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Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

Posted by Irish in Uncategorized1 Comment

Publisher: Del Rey
Source: Borrowed from library
Publication Date: 22 Jul 2007
Series or Standalone: Series (order listed below)
ISBN: 0345413369
Format: Paperback
Pages: 304
Philip Pullman – Twitter
Place(s) Traveled to: Oxford, England // Cittàgazze
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

First Line: Will tugged at his mother’s hand and said, “Come on, come on…”

The second book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy, The Subtle Knife picks up right where the Golden Compass left off. Lyra follows Lord Asriel through the rift he made and winds up in a new world. One in which children run around free because the adults are in hiding or on the run for a spirit being called a spector who feeds on them. While in this town Lyra meets a boy named Will who is also from Oxford, although his Oxford is more like our world then hers. Will is searching for his father just as Lyra is searching for hers and it isn’t long before the two have formed a strong friendship.
Many of the characters from the first book also appear in this one and there is the addition of new faces to help move the story along. This book isn’t as fast paced as the first book and there is a lot more running around aimlessly. Lyra’s character also seems to change from the first book. In the first book she was a strong lead. She may not have always been sure of herself but she always had a purpose and would do whatever she could in order to fulfill it. In this book she just seems lost. She has brief moments of her old self but she then becomes pretty subservient to Will. She also rarely uses her alethiometer.
She used it a few times in Will’s Oxford and at one point it told her that she should help Will find his father. For a short time she continues on with her own agenda until her alethiometer is stolen and Will has to help her get it back, with the help of the Subtle Knife of the title that he came into possession of. After they get the alethiometer back she refuses to use it unless directed to by Will and in fact refuses to do anything unless Will gives the ok first. I get that she blames herself for the initial loss of the alethiometer but was it really that life altering?
Overall I liked this story and I will continue on to read the final book in the trilogy. My only hope is that Lyra returns more to the strong willed, sure of herself girl from The Golden Compass. She was smart and funny and was the driving force of the story. While I like the character of Will he just doesn’t have that same something to move the story forward as she did.
Series Order (Click title to be directed to my review)
Buy this book from Barnes & Noble or Amazon


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton

Posted by Irish in Uncategorized0 Comments

Publisher: Ace Books

Source: Purchased
Publication Date: 01 Oct 1993
Series or Standalone: Series (see below for order)
ISBN: 0441304834
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272
Place(s) Traveled to: St. Louis, Missouri
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

First Line: WILLIE MCCOY HAD been a jerk before he died.

In Laurel K. Hamilton’s book Guilty Pleasures we are introduced to Anita Blake, a young, pint sized, spunky girl who has the ability to raise the dead. Anita lives in a world were supernatural beings – vampires, wereanimals, etc – live right alongside humans. By day Anita works for an organization call Animators, Inc and she raises zombies for money. She is also known in the vampire world as The Executioner and if often charged with the task of executing those vampires or other supernatural creatures who do not follow the law.
One morning Anita gets a phone call to attend the bachlorette party of a friend that night at a place in The District (where most of the vampires in the city live/work) called Guilty Pleasures. While there Anita is asked to work for the vampires to search for the person who has been murdering others of their kind. Anita, who hates vampires, refuses. The master vampire of the city, evil incarnate in the form a child, forces Anita’s hand by threatening the life of her friend. With no choice in the matter Anita plunges head first into the case and along the way deals with wereanimals, zombies and people who want to kill her.
I really enjoyed this first book of a series. I found Anita’s character to be likable and funny. She is a flawed persona with a heart of gold. The mystery of the book was enjoyable although not super difficult to figure out. I will certainly be checking out more books in this series to see what happens next in the world of Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter.
Anita Blake Series Order
Book 1: Guilty Pleasures
Book 2: Laughing Corpse
Book 3: Circus of the Damned
Book 4: The Lunatic Cafe
Book 5: Bloody Bones
Book 6: The Killing Dance
Book 7: Burnt Offerings
Book 8: Blue Moon
Book 9: Obsidian Butterfly
Book 10: Narcissus in Chains
Book 11: Cerulean Sins
Book 12: Incubus Dreams
Book 13: Micah (novella)
Book 14: Dance Macabre
Book 15: The Harlequin
Book 16: Blood Noir
Book 17: Skin Trade
Book 18: Flirt (novella)
Book 19: Bullet
Book 20: Hit List
Buy this book from Barnes & Noble or Amazon
Next Up: Finish The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Guardians by Ana Castillo

