Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Wind in Montana by Mitch Davies

This is a young adult novel. It addresses so many issues that teens must deal with. First of all, the setting is Great Falls, Montana. A lot of the novel takes place in school. The hero is Rory. Rory is dealing with young love/lust. He's experimenting sexually and dealing with all the feelings involved in that. He must deal with having a girlfriend, being dumped, attraction to another chick and all that fun stuff. And let's not forget, having a car. But Rory's main issue is: He wants to do what he wants to do, not what everyone else wants him to do. He wants to focus on chemistry. Everybody else wants him to play the tuba or shoot baskeball hoops. 

Rory stands up for himself, but there's a psychotic band instructor at every turn...

Meanwhile, Rory develops a crush on Victoria. Victoria is a very likable chick. She's an oboe player and she's got band camp going on and decisions about college or music schools to make. Rory isn't the only one interested in her either.. There's this German musician who comes into the picture.. could she return the feelings?

Though Rory and Victoria are drawn together during high school  their future desires may tear them apart.. or the adults in their lives.. or the German fellow... or...

I laughed when Rory and his buds went to a whorehouse and I grew angry with the way the adults treated Rory and Victoria sometimes. I also got a kick out of mustard bomb.

I think it's a good story with lots of twists and side stories, but I have two issues bringing it down to a three star rating.. 1. Too much telling, not enough showing. I too often felt on the outside looking in instead of feeling as though I was in the thick of it. 2. Too much details (makes the book unnecessarily long for what it contains) about the kids' everyday lives.. especially when their summer break starts. I don't need to know what time Alyssa's (can't remember the exact spelling and it's an ebook so can't flip back and look.. would take too long.. ) parents do this or that at all hours of the day. Also, Rory's chemistry projects. It's not a subject I have ever enjoyed so I somewhat spaced out in those parts.

I think young adults will relate to it, especially those with musical inclinations, an interest in chemistry and any teenager that is experiencing sexuality for the first time. But I especially recommend it for those who simply want to do what they want to do and are tired of adults telling them what they want do do or should do. Because more than anything, it's about kids finding themselves and making their own decisions.

I got this in ebook format from the author.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas: Santa is a Lady by L.J. Holmes

I don't do Christmas, but out of respect for those that do (like the rest of world almost) I decided to a Christmas blog post and thus, read a Christmas book.. and my choice was Santa is a Lady. How could I resist a title like that?

Here's the 411. The local Santa Claus impersonator was busted for kiddie porn on his computer. The owner of a candy store is left in a rut. No Santa for the kiddies and with just four days till Christmas, no other jolly giant elves available so she enlists the aid of her best friend, Angie to be Santa...

Angie has a disability. She's been badly banged up in a car wreck, has a limp, and is almost blind. She rarely leaves her house but she agrees to be Santa for her friend, Beck. (Beck is a girl) Things go really awry though... Beck turns out to be a mega (I'm thinking 5 letters, first letter B, rhymes with itch..) and Cam, a former Iraq War Veteran brings his daughter into the store and upon discovering Santa is a lady, goes up one side of her and down the other...

Cam has issues of his own and realizes he has lashed out Lady Santa for the wrong reasons. But while Cam and Angie make up and make peace, Angie and Beck have it out and it looks for a while there like Christmas may be ruined before it starts. Can Angie and Beck become friends again? Is something brewing here between Angie and Cam?

I had one issue with this story, making it a four star read. I enjoyed it, it was a feel good, sappy thing, it was short and perfect for the holiday, BUT I was terribly put off the humongous deal made of Santa's beard revealing a woman's face. Um, OK.. the brat/demon spawn/little girl pulled on Santa's beard so why the heck does everyone turn on Santa? I thought everyone was extreme in the overreacting department.. --"You should be ashamed!" he snarled before clomping away. "Get yourself fixed!" Cam heard Beck issue a whispered snarl of her own.--

Though relevant to the story, I was appalled. First of all, tell your brat/demon spawn/child not to pull on people's beards cause though I've never had a beard of my own (thank goodness!) I imagine it hurts. And how is it Santa's fault you got a rude beard pulling child, regardless of the sex under the suit?

That part just didn't make sense to me. I certainly wouldn't date the man who snarled at ME cause HIS kid pulled my beard off my face. LOL However, there is more to it than that.. could have something to do with the kid calling Santa "mama." I mentioned that Cam has issues... but I won't go into that. Read the book for yourself.

