Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

I read about this series of funny Southern vampire mysteries in Entertainment Weekly in a review of "True Blood" the mini-series based on the book that is new on a cable station I don't have. The books sounded interesting so I ordered the first one from the library.

Dead Until Dark is the story of Sookie Stackhouse, a young waitress in a bar in Bon Temps, Louisiana that has a strange ability to read minds. Vampires have "come out of the coffin" now that there is an artificial blood for them to drink. Bill Compton is the first vampire that Sookie encounters. After saving his life, she finds herself falling in love with him - especially because he is the first man who's thoughts she can't read. When women start showing up dead in town Sookie finds herself in the middle of a mystery that she and Bill must solve to be able to stay together.

I found this novel to be very entertaining with a few laugh out loud moments. The mystery was good too and made it so I could hardly put the book down at the end. I really want to find out more about Bill's past . . . what happened to his wife and kids and how did he become a vampire after the Civil War? I highly recommend this book!

Lake in the Clouds by Sara Donati

Lake in the Clouds in the third novel in Donati's "Into the Wilderness" series. While I loved the first novel, Into the Wilderness, I didn't love the second novel Dawn on a Distant Shore, nearly as much. That is probably why it has taken me two and a half years to start on the third novel!

Lake in the Clouds furthers the story of the Bonner family, but is mostly about Nathaniel and Elizabeth's half Mohican daughter, Hannah. Hannah is 18, beautiful, and a healer. She starts the novel by helping a runaway slave that she discovers in the forest who is pregnant and sick. Her story continues in New York City where she learns how to vaccinate people for small pox, and her story ends back in Paradise where she discovers true love and helps to deal with an epidemic. Elizabeth and her young 8-year old daughter Lily are on focus too, but the novel primarily focuses on Hannah.

Lake in the Clouds was an interesting and good book, but I felt disappointed. It could have been a great novel I feel with some further editing and rewrites, but it just didn't get there. First of all, I didn't like how the middle of the novel was split into three separate sections, Elizabeth story's, then Hannah's, then Lily's. It would have worked out better I think if these three story lines would have been written as one part with changes in scene between each character to build suspense. It was annoying to go back in time with each section to see what the other characters were up to. It's hard to feel suspense when Hannah gets a letter from Elizabeth when you already know the end of Elizabeth's story. Also what was going on with Liam? His story was so incomplete. Different threads were set up and then not finished. What happened to his wife? Why did he have a change of heart? How did they figure out the secret of the Tory gold? The novel seemed to end without answering a lot of important questions. Liam and Hannah had a spark between them that should have been used and not abandoned. Will my questions be answered in the next novel? It's hard to say. I also felt like Elizabeth and Nathaniel have been somewhat abandoned. Their story is the story I love, but it has lost focus on them.

I did really like Hannah's Kine-Pox institute story in the novel and her struggle with being half Mohican and half white. Overall an interesting book, but not as good as the first. I really hope the series picks up in the next novel . . .

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

I watched Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day about a week and a half ago. It was a cute movie. I am a great fan of 1930's romantic comedies. This movie reminded me of the old movies I love, especially because of it's 1930's London setting. It was interesting to watch the documentary on the DVD and discover that it was a novel written in the 1930's and sold for film rights at that time, but put off because of WWII.

Miss Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) is a governess who has just lost her job. In desperate straights, she steals the business card of a woman from the employment office that needs a governess. Much to her surprise, Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams) does not need a governess, but a social secretary to juggle her many men. Miss Pettigrew puts away her misgivings and goes with the whirlwind for the day.

I loved both women in these roles. I liked Miss Pettigrew's makeover and the fact that she also had a romance with the excellent Ciaran Hinds as Joe Blomfeld. I loved the 1930's music and the foreshadowing of WWII. Overall, I enjoyed the movie. It's a light and sweet movie.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

I love the Twilight series, therefore I thought it was about time to check out Meyer's "adult" fiction.

The Host is a very interesting science fiction novel. In a not so distant future, an alien race has taken over the earth. They are parasitic type creatures that bind to a host human's brain and take over the human's thought functions and personality. So the human is no longer themselves although there body is still walking around. Scary! In this novel, Wanderer has been installed in an adult human body that has just been captured. Melanie fights back however and Wanderer has to share the mind with Melanie. Wanderer keeps getting memories from Melanie's old life and finds herself falling in love with the memory of a man named Jared. Where is Jared and Melanie's brother Jamie? Are there more rogue humans left on earth? To tell more of the plot would give too much away.