Posted by Irish in Review0 Comments

Publisher: Random House
Source: Received from publisher for review
Publication Date: 31 July 2007
Series or Standalone: Standalone
ISBN: 1400065003
Format: Paperback (ARC)
Pages: 224
Ana Castillo – Blog
Ana Castillo – Twitter
Place(s) Traveled to: Cabuche, New Mexico
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
First Line: It was raining all night hard and heavy, making the land shiver–all the bare ocotillo and all the prickly pear.
Not too long ago I signed up for a program on librarything which gave me the opportunity to get an advance reader’s edition of a book called The Guardians by Ana Castillo. I had never read anything by Castillo before but based on the back of the book I thought that this would be a beautiful tale of love, loss and the coming together of various characters.
After reading this story I wonder if the person who wrote up the blurb on the back even read the story. The main part of this short novel was to be about the search for the brother of one the main characters, Regina. Yet her brother is rarely mentioned and there never seems to be much in the way of searching for him.
Instead you get a story told by four people – Regina, her nephew Gabo, her friend Miguel and Miguel’s grandfather – and they all seem to be competing with each other to tell a different story. There is no real journey in this story. The characters are all pretty forgettable and who all seem to be hiding from life. Regina hides behind her widow status , Gabo buries himself in religion, and Miguel preaches about all the injustices in the world & can’t seem to be bothered with the problems around him. Miguel’s grandfather just seems to be an afterthought to the whole story telling random tales of the past and never really contributing to the main story. Although there really wasn’t a central main story.
All the main characters had their own story and yet their stories never flowed together. It was often hard to care about what was going on in their lives because they never seemed to care about living. Perhaps the author tried to hard to touch on all the issues that some Mexican-Americans have to deal with that she lost focus. And instead of writing a beautiful tale that highlighted those issues and let the reader come to their own conclusion she decided to beat them over the head with her beliefs.
After reading The Guardians I don’t think that I’ll pick up another book by Ana Castillo.
In Short: A disappointing and often disjointed tale with a forgettable plot and unmemorable characters.
Buy this book from Barnes & Noble or Amazon
Next Up: Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Posted by Irish in Uncategorized0 Comments

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Source: Borrowed from library
Publication Date: 16 April 1996
(Note: first published in the UK in 1995 as Northern Lights)
Series or Standalone: Series (order listed below)
ISBN: 0440238137
Format: Paperback (Mass Market)
Pages: 368
Philip Pullman – Twitter
Place(s) Traveled to: Oxford, England // Svalbard, Norway
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
First Line: Lyra and her dæmon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman starts off in a world very similar to our own there are schools, children, adults, and religion among other things. The story opens on a young orphan girl living at Oxford College in London, England. Lyra has led a relatively charmed and wild life allowed to roam the college and do what she wants. Lyra is also a very curious child and hates not knowing so one day she sneaks into a forbidden room and the moment she does the life she has always known changes forever.
Soon Lyra is removed from her comfortable life at Oxford and thrust into a journey that will take her from London’s High Society to the freezing cold villiages of the far North. Along the way she’ll meet the cold & beautiful Mrs Coulter who wants to mold Lyra into her own image as well as an outcast bear who will risk all to keep her safe. Everything that Lyra thought she knew will be tested and challenged and she’ll have to sift through the conflicting stories in order to figure out the turth. The only person who she can count on is her daemon, Pantalaimon, who is an external part of her soul.
In the beginning this book was a little slow and it often felt like I had walked into the middle of a story that I somehow missed the start of. But once Lyra left Oxford and some of the background of the world was described the story really started to move along. Lyra may only be an 11 year old girl but her sharp mind and quick wit will impress many an adult. She has a knack of knowing just the right thing to say or do in the situations that she finds herself in. Overall The Golden Compass was a very enjoyable book with many memorable characters. I look forward to reading The Subtle Knife – the second book in this remarkable series.
Series Order (Click title to be directed to my review)
Buy this book from Barnes & Nobel or Amazon
Next Up: Finish The Guardians by Ana Castillo