Anyways, that's why Santa is a lady this year. :)

I bought this book on Amazon Kindle.

The Vote by Sybil Downing

If you haven't figure out what this book is about just from looking at the title... It's about this:

Alice Paul
In 1918, there was not only a war going on overseas, but also a war right here in the States, the war for women. Women wanted, deserved, demanded the right to vote. At the head of this war were two women, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. They headed the NWP (Shame on you, ladies, if you don't know your women's history. National Women's Party for those that don't know.) These women arranged a picket line in front of the white house. Everyday, women stood out there with banners appealing to President Wilson. And they were arrested. They were thrown in Occoquan prison at one point and the heroine of this tale, Kate, a young girl from Colorado goes with them. Her and Lucy Burns are just two of the incarcerated women thrown in with cockroaches and rats and fed bug infested gruel for fourteen days while forced to work sun up till sun down.
Lucy in Occoquan
Though Kate was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, she stands up with the women of NWP and decides to join them after their 14 days is up. She defies her mother and father back in Colorado and goes from stuffing envelopes to organizing peaceful protests in parks, which gets her arrested again.

She is sent back to her hometown to convince the Colorado Senator who is also a close family friend to change the upcoming Amendment vote in the women's favor OR the NWP will get him out of office. This causes much friction with Kate's family. Meanwhile, there's a budding romance, but the fellow in Kate's sights may be spying on the NWP... and we can't have that...

BUT this chick does what she has to and hooks up with another chick, head of a union, Mary Daly.  I got to confess, at this point, the book got a bit dull (around page 210 or so) because as Kate runs around and visits the press and politicians, it gets repetitive.  I also seen the movie, Iron Jawed Angels not too long ago so I knew what was going to happen. 

I thoroughly enjoyed all the parts involving Lucy Burns and Alice Paul and I never get tired of reading about women's rights so I really liked this book. I had one minor quibble in the beginning. I found myself a bit bothered when the book points out that all people of color are valets or floor scrubbers. I know good jobs were not available to non whites back then, but the race issue not being a part of the book, I failed to see why that was pointed out.  It came off as a bit degrading and I found myself wondering if the heroine was a racist. After the first quarter, however, the issue never came up again.

Four stars and this was a library book.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Forbidden Places by Penny Vincenzi

I wanted to like this book for two reasons. 1. The publisher sent it to me, in a lovely hardback (I want to note the hardback part underneath the cover is PINK!!!) 2. I have read this author previously and found her work enjoyable for the most part. However, I didn't like this novel and I must be honest.

Quick summary: The book follows three women, Grace, Florence, and Clarissa. Grace is marrying a man "above her station" who is the brother of Florence. Florence is stuck in an abusive marriage (personally, I think she just didn't have the balls to leave.. but.. ) and Clarissa used to be engaged to Grace's husband. World War II comes and the men leave.. and these three women either grow up, have affairs, have babies and ponder who the daddy is, take in country evacuees, or work for the WRENs. Lots of drama and very soap opera like.

What I liked: The style is very similar to that of Catherine Cookson.

What I hated: Grace.. Until page 500, she has no balls at all, no courage. She just does what her husband tells her, sits there quietly, la de da. One point in her favor: She keeps the kids despite her husband's demand she not. (Read the book, I'm not explaining all 500 pages.. )

Florence... ugh! Any woman that stays in an abusive marriage, has a baby and tells two separate men they are the fathers, lies through her teeth left and right, deserves to be slapped around!

Clarissa... I liked her just fine (except for all her "darling this" and "darling that") until her husband gets badly maimed in the war and she whines that he looks repulsive and acts like his life is over cause he is OMG! UGLY! (gasp!)

And I'm leaving it at that. One point in this book's favor though: the WWII details. I really felt I was in England during that trying time. The book does not lack realism or historical facts.

Overall, a disappointment for me. I didn't like the women at all. Two stars.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Spy Wore Red by Aline, Countess of Romanones

This is a memoir, but told in way that makes it hard to distinguish fact from fiction, even though it is from the first person POV. Aline is an American model during world war II with two brothers overseas fighting in the war. She wants to be over there as well so when an opportunity to be a spy for the "baby CIA," called the OSS at the time comes up, she jumps at the chance and heads to Washington for training.
The Spy Wore Red: My Adventures as an Undercover Agent in World War II
This is the part I liked. I liked reading about invisible inks, crawling around on the ground, weapons, and code. Aline also begins a bit of a romance with a fellow operative, nothing really juicy though the man does pop into her window while she is in Spain to steal a kiss. (sigh) The romance stays clean though.

