Synopsis from Goodreads: Life in rural small town Oklahoma is not normally this humorous. Kari Rains takes us on an insightful journey through a bizarre childhood to an even more bizarre adulthood. Rains weaves hilarious tales about learning to smoke her first cigarette from the Buddha belly rubbing Catholic next door, as well as her first disastrous date with her husband. Sprinkle in a few untamed children and magic happens.
Source: Author for a fair and honest review
My Rating: 5/5 stars
My Review: There is apparently no situation in life, no matter how embarrassing that Kari Rains can’t find humor in. In Rains’ ridiculously funny auto-biographical (and first) book, Shakespeare Makes Me Puke, Rains describes events from her life that most of us would like to see buried and forgotten. Thank you for not burying these events!
Rains’ book begins with childhood and memories of her and her sister growing up in a small Oklahoma town surrounded by a wealth of family, neighbors, and friends. The highlight of the early part of Rains’ book is the story of Granny Jane: the Willie Nelson loving, Virginia Slim smoking granny next door who taught Rains and her sister how to smoke cigarettes and drink coffee. Did I mention that Granny Jane also had a cockatiel named Willie who liked to sit on her head?
Rains acknowledges in several places that her ability to make fun of herself and turn an embarrassing situation into something funny comes directly from her mother, Kristy the Great. Kristy is featured in several of Rains’ stories including one involving a dress tucked into the pantyhose moment and the story of exactly how and why Rains throws up when hearing about or discussing Shakespeare – yep, the title is true!! Rains’ father also plays a starring role in several scenes including a red paint incident and the Saturday morning he came bursting out of the bedroom buck-naked. Who doesn’t like a buck-naked story; am I right?
Rains uses her memories and stories of her mother and father to transition into her own adulthood and stories of how she met her husband and their three children, Ella, Nick, and Nate. Holy cats, there were a few instances in this section of the book where I laughed so hard I cried. Incidentally, there is a story in this book where Rains laughs so hard she not only cries but pees a little. Yes, that incident made me laugh harder. Rains’ kids provide a wealth of humor including the moment when Ella announces in the doctor’s office that her brother is in fact a boy and has a penis; there is the announcement in front of the church congregation as to why the family was late for services; and of course the announcement in front of the youth basketball league about Rains’ pants not falling down if she would just wear underwear.
These examples are just a few of the highlights of this fast-paced and smartly written book. Rains uses her wonderful sense of humor and sarcasm to make light of situations that most of us would rather ignore and/or hope there were very few witnesses too. If you are looking for a quick, easy read that is guaranteed to make you laugh, Shakespeare Makes Me Puke should top your list. This book is refreshing in the fact that Rains’ descriptions of the people, the places, and the events are vivid and real. These moments aren’t just moments of someone’s life; they are the memories of the author.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Since the death of their parents, Triona Pryor and her brother, Ben, have lived with their aunt and uncle in Camden, Maine. Now in her senior year of high school, Triona loves her family and friends, but she has always felt that she didn’t quite fit in…in Camden, or anywhere else. Enter Caleb Wallace, the devilishly handsome man who has recently moved to Triona’s small town. While their attraction to each other is instantaneous, it also proves to be dangerous…and deadly. When tragedy strikes, Triona flees to London for solace and to start her life anew. It’s there she discovers from an unlikely source that her family has been keeping secrets from her – secrets about not only her birthright, but her ultimate destiny as well. Armed with this knowledge, Triona finds herself thrown into a whole new world and into a battle to save the lives of everyone she loves.
My Rating: 3½/5 stars
My Review: I have always maintained that a good set of characters can carry a mediocre plot right to the end of a novel. I honestly never imagined that I would come across a book with just the opposite scenario. I did, however, find this to be true with Carol Oates’s Shades of Atlantis.
From the beginning, I knew I was in for something pretty sweet. The title alone had me hooked, as I love all things related to the Atlantis legend. (Lynsay Sands anyone??) I was right. The plot for Shades is really good and hands down the novel’s greatest aspect. It has lots of action, drama, and some very, very intense romance. To be completely fair, the combination of action, drama, and romance is sort of like a perfect storm and really keeps the reader moving through the book at near lightning speed from beginning to end. The super quick summary includes:
*Triona and Caleb are crazy, scary in love after only a few days of knowing one another. This part of the story gets really intense.
*Caleb and his family are something other than human. It takes Oates quite a while to get to the explanation of what the “other” actually is, but the dragging out of the big reveal worked quite nicely.
*A nasty little prophecy is floating around that Triona may be the beginning of the end for Caleb and his kind.
