Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Dark Swan Series - Richelle Mead

Synopsis of Storm Born (Book 1)

"Just typical. No love life to speak of for months, then all at once, every horny creature in the Otherworld wants to get in your pants.

Eugenie Markham is a powerful shaman who does a brisk trade banishing spirits and fey who cross into the mortal world. Mercenary, yes, but a girl's got to eat. Her most recent case, however, is enough to ruin her appetite. Hired to find a teenager who has been taken to the Otherworld, Eugenie comes face to face with a startling prophecy-one that uncovers dark secrets about her past and claims that Eugenie's first-born will threaten the future of the world as she knows it.

Now Eugenie is a hot target for every ambitious demon and Otherworldy ne'er-do-well, and the ones who don't want to knock her up want her dead. Eugenie handles a Glock as smoothly as she wields a wand, but she needs some formidable allies for a job like this. She finds them in Dorian, a seductive fairy king with a taste for bondage, and Kiyo, a gorgeous shape-shifter who redefines animal attraction. But with enemies growing bolder and time running out, Eugenie realizes that the greatest danger is yet to come, and it lies in the dark powers that are stirring to life within her."

Jenn: I love Richelle Mead, and I wasn't disappointed by this newest series of her's. Like her other series, this one is in first person perspective, which I really do enjoy. I find it easier to relate to the main character because I'm so completely inside her head. Eugenie is a strong willed character, and it's fun to have such a self assured woman be the heroine. She is strong in her personal ethics and for her, life is fairly black and white. But it's interesting to watch everything get very gray for her as she finds out more about her background, and how that effects not only her job, but her personal relationships. I really enjoyed her interactions with Dorian, but I have to admit, Kiyo kind of got on my nerves. But, it's probably just personal preference. Like her Succubus series, this is considered adult fiction, and it contains serious language and sexual content. But I just love her writing - the story, the character development, the hint of mystery to the plot. I can't wait for the next book.

*There is going to be 4 books in this series. The first 2 are available now, with the third slated to come out sometime in 2010.

The Shopaholic Series - Sophie Kinsella

Synopsis of Confessions of a Shopaholic (Book 1)

"Becky has a fabulous flat in London's trendiest neighborhood, a troupe of glamorous socialite friends, and a closet brimming with the season's must-haves. The only trouble is that she can't actually afford it—not any of it.

Her job writing at Successful Savings not only bores her to tears, it doesn't pay much at all. And lately Becky's been chased by dismal letters from the bank—letters with large red sums she can't bear to read—and they're getting ever harder to ignore.

She tries cutting back. But none of her efforts succeeds. Becky's only consolation is to buy herself something ... just a little something....Finally a story arises that Becky actually cares about, and her front-page article catalyzes a chain of events that will transform her life—and the lives of those around her—forever.

Jenn: I love this series. I even saw the movie and it was fabulously done - blending together the first 2 books. It's got some language and a little bit of sexual content; and it's written by a British author, so you kind of have to go with the lingo a bit. But it's not confusing, just different. And I have to say, Rebecca Bloomwood is one of my all-time favorite characters. She's just so...exactly like me and every one of my friends. It's like reading a story about one of my best friends. It's written in first person perspective, which I love, so you really get into Becky's head and feel all of her rambling emotions. There are several laugh out loud moments when she gets herself into trouble and you're always rooting for her while she gets creative to get herself out of trouble. You would think the story would get repetitive, but it doesn't. Each book is a different scenario, and while most of the trouble stems from her crazy spending habits, there's more to the series than just that. It explores her romantic relationships, family relationships, and friendships. By the time you finish the series, you just gotta love Becky for her optimism and creativity. All the books are great reads.

*There are 5 books in this series, and as far as I'm aware, there are no plans for more.

Darcy's Story - Janet Aylmer

Synopsis for Darcy's Story:

"When Elizabeth Bennet first met Mr. Darcy, she found him proud, distant, and rude—despite the other ladies' admiration of his estate in Derbyshire and ten thousand pounds a year. But what was Mr. Darcy thinking?

Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice has long stood among the most beloved novels of all time. The story of Elizabeth Bennet's blossoming romance with "haughty, reserved, and fastidious" Fitzwilliam Darcy has enchanted readers for nearly two centuries. Yet, Mr. Darcy has always remained an intriguing enigma—his thoughts, feelings, and motivations hidden behind a cold, impenetrable exterior . . . until now.

With the utmost respect for Austen's original masterwork, author Janet Aylmer loving retells Pride and Prejudice from a bold new perspective: seeing events as they transpire through the eyes of Darcy himself. One of world's great love stories takes on breathtaking new life, and one of fiction's greatest romantic heroes becomes even more sympathetic, compelling, attractive, and accessible, all through the imagination and artistry of a truly gifted storyteller."

