Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 reflections .... and being more resolute in 2011

I've been spending some time today reading other bloggers' resolutions for 2011, and started feeling a bit inspired.   I don't tend to make resolutions -- I have tried in the past, but I just don't seem to follow them very well.   However, I'm thinking that maybe .... just maybe ..... if I post up a few here, I just might be more likely to focus on following them.

It's funny to realize that it's already the end of another year.   Admittedly, time seems to pass pretty quickly for me (thus the title of this blog), but looking back, it's been a pretty good year.  In my personal life, there were a few ups and downs, and in my blogging life, a few ups and downs as well --- but more ups than downs.  I started this blog originally just to share my thoughts on the books I read, and I've really enjoyed not only doing that, but participating in memes, and making some friends in the blogging community.   I'm grateful for each follower, and each commenter .... and quickly, want to share on two of the more awesome things that happened to me this year.

The recent Random Magic tour has been so much fun --- just reading the book was a fantastic experience, but participating in the tour was something completely different for me, and it really made me stretch myself creatively.  Completely enjoyed myself.  And completely enjoyed my email conversations with Sasha Soren, as well --- as a result, my writing style in my reviews just might be a bit freer from now on.
And ... completely grateful for the Merry Sisters of Fate contest that I entered (my entry post is here).   I won this bag (which I use all the time for my books) --- but the really cool thing was that entering this contest meant I had to gather a bit of courage and write something.  You wouldn't think this would be a big deal, but for me, after years of not writing any poems, it meant feeling a bit naked.... and going for it anyway.  Very glad I did.  And I still love my poem.

So -- on to the resolutions.  Thanks for bearing with me on that first part.  I have 3 blogging resolutions (should be easy to stick to these), and 3 personal resolutions (if I post them up, I will feel compelled to make an effort on these).   And Happy New Year!!!!!!
1. Comment more.  I tend to read a lot of posts, but I don’t always leave a comment to let the blogger know I’ve been there.  I’m going to get better about this.
2. Don’t worry about reviewing every single book I read.  Sometimes, I just want to read (or re-read) a book and not take any notes. I need to stop feeling guilty about not sharing my thoughts on everything I read.
3. Participate more fully in my memes.  I don’t always have time to visit around to as many other bloggers on Tuesdays and Fridays, but I’m going to make more of an effort.

1. Be more patient when driving.  I tend to grit my teeth and make up nasty combinations of words for other drivers (“festering pus-ball” for example), especially for those driving under the speed limit.  I’m going to make more of an effort to not want to punch these people.
2. Finding something to be grateful for every day.  I am no PollyAnna Sunshine, to be sure --- but it’s too easy to get drawn down into seeing all of the negatives in the world.  I can find at least one thing each day to be happy about, even if I have to really think about it.
3.  Be kinder.  In general, but especially to myself.  I sometimes fall into an awful habit of being really unkind to myself, and I really excel at it.  And I need to stop.  :)

Wrap up post for 2010 challenges......

I had the best intentions..... and I think I bit off more than I could chew, so to speak.   Now, I know better (hopefully).    I've been reading other bloggers' sum-up posts, so here's one of my own.

Flashback Challenge -- completed at the Literati level, of 6 books.

Chunkster Challenge --  completed -- I had signed up for "Do these books make my butt look big" level of 4 books.
2010 Reading Challenge from Bart's Books -- challenge was 20 books, 2 in each of 10 categories.  Uh....  I half completed about 7, and fully completed 4.

Hogwarts Reading Challenge - this one ran until 12/13/10 -- I fell down a bit on this one, as well - although I did complete these classes:  Transfiguration, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Charms, History of Magic, Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, and Divination.   I thought I'd be able to complete everything .... and this challenge kicked my butt.  Which was already kicked from Bart's Challenge.

