Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence by Stephen Altrogge

Synopsis: Altrogge speaks to modern Christians who find themselves unhappy with life and the church. He moves through complaining, idolatry, covetousness and the idea that happiness out of God is not possible.

Review: A friend gave me this book in response to some struggles I've been having. It was light, easy-to-read, humorous and worth the time. Each chapter was short, complete and the questions at the end help solidify the message and make it relevant to the reader. As for the message itself, I liked what Altrogge said. My favorite idea was "complaining is blasphemy" - because by complaining, you are saying God isn't capable of giving you what you need, nor does He love you enough - which is a lie, because He gave His son to save us. This, for me, puts a new spin on complaining and makes it easier for me to shut my mouth when I feel the need to complain.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 3-25-2012
Pages: 144

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: Blood Hunt by Shannon K. Butcher

Synopsis: As a girl, Hope appeared out of no where, naked and alone, without a past. The only thing she knows is that she is imbued with a strange power. It's in her blood. Now two men want to possess it.
One is Logan, a Sanguinar demon fighter who needs Hope's essences to survive. As a vampire, he's well equipped to find her a like-blooded mate who progeny could sustain his race for generations. The other is Krag, a Synestryn lord whose desire is to enslave Hope and drain her life force. With it, he could control humanity forever.
When Hope and Logan both fall prey to Krag, a powerful desire grow between them. But is it enough to overcome their captor's diabolical plan and his demon warriors - and to survive a vampire's destiny written in blood? (from the back of the book)

Review: This book differs from the others at the main hero is not a Theroni, but a Sanguinar - a vampire. And this is about Logan, a character that has a vital role in all of the books - one who I hated when he was first introduced. By this book, however, I liked him, and by the end, he's one of my favorites. This book is also pivotal because of the "big reveal" in the end, and I would advise those reading this series to read them in order. This book had more graphic violence then the others, but it was easy to skim if you are uncomfortable with it.

Prude Note: This book has several graphic sex scenes (easy to skim) and a few violent references to rape (bad guy is bad). Other then that, the random one-liner sex references are annoying but not terrible and you can skim those parts if you are vigilante.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 3-24-2012
Pages: 380

Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: Living Nightmare by Shannon L. Butcher

Synopsis: For nine years Nika has ha one goal: to save her younger sister from the Synestryn, who hold her captive. Now the psychic bond Nika forged with her sibling is fading, and time is running out. But the one man who can unlock the power inside her left and never returned, leaving Nika alone to rescue a sister everyone else believes is dead.
Madoc swore to himself that he would never enter Dabyr again. For his soul is nearly dead, and he fears what he might do to those he's sworn to protect - especially Nika. If he accompanies her into the Synestryn real, his forbidden desire for her may unleash the savage monster within him. But Nika's need to rescue her sister soon becomes intertwined with her passion for Madoc, while a key to victory in the war may be within her reach. (from the back of the book)

Review: Like the first three books in her Sentinel Wars series, this deals withe one Sentinel finding his mate. Again, Butcher creates real main and secondary characters, compelling plot lines and interesting twists. My favorite part of her stories is the secondary story lines that connect all the books, which, to be honest, is my favorite part of this book, as I did not connect with the main two characters well. The fact this story brought in characters we've already met and included big changes for secondary characters, made it easier for me read about the main two, who, while interesting, weren't my favorite.

Prude Note: This one has my least favorite sex scene, as it's very graphic. I skimmed as much as I could until I knew it was over. There are also references to rape, but nothing graphic.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10
Awards: None
Date Finished: 3-24-2012
Pages: 358

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Review: Running Scared by Shannon L. Butcher

Synopsis: Lexis Johns has one purpose: to free her best friend from the hands of the Sentinels. And Zach, the Sentinel she has been running from for months, has one goal: to convince her that their destinies are entwined. For the magic that Zach has absorbed could destroy him if he doesn't find the woman who can channel it for him. And he knows Lexi is the one.
From an early age, Lexi has been taught to fear the Sentinels. And now she is an agent of a group out to destroy them. So when Zach finds her, it is Lexi's change to strike at the heart of the Sentinels. But, as Lexi sees Zach's courage, selflessness, and honor, and she begins to doubt her beliefs - and is faced with unbearable choice. (from the back of the book)

Review: Like the first two books in her Sentinel Wars series, this deals withe one Sentinel finding his mate. Again, Butcher creates real main and secondary characters, compelling plot lines and interesting twists. My favorite part of her stories is the secondary story lines that connect all the books, which, to be honest, is my favorite part of the book. While the story focuses on the main hero and heroine, it is not only about them and therefore the story has a wider scope, making for a deeper romance novel.

