Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

Rosemary and Rue (October Daye, Book 1)From McGuire's website:  "The world of Faerie never disappeared: it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own. Secrecy is the key to Faerie's survival—but no secret can be kept forever, and when the fae and mortal worlds collide, changelings are born. Half-human, half-fae, outsiders from birth, these second-class children of Faerie spend their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations. Or, in the case of October "Toby" Daye, rejecting it completely. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating into a "normal" life. Unfortunately for her, Faerie has other ideas.

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose, one of the secret regents of the San Francisco Bay Area, pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening's dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby is forced to resume her old position as knight errant to the Duke of Shadowed Hills and begin renewing old alliances that may prove her only hope of solving the mystery... before the curse catches up with her."

You can't read a blog that covers urban fantasy nowadays without reading glowing reviews of both Ilona Andrews and Seanan McGuire.  Having tried and not cared for Andrews's work, I nervously committed myself to read the first book of the October Daye series from Seanan McGuire.

To begin with, it had a few things working for it that the Kate Daniels books did not.  First, I love faeries.  Second, I hate romance.  Now, you are probably thinking that is a giant lie told by the most gigantic liar you've ever met considering my review list, but it's also partially true nowadays.  I find that while a good romance ranks up there as one of the best things I can read or watch on film, a bad romance can make a very good piece of entertainment seem horrible to me.  McGuire pretty much leaves romance off the table with this book.  There are clearly mentions of romantic interests and hints that future characters will be important romantically, but there isn't any of this "we sniped at each other but underneath all of that was a clear sense of our impassioned need to have rough sex right at that moment" nonsense that some urban fantasies and paranormal romances seem to love.

Once you get beyond my superficial reasons for liking this book, there's also a lot of other things to enjoy.  We come to Daye six months after an event that clearly was life changing for her.  It gives her a reason to be negative and full of hate for the faery world, while also making her sympathetic immediately even with her attitude.  Daye does not come across as all powerful, with simple illusions causing her headaches and pain.  She seems, humorously enough, human.  Her near death wish behavior in her quest to find the killing of her frenemy is reasonable too since her non-participation leads to death anyways.  In other words, Daye comes across not as a angsty, sarcastic, and oversexed heroine, but as a person thrown into a situation and being forced to get their way free of that situation in any way possible.

Saying that, I didn't care for how often Daye was on the brink of death.  After a while, that all bled together.  (BAD PUN UNINTENTIONAL!) Nor did I care for the characters of Julie or Tybalt.  They were uninteresting and one note.  I was sad that we never got the meet Evening Winterrose as she seemed to be particularly interesting, but the Luidaeg was fascinating and I hope she's in every one of these stories.  I also disliked the ease in which Daye fell into old routines with the fey even though she knew the consequences of working with them. 

I'm definitely going to overlook the things I didn't care for about the book and continue with this series.  I have high hopes that it'll be a favorite over time!

Verdict:  7.  I liked it more than I like most urban fantasies nowadays.

Thoughts:  After disliking the Kate Daniels series from Ilona Andrews, I'm relieved to like this particular blogosphere favorite.  I don't like being a hater all the time.


Enchantment Place edited by Denise Little

Enchantment PlaceFrom Goodreads:  "The stores in Enchantment Place live up to the title, catering to a rather unique clientele ranging from vampires and werecreatures to wizards and witches, elves and unicorns = in short, anyone with shopping needs not likely to be met in the chain stores. Here are seventeen shopping trips you'll never forget, from a store that sells the highest quality familiars… to the non-magical daughter of a magic-filled family who is left to mind the family jewelry store though she has no means to defeat an enchanting thief… to a woman running a Wiccan supply store who is suddenly faced with an IRS audit.…"

Honestly, I feel like a bit of a jerk giving this a higher score than Sixteen, which overall is of higher quality, but it's all about what you expect versus what you get.  With Sixteen, I expected something lighthearted, but moving about sixteenth years.  What I got was depression.  With Enchantment Place, I expected a mediocre anthology about a magic mall with some good and some bad stories and for most of them to be comic.  That is what I got.  

I will admit I liked the first story by Mary Jo Putney, a cute tale which introduces us the the mall and the type of customers it might have from the point of a mundane human, and the next story from Esther Friesner, a story about a magical familiar hamster, so much that I expected a much better selection of stories after reading the first two, but the rest of the series eventually settled into more of what I might have guessed was coming based on previous anthology experiences.

A few stories disappointed more than others including one about a woman who only finds her magic when she finds her soulmate (UGH) and another about a woman who buckles down and finds herself good at doing something for the first time after years of being a wastrel and that ruins her whole life.  Great life lessons, no?

Others are just forgettable.  As in, I read the summary up top and I asked myself, "Wiccan supply store and an IRS audit?  What?"  And after I recalled it, I realized it was one of the latter stories in the book!  

