Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lover Reborn [Ward]

Book: Lover Reborn [Black Dagger Brotherhood #10]
Author: J.R. Ward

Review: Tohrment is still struggling with the death of Wellsie (his shellan) and their unborn child but continues to fight the lessers every night with his brothers. He fights without abandon and seems to have a death wish himself. He doesn't know that Wellsie is stuck in the 'In Between' and cannot enter the Fade until he lets her go.  Lassister, the fallen-angel who rescued Tohr, tries to explain what is happening to Wellsie and tries to help Tohr move forward. Wellsie is quickly running out of time, but Tohr cannot let go of the love of his life. When he gets a second chance at love, he fights his feelings and tries to get over overwhelming guilt. Meanwhile, a new group of vampires is fighting the lessers and challenging Wrath's (the Blind King) throne, while Xhex and John Matthew struggle with their relationship.

After the disastrous 'Lover Mine,' I was hesitant to read another BDB book but I'm glad my friend Jill mailed me this book. It was great! Without question, the best BDB book yet. Ward toned down the crazy slang (I realize this is urban fantasy but it can be over the top, considering the vampires in question are hundreds of years old) and Tohr was a sympathetic lead. It would be difficult for anyone to deal such a traumatic loss and it provided a strong back story to build upon. Lassister was a fantastic, funny character and I hope to see more of him in future books. The Band of Bastards, while the BDB's nemesis in this book have potential to form an allegiance and serve as leads in future books. I could have done without the Xhex/John Matthew drama (as readers of this blog know, I am not a fan of them!), but I still devoured this in about two nights. 

Grade: A-

Interview with the Vampire [Rice]

Book: Interview with the Vampire [The Vampire Chronicles book #1]
Author: Anne Rice

Review: Vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac tells a reporter the story of his almost 200 year life. His story begins in 1791 as a plantation owner living near New Orleans. When his brother suddenly dies, Louis cannot cope with his death and engages in destructive behavior. He is eventually attacked by the vampire Lestat and begs to be killed, but Lestat decides to turn Louis into a vampire. Lestat and Louis become immortal companions, although Louis struggles with being a vampire. **spoiler alert** Lestat eventually turns a young girl into their vampire daughter, setting off a chain of events that has lasting effects on both Lestat and Louis.  

This is my first Anne Rice book and I had high hopes. It is extremely well written, the characters are layered (Rice leaves enough mystery with several of the characters to encourage reading the rest of the series) and everything in the novel is very detailed. Overall, I liked this book, however the plot is extremely slow and excruciatingly boring in several sections. There were several nights where I started reading at 9pm and was in a deep sleep before 9:30pm. As a mother of an almost 4 year old, the character of Claudia was extremely disturbing and creepy, especially the sexual undertones. 

Even though this was boring, I still liked the book and will give the next book in the series a try. 

Grade: B-

How To Eat a Cupcake: A Novel [Donohue]

Book: How to Eat a Cupcake: A Novel
Author: Meg Donohue

Review: Estranged friends Julia and Anna are reunited after ten years and open a cupcakery together. They work hard to build a successful business and attempt to rebuild their friendship after difficult high school years destroyed their relationship. Meanwhile, Julia struggles with a past trauma and planning her upcoming wedding, while Anna still tries to comes to terms with her mother's untimely death, while dating a man who seems all wrong for her. 

"How To Eat a Cupcake" is boring chick lit with completely unoriginal ideas. Julia and Anna are childhood best friends. Julia (tall, blond, reserved) is the daughter of a wealthy family, while Anna (short, dark, curvy, full of personality) is the daughter of the nanny. Talk about stereotypes. The girls have a falling out in high school which ruins their friendship. The "big reveal" of what happened was certainly poor behavior on Julia's part and I felt bad for Anna, but for Anna to hold resentment for years was juvenile and ridiculous. Julia's "secret trauma" is easy to figure out and Anna's constant complaints about everything were overwhelming. Both girls were unlikable although I will admit they kind of grew on me by the end. The best part of this book were the rotating narratives, which gave me enough of a break to completely not hate either character. This book had the potential to at least be funny, but there were few (if any) laugh out loud moments. 

This is chick-lit that can be skipped. 

Grade: C

Hercule Poirot's Christmas [Christie]

Book: Hercule Poirot's Christmas [Hercule Poirot #20]
Author: Agatha Christie

Review: Wealthy Simeon Lee invites his family over for a traditional English Christmas. It is not a benevolent gesture however, as Simeon plans to play a cruel game with everyone's emotions by pitting them against each other and threatening to change his will. Tensions rise when Simeon's youngest and estranged son, Harry, arrives. As well as Simeon's granddaughter Pilar, who no one has met before. The stress in the house continues to rise when the son of Simeon's old business partner shows up unexpectedly. When Simeon is found murdered in a locked room, there are no shortage of suspects. Lucky for the Lee family, Hercule Poirot happens to visiting nearby and offers his assistance.