Prude Note: There are several sex scenes, and few graphic sexual descriptions. Most are easy to skip, althought the one liners are not.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None
Date Finished: 3-24-2012
Pages: 387

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: Finding the Lost by Shannon K. Butcher

Synopsis: Andra Madison knows that monsters are real. She's been fighting them ever since her family was victimised by the Synestryn eight years ago. Now she's devoted to finding children who've been abducted by the Synestryn. When she gets a call about a lost little boy, she tracks him to a warehouse on the outskirts of tome, where she's aided by a trio of human men....or so she thinks.

Paul has been searching for centuries for a woman like Andra. To find her he strikes a bargain with a bloodhunter that could cost him his life. Now his desire for Andra threatens to destroy his much-needed control. Against her wishes, Andra agrees to join Paul on a journey fraught with danger, one that leads directly to the Synestryn.

Review: As the second in the series, I had high hopes. For the most part, this was a pleasing and satisfying continuation of the series. I enjoyed, in particular, how characters from past and future books show up, how they have integral parts in this story, as well as their own.
Now, for the reasons I give this book a six - the characters' relationship seemed forced, and the "love" that grows is a bit far-fetched and the angst overdone. However, the story moves swiftly and the secondary characters are intriguing enough, and the over arching story line (from the past and future books) is strong enough, that it smooths over the rough main characters.

In the end, this is an important piece of the story, worth reading, although don't expect it to be as good as the others.

Prude Note: This has two sex scenes, easy to skip. There is also a graphic sex scene between two secondary characters, important to illustrate his character, but a little graphic for my tastes. It's not as easy to skip, being short, so be warned.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 3-21-2012
Pages: 355

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: Murder with Peacocks by Donna Andrews

Synopsis: So far Meg Langslow's summer is not going swimmingly. Down in her small Virginia hometown, she's maid of honor at the nuptials of three loved ones--each of whom has dumped the planning in her capable hands. One bride is set on including a Native American herbal purification ceremony, while another wants live peacocks on the law. Only help from the town's drop-dead gorgeous hunk, disappointingly rumored to be gay, keeps Meg afloat in a sea of dotty relatives and outrageous neighbors.
And, in whirl of summer parties and picnics, Southern hospitality is strained to the limit by an offensive newcomer who hints at skeletons in the guests' closets. But it seems this lady has offended one too many when she's found dead in suspicious circumstances, followed by a string of accidents--some fatal. Soon, level-headed Meg's to-do list extends from flower arrangements and bridal registries to catching a killer--before the next catered event is her own funeral... (from the back of the book)
Review: I picked this up based purely on the personality of the author, who was a guest speaker at the first writer's conference I attend. The author, Donna Andrews, was witty, well-spoken, helpful and funny - and I am not surprised to find her work is the same.
Not normally a fan of modern mystery, I made an exception for this one given that the first line of the book made me laughed out loud. Andrews' characters are hilarious, well-defined, unique and lovable (or not-so-lovable) and the plot is well done. Now, I guess early on who-dun-it, but had no idea how or if I was correct until the end, which makes a good mystery to me.
I highly recommend this if you enjoy humor and mystery and outrageous characters!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

1999 Agatha Award for Best First Novel
2000 Anthony Award for Best First Novel
2000 Barry Award for Best First Novel
2000 Lefty Award
2000 Finalist for Dilys Award
1999 Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for Best First Mystery

Date Finished: 3-19-2012
Pages: 312

Monday, March 19, 2012

Review: Burning Alive by Shannon K. Butcher

Synopsis: Three races descended from ancient guardians of mankind, each possessing unique abilities in their battle to protect humanity against their eternal foes-the Synestryn. Now, one warrior must fight his own desire if he is to discover the power that lies within his one true love...