If you like anthologies about comedic uses of magic, give this a try.  Heck, I picked up the fact that I might possibly like the work of a romance author (Mary Jo Putney) out of it and that's enough to make me smile.

Verdict:  5.  Some stories definitely deserved a higher score, but the overall quality drags it down to a 5.

Thoughts:  I want to get out there and read some Mary Jo Putney now!  That was one of the clear and surprising winners to me.


Books My Son Loves: If You Take A Mouse To The Movies by Laura Numeroff

If You Take a Mouse to the MoviesChristmas in July continues for the series Books My Son Loves.  Humorously, this series gets no love according to my stats, but they are the ones that I'm happiest to write and I feel so useful to new mothers.

The If You Give A... series by Laura Numeroff is pretty darned famous amongst the picture book reading set.  It's rare that you find a child who has not been read at least one or two.  We started off with a book about a cat and a cupcake (sure to be mentioned at a later date), but when I spotted this little Christmas themed book last winter, I made sure to pick it up.  There is nothing I love more than seasonal picture books when it comes to reading for my son. 

This book is adorable with the sweetest images which are bright and cheerful and a mouse that should seem annoying and bossy, but instead seems joyful and intent on enjoying the season.  My son finds so much to look at on each page, enjoying things like what ornaments are on the tree the mouse decorates, or the mouse's underwear and blanket after it comes in from the cold.  Similarly, both my husband and I find things on the pages to point out to each other when we read, just because they are cute in idea or because we think they'll make either our son or each other laugh.

While the book is clearly Christmas themed, it doesn't address the religious aspects of the holiday, leaving it pretty good as a go-to book for someone who celebrates the pageantry of Christmas, but not the holiness of Christmas. 


Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook (P.S.)
From Goodreads"In the ten years since his classic Kitchen Confidential first alerted us to the idiosyncrasies and lurking perils of eating out, from Monday fish to the breadbasket conspiracy, much has changed for the subculture of chefs and cooks, for the restaurant business—and for Anthony Bourdain. Medium Raw explores these changes, moving back and forth from the author's bad old days to the present. Tracking his own strange and unexpected voyage from journeyman cook to globe-traveling professional eater and drinker, and even to fatherhood, Bourdain takes no prisoners as he dissects what he's seen, pausing along the way for a series of confessions, rants, investigations, and interrogations of some of the most controversial figures in food."

I enjoyed Kitchen Confidential and Anthony Bourdain's very real and vivid anger.  I find that I respond to people who write angrily, as I'm sure most of us do.  My husband also enjoyed the book, as a huge fan of cooking and food.  So, when our son spilled a container of mustard all over this book at Barnes and Noble, it was clearly a sign from the book gods that we were intended to buy it.

Medium Raw is a collection of essays relating to his previous book, his current life, the enemies and friends he's made, how he's changed over the years, and some updated thoughts on food and the people who work with it.  Quite honestly, the best bits are his thoughts on food and the related industry.  The chapter labeled Lust made me want to eat morning, noon, and night.  A chapter regarding a man who worked fish prep for Eric Ripert's Le Bernardin is delightful for several reasons including Bourdain's own awe and respect for the man's skill.  Bourdain manages very effectively to get across his feelings and his opinions when his essays relate to food.  You can practically feel his weariness at the idea of tasting menus when you read the chapter on Per Se.

I was less impressed with his chapter on David Chang.  Unlike the essays in which he slams a person eloquently (Alice Waters and Alan Richman get their own special chapters) so that you understand the hate in his heart, his chapter about David Chang is almost loving, but I have no further understand of that love than David himself is a hater.  (Do haters like to stick together?)

Finally, his chapters on himself are more hit or miss.  Some do not speak to me at all because I have no experience being either an underpaid, overworked, coked out chef or a very rich, powerful, and influential writer.  Others, like his chapter on dancing with his two year old daughter, speak powerfully to me as it highlights the fact that having a child can change your whole life outlook.

I really can't recommend this book enough if you like books on food or the cooking industry.  Also, read this if you like anger.  I really do like anger when it is not directed at me.

Verdict: 9.  It made me think and I enjoyed it.  There are very few books that I could say more of.

Thoughts:  While some of the book is cohesive and attempts to segue from one chapter to another, it really is best to treat each individual chapter as its own essay and leave it at that.  Also, I love angry writing.  I just identify with it so well.