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Six Cynster Series Books By Stephanie Laurens

Posted by Irish in Guilty Pleasure0 Comments

This is a review on the following books by Stephanie Laurens: Devil’s Bride (Book 1), A Rake’s Vow (Book 2), Scandal’s Bride (Book 3), A Rogue’s Proposal (Book 4), A Secret Love (Book 5), and All About Love (Book 6).
Anyone who knows me knows that I am really not one to read romance novels. Its just never been a genre that has interested me much. However, I do like historical fiction and it isn’t always easy to find entertaining historical fiction novels that aren’t romance. So on a recent trip to my local library they had a display filled with the above mentioned books and on a whim I checked them out.
Overall I found the books to be entertaining. The dialogue was realistic and the settings where are described nicely. As these books are all apart of a series it was nice to see characters and certain themes from previous books appear throughout as it added a sense of realism to the story. However, my one gripe is that the couples were almost too perfectly matched for each. In one book the male lead was a horse breeder and his counterpart knew just as much about horses as he did and seemed to love them more. In another the two leads both had a remarkably superb talent for business.
Also, in all of the books it was always the male character that realized that he was in love first and had to do all that he could to convince the female of the story to she loved him too. That tone might be believable for a few of the stories…but it tends to get less believable and a little old when used 6 times in a row.
There are several more books in the Cynster Series by Stephanie Laurens which I may or may not read in the future. For now I have had enough of this family and need to go on and meet some new characters in other books before I consider returning to Regency England. If you like romance books…or just historicals in general…and you haven’t read this series then it may be something that you want to look into.
In Short: Overall not a bad series, although I wouldn’t recommend reading them back to back.
Rating: 3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars
Buy these books from Barnes & Nobel or Amazon
Next Up: The Guardians by Ana Castillo and The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (I know I’ve said this for a while and it is in progress – I swear – I just need to concentrate on it enough to finish it!) 

Monday, July 23, 2007

Review: Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland

Posted by Irish in Adult, DNF, Review1 Comment

Review: Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan VreelandLuncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland
Published by Viking Adult on 03 May 2007
Genres: Adaptation, Adult, Historical, People & Places
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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Place(s) Traveled to: Paris, France (1880)

First Line: He rode the awkward steam-cycle along the ridge to catch glimpses of the domes and spires of Paris to the east, then turned west and careened headlong down the long steep hill toward the village of Bougival and the Seine.

This review will be a short one as this was one of those rare books in which I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it. There was a time that no matter what I would finish every book that I picked up – no matter how boring or how long it took. Then a few years ago I had a revelation…life is too short to waste on uninteresting books.

Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland definately feel into that catagory for me. I had a hard time even making it up to my 50 page minimum. The few characters I met were uninteresting. The descriptions seemed a little too wordy and drab.

A few years ago I had read Girl in Hyacynth Blue by the same author and the pages just flew by. So I was very disappointed when the same thing didn’t happen with this book. Perhaps the author is letting fame get to her head and when she used to write interesting books of ~250 pages she’s taken to trying to take a single painting and turning it into a long drawn out 500 page story.



Sunday, July 22, 2007

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Posted by Irish in 5 Stars, Review, Young Adult2 Comments

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Series: Harry Potter,
Published by Scholastic on 21 July 2007
Genres: Action & Adventure, Adolescence, Death & Dying, Emotions & Feelings, Family, Fantasy, Friendship, Magic, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 759
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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Place(s) Traveled to: London, England // Godric’s Hollow, England // Hogsmeade, Scotland

First Line: The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane.