So ...  what did I learn?   While challenges sound cool, it's probably not a good idea for me to take on more than 3 (I'll have to see if I already did that for 2011....)
totally worn out from reading

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

India Black by Carol Carr

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads): In the winter of 1876, the beautiful young madam India Black is occupied with her usual tasks - keeping her tarts in line, avoiding the police, and tolerating the clergyman bent on converting her girls. But when Sir Archibald Latham of the War Office dies from a heart attack while visiting her brothel, India is unexpectedly thrust into a deadly game between Russian and British agents who are seeking the military secrets Latham carried.  French, the handsome British spy, discovers India disposing of Latham's body, and blackmails her into recovering the missing documents. Their quest takes them from the Russian embassy to Claridge's Hotel, from London to the English coast, all the while chasing the Russian agents who are intent on spiriting the stolen documents out of England.  But it is their own tempestuous relationship they will have to weather as India and French attempt to resist the mutual attraction between them - an attraction that can prove as deadly as the conspiracy entangling them...

And here's what I thought:  I had read a review of this book on Unabridged Chick, and was completely intrigued by her one-sentence summary: "London madam is wrangled into spying on Russians on behalf of the Empire, with help from street urchin and government agent."  I have read a fair amount about the Victorian era (both in fiction and non-fiction... and everything Anne Perry has written, as well), and thought this sounded like a good story.   I had planned on finding the book at the library, but to my surprise, received a very nice email from the author, herself, asking if I'd like to review the book.  Would I?   Okay.  Be like that.  Twist my arm and make me read a good book.   !!

And this was a really good book.  It's the perfect mix of a great main character, interesting supporting characters, adventure, intrigue, and historical setting -- combined with a wonderfully descriptive writing style and fast pace.  Intrigued yet? Let's start with India --- she's not your average streetwalker, plying her trade to just anyone.  No, she's a madam of a fine establishment (think the Everleigh Sisters of Chicago) --- she's a businesswoman with a good head on her shoulders, and a sharp wit, as well.   India is the one who takes us through the story, and she's an interesting narrator, full of witty (and wry) observations about the situation at hand.  When a client perishes at the brothel, she doesn't lose her composure; she calmly comes up with a plan.  And it's all supposed to be a simple job of finding someone to dispose of the body..... until it all gets very complicated, very quickly.

What happens next is pretty clear from the summary above --- the dead client wasn't your average man; there are now missing papers, which cause quite a problem, as it turns out.  This makes for an intriguing story, as India's not sure who she can really trust, and she doesn't have much say in her participation in retrieving the papers.  The supporting characters of French (British spy) and Vincent (street urchin and jack-of-many-trades) not only add to the story as a whole, but also give insight into India's character, as well (as they should).   It's an interesting triangle between the three of them, and it was interesting how the relationships developed throughout the book.   India's narrative voice colors everything, of course --- but she's an enjoyable character.   Example:  "It is amazing what a woman can do if only she ignores what men tell her she can't."  (p. 26).  Or how about -- "I extracted myself from her grasp, no small feat as Rowena had the grip of an octopus in heat."  (p. 91).   I liked her.  She obviously sees things with a wry sense of  humor, no doubt influenced by her life's experiences. 

I really appreciated the historical details in this book, as well.  Carol Carr has obviously done her research, capturing not only the flavor of the Victorian era, both socially and politically, but putting in real details, as well.  For example, her portrayal of Benjamin Disraeli in this story seems accurate with what I had read about him, and the politics of England and Russia also seemed accurate.  She adds in smaller details that also lend richness to the story -- like the revolver that India carries with her.  It's a Webley Bulldog.  I looked it up, and it's quite the gun -- completely practical (and appropriate for the time period).  Details such as this gave the story a nice depth.  I sometimes get a bit frustrated when a book set in the Victorian era seems to focus only on the clothing, and some social customs --- this book had a very authentic feel it.    

This was an interesting, lively read, with a terrific main character (and some great supporting characters, as well).  The book is coming out in January, 2011 --- and if you'd like to know more about Carol Carr and the book, she's got a great website hereAnd stay tuned --- Ms. Carr has agreed to let me interview her, and give away a copy of the book!!