Comfort Reads: Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward

Villains by NecessityFrom Amazon's website:  "With the banishment of Evil from the realms, the final victory of Good is assured-unless a few stalwart antiheroes can save the world from a serious and potentially fatal imbalance. First novelist Forward explores the complications that arise from a surfeit of "goodness" in the world. The result is a skewed version of the epic fantasy that features an assassin, a thief, an evil sorceress, a dark knight, and an implacable druid as the villains-turned-heroes who must restore the delicate balance of opposing forces before their world disappears in a blinding flash of Goodness and Light. Fans of role-playing games will recognize many familiar conventions in this seriocomic fantasy adventure. A candidate for fantasy collections in large libraries."

Rather hilariously, I've already reviewed this book, and I hadn't realized it until I went to the Amazon page and saw my own review for it there!  I will paste my review in and add a few thoughts.
In a twist on the usual fantasy story, Forward's heroes are not classically good-hearted heroes, but instead villains. Including an assassin, an evil sorceress, a greedy thief, and a black knight, the main characters are likable and intriguing. They band together to save the world from destruction by the powers of good.

In the beginning, I found the characters one-dimensional. However, as the story quickly unfolded, I was fascinated to see that both character introspection and interaction developed their personalities to an amazing degree. After that, even minor, short-lived characters managed to grab my attention fully.

There are a number of sly digs at other fantasy works, which make Villains By Necessity an even funnier book if you're well-read in fantasy novels.

I wrote that review in 2000 when I apparently was unable to actually remember plot points or characters from the book.  Villains by Necessity does many things wrong.  I won't lie to you.  It's not extremely well written.  There are many plot holes if you think about it too long.  I think the author confuses the nature of good and evil with law and chaos (which is a no, no especially since the author is clearly a fan of early Dungeons and Dragons.)  However, it's still fun if you're well-read in fantasy. 

I can't really recommend that you buy it since it is rather expensive (having been out of print for ages), but if you know anyone who owns it, or if your library has it, try to read it if you like fantasy or Dungeons and Dragons.  It's take on concepts present in most fantasy novels is interesting and refreshing. 

I will admit that when I was younger, a particular favorite of mine included the skewering of Dragonlance that was more meaningful because I had just finished reading the original Dragonlance trilogy.  Nowadays, I enjoy Sam (the book's main character and an assassin) and relationships with the other villains around him much more.  The parody has become less enjoyable, but the things I considered boring at that time have become more.  Such is life. 


Books My Son Loves: One Snowy Day by Jeffrey Scherer

One Snowy Day (level 1) (Hello Reader)I know it's an odd book to highlight at this time of year, but let's treat this like a Christmas in July special!  I bought this book on a whim at a yard sale and the ten cents I paid have led to one of the best investments I've ever made in books.  This book is a hit with my son.  The art is just gorgeous cartoon-y fun about a bunch of woodland animals getting together to build a snowman.  First they must collect the parts, then they need to put it together and celebrate.  It's all heavily outlined in black with simple coloring and friendly animals.  Many pages have small things going on that my son and I can discuss such as, "Look, that mouse's tushie is sticking up out of the snow!"  This inspires my son to laugh for ages at the tushie and to point it out each time we read it. 

Also great is the very simple and repetitive text meant for a new reader.  While my son can't read, he can easily remember the story.  This means that I can read off the first part of the sentence and he can supply the sentence's direct object from memory.  He gets very excited by this, often screaming things like mitten and carrot at me while we read.  This is a book that I've read over and over to my son, probably fifty times or more by now.  I think the best part about it is that I don't get tired of reading it.


Heroes Adrift by Moira J. Moore

Heroes AdriftFrom the author's website:  "Shield Dunleavy Mallorough and Source Shintaro Karish are summoned by the Empress and charged with the task of finding the descendents of her exiled sister. Lee and Taro recognize they are ill-suited to the task, but they are in no position to refuse. So, in search of lost royalty, they travel to the Southern Islands, where the heat is unbearable, the clothing is just short of optional, and the less-than-friendly locals couldn’t care less that Lee and Taro are working for the Empress."

Before I go anywhere with this review, I'd like to give Moore a shout out for creating a genuinely gender blind world when it comes to power and relationships.  In the Lee and Taro books, homosexual and heterosexual relations are both norms and Lee never knows off hand what a person's sexual orientation is.  Additionally, people in power are as likely to be women as men and being a heir is all about birth order and family rather than gender, but it's never pointed out. It just is.  I realized after I read the first book and appreciated that fact, that I've never read a book like that before.

Whew, what a lot changes in this book for the characters.  The Empress ships Lee and Karish off to the Southern Islands and every thing changes, and that is really for the good.  The series needed a bit of a shake up and this did it splendidly.  As it turns out, in my last review of the series, I was terribly incorrect.  Lee and Karish do become romantically involved in this book and, oddly, it doesn't seem to be a major plot point, which is nice, because these two have a lot of other issues to worry about.
I was quite taken with the description of the culture in the Southern Islands as well as what Lee and Karish do when they realize that they have literally no money and no method to make money.  While this does seem false that the Empress would fail to give them some money or at least make them aware of what would occur (did she really not know), it provided an entertaining reason for Lee to join a traveling circus as a performer.  Her bench dancing skills really do allow for a lot of story telling in this series, and rightly so.  Honestly, I wish they had more about bench dancing most books since it's one of the more original world building ideas that Moore describes.