Today marked the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the 7th and final book in the series by JK Rowling. Today was a day that I both longed for and dreaded. I longed for this day because ever since I read the last word of Half-Blood Prince (HP 6) I have wondered what was next for the boy who lived and his friends. I have dreaded this day because it also marks the end of an era. The final chapter of a story over ten years in the making.

I came under the influence of Harry a little late, starting to read the series shortly after the publication of Goblet of Hire (HP 4) but the moment that I first stepped foot on Privet Drive and followed Harry to platform 9 3/4 I was hooked. Like so many others I was standing in line awaiting the midnight release of Deathly Hallows and after dropping off the friend who kept me company I eagerly began to read the final chapter of the Hogwarts world.

Book 7 opens like the previous 6, it is summer and Harry is at No. 4 Privet Drive with the Dursley’s. Harry should be preparing to leave for his final year of Hogwarts and worrying about his upcoming NEWTs and what he wants to do after graduating. However, The Dark Lord has also risen and is swiftly taking back the power that he had prior to his run in with Lily and her year old baby. Also, this year Harry is just about to turn 17 and with his birthday marks the end of the protection given to him by his mother when she gave up her life to save his. Without this protection then if Harry is caught by the Dark Lord then it will almost certainly result in his death. So rather then return to Hogwarts, Harry goes on the run accompanied by his two best friends Ron and Hermione. Together the three of them must work together in order to follow the last task that Headmaster Dumbledore set for Harry. Find the remaining Horcruxes that Voldemort used to hide his soul and destroy them. For while they are intact Harry will have no chance in winning a battle with him.

What follows next is a fast paced journey in which Harry and his friends suffer many ups and downs while they search for the Horcruxes and at the same time avoid getting captured by the Death Eaters or Scavengers. The Death Eaters search for Harry in attempt to gain favor with the Dark Lord. Scavengers hunt for Harry and all wizards who are not of the pure blood in order to collect the reward money. And if Harry didn’t have enough to worry about but Rita Skeeter is about to publish a book entitled The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore which causes him to begin to doubt the man that he loved and trusted as a mentor and father.

This book has it all love, loss, adventure and brings the reader to both laughter and tears. (Those who have finished the book know what I mean). Like all the books that came before it I was unable to put this book down and loved almost every word. My only disappointment came with the very end, the epilogue. To me the epilogue seemed a little hurried and the phrasing just didn’t seem to mesh well with all that came before and while it answered some questions it also left many unanswered. As much as I want to know what happens to the surviving characters I feel that I think the better ending would have been to leave off the epilogue. Or at least leave off this epilogue.

Overall, I thoughly enjoyed this book and the series. I have loved getting to know Harry, Ron, Hermione, Sirius, Ginny, Neville, Fred, George, Dumbledore, Hagrid, Snape, Draco and all the other characters in this series. In turn they have all made me laugh, cry or gotten me so mad that I could spit. I am glad that I got to know them and while there may be no new adventures about Hogwarts these stories will always live on in my heart and I look forward to one day introducing the boy who lived to any kids and grandkids that I might have.



Thursday, July 19, 2007

Review: The Book of Names by Jill Gregory & Karen Tintori

Posted by Irish in 5 Stars, Adult, Review3 Comments

The Book of Names by Jill Gregory, Karen Tintori
Published by St Martin's Press on 09 January 2007
Genres: Action & Adventure, Contemporary (No Romance Focus), Death & Dying, Espionage, Mystery & Detective, People & Places, Politics & Intrigue, Social Issues, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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Place(s) Traveled to: New York City, New York // London, England // Israel

First Line: Two men shoveled the sand under cover of darkness.

