Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Smoke Jumper [Evans]

Book: The Smoke Jumper
Author: Nicholas Evans
Genre: Fiction

Review: Best friends Ed (a musician with high aspirations) and Connor (a rancher and photographer) are smoke jumpers (firefighters that skydive into national forest fires) during the summers in Montana. When Ed's girlfriend Julia joins them one summer, a close bond grows between the three friends. That bond is impacted for life when a terrible forest fire has devastating repercussions for them all.

Beautifully written, this book evoked tears, laughter, overwhelming sadness and eventual satisfaction. Although slow at times and long winded (a good portion of the book follows Connor as he photographs war tragedies in Afghanistan and Africa, which were interesting but tedious) this was an engaging read that I recommend.

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

Monday, June 7, 2010

Spirit Bound [Mead]

Book: Spirit Bound [Vampire Academy #5]
Author: Richelle Mead
Genre: YA: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review: After graduating from high school, Rose and Lissa head to court where Lissa prepares for college and Rose awaits her guardian assignment. Meanwhile, Rose commences her plan to 'rescue' Dimitri from his Strigoi state with her friends assistance.

I have mixed feelings about this book. Our heroine Rose has always been feisty, funny and selfless, but her portrayal in this book seemed inconsistent with previous installments. She risked the lives of Lissa and another friend to break a criminal out of prison (I'll just ignore the ridiculousness of 3 teens, just out of high school breaking into a high security prison with minimal effort) with the prospect that Victor (the criminal) may help "save" her true love Dimitri. Meanwhile, when she gets the chance to kill Dimitri, she freezes and cannot do it. This results in multiple deaths that Rose doesn't seem to harbor much guilt for.

Meanwhile, Lissa is able to successfully charm a stake (once again, let's ignore that she could barely charm a piece of jewelry with weeks of practice but managed this super complicated charm in a few days..) and somehow staked Dimitri (hmm....Lissa, who we know is physically weak stabs him not once but 3 times on her own while Dimitri can't fight her off...granted he was burning but it doesn't seem feasible the strongest guardian of all time would just stand there). That being said, I enjoyed Lissa's storyline in this book, especially the rekindling of her relationship with Christian and her emerging strength as a character. Christian has always been one of my favorites and I enjoyed all of his scenes.

After Dimitri is 'saved' from his Strigio state, he doesn't want to see Rose. I found this portrayal very honest-he killed many people, tried to kill her and he is embarrassed by his actions. He needs time. Rose is offended and insensitive to his feelings, reducing her to a crying, selfish ex-girlfriend who I just wanted to throttle with her constant self-obsessed complaining. Meanwhile, she has a boyfriend (Adrian) who she does not love (she is aware the relationship isn't right, says so many times yet keeps him hanging) and it is very sad to read.

Finally, after the Moroi pass a controversial new law, Rose mouths off to the queen but her language and behavior is so over the top (even for Rose) that I question how the maturity of her character (who made great strides in the previous book) could fall so fast. A predictable ending was not too much of a cliffhanger, but the appearance of Rose's eccentric father Abe shows promise for the final installment coming in December.

While there were many issues with the book (Rose went from one of my favorite heroines to someone I wanted to repeated slap across the face), I read this book in one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed it. Mead knows how to write an interesting book!

Book Junkie's Grade: B

Guilty Pleasure [Leigh]

Book: Guilty Pleasure
Author: Lora Leigh
Genre: Romance - Erotica

Review: FBI agent Marty Matthews has been following terror suspect Khalid for years but her assignment has been called off when it is clear he is innocent. Marty has been interested in Khalid for years, and now she is free to seduce him. Unfortunately-as they embark on a sensual journey they must battle Khalid's family who is bent on revenge.

This book started off okay but quickly went downhill. Leigh should stick with what she does best-love scenes. The love scenes in this book were lacking and she instead focused on a terror plot. Let's be clear here-no one reading an erotic book is looking for a book focused more on the mystery/terror surrounding the characters than the romance, but if it is well written, we'll deal with it. This book was not well written. It was horrible-stay away!

Book Junkie's Grade: D

Switch [Hart]

Book: Switch
Author: Megan Hart
Genre: Romance - Erotica

Review: A divorcee in her mid-20's, Paige struggles with her feelings for her ex-husband Austin and her growing attraction to a young doctor in her apartment building. While she struggles not to make the same mistakes as her mother, she embarks on a journey of self discovery.