Helen Day is haunted by visions of herself surrounded by flames, as a dark-haired man watches her burn. So when she sees the man of her nightmares staring at her from across a diner, she attempts to flee-but instead ends up in the man's arms. There, she awakens a force more powerful and enticing than she could ever imagine. For the man is actually Theronai warrior Drake, whose own pain is driven away by Helen's presence.

Together, they may become more than lovers-they may become a weapon of light that could tip the balance of the war and save Drake's people... (from the back of the book)

  This is the first book in Butcher's The Sentinel Wars series. I read a short story (here) and was so intrigued, I purchased this, then I stayed up late to finish it.
It's the typical romance novel in that you know the main hero and heroine are going to end up together. Butcher included multiple viewpoints, and I know from the rest of the series that several of those secondary characters get there own book - even the character I hated at first.
Two other things intrigued me:
1) the premise - a race of people where the male collects and stores magic, but can't use it - only the female can use the magic - and for her to tap into the magic, she must bond with the male.
2) The living tree tattoo that marks the male's life.

I recommend this to anyone who enjoys intriguing plots, well-rounded and distinct characters and believable action.

Prude Note: There are two major sex scenes. It's clear when they are coming and you can skip them easily, if you wish.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 3-16-2012
Pages: 358

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review: The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, Ph. D.

Synopsis: A basic review of the Paleo diet, complete with recipes, advice, scientific whys and examples.

Review: I was not impressed with Cordain's work. Unlike several of the other paleo books, his feel simplistic  and as if he's trying to hard not to be controversial. Which is silly, because the paleo diet, at it's core, goes against all modern nutrional advice (but follows logic and science). Cordain has the basics correct but his work felt like any other "magic" diet book, even though I agreed with many of his points.

There wasn't anything in here you can't learn from a few minutes of internet searching.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 3-11-2012
Pages: 257

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: Timeless by Gail Carriger

Synopsis: Alexia Tarabotti, Lady Maccon, has settled into domestic bliss. Of course, being Alexia, such bliss involves integrating werewolves into London High society, living in a vampire's second best closet, and coping with a precocious toddler who is prone to turning supernatural willy-nilly. Even Ivy Tunstell's acting troupe's latest play, disastrous to say the least, cannot put a damper on Alexia's enjoyment of her new London lifestyle.

Until, that is, she receives a summons from Alexandria that cannot be ignored. With husband, child, and Tunstells in tow, Alexia boards a steamer to cross the Mediterranean. But Egypt may hold more mysteries than even the indomitable Lady Maccon can handle. What does the vampire Queen of the Alexandria Hive really want from her? Why is the God-Breaker Plague suddenly expanding? And how has Ivy Tunstell suddenly become the most popular actress in all the British Empire? (from the back of the book)

Review: This is the fifth in her Parasol Protectorate series, and the last to feature Lady Alexia Tarabotti Macon. It was a satisfying end to a fantastic series - quite my most favorite in years.
I shan't say much here, for fear of spoiling the end, but if you haven't read this author, run out right this moment and purchase Soulless.

This isn't the last we've heard the talented Ms. Carriger. Happily, she is writing another Parasol Protectorate book, featuring a vital character for the first five, and another series centered on a Finishing School with mysterious. I can't wait!

PS: Read about this author and her work here. She is brilliant!

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None (Yet)

Date Finished: 3-10-2012
Pages: 416

Reading Update

Recently Finished:

Timeless by Gail Carriger

The Paleo Diet by Dr. Loren Cordain, Ph. D.

Currectly Reading:

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control and Disease by Dr. Gary Taubes

The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church by Reggie McNeal

Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper

Murder with Peacocks by Donna Andrew

Up Next:

Burning Alive by Shannon Butcher

The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum

Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks and A Writer's Life by Kathleen Norris

What's on your lists?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

January and February

Combined, I read a total of seven books in two months. Pitiful.

I did, however, aquire more then I care to admit. But I also attended my first writing conference, I've had many a splendid gathering with friends and I have written many words and stories.

I have not sacrificed my reading for nothing.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review: We All Went on Safari by Laurie Krebs and Julia Cairns

Synopsis: A children's picture book of a walk in the African plains. Teaches the reader counting in English and Swahili

Review: I loved this book and can't wait to read it to my child. The pictures are bright and fun, the words easy to read rhymes and the counting is the animals of the African plains. Each number is presented in English, with the Swahili translation. In the back are pages with the pronoucation and many facts about Tanzania, the Maasai People and Africa. Over all, I highly recommend this book to parents looking to open new world to their children.