The premise of this book is simple, into every generation there are 36 pure souls (lamed koviks) that are born who through their existence keep the earth together. If any of these souls die then bad things start to happen – war, famine, earthquakes, etc. Way back when in Biblical times Adam, bright boy that he was wrote down the names of every living creature including who all the lamed koviks in all the coming generations.

As you can guess with all these pure souls running about there are those people who will stop at nothing to destroy them. People who want to disrupt Gods plan and remake the world in their image. They somehow manage to break the code of Adams book of names and start to kill off the lamed koviks. The world slowly moves to turmoil as they do.

Enter the reluctant hero, David Sheppard, who do to an accident in his youth has somehow managed to tap into a higher existence and is somehow able to come up with the names of various lamed koviks. David has no idea at first the meaning of these names that keep coming to him, just that when he searches for some their names many of them have died in weird accidents or unnatural causes and all he really wants is to stop the names from coming. Until one name that pops out matches that of his ex-stepdaughter who he loves as his own child.

Enter beautiful sidekick who helps David to realize the power of the names and just what is happening in the world because someone is killing them off. She convinces David to join her fellow Israeli’s in tracking down the remaining names to try to stop the ultimate evil from taking over.

What follows is a fast paced read about the ultimate battle between good and evil. As David rushes to save his stepdaughter and with her the fate of the entire world a reader can’t help but to swiftly turn the pages to see just what will happen next. This book is right up there with Angels & Demons by Dan Brown and The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell in that its a good read though unrealistic. However, I found this novel to be slightly more realistic then those two previously mentioned books. This books is a fast adventure that I didn’t want to put down – well once I got through the first 20 pages that is. I admit that I almost put it down at first for those first few pages didn’t thrill me…..but I always try to read at least 50 pages or so before turning away from a book and I am so glad that I didn’t.



Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Review: Winkie by Clifford Chase

Posted by Irish in 3.5 Stars, Adult, Review0 Comments

Review: Winkie by Clifford ChaseWinkie by Clifford Chase
Published by Grove Press on 10 June 2007
Genres: Adult, Contemporary (No Romance Focus), Death & Dying, Emotions & Feelings, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Social Issues
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon|Buy on Audible|Buy on Barnes & Noble

Place(s) Traveled to: California

First Line: Please state your name.

I picked this book up at the bookstore recently because I thought that it had an interesting premise: a teddy bear that comes to life and finds itself on the wrong side of the war on terror. The idea brought to mind times when as a child I used to wonder if any of my dolls or bears ever came to life when I wasn’t around.

In this book a stuffed bear who after years of neglect is miraculously gifted with life. Winkie then goes out into the world, experiencing its ups and downs for the first time. When he is suddenly surrounded and accused of being a mad bomber. What follows is an overly long and drawn out trial interspersed with memories of Winkie’s past. How he started as a bear named Marie and belonged to a girl named Ruth. How she passed to Ruth’s children and was eventually renamed Winkie and became a he.

This book serves to highlight in an often humorous (and sometimes tedious) way just how ridiculous the justice system in America can be. Especially when it comes to people who are accused of terrorist acts. When the word terrorist is used it almost seems as if any atrocity can be used against the person and people turn a blind eye because it is all in the name of justice.

There were times when I found this book very moving and times in which I wondered if I would ever finish it. Overall though this isn’t a bad debut novel and it will be interesting to see what Chase comes up with next.

In Short: An interesting if not overly memorable read.



Friday, July 13, 2007

A Book Quiz

Posted by Irish in Misc0 Comments

I saw this quiz on Bibliolatry’s blog and knew in an instant that I had to take it. For I too cannot resist a good quiz. I liked this quiz and found that it had a lot of accuracy to it.

You’re Catch-22!

by Joseph Heller

Incredibly witty and funny, you have a taste for irony in all that you
see. It seems that life has put you in perpetually untenable situations, and your sense
of humor is all that gets you through them. These experiences have also made you an
ardent pacifist, though you present your message with tongue sewn into cheek. You
could coin a phrase that replaces the word “paradox” for millions of

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.