Once Aline goes to Spain... and you would expect the action to pick up here.. it goes downhill for me. I didn't find her to be a very good spy. Her cover is blown from the get go obviously as she is constantly followed and her room is searched. She pretty much (in a fellow operative's words) is a "fashionable front." It becomes a name dropping episode as she parties with this count, converses with this countess, has a shooting match with that prince, and has a bull fighter wooing her by day. All the while, she is no closer to finding out the purpose of her mission: finding the mole in the OSS.

She's such a bad spy that while taking a bath in her Malaga hotel room, someone enters her room. She assumes it's the maid and hollers out "Would you please close the door? I'm in the tub?" Well, um, duh. Naturally her room is totally searched and ransacked while she washes her hair.

Thus, I had some issues with the book so three stars. I liked the beginning and the training parts more than the mission itself. Also, the ending.... good, but I knew it was coming from page 100. It was no surprise.

This was a library book.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Postmortem by Laurel Saville

PostmortemThis is a memoir and an eye opening story of what alcohol abuse can do to a family. The author writes about her mother and spending the first thirteen years of her life watching her mother decline day by day. Her mother was a alcoholic. This story shows how a once beautiful, coddled woman, given every advantage a young lady in the thirties could have, a model, a talented artist, a dress designer ends up being a single mother of three, jobless, with vagrants and drunks coming in and out of her home until finally she ends up dead in her bed with her panties around her ankles and her throat strangled with a one eyed dog barking at the police.

It's a memoir of the sixties, of hippy parties, of free love and a nine or ten year old girl forced to swim naked in a pool with adults, forced to walk past coupling people in her own living room, forced to find her naked mother getting slapped around by a boyfriend's drunken friends, forced to wash her own clothes in a bathtub and run to KFC for food. The further into the book I read, the more disturbed I became as her mother's "illness" progresses to the point that she yells and curses at her daughter, allows her numerous boyfriends to hit on her daughter and grows jealous over her daughter instead of protective. There were moments I had to set the book down, I was so upset.

Def. a thumbs up to Ms. Saville to have the courage to share this shocking story. She reveals some very intimate things about her life, her mother, her feelings and fears. I give it four instead of five stars because there were some parts that bored me.  I feel she went on a bit too much about paintings and photographs and except for the interesting part about her grandfather's metal aircraft he designed (WAY COOL!!), I didn't care so much about reading about her grandparents. They seemed like normal, well meaning people, but that doesn't make for intriguing reading.

Four stars. I highly recommend it for people who like memoirs about dysfunctional families, but brace yourselves. It's a shocker.

I received this in ebook format from Amanda at getredPR.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Murder at the Luther by Kathleen Kaska

This is the second in a historical hotels mystery series following Syndney, a young woman journalist in 1953 as she tours famous hotels and while attempting to write a human interest story, always finds herself involved in a murder.  In this case, she is at the Luther Hotel's (Est. in Palacios, Texas in 1903) New Year's Eve ball when a man she has a bird watching date with falls dead at her feet.  Her finger prints are on the weapon and an overzealous sheriff up for re election arrests her.  After one day in jail, Sydney must find the real murdered in order to clear her own name.. or she is going back to the jail cell.

People are trying to kill her as she uncovers a corrupt plan involving a greedy ex wife and an oil company and hired goons.  Sydney's hotel room becomes a hub full of interesting, crazy, lunatic, and drunk people and even a "long lost relative," supposedly...  And of course, cousin Ruth shows up.  I don't like Ruth and I think the books would be better without her and thus, the four star rating instead of five.  In this installment, especially, I found Ruth's character annoying and most of the time, unnecessary. 

Still a good mystery though.  Favorite laugh out loud moment: (When Sydney hitches a ride with a man on a tractor, the following occurs) "I bade him goodbye and jumped down, and as I did my gun went off and shot a hole in his radiator.  I ran back, handed him another five, took off down the street, and didn't look back.  If I survived this day, I'd give serious thought about attending Mass on a regular basis."

