books taken out instead of letting their kids out of the leash so they can run up to the self checkout stations without lining up and so that gives the parent the frakking excuse to get ahead of everybody else (yes..this happens, frequently..and you can’t understand how much I hate that..a lot..it makes me want to grind my teeth and makes me want to scream at the parent to  tell their  bloody kids to learn to line up to wait to use something instead of cutting in front of everyone else.)

Things I can’t stand besides the mini rant mentioned above? people who bring food into the library annoy me, oh and why can’t people return books on time????, people who rip pages out of a book and return it and then someone like me tries to read it and wonders why the hell doesn’t this make sense, oh and another thing, the library is supposed to be a rather semi quiet place..why do parents insist on letting their children run amok and screaming as if they entered Disneyland the moment they go through the door?

I always return the book in the same condition I took it out. I never dog ear pages (another pet peeve of mine) and always return my books on time unless by some fluke I miss a date (in which case, the hombre would be on my arse about it since it’s his card I’m using)

Okay! I’m done rambling! I’ll step down from my soapbox now.

Sunday Salon: Review of The Courtesan

The CourtesanBefore you decide to go and pursue this novel, I strongly recommend reading the first book of the Cheney Sisters which is The Dark Queen, as The Courtesan follows events right after it. Characters from the previous novel are also mentioned and featured. Also, things in this book also have lots of references to the other one, although some of it is enough for you to understand so you don’t really have to read it..but it’s nice to read things in order isn’t it?

The Courtesan follows Gabrielle, the middle child of the three Cheney sisters who after a traumatic event, has given up being a daughter of the earth and pursues the life of a courtesan. Her ultimate goal; to seduce the King of Navarre so she can be Queen herself. However she doesn’t realize her plans are about to be interrupted by Catherine de Medici (The Dark Queen herself) who wants to keep her position of authority as Queen. Also added into the mix, is Nicolas Remy, who is deeply in love with Gabrielle. Gabrielle also loves and cares for him but she’s still scared of being in love. Everyone else has a hidden agenda and it’s up to Gabrielle to really decide what she really wants out of her life; to be truly happy with someone she loves, or to follow her ambitions?

This book was good! Gabrielle is by far the most exciting sister to read about! I loved the intrigue in the court and how beneath everyone’s plans there’s always a hidden agenda of what they really want. This is a great mix of historical fiction mixed with paranormal and fantasy. The plot was interesting, the romance was there but I was able to tolerate it, and the ending was great and I’m really looking forward to the next book. There is also a helpful author’s note at the end of the novel to explain what’s fact and fiction – very helpful and a nice explanation done by Susan Carroll.

I really liked how each Cheney sister has her own unique personality and characteristics. Ariane the oldest, is very calm, a healer, and strong. Gabrielle is quite the opposite, she’s reckless, ambitious, outspoken, and stubborn. Miri, the youngest, has an affinity with animals, but tries to see the good in everybody. Each of them has a love interest and although I liked Ariane and Renard, Gabrielle and Remy were much more passionate and “heated”. There were more explicit scenes in this one – I suppose it makes sense as Gabrielle is a courtesan but I let that slide, her and Remy had a nice chemistry and they just seemed to be great for each other. (I actually think Martin and Miri are rather cute together, I suppose we’ll see what happens next with her in the following book).

There is a good element of plot twisting and surprises, which keeps the plot interesting and keeps you turning the pages. I have to admit, some parts were a little eye rolling; especially when one is in danger and suddenly the rescue team arrives just on time. However I enjoyed this book too much to let that bother me. I did however, manage to shed a tear or two at the last chapter. It got me feeling all warm and fuzzy.

My favorite part, would be when Remy surprises Gabrielle at the masquerade party. It had great descriptions and you can vividly picture Gabrielle’s gown, and the party sounded like something I just wanted to jump into. It was a perfect scene to develop a lot of intrigue and mystery into the plot!

Overall I recommend this book to those that love a good historical fiction, mixed with magic and passionate romance, with a very passionate couple.

I give it an 8 out of 10.