*As you may have guessed from #3 above, the book has a group of super-bad guys that will do whatever it takes to prevent Triona from fulfilling the prophecy – nastiness ensues!
Here’s the downside for me: I am a strong character lover, and Shades just really didn’t deliver for me in this respect. Here’s the skinny on the characters for me:
*Triona: if ever there was a case of someone needing to be told “suck it up, buttercup,” Triona is that girl. At some point, I just got used to the fact that no matter what the situation, big or small, Triona was going to break down into tears.
*Caleb: although delightfully lickable in terms of his looks, as my grandmother used to say, “pretty is as pretty does”. Caleb, while well-intentioned, is really kind of an idiot! Caleb’s trouble all begins when he tries thinking for everyone else and determines that everyone, especially Triona, is better off not knowing everything about the über-dangerous situation they are all in. Add to this the fact that Caleb totally wimps out and runs away at a critical moment, and you have a recipe for a wreck!! All of Caleb’s credibility and likability pretty much goes out the window after all the mistakes.
*The characters that were pretty awesome for me are Triona’s brother Ben, her BFF Amanda, and the super-awesome, lie detector Eila. For me, none of these characters were present enough. Each of these characters were the by far the strongest, most straight-forward and forthright in the novel, and I really, really wish there would have been a lot more of all them in this story. Ben is strong, courageous, and loyal. Amanda is faithful, kind, and brutally honest. Eila is beautiful, strong, and compassionate, all while being a super-human lie detector. It’s a pretty sweet super-power ☺
The Bottom Line: I really am torn over this book, as it had such a great plot, but characters that sadly fell short for me. The plot in this novel is strong enough to carry the weaker characters, and I think the book will actually play well with readers who are fans of super-intense, love-at-first-sight romance reads. This is a YA novel, but I would be remiss if I recommended it to the younger end of the YA reader spectrum, as the romance is certainly not sexually explicit, but it is quite intense.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Charity Barlow wished to marry for love. She and Lord Robert have been forced by circumstances to marry, and she feels sure she is not the woman he would have selected given a choice. The Marquess of St. Malin makes it plain to her that their marriage is merely for the procreation of an heir, and once that is achieved, he intends to continue living the life he enjoyed before he met her. While he takes up his life in London once more, Charity is left to wander the echoing corridors of St. Malin House, when she isn’t thrown into the midst of the mocking Haute Ton. Charity is not at all sure she likes her new social equals, and she’s not at all sure she likes her new husband either, except for his striking appearance, which sends her pulses racing. Lord Robert is a rake and does not deserve her love, but neither does she wish to live alone. Might he be suffering from a sad past?
My Rating: 3/5 stars
My Review: Maggi Andersen’s The Reluctant Marquess is a book I like to think of as a rainy day read. That is, a quickly-paced delightful read that can be easily read in a single sitting. And if it happens to be a rainy day and you’re curled up in your favorite reading spot, all the better J
The novel follows country-born and bred Charity Barlow, a sweet, if somewhat naïve young lady who is unceremoniously thrust into married life with the stunningly handsome Lord Robert, Marquess of St. Malin. To say neither party is thrilled with the arranged marriage would be putting it lightly. Charity is bound and determined to make a go of the marriage and see herself and her husband to happily ever after. Unfortunately, Charity all too quickly discovers that her task is not just daunting but likely insurmountable as her new husband is taciturn, stubborn, and difficult. To make matters far worse, Charity must also learn to navigate the waters of London society, a place riddled with arrogance, snobbery, and more than a little gossip. Charity’s journey to a warm and happy marriage is a mix of experiences and emotions and, while her journey holds no real surprises, it is still a pleasurable read. Charity is by far the star of this novel: her determination, humor, and sassy attitude carry the novel quickly through from beginning to end.
The Bottom Line: Maggi Andersen’s The Reluctant Marquess is a casual read and a nice diversion that will take very little time to read. Andersen creates a colorful world with just enough information and detail about the time and place to be interesting but not so much detail that the reader becomes bogged down. The characters, Charity in particular, are relatable and endearing. I actually found myself rooting for Charity as she struggled through one event after the next and cursing her stubborn husband for his attitude and ignorance. The reader will not be surprised by the outcome of this novel but the lack of surprise in no way takes away from the read itself. The journey from beginning to end is definitely worth the reader’s time!
Synopsis from Goodreads: “There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”
It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.
His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: The Raven Boys is my first Maggie Stiefvater book and man, am I glad I started here. This is just my kind of read with drama, lots of history, mystery, murder, magic, and a tiny little bit of budding romance. For Blue Sargent several things have always been certain: 1) she is not psychic like every other member of her immediate and extended family; 2) she will never, ever become entangled with a raven boy and; 3) she must never ever, ever, ever fall in love for the moment she kisses her one true love, he will die. That blows!
