Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bubbles A Broad

Author: Sarah Strohmeyer
Published: March 1, 2005 (Onyx)
Series: Bubbles #3
Category: Mystery
Quote of Choice: He is more disturbed by the cruel irony of a slip-and-fall lawyer slipping and falling on his own driveway. No one to sue but himself.

Our favorite ditzy and curvaceous blonde is back, and she's got a real shot at becoming a full-time reporter at the News-Times and leaving her past as a hair dresser behind. Bubbles is given a one week "tryout" by the paper, but before she even has her first day, she's visited by an escaped convict, a murderess (wife supposedly killed husband by scratching him with cyanide laced fingernails). Carol Weaver claims that Lehigh's steel corporation had her husband killed and framed her for the murder, and wants Bubbles to find out why he was killed.

After reading three Bubbles books, the elements in each are becoming apparent. She still dresses inappropriately (think animal print spandex and bosom-baring tops) while being upset that people don't take her seriously. I guess it's taking the "it's what's inside that counts" philosophy to heart the way she refuses to cover up just a little. So the editor at the newspaper doesn't take her seriously and seems to take joy in Bubbles' failures. And her ex-husband and his new wife are trying to subvert her daughter while treating Bubbles like dirt as always. It gets tiring after a while.

However, Bubbles gets some respect when the mystery is neatly solved. I'll give the next Bubbles book a try since she's supposedly a real reporter in it. My hopes aren't too high, as the excerpt for the next book, Bubbles Betrothed, has her getting into a fight at the courthouse on her first assignment.

On a side note, as this is mostly a mystery novel, Bubbles finally gets together with Steve Stiletto. Aside from the boinking, it appears that they're actually in love. It's nice, but as I don't really love Bubbles' character, I'm glad the romance wasn't a huge part of the story.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Unicorn Chronicles!

For Bruce Coville fans out there waiting with bated breath for the third book in the Unicorn Chronicles, he's got a blog up tracking his progress and it even has some excerpts. The manuscript is almost 500 pages long now, and he's not sure how long it's going to be!

Coville was one of my favorite authors when I was younger, and I first got sucked into his writing with Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, which was absolutely fantastic. He has the most wonderful heroes and the worlds are so vivid. Coville is also the author of the My Teacher is an Alien series (my favorite of that series is My Teacher Glows in the Dark). I love YA fantasy.

The Unicorn Chronicles started with Into the Land of the Unicorns somewhere around 1995 I think, and the sequel Song of the Wanderer was published in 1999. I remember buying it my freshman year in college and lumping it into my textbook purchases so my parents wouldn't realize that they were also paying for some fluff reading as well. Anyways, it's been quite some time, and I can't wait for The Last Hunt to be published. It'll probably be out before the last Harry Potter book.

I will never be too old for YA fantasy books!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Black Jewels Trilogy

Author: Anne Bishop
Published: December 2, 2003 (Roc)
Category: Fantasy
Includes: Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness
Quote of Choice: Daemon snarled in frustration and muttered a few uncomplimentary things about female stubbornness.
"It's not stubbornness when you're right," Jaenelle snapped.

I first found Anne Bishop when I was working at B. Dalton. I was stocking the fantasy shelves and there was this book by a new author, and it sounded really interesting, so I bought it and devoured it. I waited impatiently for the second book in the trilogy. However, the second book took quite some time to release, and I even wrote a letter to the publisher asking for any information regarding the next title. In return, I got an order form from sales to purchase the FIRST BOOK. Well, I never gave up and snatched up each book as it came along. Since that first book came out in 1998, I've read the Black Jewels Trilogy at least once a year.

The trilogy tells the story of Jaenelle Angelline, an extraordinary child who was misunderstood and mistreated by her family. They thought she was difficult and made up stories about unicorns and mythical lands. To their eventual misfortune, they were too close minded to realize that Jaenelle was the long-awaited Witch, dreams made flesh.

It's hard to explain the system quickly, but magic is ranked by a jewel color system, ranging from the White to the Black Jewels. Witch traditionally wears the Black when mature, but Jaenelle was born already with that ability, which is a great burden because that's a lot power for a kid to handle. She needed love and support, and her family gave her none. Besides the Jewels, there are classifications of witches. You could be just a plain witch, or you could be a priestess, healer, black widow, or queen. Jaenelle had the triple gift: healer, black widow, queen.

She is what Kaeleer, the Shadow Realm, has been waiting for to unite the known and mythical territories and bring the kindred (animals who are Blood, therefore wear jewels and can speak telepathically with humans) out from hiding.