The circus and the Islands provide change to the heroes since in this new world, Lee is the attractive and talented one and Karish is not.  This rightly causes Karish to doubt himself quite a bit after the adulation he's received in the empire while Lee gains a bit of confidence in herself and, in many ways, realizes that she has the upper hand in their relationship.  While this has been true for awhile, it's only on the Southern Islands that she accepts this and does something with it.  This clearly thrills Karish, but Lee is still left doubting and one gets the feeling that it will not be smooth sailing for their working or personal relationship when they return to High Scape.

The search for the missing heir, while interesting, takes second place to the more interesting story of Lee becoming accustomed to the islands.  While it is interesting, most of the time, I'm still left wishing they'd go back to the story of the circus.  I think with Moore, I prefer her characterization and world building to her mystery plots.
As an aside, I will point out once again that this series is staying pretty damned interesting to me.  Of course, book three is usually when I love a book series the most and everything after it all comes apart, so maybe it is good that my library doesn't have the next few books in the series?  No, it's not.  I'm requesting that they purchase!

Cannot wait to read the next book.  I think I know what I'm loading onto my nook for my travels to Seattle!

Verdict:  8.  I think the move away from High Scape and the normal parts of the Empire revitalized the series some what and changed up Lee and Karish, making it a stronger book than the immediate prequel.

Thoughts:  I'm kind of sad that had to leave the Southern Islands!  Also, my favorite cover so far even if I can't picture Lee wearing anything so revealing.

Lee and Taro books
  1. Resenting the Hero
  2. The Hero Strikes Back
  3. Heroes Adrift


DNF: And Falling, Fly by Skyler White

and Falling, FlyFrom the author's website"Olivia is a vampire bored with modernity. Tattooist, boyfriend, black-metal singer: everyone you don’t love tastes the same. Since the fall from Eden, she has hungered for love, but fed only on desire. Dominic O’Shaughnessy is a neuroscientist plagued by impossible visions.

When his research and her despair collide in Ireland’s L’Otel Mathillide – a subterranean hell of beauty, demons and dreams – rationalist and angel unite in a clash of desire and damnation that threatens to destroy them both."

 I got this book from the library solely because I loved the title and the tiny bit of the first chapter I read.  Sadly, I returned this book to the library loving only that part of the book.  While the author clearly has a way with words, I often felt the plot wasn't moving along at all and that we were seeing the same complaints from Olivia over and over again only phrased differently (though still beautifully).  Or, I'd stop and half to check back a few chapters to make sure the scene I was reading wasn't one I had read before because the same things seemed to be happening.  After a while, I just got bored of the characters and their incessant desire to be angsty and overwrought.  I'm saddened I couldn't even power through the book but none of my normal tricks to overcome a DNF worked.  (Three tricks I use:  (a) leave the book where it's easily accessible for toothbrush or snacking reading, (b) opening the book to random sections and seeing if any of them capture my attention, and (c) if there are multiple character plotlines, follow only the one I think is most interesting.)

Verdict:  DNF.  I'm sad to say it is so.

Thoughts:  I really wanted to like this one.  I loved the title.  I loved the summary.  I even found the first chapter engrossing.  Sigh.


Books My Son Loves: Happy Lion by Louise Fatio

The Happy Lion (Read to a Child!: Level 2)"Bonjour, Happy Lion!"  Oh, how funny this whole book is.  It's fun for both my son and I because he gets to hear the story of the lion and I get to use a faux French accent while reading it.  This silly story of a lion who accidentally escapes the zoo of his French town is another of my son's favorites. 

The pictures in the book are cute and provide my son with plenty to discuss with me, especially the picture of the lion in the zoo and the picture of the fire engine getting ready to try to get the lion into a truck to be taken back to the zoo.  (Though my husband did ask when he saw it, "Are they really going to hose down the lion?  This is horrible!")

The resolution is sweet and very happy.  I can't recommend it enough to those with children who like silly accents and big cats!


The Hero Strikes Back by Moira Moore

The Hero Strikes BackFrom the author's website:  "The weather in the city of High Scape has taken an unnatural turn. It’s snowing in the middle of summer, and the townsfolk are desperate for Shield Dunleavy Mallorough and Source Shintaro Karish to fix it – which they can’t, but try explaining that to an angry mob.

Meanwhile, there’s a crazed killer targeting aristocrats. Karish has forfeited the Dukedom of Westsea to continue working as a Source, but Lee fears that technicality  won’t matter to the murderer."