Note: I meet the author at a writing conference. She is delightful, intelligent and wonderful to speak with. She has other books and intend to collect them. She even sighned my copy!

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 2-25-12
Pages: 16

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Review: Tangerine by Edward Bloor

Synopsis: Paul Fisher's older brother Erik is a high school football star, but to Paul he's no hero. Paul's own game is soccer, which he plays even though he has to wear thick glassess because of a mysterious eye injury. When the Fishers move to Tangerine, Florida, Paul tries to make sense of things. Like why people live in place where undergraound fire burn for years, a sinklhole swalloes his school, and lightning strikes the same practice field everyday. Why he fits into the toughest group around, which just happens to be his new soccer team. And most of all, why no one but he can see the terrifying truth about Erik. (from the back of the book)

Review: Being from Florida, this book holds a special place. The smell of the citrus groves, the smoke in the air, the buzzing of mysquitous, the storms, lightning, the heat - all are strong memories to me. And since my brother played soccer, I knew Bloor's description of the character's games were written well.
Overall the characters, main and secondary, were well-written, complex, flawed, and real. The story was well-told, believalbe and intrigugin. It pulled me in, emotionally, and I felt what the characters felt.

I highly recommend this book.

Note: I was able to meet the author as a writing conference. He taught at a high school near where I grew up. He was kind enough to sign my copy!

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 2-23-2012
Pages: 294

Monday, March 5, 2012

Review: On the Hunt by Gena Showalter, Shannon K. Butcher, Jessica Andersen, Deidre Knight

Synopsis: A collection of four short stories by four popular romance novelists.

Ever Night by Gena Showalter
The Collector by Shannon L. Butcher
Crystal Skull by Jessica Andersen
Red Angel by Deirdre Knight

Review: This is an excellent collection if you are tired of romances containing either werewolves or vampires. Only one story has a vampire and she isn't the focus, thankfully.
Showalters' was my least favorite, despite having a fairy tale feel. I never connected with the characters, the ending was too neat and the hero was boring.
Butcher's was my favorite. Her story in set in the larger world explored in her Sentinel War series. I bought the first book in that series after reading this story. The world is intriguing, the characters well-rounded and the concept to the tree tatoo interesting.
Andersen's was interesting, being that she tired her's into the Mayan myth of doomsday in 2012. The author knows her mythology, which makes for intereating reading. The concept is interesting as well, the idea there are people raised to fight against the end of the world. I'm not sure I want to read more, but I'm not adverse to the idea either.
Knight's was interesting, but the end sex scene seemed gratuitous. The secondary characters were interesting and her concept of guardin angels was intriging.

In the end, I recommend this collection is you have never read any of these authors. It's a nice way to tell which author you enjoy and wish to read more off - but then, this is why I read anthologies.
Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 2-15-2012
Pages: 438

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Review: The Iron Duke by Meljean Brooks

Synopsis: After freeing England from Horde control, Rhys Trehaearn, the Iron Duke, has built a merchant empire on the power  - and fear - of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from a airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her is next possession.

With Horde blood running through Mina's veins, becoming Rhy's lover would destroy both her career and her family, yet the investigation prevent Mina from avoiding him...and the Iron Duke's ruthless pursuit makes him difficult to resist.

When Mina discovers the victim's identity, she stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone in England. Now, Mina and Rhys must race across zombie-infested wastelands and treacherous oceans - as Mina is tempted to give up everything for the Iron Duke.

Review: I plucked this book off the shelf at Barnes and Noble, on a whim. I didn't know the author has several other successful series. But after reading this, I can see why.
First, her alternative history world is well-developed, realistic and imaginative. Her characters are well-rounded, flawed and believable. The love story develops naturally, with realistic flaws and problems.
The story kept my interest, the secondary characters (three of which are featured in the next books in the series) are well-rounded and add a pleasant depth to the story, and the villian wasn't easy to idenitfy, which for a romance novel was refreshing.
In the end, this is a pleasent steampunk romance novel, and I'd recommend it to people who enjoy both steampunk and romance novels.
Note: This has several graphic sex scenes, but they are easy to skip if you wish.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Read: 2-10-2012
Pages: 456