The boys of Aglionby Academy are known as the raven boys thanks to the presence of the bird in their school’s crest and on their perfectly pressed and totally pretentious school uniforms. The so-called raven boys are the ultra-rich, ultra-snobby, ultra-entitled buttholes who attend the ultra-exclusive Aglionby Academy. For Blue, these assumptions have almost always proven true and been more than enough reason for her to stay the heck away from all of them. And then one day she meets Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah and nearly every assumption she has ever had about the raven boys gets blown out of the water. Here’s the rundown:
Gansey: I sort of love Gansey. He is very rich (and sort of oblivious about money), very smart, driven by his quest, and one of the most compassionate people in the entire cast of characters. Gansey feels responsible for Ronan, Adam, and Noah and often sacrifices his own needs and comfort in order to better support and/or protect them. Though Gansey has no (revealed) magical and/or psychic abilities, he does have an uncanny knack for finding things of myth and legend that no one else has ever been able to find. The current quest: find the long-lost tomb of the Raven King, Owen Glendower.
Ronan: WOW! This guy has some seriously stunning anger management issues most of which are directed toward his now-dead father and domineering older brother, Declan. Ronan is kind of scary but throughout the novel has moments of true kindness which are as unexpected to him as they are to the reader. These moments of kindness endear him to the reader but his overall role in the plot (and future installments) is still a bit unclear.
Adam: this is a character who elicited all kinds of mixed emotions for me. Adam is by far the poorest of the raven boys (and is painfully aware of this) and is only at Aglionby because of a partial scholarship. Inexplicably, Adam has become involved with Gansey, Ronan, and Noah and their quest to find the Raven King. I like Adam’s determination to work hard and earn his way in the world but his stubborn nature and pride often cause him to make some seriously stupid choices.
Noah: this is the character that can’t really be discussed without offering up some super-spoilers and I just won’t do that to you. You can thank me later. Suffice it say, I like Noah and was pleasantly surprised by him and his role in the plot.
The quest for Glendower’s tomb is all-consuming and is the thing that brings Blue into the raven boy’s world. Each of the group has something to contribute to the quest and without one another nothing would be accomplished. The early instances of the entire group coming together are uncomfortable for everyone and bring me to the only real complaint I have about this book. While I generally like Blue, her attitude toward Gansey and Ronan and their money really gets very old, very quickly. We get it, they have money and you have an attitude about it; suck it up, Buttercup!
The Bottom Line: Although this story takes a bit to gather its momentum once it gets going it sort of steam rolls right on through to the end. There is such a mix of elements with the psychic, magic, and paranormal elements that you never really know what element is going to come into play next. The pacing toward the end and the twists and turns are both informative and interesting and will keep you turning the pages. Most of the big plot questions are answered by the novel’s end but it is clear this series is not yet complete and the search for Glendower’s tomb will continue!!
Synopsis from Goodreads: Would you sacrifice everything for a world you barely knew?
A year has passed since Charlotte and Kevin first stepped
through the gate into Energo and neither has been able to settle back into their normal lives. Charlotte tries to distract herself from thoughts of Calvin with the antics of James and her growing friendship with Liam. Kevin can’t seem to shake his feelings for Samantha as he adjusts to his new identity as a college basketball player.
When they unexpectedly return to Energo, both Charlotte and Kevin must face their fears and become the leaders they were always meant to be.
Source: Author for a fair and honest review
My Rating: 5/5 stars
My Review: One year after being forced to leave Energo, Charlotte Calloway is wasting away in Charleston. Like any junior in high school, Charlotte gets up and goes to school, consumes far too much coffee, and fritters away the hours with her friends. However, for those who really know Charlotte, something is wrong. That something is the knowledge that her mother is likely still alive, her soul mate Calvin has yet to come to his senses and return to her, and if Charlotte were to return to Energo, she will be killed. Suddenly, high school doesn’t look so bad, right?
Meanwhile, Kevin Calloway is living his dream playing basketball for Carolina. Like his sister, though, something is missing. For Kevin, what’s missing is serving as one of Charlotte’s Guardians and Samantha, the super-tough warrior he left behind when forced to flee Energo. For the Calloways, life in the “real world” just doesn’t measure up to life in Energo. Then, one night Kevin is abducted, only to be warned that should he and his family ever return to Energo, their lives, and those of their friends serving in the Resistance, will be forfeit. Time to go back to Energo!