I'm still amazed at how much I'm enjoying this series.  While I definitely did not enjoy the continuation of Lee and Karish's story as much as the first book, this story gives us some great insight into why both Lee and Karish are the way they are (with conversations with both mothers), and it gives a good plot involving High Scape (the weather and its relationship to a bunch of aristocrat hate killings).

Lee frustrates a bit more in this book than she did previously.  While in Resenting the Hero her inability to understand emotions or even feel them to the same extent others do is frustrating, in The Hero Strikes Back she comes across as obtuse or purposely ignorant, which is much worse.  Still, this is only highlighted in her relationship with Karish.  In other instances, her emotional decisions and responses seem more natural.  Obviously this is to prevent Lee from realizing that Karish is madly infatuated with her, but it makes their scenes stilted occasionally.

On the other hand, I liked the mystery/action plot of The Hero Strikes Back just a bit more.  First, we're kept in High Scape for the entirety of the book, which is nice since High Scape is supposedly an important city in the world.  Second, both Karish and Lee feature in the majority of the book as opposed to Karish's disappearance for a good portion of the first book.

I hope Lee and Karish both get a better feel for their powers in the third book and that we find out more about what Lee is capable of after this second novel.  I also hope that Lee gets involved with her new aristocratic friend since I doubt the author will be putting Lee and Karish together anytime soon!

Verdict:  7.  I liked it, but not as much as I liked the first book in the series.  Still, it was pleasant, easy to read, and fun.  What more can I ask for this summer?
Thoughts:  Still hate the name Taro.  Still effing hate the covers.

Lee and Taro books
  1. Resenting the Hero
  2. The Hero Strikes Back


Friday Links: Thoughtful Posts, Stupid Posts, and Posts I Just Don't Agree With

Happy Friday all!

Start with the good:  Ever called a book trashy?  Well, what makes a book trashy?  Do you read trashy books or do you apply the term only to genres that you don't read?  Persephone Reads has a great post about the use of the word Trashy.

The Stupid:  No need to edit when you write young adult novels, folks!  This was just an oddly insulting post to young adult writers from a young adult writer.  Guess whose books I won't be reading?

Posts I just don't agree with:  An independent bookstore in Seattle is refusing to host an author or carry books from an author who is using Amazon's publishing services because Amazon pulls away from his business and is not a friend to the independent bookseller.  I find the most maddening part of the post to be the line:  "Neither of us will change our minds. I'm the owner of the Bailey Brothers Building and Loan. You are working for Mr. Potter. And Mr. Potter is always buying."  Don't do that.  Don't cast yourself as good and the other person as evil and refuse to allow that there is any grey in the situation.

I'm not saying that Amazon is all good and light.  Far from it.  However, I think Amazon does a lot of things right.  It does things that make me want to buy more books than I previously did.  It makes it possible for me to buy more books than I previously did by offering up books I can't find in bookstores.  Refusing to stock books they publish is simply spiting your own customers.  Are your customers going to look at the spine of the book and see Amazon and think to themselves, "What is this Amazon thing?  Maybe I should check it out!"  No.  More likely they'll think to themselves, "I want that book that my local bookstore is not selling, well, I'll buy it at Amazon."


The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

The Goddess Test (Harlequin Teen)
From the author's website"It's always been just Kate and her mom--and now her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate's going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won't live past the fall.

Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld--and if she accepts his bargain, he'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.

Kate is sure he's crazy--until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she'll become Henry's future bride, and a goddess.

If she fails..."

WARNING:  Spoilers contained within.

Interesting fact for you:  I'm a skimmer.  On my first go through, I read books really quickly and skim a lot.  This means that for this blog, I do a fair bit of rereading to make sure that I give books a fair review here rather than just thoughts on the parts of the book I managed to catch on my first read through.  Some books improve for this.  Others suffer.  A lot.  This is one of those books.  When I had first finished The Goddess Test, I was fairly sure I was going to give it a six or so.  Light fare, enjoyable, with very loose interpretations of mythology.  I had really skimmed it quite quickly, however, and I felt I must give it a better read.

Wow, I should never have done that.  What had been an enjoyable read because an eye-rolling exercise in anger.  The problem is related to the second interesting fact about myself -- I'm a huge mythology fan.  When I was younger, I'd read any book on mythology I could get.  That included a set of Encyclopedia Britannica that I'd pull out and cross-reference, happily reading about little know demigods and muses and prophets.  I enjoyed Greek mythology the best, but would dabble with Roman, Norse, Mayan, and Japanese mythology.  Frankly, The Goddess steps all over mythology like it is dirt, which made me want to weep.