First sentences: "My name is India Black.  I am a whore.   If those words made you blush, if your hand fluttered to your cheek or you harrumphed disapprovingly into your beard, then you should return this volume to the shelf, cast a cold glance at the proprietor as you leave, and hasten home feeling proper and virtuous." 
Thoughts on the cover:  Absolutely beautiful and eye-catching.  Gives a good impression of the setting of the book, and a nice portrait of India, herself (definitely in line with the description of the character).

Wordless Wednesday --- Chihuly at Modern Museum, KC

Chihuly KC ModM

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I'm back -- and all kinds of refreshed now!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas!  I took a small break and did some reading -- and also went to Kansas City, MO.  Now that I've returned, I'm getting back on track --- ready to start posting some reviews.....

and wanted to give a quick thank you to my Secret Santa, Kelsey over at The Book Scout, who sent me a very nice package of books & swag (and which I just opened this morning).   Thank you!!!!

I also just opened my pack of bookmarks, from the Bookmark Swap that I participated in.  Just what I need for my new books!   :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Small reading break......

As usual, life gets hectic around the holidays....  and I'm in the middle of two really good books right now, and would like to devote a bit of time to them (so no Teaser today, no Wordless tomorrow....) --- I am going to take a blogging break this week and spend some time reading (and drinking cocoa).  I'll be back Tuesday, December 28th.   

Have a great Christmas, everyone!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Random Magic by Sasha Soren --- my review

Summary:  When absent-minded Professor Random misplaces the main character from Alice in Wonderland, young Henry Witherspoon must book-jump to fetch Alice before chaos theory kicks in and the world vanishes. Along the way he meets Winnie Flapjack, a wit-cracking doodle witch with nothing to her name but a magic feather and a plan. Such as it is. Henry and Winnie brave the Dark Queen, whatwolves, pirates, Struths, and fluttersmoths, Priscilla and Charybdis, obnoxiously cheerful vampires, Baron Samedi, a nine-dimensional cat, and one perpetually inebriated Muse to rescue Alice and save the world by tea time.
And here’s my review of this book:  Let me begin by saying that this book was like nothing I have ever read.  From the very beginning to the last words, I thoroughly enjoyed my read, taking time to re-read and savor things along the way.  I think one of the first notes I wrote to myself was that this story is like a fever dream: all floating around and bizarre, but somehow making an odd kind of sense.  It’s not the kind of book where you can make everything fall into place, make it behave.  Instead, I found it was easier just to lean back and relax into the story, letting it all wash over me.  I then could delight in the small things I discovered along the way -- thorn trees that throw thorns; “story-weaving needles;” butterfly trees.   I grew to love Winnie, a no-nonsense girl with a courageous heart.

Other readers have compared this story to Alice in Wonderland, and certainly, there is Henry’s search for Alice, and some of the things he encounters are very Alice-like.  Mr. Rabbite.  Mock turtle.  A dormouse.  A life-size chess game (more on that later).   The story definitely has that queer, somewhat disturbing yet completely intriguing quality that I find in Lewis Carroll’s stories of Alice (Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass).  We have characters who encounter beautiful things, and frightening things (sometimes, both at once), and who move from place to place in odd ways.  

I loved many things about this story.  The main characters, Henry and Winnie are interesting and well-written, and I found I really cared about what happened to them, and how their relationship was going to turn out.  They are both pretty straightforward, although Winnie admittedly has more mystery about her, being a doodle witch and all.   Winnie’s also Henry’s guide through many of the places in this book, so it’s a good thing that she’s smart and resourceful.

And the places in this book?  They’re wonderful and strange.  Sometimes, wonderfully strange.  Beautiful and disturbing (sometimes, both at once).  And that goes for the people, as well.  We meet The Count deMorgue, for example, who is darkly charming, and clad in a velvet dinner jacket “in a snappy shade of prune.”* (p. 113)  We meet the Muses, all enchanting and intriguing.  Baron Samedi makes an appearance, as well.   For those of you not familiar with the vodou religion, Baron Samedi is one of the loa, a guardian of crossroads (among other things).  He's my favorite of the loa .....   and no, I am not a practitioner - I just like to study different kinds of things.  