Once the Calloways step foot in Energo, the search is on, and the group is forced to separate in order to accomplish all their goals. For Charlotte, that means finding and rescuing her mother and learning to harness her considerable powers. For Kevin, the separation means travelling to yet another foreign land to persuade the heads of each country to support the Resistance against Blake. Once the group is separated, the plot slows a bit, allowing the two groups to travel and work toward accomplishing their respective goals. The action is lessened in this part of the book, but Ivy gets the chance to really dig in and build the back stories for many of the characters. I love this part of the book! Just enough minor action is included to keep the action-junkies happy, and a ton of information for those of us who totally dig the back stories! The action and information are seamlessly blended and move the reader along smoothly toward the tumultuous end.
And what an ending it is! Ivy couldn’t have avoided the great battle at the end. The back stories, the two group’s missions, and the minor action all lead up to the dramatic ending. Once again, Ivy spills a few more family secrets and leaves the reader with a pretty significant cliffhanger. The lives of each of the major (and a few of the minor) characters are yet unresolved, and the final book in the series (Enduring Light) promises to be quite an adventurous ride!
The Bottom Line: I love middle books like Perilous Light, and I am a big fan of character-driven novels and plot lines that are varied. In many ways, the second book in a trilogy will make or break a series for me. As a curious reader, I need to know more about the characters to which I have become attached: Where have they been? What’s their background? Why do they behave the way they do? Perilous Light has it all for me! Ivy handily deals with each of the characters of interest, gives just the right amount of action, and answers a few of the unresolved questions from book one.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Five days until Halloween and all hell is about to break loose.
And it’s all Crystal’s fault.
Momma warned her not to consort with the dead and tried to teach her the magic spells that would close the portal to the afterlife. But Crystal doesn’t want to be a trailer-trash witch like Momma. She has dreams of going to community college and escaping the Appalachian town of Parson’s Ford.
Her best friend Bone is only too happy to escape the afterlife and help Crystal break the rules. Bone died too young, and she’ll do whatever it takes to remain among the living.
Then a teen movie maker comes to Parson’s Ford, and he has a very special project in mind: a horror movie starring a real ghost. The kids who watch his movies turn into brainwashed zombies. And to totally complicate matters, Crystal thinks he’s kind of a hunk, and she’s afraid her boyfriend Pettigrew only loves her because of Momma’s magic spells.
Now it’s Halloween, the night when the portal to the afterlife is widest, and somebody’s been messing with Momma’s potions. The fate of the world is in Crystal’s hands, but she hasn’t been paying attention to her lessons. And a mysterious figure in the afterlife is urging Bone to stay loyal to her own kind instead of to Crystal.
The movie is rolling, the creatures are stirring, and the brainwashed teenagers are ready to welcome a new star from the other side of the grave.
Crystal and Bone must overcome drama queens, coffin cuties, and mangled magic if they want to remain best friends forever—but at this rate, forever may not last much longer.
Source: Author for a fair and honest review
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: L.C. Glazebrook’s October Girls is a YA novel that proved to be quite an enjoyable read and well worth the time devoted to it! You can’t help but get involved from the beginning. Glazebrook introduces her two main characters, Crystal and Bone with the line “Crystal loved her best friend Bone, but sometimes she wished Bone was just a little bit deader.” I had no idea you could be a little bit dead – I have always pictured dead as an all or nothing kind of deal – I stand corrected and am quite glad to be so. Oh, and I laughed out loud TWICE at the opener!
Glazebrook takes the reader on a well-paced and fully developed ride through the lives of Crystal Aldridge and her kind of dead best friend Bone. The two girls, along with a whole host of minor characters must find a way to stop the end of the world from occurring on Halloween night. Everything occurs in the small town of Parson’s Ford where Crystal works at the local video store, pursues her dreams of attending community college at night, & generally tries to avoid the “how to be a witch” lessons offered by her mother. The Aldridge family has long been practicing witches & has always been tasked with keeping the portals to the other side in check. Crystal however has other plans and those plans certainly don’t involve living in her mother’s trailer and keeping the things that go bump in the night from sneaking over into the land of the living. While I generally liked Crystal as a character, something about her doesn’t quite ring true.
Glazebrook’s second & much more robust main character is Bone who is what is known as a Tweener, or one who can move back and forth between the land of the living and the dead. Bone died at age 16 when she was hit by a UPS truck and although she is not technically allowed to move between the two worlds, she does. We find out later that Bone’s ability to move unchecked between the two worlds is really a part of a devious & rather nefarious plan hatched by the evil that lives on the other side. Bone’s status as a Tweener proves to be, at times, quite helpful and generally very funny. Bone could have easily become an angst ridden character constantly moaning about her almost completely dead status. Instead, Glazebrook uses Bone’s character to weave a wonderful thread of dark humor throughout the entire novel. After all, it is kind of tacky for the living to make fun of the dead so Glazebrook allows the dead to rather snarkily make fun of themselves. Excellent decision!