Jenn: Ok, I'll be honest. I've never read Pride and Prejudice. I love Jane Austen. I've seen practically every movie that's been made of her books. But I just can't READ her books. I get way too lost in the language. It overwhelms me and I just can't get into it. Say what you like about me, but that's just the way it is. However, I do love the story of Pride and Prejudice. I've seen several different versions of it and I love many of them. This particular book, however, is written in Darcy's perspective and it's actually fairly interesting. I did get lost a little bit here and there, but it's written in a more modern style so it's easier to follow. I'm always fascinated by romance stories told from the man's point of view. Don't ask me why. I just am. And this story gave a depth to Darcy's character that made me love him that much more. It fits in very well with the original Pride and Prejudice, going over what "may have happened" in Darcy's life while he was falling in love with Elizabeth Bennett. It's not too out there, it actually sounds pretty plausible. I really enjoyed it. I don't know if it would bother die-hard Austen fans, but I thought it was a good book.

Update - Mortal Instruments Series

Jenn: I have some exciting news for those of us who love The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare. She has decided to add a fourth book to the series!! Exciting! According to her blog, it will be called City of Fallen Angels and is aiming for a spring 2011 release date. This is the synopsis she gives on her website

"Love, blood, betrayal and revenge — the stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels. Simon Lewis is having some trouble adjusting to his new life as a vampire, especially now that he hardly sees his best friend Clary, who is caught up in training to be a Shadowhunter—and spending time with her new boyfriend Jace. Not to mention that Simon doesn't quite know how to handle the pressure of not-quite-dating two girls at once. What's a daylight-loving vampire to do? Simon decides he needs a break and heads out of the city—only to discover that sinister events are following him. Realizing that the war they thought they'd won might not yet be over, Simon has to call on his Shadowhunter friends to save the day — if they can put their own splintering relationships on hold long enough to rise to the challenge."

Sounds good, huh? I sure think so. She also announced that the film options for the series has been signed with a production studio. I don't speak Hollywood very well, but it sounds like it's not a for sure thing that they will end up being made into movies, but it's definitely a possibility. Fun!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Host - Stephenie Meyer

Synopsis of The Host

"Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged. Most of humanity has succumbed.

When Melanie, one of the few remaining "wild" humans is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Wanderer probes Melanie's thoughts, hoping to discover the whereabouts of the remaining human resistance. Instead, Melanie fills Wanderer's mind with visions of the man Melanie loves—Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she has been tasked with exposing. When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both love."

Jenn: I am addicted to Stephenie Meyer, so of course I loved this book. (Yes, I'm one of "those" women.) But this book was very different from the Twilight series, and I think that even people who claim to hate Twilight might really enjoy this book. It's true that it takes about 100-150 pages to really get into the book - the setup takes a bit - but after that, the story is complex and intricate without being confusing. While the author says it's a story of a love triangle involving only 2 bodies, I found it more of a love square with 3 bodies. But it also talks about prejudices and compassion and the struggle for survival in a world gone mad. That not everything is black and white - it's just not that simple. It's told in first person perspective from Wanda's (the alien) point of view. You really come to love the characters, who are so vividely described that they feel very real. I found the story so enveloping that I was in tears for most of the last half of the book. (Don't worry, the ending is very satisfactory.) This book is definitely one of my favorites.

*Although this book is a stand alone novel, the author has said that she has outlines for 2 more books to make it a trilogy. But she has not said when she intends to pursue this particular "world" further. Let's keep our fingers crossed that it's soon, shall we? : )

The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory

Synopsis of The Other Boleyn Girl

"When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her familys ambitious plots as the kings interest begins to wane and she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Then Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king, and take her fate into her own hands."

Jenn: I saw the movie first and really liked it. I found it amazing that families would go to such lengths to get in good favor with the king. But the movie didn't show the half of it. A friend of mine lent me the book and it was very interesting to read. It goes into so much more detail about how the affair of Mary starts, how long it lasts, what causes it to fall apart, and then her role as she helps her sister seduce the king to win the crown while trying to find her own path and happiness. How much is true and how much is conjecture, I have no idea. But it was well written and very vividely described. The lies, the acting, and the social norms of the time period were fascinating to read about. I'm now officially intrigued with this author and look forward to reading her other books about the women in this time period.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Georgina Kincaid Series - Richelle Mead

Synopsis of Succubus Blues (Book 1)

"Succubus (n) - An alluring, shape-shifting demon who seduces and pleasures mortal men.