This is a locked room mystery (i.e. victim found in a room locked from the inside) so I really concentrated while reading this trying to figure out the clues. Once again, Christie did an excellent job creating a vivid cast of characters that all seemed to have a motive for the murder. I was 100% SHOCKED at the killer and did not suspect this individual throughout the book. An excellent, well crafted mystery. One of the best Agatha Christie books I've read to date. 

Grade: A-

Five Little Pigs [Christie]

Book: Five Little Pigs [Hercule Poirot #24]
Author: Agatha Christie

Review: Sixteen years after Caroline Crale was convicted of murdering her husband, her (now adult) daughter employs the services of Hercule Poirot to clear her mother's name. Unfortunately, Caroline died in prison and the case is considered solved, but Poirot is intrigued by the challenge. He seeks out the key players during the case, re-interviews them  and then asks them to write their own account of the crime. 

What makes this book unique is that this is essentially a cold case and forensics are not what we have today. Poirot investigates and solves this case strictly by interviewing the key players in the case and by reading their own accounts of the case. Each character was well developed and it was feasible that anyone could have killed Caroline's temperamental, artistic (cheating) husband. I find myself reading these books now with a notebook in hand, trying to figure out the elements of the crime. A good, fun mystery I highly recommend to fellow mystery lovers. 

Grade: B

The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side [Christie]

Book: The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side [Miss Marple #12]
Author: Agatha Christie

Review: When Heather Babcock drinks a poisonous cocktail meant for American movie star Marina Gregg, Miss Marple is on the case. Who wants Marina Gregg dead? Is her husband fed up with her temperamental ways? What about her adopted children, who she abandoned when they were young? Then there is her husband's ex-wife (he cheated on her with Marina) who is back in town. So many suspects. Miss Marple and the local police are on the case, trying to figure out who killed Heather and trying to figure out if another attempt will be made on Marina. 

This was a good read. All of the characters were well developed. We have a fragile movie star, her steady, understanding husband, efficient staff members and a seemingly nice woman in town who appears to be killed accidentally. Who could have done it? I must be on a roll because I actually figured out part of this one as well. Go Christine! I did not figure out every aspect of the crime(s) but once again, I love Miss Marple and her investigative skills. I definitely recommend this book for mystery fans. 

Grade: B+ 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Murder is Announced [Christie]

Book: A Murder is Announced [Miss Marple #5]
Author: Agatha Christie

Review: One morning, in a small English village, a notice in the local newspaper announces "a murder" that will take place at 6:30pm at someone's house. Neighbors arrive thinking a fun murder game is going to take place. Everyone is excited until the would be "murderer" almost shoots the owner of the house with a real bullet and then seems to commit suicide immediately afterward. Local police are baffled. Luckily, Miss Marple is nearby vacationing and helps solve the case.

I figured this one out!! Yay! I knew who the murdered was almost immediately. I didn't figure out all of the exact motives to the crime but I'll still consider it a 'success' on my part. Overall, a good read. Christie does a great job creating red herrings, although they weren't as strong in this book as others. Miss Marple once again remains in the background. I enjoyed it. 

Grade: B

The Moving Finger [Christie]

Book: The Moving Finger [Miss Marple #4]
Author: Agatha Christie

Review: Siblings Jerry and Joanna move to the country to help Jerry recuperate from an injury. As they adjust to the slow country life, they receive an anonymous letter accusing them to be lovers. They soon discover that many residents are receiving anonymous letters (with incorrect accusations). Things become serious when the solicitor's wife commits suicide after the paternity of her son is challenged. The local police try to figure out what is going on, but when the vicar's wife calls in her old, dear friend, Miss Marple, the case is eventually solved.

This was a fun read. I enjoyed Jerry as the primary voice of the book. Seeing him and his sister adjusting to country life was interesting and I did not figure out the mystery. As always, Miss Marple stayed in the background as a secondary character which makes the big reveal that much more exciting. This book would have received an "A" except I could not stand the character Megan. Megan was the daughter of woman who committed suicide. I could not muster any sympathy for the girl. Otherwise, a good read. So far, Miss Marple is my favorite of the Agatha Christie series. 

Grade: B

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

All About Passion [Laurens]

Book: All About Passion [Cynster #7]
Author: Stephanie Laurens

Review: Giles Chillingworth, a well known rake within the ton, realizes he needs a wife to help manage land and estate. He decides to enter a marriage of convenience with Francesca, a distant cousin with Italian heritage whose dowry will bring him additional land. Giles is so determined to treat this union as a business transaction, he doesn't even want to meet his bride-to-be before the ceremony. He is shocked to discover that he does know Francesca, and the physical passion between them is something he cannot ignore. As Giles and Francesca develop a strong physical bond, Francesca tries to break down the barriers to his heart. As Francesca and Giles work on their marriage, a series of events leads them to believe someone is making attempts on Francesca's life.

I enjoyed Chillingworth in the previous Cynster books and thought this would be interesting. Unfortunately, this book was extremely boring. Most of the book seemed to focus on Francesca managing household duties and the "mystery" was ridiculous, even by romance novel standards. This book can be skipped. 

Grade: C