What’s also wonderful here is the writing.   Sasha Soren has a unique way of writing that can be amusing at one turn, thoughtful at the next, and all kinds of things in between.  Each chapter begins with a little description, and I found many of these to be interesting and funny, all on their own.  Soren is an incredibly creative writer, gifting the reader with all kinds of captivating details and descriptions.   I was frequently delighted by things I came across in this story, and really enjoyed how things moved from the light to the dark.   What I mean by that last part is: things seem to take a dark turn later in the book, when Henry discovers some disturbing things, and the whole chess game (described in exciting and fascinating detail) is somewhat ominous.  In fact, I would say the chess game is completely scary .... I was worried for Henry and Winnie.  And then, there are some interesting reflections on love.  As many times as I smiled to myself while reading this book, there were other parts where my heart ached.   I hadn’t been predicting that when I started the story, but there you are --- things aren’t always what you expect them to be.

This was a clever, twisting adventure of a story -- color me completely charmed.  

* let me say that this gave me a flashback to last Christmas Eve, where my sister presented us with a dessert layered with hazelnut spread... and prune filling.  It was somewhat odd and a bit disagreeable.

The subtle magic in Random Magic...

So, subtle magic -- what does that mean?  Well, to begin with, subtle is defined as: “finely textured.” “Delicate.”  “Elusive.”  “Perceptive, refined”  “Having or marked by keen insight and ability to penetrate deeply and thoroughly.”   “Cunningly made or contrived: ingenious.”   And looking at this story, what does that really mean?  And please be warned -- there are some spoilers ahead.....

If you’ve been following this blog tour, you know by now a bit about the story. And if, not, no worries -- my review will be posted next.   This story has magic in abundance, although not all of the magic is overt.  For sure, there are the bigger magics: Winnie changing a rubber duck into a boat, for example.  These are the kind of magics a reader might expect, especially if you are used to the world of Harry Potter.  However, there are many smaller, more subtle magics at play throughout this book.    

Take, for example some of the small hints.  On page 92,  Henry encounters “Erebus root,” which has a nasty stink to it.  So what’s Erebus?  It’s not a what; it’s a person.   According to Greek mythology, Erebus was the Son of Chaos, and he married his sister Nyx (who, incidentally, also pops up in the story).  He and Nyx had several children, including Charon, the ferryman (who also has an encounter with Winnie and Henry).  (Other member of their brood, by the way: “Nemesis, Hypnos and Thanatos).  So what does this have to do with magic?  Maybe not much, but you never know --- either way, it’s a hint about what Winnie and Henry are encountering, and might come into play later.  When reading this book, I frequently would discover little things like this that I would delight in.  Such as: the salad described on p. 119 -- it contains blooming nightshade, briony, laburnum and Jack-in-the-Pulpit.  All of these are poisonous.  To know this is to know what kind of nasty (and yet cool) salad this is.   And by the way, you might know “Laburnum” from Richard Adams’ Watership Down -- Hazel encounters a rabbit named Laburnum, which is disturbing, because in their language, the name means “Poison Tree,” something a rabbit should never be named.

Or how about this subtle magic -- names.  As many readers know, throughout mythology and stories, examples can be seen of secret names, or names that had great power.  In many fairy tales, one’s own name holds great power (which is why you should never tell a fairy your real name).  To invoke is a name is to draw power.  In this story, one example is Nevermore, the raven that Winnie and Henry meet, and whose name Winnie later invokes in a desperate moment.  There is also subtle magic in words -- Winnie uses this power to call upon “The Letter of the law,” cleverly using words to her advantage (to cross bridges, for example).   And speaking of words, I took notes on some I particularly liked when I came across: “pipsqueakery” (p. 48), “sniggling” (p. 85), and “snarky black something” (p. 108).  .....  I have days where I believe I have a snarky black something lurking close by.