Pathetic (adj.) - A succubus with great shoes and no social life. See: Georgina Kincaid.

When it comes to jobs in hell, being a succubus seems pretty glamorous. A girl can be anything she wants. The wardrobe is killer, and mortal men will do anything just for a touch. Granted, they often pay with their souls, but why get technical?

But Seattle succubus Georgina Kincaid’s life is far less exotic. Her boss is a middle-management demon with a thing for John Cusack movies. Her immortal best friends haven’t stopped teasing her about the time she shape-shifted into the Demon Goddess get-up complete with whip and wings. And she can’t have a decent date without sucking away part of the guy’s life. At least there’s her day job at a local bookstore—free books, all the white chocolate mochas she can drink, and easy access to bestselling, sexy writer, Seth Mortensen, aka He Whom She Would Give Anything to Touch but Can’t.

But dreaming about Seth will have to wait. Something wicked is at work in Seattle’s demon underground. And for once, all of her hot charms and drop-dead one-liners won’t help because Georgina’s about to discover there are some creatures out there that both heaven and hell want to deny…"

Jenn: These are written in first person perspective, and you really feel for the main character - Georgina Kincaid - after spending some time in her head. Although her "job" as a succubus lands in the "morally gray" area, it's her personal life that's really engrossing. Although considered a citizen of Hell, she's really a good person, and you definitely root for her through the books. She's sassy, sarcastic, and quick-witted , but she's a bookworm and carries a lot of emotional baggage that makes her easily relatable even though she's a supernatural being. They are written with a mystery to be solved, but they are well thought out and therefore not very predictable, which I like. These books also have a lot of "adult" language, and there's a lot of sex involved - kind of a given, since she's a succubus - and a fair amount of it is quite explicit. But I have to admit, it's well written and, in my opinion, it's not trashy - just descriptive. I highly recommend this series, just keep in mind, it is adult reading. : )

*The series will have a total of 6 books - the first 4 are available now, with the 5th slated to come out March 30, 2010.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Vampire Academy Series - Richelle Mead

Synopsis of Vampire Academy (Book 1)

"St. Vladimir's Academy isn't just any boarding school—it's a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They've been on the run, but now they're being dragged back to St. Vladimir's—the very place where they're most in danger. . . .
Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy's ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world's fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever."

Jenn: I stumbled across these books pretty much by accident. I was intrigued by the back description and figured, why not? So I started reading and quickly became engrossed. The main character - Rose - is well developed and described (as were the all the other characters), and it was very easy to imagine her as I read. The books are written in first person persective so although Rose is a very individual character, I definitely felt like I was inside her head and feeling everything right along with her. She's funny and sarcastic and full of spunk, but still feels vulnerable and a little insecure, which made her feel very real. The stories in each book have a slight mystery feel to them, you don't really know what's going on so you try to figure it out right along with Rose. It's a little frustrating for me, but only because I hate not knowing what's going on, lol! There's a fair amount of "adult" language, and lots of sexual tension and some sex - but nothing explicit. The action scenes are well written without being overdone or hard to understand. I had a few "What?!" moments, and a few moments that made me cry, but overall, an extremely good series. I'm very excited for the next book.

*This series will have 6 books total - the first 4 books are available now, with the 5th slated to come out May 18, 2010.
**The author has mentioned that there may be possible spin-off series from other characters' POV's in the future.

The Mortal Instruments Series - Cassandra Clare

Synopsis of City of Bones (Book 1)

"When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder -- much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing -- not even a smear of blood -- to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . ."

Jenn: I was a little confused through the beginning of the first book, but only because things were explained as they were encountered; but it helped me connect with the main female lead - Clary - since she felt that way too. But soon things were fairly well explained and the story was very enjoyable. There is a lot of "WTF??" moments though, and there's a lot of times when what you WANT to have happen isn't exactly what SHOULD happen. But that's the beauty of the story, because the main characters are dealing with the exact same thing - so you feel very connected to them, which is great. There's a fair amount of action in the books, and though they are well written, the only thing I didn't like was that during the ending action scenes, it would jump from one character's perspectives to the next and although it was nice to know what was going on with everyone, it had moments of feeling a little scattered. But other than that, it was a great series (all three books are out now), with everything thoroughly explained by the end so that I didn't feel confused and I was very satisfied with the ending. Just remember, if you read these books, you have to keep an open mind. : )

*This series contains 3 books, all of which are available now.
**The author is currently working on a "prequel" series - The Infernal Devices. The first book - The Clockwork Angel - has a tentative release of fall of 2010.