While the two main characters provide a great deal of entertainment, there is also a nicely developed cast of secondary characters. Glazebrook in no way ran out of steam when it came to the personalities of her secondary characters. Standouts include: the Ray Ban wearing, Milk Dud-loving Judge who both helps & hinders Bone’s movements between the two worlds; Tim, the fiercely loyal little boy who died of cancer and has a serious crush on Bone; Fatback Bob, the greedy and slightly creepy owner of the video store; and Royce Dean, the completely ridiculous lost twin of James Dean who will do anything to become a bigger and brighter star than his Rebel Without a Cause brother ever was. I found myself becoming just as involved with these characters as I was with Crystal and Bone. It is so nice to read a book where all the characters, no matter their overall status, are something more than just fillers. I actually found myself looking forward to Crystal and Bone interacting with these secondary characters, particularly young Tim and the Judge.
The Bottom Line: I found Glazebrook’s October Girls to be a very easy and enjoyable read. Her novel has a strong plot that is played out to completion with no unanswered questions at the end. She has noted that this is Book One in what I hope will be a continuing series; I’m not quite sure I’ve had enough of Glazebrook’s dark sense of humor and rather intriguing characters.
Synopsis from Goodreads: THEIR LOVE IS DESTINED TO RISE AGAIN
Ailish Donovan is a witch ready to do battle. Raised unaware of her powers, she is just sixteen when her mother tricks her into binding with the demon Asmodeus. Pure-hearted Ailish escapes with the connection incomplete but pays a heavy price: For the next eight years, she is shunned by her earth sisters and tormented by Asmodeus’s lust. After hardening her body and mind as a champion kickboxer, Ailish returns home to break the bond—or die.
The Wing Slayer Hunter Phoenix Torq is sworn to protect earth witches, but he is shaken by Ailish’s fierce independence—and his own forbidden cravings. Dark, impulsive, and haunted by his troubled past, Phoenix likewise arouses Ailish in ways she finds disturbing—and irresistible. Torn between mistrust and desire, each must go to hell and back to seek the magic that could set them both free.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: Night Magic is the third installment of Jennifer Lyon’s Wing Slayer Hunter series. In this amped-up novel we meet Ailish Donovan, a blind earth witch who was bound, as a teenager, to a demon by her power hungry, rogue witch mother. For the past eight years Ailish has the victim of a nasty Catch-22: she has been desperately searching for a way to break the binding but no earth witch will help her because of the binding. Consequently, Ailish has learned little about her own magic in the interceding years that can help save her life now. One thing she did learn: she has a powerful voice that has the ability to enhance any and all magic living around her. Unbeknownst to Ailish, her voice also has the power to call her soul mirror.
For months now Wing Slayer Hunter Phoenix Torq has been hearing a voice in his head and it likes to sing. The voice is at once compelling and disturbing, even for a Hunter the voice is an unusual ability in a male not bonded to his soul mirror. One night the voice in Phoenix’s head becomes far too strong to resist and he runs to Ailish only to find her trying, yet again, to perform a spell that will release her from the demon binding. What Phoenix stumbles into blows his mind and shatters his perceptions about what an earth witch really is. Did I forget to mention that even though she is blind, Ailish is also a world-class kick boxer? Sorry about that. Ailish is a world-class kick boxer and upon meeting Phoenix she kicks his ever-loving ass.
While both Ailish and Phoenix are accustomed to sacrifice, neither is prepared for what’s in store for them. The two fall for one another almost instantly and their attraction to one another borders on primal. Neither is afraid to give into their primal urges but both realize that they have very little time to satisfy these urges before the demon binding claims Ailish’s life. Their task of finding a solution to the problem is made all the harder by the fact that the other witches (Carla and Darcy) and the remaining Wing Slayer Hunters find it hard to trust a witch who is bound to a demon. As we discover, both Ailish and Phoenix are willing to sacrifice everything in order to save the other.
The Bottom Line: As always, Lyon’s satisfies the reader with a strong plot line that ties in nicely with the long term plot line. Ailish is by far the strongest of the female characters: her strength (both physical and mental), her confidence, and her ability to love despite all she has been through leaves the reader cheering for her! Phoenix is one of my favorite Hunters which he earned through his actions. Phoenix doesn’t just love Ailish, he loves everything about her and even though she shakes his foundations, he rebounds nicely and becomes a true partner or soul mirror to his witch.