And there’s the subtle magic of objects.  Think of your favorite pair of earrings, or pair of shoes.  Maybe you have a good luck charm that means nothing to anyone except you.  Winnie has a feather.  Does it perform magic tricks?  Does it turn into a brilliantly-winged bird that then turns into a magical hat?  No.  But it does something wondrous, nonetheless.... it tickles.  And yes, you’ll have to read the story to find out more.   And what about the worn blanket that Henry gives to the gatekeeper?  Or the old knife he gives up at another gate?  These objects would seem ordinary at first glance... but then it is explained to Henry that “The blanket was woven with more than thread.  It was woven inextricably with the memory of someone who shivered so you could be warm.  And the knife...wasn’t just a broken blade.  It was used by someone who went hungry so you could be fed.”  (p. 279)    

This is the beauty of subtle magic --- something can appear to be ordinary, or or common, but the real value in it can be something intangible, and yet invaluable if seen differently.  Imagine a favorite toy (or stuffed animal) you loved as a child and forgot all about --- if you discovered it one day, tucked away in your attic, you might feel like you’ve found a treasure, even if it looks worn or old.  An old coat discarded by one person could be prized by another, seeing in that coat the warmth and shelter they need.   This is the subtle kind of magic we all encounter, and is all around us.  I see small magic at work when I see birds at my feeders, or when I encounter tiny new plants in the Spring.  Or make something like a necklace out of odd beads and discarded keys.  In this story, Henry doesn’t always understand that the wonderful, colorful, and amazing things might not have the most magic, but the smallest things just might.  It’s good encouragement to look around you with fresh eyes from time to time. 
And if you’re wondering where I found my information about Greek mythology, etc. -- I’m a librarian, so I look in all sorts of sources -- encyclopedias, databases, and good old-fashioned Wikipedia.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hoppin' along.....

Joining the Hop a bit late today.....  but I think I can get some hopping done this weekend!   The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer over at Crazy for Books, and lets us all visit each other from Friday-Monday -- visiting blogs we know, finding new blogs, and generally having fun!  This week's question comes from Alex, who asks:  "What do you consider most important in a story: the plot or the characters?"

Hoppin' through the tinsel......
I thought about this for a minute and realized that while characters are important, the plot is what I usually find most interesting.   I can like the characters, but if the story basically goes nowhere, I lose interest.  That being said, the plot can be a great one, but without interesting characters, can fall flat.   So ... it's hard to choose between one or the other --- I suppose I like a decent balance between the two.    The one thing I do note is that I don't have to like characters to find them interesting;  but if they're flat, or badly written, I stop caring about them ... and then stop caring about the story. 

Easy-sounding question, but tricky to answer!!!      Happy Hopping, everyone!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I know it's past Tuesday, but......

came across this, and decided to share (I could say it is a Thursday teaser...) -- couldn't help myself...

"The sea was beautiful, blue, limitless, and blind.  She went by many names, but belonged to no one but herself -- and every unwary soul that trespassed the blue depths was hers.  It was a promise forged when time was young."  

p. 226   Random Magic by Sasha Soren   

Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  Sixteen-year-old, music- and sound design-obsessed Drea doesn’t have friends. She has, as she’s often reminded, issues. Drea’s mom and a rotating band of psychiatrists have settled on “a touch of Asperger’s.”   Having just moved to the latest in a string of new towns, Drea meets two other outsiders. And Naomi and Justin seem to actually like Drea. The three of them form a band after an impromptu, Portishead-comparison-worthy jam after school. Justin swiftly challenges not only Drea’s preference for Poe over Black Lab but also her perceived inability to connect with another person. Justin, against all odds, may even like like Drea.It’s obvious that Drea can’t hide behind her sound equipment anymore. But just when she’s found not one but two true friends, can she stand to lose one of them?

And here's what I thought:  I'm determined to avoid any spoilers, so this might be a bit short.  What I can say is that this was a really good story.  Drea's an interesting character; because of her "touch of Asperger's," she relates to people a little differently --- but it makes her way of seeing things really unique.  She's not always the most comfortable character, and sometimes, there were parts where my heart ached for her a little.  But I liked her.  She's a bit socially awkward, which brought back memories of my own experiences in high school (not that I have Asperger's, but I was kinda shy, and completely awkward around some people).  Her relationship with Naomi also brought back some personal memories.