Kate is a rather silly heroine.  She seems to have no friends or feelings about anything other than her mother.  Since she is close to her mother and her mother is dying, this seems somewhat explained, but it is still obnoxious and allows all of her time and energy to be wasted on Henry, a morose, sad sack of a hero, who angsts around his home with all his might.  When Henry basically attempts to bargain with Kate so that her mother can live for a while longer, Kate agrees and is forced to live as a horrible prisoner in a gorgeous home with a gorgeous guy who wants her to be his wife (she's sixteen, I think!) and she's forced to attend picnics and wear pretty clothing (which she sulks and sulks about).  Oh, and she's forced to study mythology.  She is also taking tests, but we, like Kate, are never aware when Kate is being tested, which is annoying and vague.

Luckily, Kate has several friends in the house, including one from her week or two in Eden -- Ava.  And Ava is where I go nuts with this book.  At one point, Ava sleeps with two different men in a very short period in the book.  This in a roundabout way leads to one of the men killing the other man.  At this point, these paragraphs happens:
"You didn't hack him into little pieces, but you're the reason it happened."  I stopped in front of the bed, running my fingers through my hair.  "Ella wants you gone.  Frankly, if all you're going to do is waste your time sleeping with every guy in the manor and acting like the world revolves around you, then so do I.  You're useless here.  The only things you've done are bicker with Ella and get Xander killed."

The moment I said it, I regretted it, but I couldn't take it back. It was the truth, or at least an exaggeration of it. But when I looked at Ava, I saw a scared girl who was my friend, not the heinous, selfish whore I'd painted her as. My stomach twisted, and guilt flooded through me so fast that I felt like I was choking.
Of course you feel guilt, Kate.  You just slut-shamed.  And it made me ashamed of you.  Ava's sin is to sleep with two guys ("EVERY GUY IN THE MANOR") within the same month.  One of them then forces the hand of the other to cause his own death.  How the hell is this Ava's fault?  It's not. 

Regardless, at the end of the book, we learn that Kate's tests are all related to the seven sins.  (Those Greek Gods are really big on the cardinal sins of the Catholic Church!)  But the tests are almost deemed unimportant, not being administered by anything besides fate (not the Fates, but just random pure luck), apparently, and rather nonsensical for the most part.  Also, why not call the book The Goddess Tests?

Did I like anything at all about this book, you're asking?  I liked that (spoiler) the gods totally portray a huge farce to test Kate.  That seems like something the Greek gods would do and they wouldn't be apologetic about it at all.  I liked that I didn't realize a lot of the mysteries of the book until the end.  I read a few reviews which stated that they were all over realizing everything like who the murdered in the book was, but I had no clue.  And I liked James.  <3 

I'm unsure if I'll read the next book in this series.  I did enjoy the book the first time I read it, but now I know it's not my favorite. 

Verdict:  4.  I really had a fight with myself over a four or a five, but ultimately went with a four  because while I did enjoy it on my first time through my second read through made me so damned angry.  I warn you to never read this carefully.

Thoughts:  Calliope?  Diana?  Really?  Why not just name all of your characters different mythological names which have nothing to do with their role?  It's a good thing that Kate is really dumb, or she might wonder if Calliope is the muse of poetry, which she is not.  This is so incredibly odd to me.  At least Diana could be considered a common enough name that this might occur, but Calliope is not exactly your every day name.  It's like having a book about Norse mythological characters and naming one of the characters Freyja and then not having the real Freyja in the book!

Also, why do the gods have nothing better to do that hang out at Henry's all the time?  One would think that administrating love, the sea, and travel would cause some busy times, but apparently not.  Also, why doesn't Apollo heal in this book at all?  It's always Hades or Zeus doing the healing.


Books My Son Loves: Kisses For Daddy by Frances Watts

Kisses for DaddyFrom the author's page:  "It’s time for bed, but Baby Bear is grumbly.
‘What about a big bear kiss for me?’ says Dad.
‘No!’ says Baby Bear. ‘No kiss for Daddy.’

We have a number of "Mommy" and "Daddy" books in the house!  Many of them are sweet, but the majority are rather boring.  Luckily for my husband, the daddy ones are much more interesting, though I suspect this has something to do with the fact that I pick out quite a few for my husband for various occasions, but do not receive them back.  (Hint, hint, sweetie, I want some of the book I showed you.)

Anyway, that piece of Sunhi household trivia aside, this book is a treasure.  It's the story of a little baby boy bear who must get ready to go to sleep and the daddy who helps him by giving him a bath and putting him to bed.  During each step of the process, his daddy asks for a certain type of kiss such as a koala kiss or a giraffe kiss, and describes the type of kisses each animal gives.  The baby bear rejects each request, until the end in which he gives his daddy a big bear kiss.