I bought this book on Amazon kindle.  For those interested in this series, the first one was Murder at the Arlington. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Girl Who Ran With Horses by David Michael

Stevie is a thirteen year old girl with some healing to do.  Her mom walked out on the family years ago and one of her brothers has died in the last year.  She plans to do her healing over her summer break by riding her horses around barrels.  But it seems her dad and her brother, Blake have other ideas. 

Her dad would rather drink his scotch than help her ride, let alone race.  Blake just wants to sell the ranch and run off to college.  Stevie feels both betrayed and abandoned as she fears the ranch is going to be sold out from under her, the only home she has ever known and her dad will send her back to Tulsa to live with her aunt and uncle.  But Antlers, Oklahoma is her home, where her heart and her horses are.  She's either gonna have to save the ranch or come to terms with the change.

This is the author's niece, Heather, who was the inspiration for this story.
This photo was taken by David Michael and was the basis for the cover art.
Gorgeous picture, gorgeous horse, gorgeous girl.

Stevie has a real stubborn streak too.  It doesn't help matters that she insists on riding an equally stubborn horse, Jack Rabbit.  Despite her suddenly amazing ability to "feel as one" with the horse and communicate with them, she may run into trouble with her racing even she doesn't listen to what people try to teach her.  She could wind up hurting her horse or herself.  Stevie is about to learn that she is not always right.. the hard way. 

Heather's horse, Cherokee was the inspiration for Jack Rabbit.
"Heather has family in Antlers, and she chose the setting for the story.
She also named Stevie and the rest of the Buckbee family. And most of the horses."

I'm very impressed with the way a male author has written so well about a thirteen year old girl.  Good job, Mr. Michael!  I also like the different topics he manages to tackle in this story.  Alcoholism, grief, abandonment, teen love, and forgiveness.  Except for some typos, I have no complaints.  I really enjoyed this.  I was able to sympathize and understand the heroine even when I felt she was in the wrong and I was moved by the situations.  5 stars.

I got this book on smashwords.  All photos were provided by the author David Michael upon request.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sneak Peak Book Cover: Roma Victrix by Russell Whitfield

I want to take a moment to share with all of you a sneak peak at Russell Whitfield's newest book cover coming out March 15, 2011 from Myrmidon Books.  I say sneak peak because the cover is not yet posted on Amazon so I feel pretty important right now. :)  Anyways.. this is the book I am the most excited about reading in 2011.  So check out this fantastic cover!

The summary (taken from Amazon.  No real sneaky peaky here): Four years have passed since Lysandra's epic but inconclusive battle with her hated rival Sorena in the arena of Halicarnassus and after which both combatants were granted their freedom by the ambitious consul, Trajanus. Now Sorena has found refuge among the Dacian hordes of Decebalus where she leads a vicious troop of horsewomen. Into her hands falls the young tribune Gaius Minervius Valerian and she ponders whether to deal him a slow and painful death or release him to journey back to Rome in shame and ignominy as the sole survivor of the empire's most humiliating defeat for half a millennium. Meanwhile, back in Halicarnassus, Lysandra has become accustomed to easy living and suffered a creeping and insidious addiction to alcohol that, together with her unabated hubris, is sapping both her self esteem and the friendship of those she loves most. But now the Emperor Domitian has called for a command performance at Rome's newly built Flavian Amphitheatre known to history as the Coliseum. Lysandra is invited to fight Rome's adored Gladiatrix Prima, the beautiful and deadly Illeana known as Aesalon Nocturna, the Midnight Falcon. Her record is devastating: thirty bouts; thirty wins- no draws or losses. Lysandra has to face up to all that she is and all that she must become as all roads lead to Rome.

Why am I so excited about this one?  Because I LOVED the first one.  I've never read about a more gutsy and amazing female and you know I love reading about tough chicks.  In case ya'll missed it back when it came out in 2008, here's the first one and my thoughts on it:

Gladiatrix is a fantastic story!! It offers an incredible look at what life may have been like for gladiatrices in early Rome, but amidst the details is a story. An intriguing one at that, full of drama, love, revenge, and war. The reader gets to know Lysandra, a shipwrecked priestess now a gladiatrix slave and her friends as well as enemies thoughout the novel and there is a suspensful build up to a battle to beat all battles, keeping the reader literally on the edge of their seat. The lesbian love scenes were actually very few and the details were tasteful and even romantic, offering a view into the deeper feelings and desires of the characters. As with any novel involving war, there are violent scenes, but I did not feel they were too much. My heart beat actually quickened as tho I was in the arena myself. Lysandra often comes across as extremely arrogant, as well as brave and fierce, but truly an amazing woman in the end.