Naomi and Justin make interesting foils as characters -- that is, each of them highlights different elements of Drea's own personality.  Naomi's wild, with what seems to be a devil-may-care attitude, completely the opposite of Drea (and why I think Drea might be drawn to her).  Justin, on the other hand, is quiet, and there's more to him than meets the eye -- his quietness is different than Drea's, but the fact that he's a complicated person makes for an intriguing pairing with Drea.   I found Naomi to be frustrating (read the book, and you'll probably agree), and she reminded me of someone I tried to be friends with in high school.  Let's call her Eve.  Eve was daring and vivacious, witty and kind of fun -- and I felt more witty and fun when we hung out together.  However, Eve liked to drink .... and this on occasion led to some not-so-fun adventures.    And that's all I'm going to say --- this book isn't about me.  But elements of the book really resonated with me (funny, considering Drea's focus on music).    

Note: at the very back of the book, the author does make a statement: "I'd like to start off by saying that this book is not about defining Asperger's syndrome (AS) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  It's about one girl's story and experience-which I hope everyone (whether on the autistic spectrum or not) can relate to."   I liked that the main character in this book had "a touch" of Asperger's --- it's nice to read about a realistic character, flaws and all, especially when AS and ADHD are the reality for some teens.

First sentence(s):  "One in thirty-eight.  Bet on a single number in roulette, and those are the odds of winning."

Thoughts on the cover:  At first, I wasn't sure what the cover art had to do with the story, but as I kept reading, it was revealed.  I like how the girl's head is completely thrown back, and her arms are outstretched -- she's completely open.  Simple, but a powerful image.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Causing a Kerfuffle.....

I don't usually write about things outside the world of books (maybe once in a while...), but I figured I'd mention something that's not that big, and yet has had a somewhat large-ish impact on my daily life.   Crosby.

This is Crosby.  He's a 7-month-old (or so we think), new Zealand Red rabbit.  Cute, huh?   Yes.   But.....

We already have 4 bunnies that we share our house with.  They're paired off -- so we have 2 in one room, and 2 in another (yes, each pair gets their own room) -- and we have a big "family room" downstairs, that both pairs rotate through so they can all have more "out time."   Well, a cute as he is, Crosby has thrown a bit of a wrench into the routine.   We didn't plan to have him ---- but, to make a long story short, he needed to be rescued from a really bad situation.  His previous people didn't educate themselves about rabbits, and were putting him outside in a cage on their balcony during the day (yes, in the COLD), and then bringing him in at night ... only to stuff in him in a cat carrier to sleep.  Needless to say, we stepped in and took him (his people wanted to give him away, and a friend of ours is their neighbor).  So, now, Crosby is set up in the family room, in a nice, big pen (he's also been to the vet twice, and was "tutored" last week).   And, he's a lot of fun -- we let him out for hours at a time so he can run around (REALLY run), and he's friendly, and cute.....

and the other bunnies are quite put out.   Displeased, so to speak.  Definitely disapproving.  We had Crosby safely in his pen, and had a meet-and-greet with the 2 pairs....  and although he's quite friendly, the other 4.... are not.   We've come up with a bit of a solution now, which moves Crosby to another area so the pairs can go back to their regularly scheduled routine....  but of course, I still need to work in Crosby's own "out time", as well.   Needless to say, the whole new-foster-bunny situation has caused everything to be thrown a bit out of whack (I find I'm reading less, because when Crosby is running around, he's quite distracting.  In a good way, of course).

We're hoping that someone will adopt him soon --- although we love having him at the house, it will be extremely tricky to "triple" him with one of the other pairs, and frankly, as fond as I've grown of him, I know he'd be a wonderful bunny for someone else. He's in the House Rabbit Network now, so if you're curious, you can look him up.  Please note: House Rabbit screens potential adopters very carefully --- so don't worry that he's going to be given away to just anyone.   In the meantime, I'm reading a bit less, but having some interesting adventures.

But, back to my regularly scheduled programming tomorrow --- a Wordless Wednesday is in the works, and a review is ready for Thursday.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Secret Santa gift!!!!