The art is adorable and hidden in each scene are animal pictures that you could easily point out to your child.  For instance, while there is an obvious koala picture on the koala page, a railing post and wallpaper make the silhouette of a koala head, as well.  On the bat kiss page, a washcloth shadow gives the silhouette of a bat.  It actually took me three readings of the book to realize this!

The best part for my son is the fun way baby bear rejects the kisses.  He often imitates it when we read this story, and at the end of the book, kisses are given all around.

This is a great book for gifts for a father or for father's to read to their children.


Sixteen: Stories About That Sweet and Bitter Birthday edited by Megan McCafferty

Sixteen: Stories About That Sweet and Bitter BirthdayFrom the Wayback Machine's crawl of Megan McCafferty's website: "Remember what it was like to be sixteen? Whether it was the year your teeth were finally free of braces or you were discovered by the opposite sex, that magical, mystical age is something you will never forget. Edited by Megan McCafferty, author of the runaway hit novels sloppy firsts and second helpings, SIXTEEN: Stories About That Sweet and Bitter Birthday is a compilation of short stories inspired by all the angst, melodrama, and wonderment of being sixteen.

Sarah Dessen's "Infinity" is about a girl confronting two major milestones: getting her driver's license and losing her virginity. The Dead Girls in Jacqueline Woodson's "Nebraska 99" have already done it and now must cope with being teenage mothers. And Carolyn Mackler's, "Mona Lisa, Jesus, Chad and Me" explores whether friendship can survive when prayer and partying clash. Also included is a new Jessica Darling story by Megan McCafferty about the last fifteen minutes Jessica spends--or rather, doesn't spend--with her best friend, Hope, who is leaving Pineville.

Also featuring stories by Steve Almond, M.T. Anderson, Julianna Baggott, Cat Bauer, Emma Forrest, Tanuja Desai Hidier, David Levithan, Sarah Mlynowski, Sonya Sones, Zoe Trope, Ned Vizzini and Joseph Weisberg, these hilarious, poignant and touching tales are perfect both for those who have yet to reach that milestone and those who want to reminisce about their "sweetest" year."

I spotted this sweet little polka-dotted book at the used bookstore the other day.  I noted the title, the editor (she wrote my beloved books Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings), and the copy included the words "hilarious and poignant".  What a lie.  If this book were more honest it would be "Well-written stories that will make you sad for the rest of the night and you'll lie on your bed and weep and despair through several of them."

Some of the stories, including Sarah Dessen's and Megan McCafferty's are actually quite good (and helped pulled the average of this book up from a 2).  They ring reminiscent of my sixteenth year when everything was overly melodramatic and you spent a great deal of time thinking about driving, sex, school, and friendships.  Others, like Sonya Sones's free verse story and Hidier's story of an Indian girl who falls in love with her best friend are interesting and contain both sad and happy elements.  They ring true to life for people in difficult or odd situations while containing an element of hope or love.  And, frankly, Sarah Mlynowski's "The Perfect Kiss" made me cheer for the heroine.

But, you'll notice I just listed fix stories I liked out of sixteen.  The other eleven just made me want to curl up and give up.  Woodson's story "Nebraska 99", in particular, left me feeling hopeless and out of sorts and miserable.  This does speak to the power of the writing, but it doesn't particularly leave me wanting more.

Again, I can't give this book too low a score.  It contains many well-written stories.  It contains several stories that I loved.  It dealt very well with a range of teens by including different characters of different ethnicity, genders, and sexuality.  But, and this is a big but, I just couldn't enjoy the book.  It was like kale.  I know I'm supposed to like kale because it is some kind of super food that is good for me and I admire it in principle, but I hate to actually eat it.  I know this book is good, but I hate to read it.

Verdict:  4.  I'm unspeakably depressed after having finished this collection.  Everything sucks at sixteen, everything.  I know I enjoyed that year, but clearly no one else on Earth did.

Thoughts:  The ratio of depressing to empowering was way too high for a book about sixteenth birthdays.  Seriously, the story about the girls who were pregnant teenagers made me want to lay down and weep.  Powerful, but not my cup of tea when I expect "hilarious, poignant, and touching tales".


Friday Links: What Do You Owe An Author

A big post which is generating a lot of discussion this week is Gail Carriger's instructions/suggestions to her readers on how they can help out authors.  You might know Gail's name because it was all over the blogs when she wrote Heartless.  (PS.  If you follow that link, don't buy the book at Amazon because Gail wants you shopping local and at indie stores if possible.  If you have a good indie bookstore near you, congrats.  I, a suburbia living stay at home mom, do not have the time nor inclination to drive to my closest one in the city.)

This post appears to have driven Jane at Dear Author half-mad.  I mostly don't blame her.  What I found condescending and slightly aggravating, Jane found to be full of untruths.  I know little of best seller lists or royalties, but I suspect that my lack of reading her novels won't affect Carriger at all.