Hart is the great writer and while I enjoyed this book, I felt emotionally disconnected from Paige. Overall-a good read.

Book Junkie's Grade: B-

Dead in the Family [Harris]

Book: Dead in the Family [Sookie Stackhouse #10]
Author: Charlaine Harris
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review: Sookie Stackhouse has been through a lot in her lifetime, but after surviving the fae war and horrible torture, she is (reasonably in my opinion) working through a form of depression in this book and trying to stay positive. This book read like 3 short stories woven together: Sookie and Eric are dating but the relationship is strained when Eric's maker comes to town with his unstable 'son.' Sookie is called on by Alcide to help with a were situation. And finally-her cousin Claude moves in with her and she tries to figure out a fae mystery. While each story was good and they are loosely tied together in the end, none of them 'gripped' me. I was disappointed in Eric's portrayal (it was nice to see his sensitive side but he was borderline weak) and I really enjoyed the fae aspects of the book as I had previously read somewhere that the fae storylines were over so it was a nice surprise. I'm looking forward to what Harris does next.

Book Junkie's Grade: B-

Lover Mine [Ward]

Book: Lover Mine [Black Dagger Brotherhood #8]
Author: J.R. Ward
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review: After Xhex is kidnapped and tortured by Lash, she escapes and seeks revenge along with John Matthew. As they join forces, they seek to heal their own wounds while exploring their feelings for each other.

Let me start off by saying that while I've enjoyed this series, I have never been a fan of John Matthew. I realize he is supposed to be the incarnation of Darius-but I've found him whiny, self-absorbed and annoying in every book. This book was no exception. While he has had a troubled childhood and a traumatic experience, compared to the 100s of years of history the other brothers have experienced..he just doesn't compare. Here are my main concerns with this book:

*Slang: Ward has always been a fan of slang and I felt it was used just enough in previous books but it was so over the top in this installment I kept shaking my head thinking-no one talks like this. When every character is speaking in slang it just loses its authenticity.

*Recycled Plots: John Matthew thinks Xhex is dead and vows to avenge her, but tries to hide his true feelings for her from the brothers.....same plot in the beginning of Z's book when Bella has been kidnapped. Also-the entire Blay/Quinn storyline was like a watered down version of V/Butch. Unfortunately for Blay and Quinn, because they are so young, it read more like 2 fraternity guys with feelings for each other but I still felt their storyline (which ended abruptly and without a satisfying conclusion) was the best of the book.

*Sign Language: this is probably nitpicking (okay-it is, I admit it!) but to say that John Matthew was signing sentences letter by letter to communicate is just ridiculous. ASL takes years to learn (while many of the characters seemed to pick it up in no time at all) but the amount of time it would take to sign words in the manner in which he was supposedly doing is completely unrealistic.

*Lash: Ward has done a great job building up Lash in previous installments and he quickly became my favorite villain of the series. His downfall in this book seemed rushed and anti-climatic. I can only hope he is brought back in future installments.

*Romance: There was no romance between Xhex and John Matthew!

*Beth: John Matthew has a sister, and while we hear him complain time and time again about how lonely he is, etc etc he never seeks her out (or vice versa). Ward had a great opportunity here to develop a relationship between them.

*Darius/Torh Flashback: Every few chapters there was a flashback with Darius and Torh that should have been condensed to a few pages and used as an intro to the book. The sections were too long, too boring, and the 'old language' too ridiculous.

*The Brotherhood: Where were the brothers in this book? They were barely mentioned. Their interactions are my favorite part of the series. And speaking of the brothers-when are John Matthew, Blay and Quinn going to be inducted into the Brotherhood?

Overall-a very disappointing read, but like I said-I was never a fan of John Matthew. I'll still read the next installment and hope for more 'Brotherhood' interaction.

Book Junkie's Grade: D

The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2 [various authors]

Book: The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2
Author: multiple
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review: 'The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2' contains 25 unrelated short stories that are generally well written. While each story contained an element of romance and hint of happy ever after, it was hard for me to get emotionally involved in 30 or so pages. Although I breezed through the almost 600 page book quickly, I wouldn't recommend it unless you enjoy short stories.

Book Junkie's Grade: C