It was a rough day yesterday, so I treated myself and opened up my Secret Santa gift a bit early (I was going to try to wait......).    And look!!!  A nice, new journal, cool bookmark, and a gift card!!!   All from Brittanie, at A Book Lover  --- thank you!!!!

And this bookmark is just what I need --- it's The Four Agreements:  "Be impeccable with your word, Don't take anything personally, Don't make assumptions, Always do your best."   I think I'll keep this in my current book so I can keep referring to it ---- working with the public, it's easy to take things a bit personally.... and I need to get better about letting things roll off my back.    :)

Thank you, Brittanie!!!!   

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Black Wings by Christina Henry

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  Maddy's position may come with magical powers and an impressive wingspan, but it doesn't pay the bills. And then there are her infuriating boss, tenant woes, and a cranky, popcorn-loving gargoyle to contend with.   Things start looking up, though, when tall, dark, and handsome Gabriel Angeloscuro agrees to rent the empty apartment in Maddy's building. It's probably just a coincidence that as soon as he moves in demons appear on the front lawn. But when an unholy monster is unleashed upon the streets of Chicago, Maddy discovers powers she never knew she possessed. Powers linked to a family legacy of tarnished halos. Powers that place her directly between the light of Heaven and the fires of Hell...

And here's what I thought:  I figured I'd be in for a good read when I read the line on the cover: "She's an agent of death who really needs to get a life."   Right off, I had a "Dead Like Me" moment.   I had read good reviews of this book, and was also intrigued because I knew it was set in Chicago (yay!).  I was also hoping this book would pull me out of the small reading slump I seem to have fallen into....   and it did!!

Written in first-person, the reader experiences everything in the story through Maddy.  While this might irritate some readers, I actually don't mind it, because it gives me insight into the character, and keeps the story consistent.   Maddy's a fairly normal person in that she's got a tricky job, not much of a social life, and has some family issues.  What you quickly realize, however, is that her job is to escort souls to The Door (think Dead Like Me....  although, of course, if you don't know what that is, it's ok -- Maddy basically reaps souls after death), her social life is somewhat constrained by her job, and, oh yeah, her mother's dead and her father... well, her father's got quite a story.   When Gabriel shows up to rent an apartment, it seems like there's more to him that meets the eye -- and then the story really takes off.  

The pace in this story is pretty quick, which is expected, considering all that's going on.  But, I didn't have any problems keeping track of what was happening, or felt like there were parts that lagged.  Maddy's an interesting character; she's smart, and has a snarky kind of wit that I really like, but she's got some issues, as well.  I liked that she wasn't perfect, and even would admit that she didn't always know what to do, or what was going on.   For instance, it turns out that she has some magical abilities, but she doesn't know how to control them -- so she has to learn what to do.  "I never realized just how little self-control I had.  My loner lifestyle had left me at a disadvantage.  I'd never had to control my temper for the sake of another person, or keep my cool under pressure in a job.  For all intents and purposes I had the emotional control of a three-year-old."  (p. 248).   Really interesting -- and something that I think many people might relate to, even if they aren't an Agent of Death.

Extra bonus points for setting this in Chicago (I live in the Chicago area, and previously lived in several Chicago neighborhoods).  I got a kick out of Mady visiting Clark & Belmont, and mentioning The Alley (I did get my black leather motorcycle jacket there years ago....).  The author lives in Chicago, and so her descriptions, places, etc are spot-on (which is nice, considering that sometimes, authors can set stories in places they know nothing about).    And, extra bonus points for giving Maddie a cool little sidekick:  Beezle, who's a gargoyle (I mean, how COOL is that??).

In conclusion, if you like urban fantasy, and you're looking for something a bit different, you might like this book.   I tend to read a fair amount of urban fantasy, so I enjoyed that there was a bit of a different twist in this one.  I enjoyed the story and characters, and the book had a quick pace that made it a fast read.  

First sentence:  "I hate it when a soul goes all stubborn on me."