Gladiatrix would be the perfect movie. Sex, violence, love, and war. It would put Gladiator to shame. 5/5 stars.

I liked this book so much that I am going to RE READ it.  Yes, I know.  I have a pile of 25 books sitting there awaiting my attention and another 25 on my Kindle, but I'm gonna re read this one before Roma Victrix comes out.  And I'm looking forward to it. :)

The Athena Project by Brad Thor

What an exciting read!  I'd love to see this made into a movie.  It's full of action, incredible gadgets, parajumping, high speed chases by boat and motorcycle, and even World War II stuff.  (I'm not sure if the WWII stuff is true.  I doubt it, but it was interesting nonetheless to me, a big fan of books involving that time period.)

But what really makes this book good is the four women the book focuses on.  Alex, Gretchen, Megan, and Julie are a part of a special anti terroism unit consisting of just women: them.  They are the Athena Project.  These chicks can go from evening dresses to night vision goggles in no time.  They put pliers to a guy's balls to get him to talk.  They jump from airplanes and onto skyscrapers and all in an attempt to track down the whereabouts of a top secret project that is in the wrong hands.  The fate of the United States is their shoulders.  If they can't track down the terrorists and the missing, very deadly World War II experiement, it could very well be used against the United States.

They aren't the only ones trying to find it, however.  There are some unsavory spies getting their agents into some top goverment organizations in an attempt to track down the experiment as well.  Who will get to it first?

My only complaint:  Too many characters at times.  I had to flip back in the book every now and then in order to remember which guy so and so was and what he did earlier in the book.  I kept getting them mixed up.  I kept getting the women mixed up too and it didn't help matters that at times the women were referred to by their first names and at other times by their last names.  I couldn't keep them all straight.  Thus, four stars.  However, this little annoyance will not prevent me from reading the second in this new series.

I got this book from the publisher via Shelf Awareness. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Countdown: World War II

Time for this month's Countdown!  What is Countdown?  It's a feature I have started in which I pick a topic, genre, country, or subject and list five books that I have read related to that topic or subject.  There is a 5 star read (loved it!), a four star read (liked it), a three star read (it was okay but had some issues and I'm not recommending it to 5000 people), a two star read (had a LOT of issues, I struggled with it), and the dreaded one star read (I hated it).

This month's topic is World War II. 

The PostmistressFive star read:  The Postmistress by Sarah Blake.  First published in 2009.  The book goes back and forth from England to a small town in the U.S during the war.  The main characters are both women, and very different from each other.  There are numerous secondary characters and each one has their own fascinating story and the war effects them all in some way.  It all came together to make an interesting and tear evoking ending. 

The Kommandant's GirlFour star read:  The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff.  First published in 2001.  The setting is war torn Poland.  The Jewish heroine has been married only a few months when her husband disappears, involved in an underground movement against the Germans.  Rather than go to the Jewish ghetto, she obtains counterfeit papers and obtains a job working for a high ranking Nazi officer to obtain information.. and she must go to extremes to get this information. In the end, however, I found the heroine too stupid to live and wanted to slap her so it didn't hit the five star mark.

Woman in RedThree star read:  Woman in Red by Eileen Goudge.  First published in 2007.  It's one of those "back and forth" books, containing a modern day heroine who just got out of jail and a woman that lived in the same house (the grandmother) during world war II.  The modern day heroine didn't appeal to me much.  She kept making bad decisions.  The world war II heroine had more interesting parts and dealt with more interesting situations.

The Sisterhood of the RoseTwo star read:  Sisterhood of the Rose by Jim Marrs.  First published in 2009.  It is about a network of women that aim to bring down Hitler, but it got ridiculous and unbelievable.  It felt like Barbie and Ken go to Germany to end the war.. and enlist Eva Braun??  Even Mussolini's mistress and daughter joins the group.  Too far fetched.

Gifts of WarOne star read:  Gifts of War by Mackenzie Ford.  First published in 2009.  Most people liked it.  It didn't work for me at all.  I had a very difficult time liking the hero and narrater of the book, a man I considered a stalker and a liar.. Perhaps a liar by omission, but still.. he and the story overall didn't appeal to me.