Enter the High Lord of Hell, Saetan SaDiablo, hanging around for thousands of years because of a promise he made long ago. He was told that the daughter of his soul would be born and he had to wait for her, and Jaenelle was that little girl. Despite the threatening title and name, Saetan is a charming man, a great father figure and made me chuckle more than once. He has a troubled past, where two of his sons, Daemon and Lucivar had been taken from him and had to grow up in the cruelest of conditions. Daemon is destined to become Jaenelle's mate, and Lucivar becomes the protective older brother.

Bishop created a beautiful world, where this dance of protocol and rank allowed the characters to have this wonderful male-female dynamic:
In Kaeleer, service was an intricate dance, the lead constantly changing between the genders. Witches nurtured and protected male strength and pride. Males, in turn, protected and respected the gentler, but somehow deeper, feminine strength. Males weren't slaves or pets or tools to be used without regard to feelings. They were valuable, and valued partners. That was the leash the Queens used in Kaeleer—control so gentle and sweet a man had no reason to fight against it and every reason to fiercely protect it.
Every time I open these books, I lose myself in them. I love the characters and there is a big helping of poetic justice to close out the trilogy nicely in Queen of Shadows. I love me some poetic justice! Even though Jaenelle is the most powerful Witch in the Blood's history, she's wonderful and quirky, never losing her sense of humor to the most harrowing parts of her life. And with all the wonderful characters comes wonderful dialogue.

For me, you can have the most interesting story, but if you don't have good dialgue between your characters, I will give up on the book, like I did with Fellowship of the Ring. You have these powerful females and these powerful men who are constantly befuddled and howling in frustration over what the women say and do. Of course, they're only complaining because the ladies are always right and they're always wrong... almost :)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Howl's Moving Castle

Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Published: April 1986 (First printing); August 7, 2001 (HarperCollins)
Category: Fantasy/YA

I really loved the movie version of this book, but some things were a bit confusing, especially the terms of Sophie's curse. I thought that reading the book would clear things up. Unfortunately, it didn't really clear anything up. It made some things more complicated and revealed to me that the movie version made Sophie's aging curse much more complex than it was in the book.

In short: Sophie the boring eldest daughter of a hatter isn't expected to do much with her life because she's the eldest (Jones has set her world up as a sort of fairytale spoof). It turns out that she has some magical ability (not in the movie) and this attracts trouble from the Witch of the Waste, who confronts Sophie and casts a spell on her, causing Sophie to age about 65 years and not tell anyone how it happened. Sophie leaves her home and winds up in the castle of the Wizard Howl. While he's out, she makes a deal with his fire demon Calcifer, promising to break him free from his contract to Howl in exchange for his breaking her spell.

Of course, there's a happy ending, but it got all weird and unnecessarily complicated at the end what with the second fire demon and the weird patchwork wizard/prince. And I really didn't like Howl. I thought he was flaky for most of the book, chasing after other girls, and at the very end he reveals that he cares for Sophie? Uh-uh. I'll stick to the movie version because I fell in love with him there.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Lover Awakened

Author: J.R. Ward
Published: September 5, 2006 (Signet)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #3
Quote of Choice: Zsadist's shitkickers carried him through an alley off Trade Street, the heavy soles stomping apart frozen slush puddles and crushing through the icy ripples of tire treads.

I have some serious issues with this series. Sometimes I feel like Ward is trying to shove the idea that these are some badass warrior vampires we're dealing with. The reader is often reminded that the brothers like to wear leathers and shitkicker boots. I really don't care that they're wearing shitkickers, but I was reminded several times. I actually don't care what kind of footwear the vamps care to sport! And the male vampires' names are completely ridiculous. Tohrment. Phury. Zsadist. Rhage. I have to force myself to get over the ridiculousness of their names because the story is actually pretty good once you get past the silly stuff.

The previous Black Dagger Brotherhood novels have told the stories of Wrath ::snort:: and Rhage ::giggle::, and now we come to Zsadist, the most badassy of badasses. You don't want to mess with this guy. He's got tattoos and piercings, and it's said he kills women for fun. However, Bella, a beautiful female from vampire society's upper class (like the ton of regency England), has managed to get under his skin. She was abducted by the lessers (vampire slayers) and assumed dead. Despite the assumption, Zsadist would demand information about Bella whenever he had a slayer in his death grip.

Even though I snark about the ridiculous names and big boots, the story is pretty good.... if you like stories about emotionally damaged heroes and the women who help them become human again. Out of all three Black Dagger novels, this one is my favorite. It had a good ending, although there was some sad stuff along the way, but in terms of the couple's happy ending, I was completely satisfied.