See, if you look at all the books I'm reviewing and the fact that I'm an unknown reviewer, you might wonder how I'm getting the funds to get all these books.  I'm a relentless library supporter.  I love my library.  I always have.  This does not mean I do not buy books.  The groaning bookshelves at my mom's house would give light to that lie.  (A good portion of the income I had in my twenties went to both clothing and books.  I really should have saved more.)  However, I have a child who will need to go to school in the future now and a mortgage and car payments and a need to eat something healthier than ramen and I need to save money in case my child's asthma flares up again.  This means that I library reserve a lot or I buy at used book stores.  On rare occasions when I feel like splurging, I order willy-nilly from Amazon or I pick up a few books and magazines at Barnes and Noble.

I would hate to think this makes me a bad reader.  I do what I can to be a good reader.  I tell people about books I've read here and I've almost always been a relentless loaner of books.  Perhaps this is bad also since I should buy people their own copies.  If it make Carriger feel better, I've lost so many books through loaning that when I loan a book I almost inevitably buy a second copy for myself.  I do own two copies of some books just because.  I'm possibly trying to solely support Robin McKinley's life style with my love for her books.  (How many copies of Sunshine or Hero and the Crown does one girl need?  Clearly both a hardback and a paperback and maybe a copy for my nook.) 

Either way, however, do I feel guilt for the way I read?  No.  I know exactly how much of my money goes to books versus things like clothing or hobbies.  If I quit buying books completely, I could probably buy myself a few new designer purses each year (even when you factor in my library borrowing).  Or I could upgrade my son's schooling to something fancier.  I could get that fancy sewing machine I want.  But I don't.  I read and I buy books the way I want to buy books. 


The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines

The Stepsister Scheme (PRINCESS NOVELS)From the author's website"Cinderella–whose real name is Danielle Whiteshore (nee Danielle de Glas)–does marry Prince Armand.  And if you can ignore the pigeon incident, their wedding is a dream come true.

But not long after the “happily ever after,” Danielle is attacked by her stepsister Charlotte, who suddenly has all sorts of magic to call upon.  And though Talia–otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty–comes to the rescue (she’s a martial arts master, and all those fairy blessings make her almost unbeatable), Charlotte gets away.
That’s when Danielle discovers a number of disturbing facts: Armand has been kidnapped and taken to the realm of the Fairies; Danielle is pregnant with his child; and the Queen has her own very secret service that consists of Talia and Snow (White, of course).  Snow is an expert at mirror magic and heavy duty flirting.

Can the three princesses track down Armand and extract both the prince and themselves from the clutches of some of fantasyland’s most nefarious villains?"

Remember when I said in my review of Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance that I spent a significant amount of time trying to choose the rating I wanted to give to the book which I felt bordered between a five and a six?  Well, second verse same as the first.  Here's another pleasant, but slightly lackluster book.  This time it's a little easier for me to give the six rating because I know exactly where a great portion of lackluster feeling is coming from.

The book follows the story of Danielle (Cinderella) in her quest to find her missing husband, Prince Armand, who I assume is simply charming.  She does this with the help of Talia (Sleeping Beauty), a girl given many a gift by faeries, and Snow (White), an expert in mirror magic.  Danielle, not to put too fine a point on it, is nice.  She's sickly nice.  She's the kind of nice that makes your teeth rot.  She doesn't kill bad guys even if they are majorly bad and she tries to believe in everyone she meets.  She's also a great portion of the problem I have with this book.   Danielle's actions with regards to her stepsisters and to other characters in the book drove me mad.  Why does she always try to understand and forgive them?  I must be a total hater, but I like a character with some teeth like Talia. 

Additionally, while Snow and Talia had interesting stories behind their powers that made sense with regards to their faerie tale stories, Danielle seems to have no reason she can communicate with animals, nor is there a reason why her mother was able to turn herself into a tree that could gift things to Danielle.  The answer is simply, "It seems to be magic."  

I also didn't enjoy the random turns into humor this book made.  It seemed like Hines was attempting to be serious the majority of the time, but decided to include lots of humorous bits. 

So, after all that bitching, why the good score?  I adored Talia and Snow and their relationship with each other.  I enjoyed the easy feel of the book, which was perfect for early summer.  Really, have I mentioned that I adore Talia?  I did?  Let me reiterate.  She's everything I wanted Danielle to be.  Brave, sure of herself, hard, but still with flaws.  She is a heroine in all of her glory. 

I think I'm going to give the follow up book a read to see if the focus moves away from Danielle towards the group more as a whole. 

Verdict:  6.  Not my favorite book, but decent light fare that I hope will improve with a different focus in later books.

Thoughts:  I'm stuck in a rut of books that I rate five to six.  I can't wait to get past it.