Thoughts on the cover: Nice illustration, with a hint of wings, and darkness.  The one quibble I have is that the way the character is described (physically) doesn't seem to match the illustration as well as I'd like.   However, this is such a small thing; overall, matches the story pretty well.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Second hop today .......

I just posted for my stop on the Winterlong musical blog hop ---- so please stop by and take a listen (the music's lovely!).    And, because it's Friday, I'm doing a quick Book Blogger Hop post, too -----

Hosted by Jennifer over at Crazy for Books, the Hop is a Friday-Monday event that lets us all discover new blogs, visit blogs we follow, and just have some fun!   Every week, there's a question --- this week's comes from Angela, who asks: What is the thing you like most about reading book blogs?  Is it the reviews, author guest posts, articles, giveaways, or something else entirely?"     

I visit blogs for all of those reasons!!!   Admittedly, I don't enter many giveaways, but I really enjoy reading about books I've heard about (and discovering books I've never heard of), and author posts and articles always make for good reading!

Enjoy the hop, everyone, and please stop by my other post to read about Random Magic, and hear some great winter music!!!  

Winterlong Musical Blog Hop!!!!

Music is a strong theme in Random Magic-- so strong, in fact, that one of the celestial characters Winnie and Henry meet is Efterpe), the Muse of music.     
In celebration of the winter season, here’s a fun blog hop to check out. You’ll find lovely songs with wintry themes that also match some of the important themes in the book.
Come sit by the fire and enjoy a musical feast for friends with us...
You are here: #10 of 10 (The Fluidity of Time)

Miserere - Duet: Luciano Pavarotti, Zucchero
Song and book themes: Art - Beauty - Inspiration

Random Magic quote:  
A small girl with lovely glowing eyes swooped down out of a tree, landing gracefully on the garden path. She sprang up off the cobblestones in her sandaled feet, and hovered over them, a bright blur of white, pink and gold, in a flowing tunic embroidered with silver swans. Musical notes drifted lazily around her head. (More
Watch Random Magic trailer -- More Random Magic: Browse      
This is the last stop on the blog hop!
Bonus: Free MP3s (as avail.) Selection of 25 free MP3s, one each day, from Dec.1-25: Go to 25 Days of Free 

If you'd like to start from the top of the hop again -- and who wouldn't? -- feel free to click here: Let's do that again! (or - note to jo: can add this alt, instead if it's more clear/less vague. or can just use both) Check out music stop #1 of 10: Take me there
There's also a nice summary of all the songs on the hop, courtesy of vvb32 Reads who'll give her take on all of the songs, so feel free to check it out: Summary
(If you enjoy a particular music pick, please consider buying the track to help support the person or group that created it for everyone’s enjoyment. River of Light is the unofficial soundtrack for the 2010 Random Magic winter season tour, Random Magic: Winterlong. Happy listening!)
Reader notes: Lyrics for the song provided here
For the impatient, here are all the blogs on the hop:
Themes: Buoyancy - Good Cheer

#2 of 10: Geeky Blogger (@thehistorychic) Themes: Reflection - Spirituality

Themes: Fortitude - Quirkiness
Themes: Tenderness - Devotion
Themes: Mystery - Magic
Themes: Celebration - Humor

#7 of 10: vvb32 Reads (@vvb32reads) Themes: Love - Geniality
Themes: Comedy - Creativity
Themes: Hope - Light

#10 of 10: The Fluidity of Time (Twitter n/a)
Themes: Art - Beauty - Inspiration

Reader note: You're invited! Do you have a favorite tune for the winter season? Feel free to share some of your top tunes in the comments, maybe everyone will find a great new song to check out. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I realize that I have not posted a book review for a bit..... hard to believe, because I have been reading.  But, nothing has really struck me as something I want to write about.   I gave up on my Jennifer Rardin challenge because I couldn't get through the first Jaz Parks book (just wasn't my cup of tea).  And we've also had a bit of an change in our usual schedule in the house, as we recently took in a new bunny in need of an emergency rescue...  he has been exhausting us with his energy.

However, I have two books started and in progress, so expect something soon.   In the meantime, please enjoy this small rabbit.

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