The concept of the novel isn't new if you are a Star Trek or Stargate fan. What is new is the depth that the novel portrays the thoughts, conflictions, and emotional journeys of Wanderer. This is something that is generally avoided in sci-fi. There is a nice love quadrangle and I found myself riveted by the novel. It is not as fantastic as the Twilight series - but it is still an excellent novel. It had me asking Ben such questions as, would you still love me if I had been taken over by an alien being? I was riveted throughout and couldn't put it down towards the end. I highly recommend this novel!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

I just finished The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent yesterday for my Kewaunee September book club read. It was a great fall read as it had a unique perspective of the Salem Witch Trials.

Sarah Carrier has an unhappy home life. At the beginning of the novel, Sarah and her sister Hannah are uprooted and sent to live with her estranged Aunt and Uncle to avoid contracting small pox from her brother. She grows to love her Uncle's family, especially her cousin Margaret. She is sent home to her distant mother and father and feels very displaced. She has troubles bonding with her fractious mother, Martha. The family has troubles with their neighbors and Martha and most of the children are eventually imprisoned in Salem as accused witches. Martha is hanged for her crime as she refuses to bow down to pressure and declare herself a witch although she told her children to do so to save themselves.

The novel is a great tale of the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters as well as a great social commentary on the evils of the Salem witch trials. It was a unique perspective seeing it all through the eyes of an accused child. It was very interesting as the characters in the novel are all based on real historical people. The author is a descendant of Martha Carrier.

This was a very good historical fiction novel and I highly recommend it.

The Toll-Gate by Georgette Heyer

The Toll-Gate is a regency novel by Georgette Heyer. Unlike the other books I've read by Heyer, this is not so much a regency romance as a regency mystery.

Captain Jack Staple is on his way to visit a friend, when he discovers a Toll-Gate untended except for a small boy. He quickly discovers a mystery in the disappearance of the boys father and settles in as a mysterious cousin to uncover the case. Along the way he finds love with Nell, the local squire's granddaughter.

This book was entertaining and a good mystery, but not as much a romance as I was expecting. Also the book seemed to get caught up in jokes doing with the vernacular of the lower classes. I could understand what they were talking about mostly, but felt left out of the joke. Plus I must admit to a great dislike of books and the overuse of authors feeling the need to spell out the vernacular of the times.

Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger

I read a bad review of Chasing Harry Winston in Entertainment Weekly, but as I enjoyed Weisberger's other two novels, The Devil Wears Prada and Everyone Worth Knowing, I decided to give it a try. The novel was no where near as bad as the review. It was an pretty good chick lit read, but not as good as Weisberger's first two novels.

Chasing Harry Winston focuses on three friends, Emmy (a chef whose long term boyfriend has just dumped her for a younger woman), Leigh (a perfectionist who finds that she is not in love with her perfect boyfriend), and Adriana, a beautiful, rich, latina bombshell. Emmy and Adriana make a pack to change their lives over the next year and find themselves during the process. Meanwhile Leigh has made a secret pack and also finds herself.

I thought the girls were all relatable, except for Adriana as she was so rich and beautiful. I especially enjoyed how they are exactly my age - even having graduated from college in 2000. It made it especially enjoyable and relatable to me because of this.

If you are looking for a quick chick lit read, this is your book. It's an okay read, not the best, but also not the worst.

New Moon and Eclipse both by Stephenie Meyer

I can't get enough of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga. I know what all of the buzz was about - her books are excellent, thrilling reads that are all but impossible to set down. I am now waiting impatiently on the waiting list for Breaking Dawn at the library.

New Moon is the second novel in the saga. Edward and the Cullen family leave town after Edward decides that they will always bring nothing but danger to Bella. Bella is devestated and sinks into a deep depression. The only thing that is able to bring her out of her depression is her friendship with Jacob, a young native American teen that she has known her entire life (dads are friends). Jacob has a supernatural secret of his own . . . this book was fantastic. I liked the discussion of Romeo and Juliet throughout and the parallels with this novel.

Eclipse is the third novel in the saga. Bella is torn between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob as the two are mortal enemies. An evil vampire is on the hunt for Bella with a vampire army. Edward and Jacob and their families unit to protect Bella from this evil force. The battle is quite thrilling as is the theme of Bella being torn between the two men. I LOVED the discussion of Wuthering Heights in this book and the parallels. I also loved the use of one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost at the beginning of this novel. Meyer seems to have the same literary passions as I do - no wonder I love her works.

Okay - plot spoilers ahead for those who haven't read the books . . . I know I am in the minority here, I love Edward and think he is one of he sexiest literary heros I've ever read before, but I actually love Jacob and kind of wish Bella would have chosen him. I love the close friendship they have and the fact that she would be able to live a mostly normal life with him. He's also a tall, warm, and hairy man . . . sounds kind of like my husband - no wonder I think Jacob should win.

If you haven't read the Twilight Saga yet - I highly recommend these books. They are fantastic reads - some of the best books I've read in awhile. I'm really looking forward to the "Twilight" movie!