Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It Happened One Bite by Lydia Dare

The book's description from the publisher's website:

It Happened One BiteHe’s lost, trapped, doomed for all eternity…
Rich, titled, and undead, gentleman vampyre James Maitland, Lord Kettering, fears himself doomed to a cold and lonely existence—trapped for decades in an abandoned castle. Then, beautiful Scottish witch Blaire Lindsay arrives, and things begin to heat up considerably…

Unless he can persuade her to set him free…
Feisty Blaire Lindsay laughs off the local gossip surrounding her mother’s ancestral home—stories of haunting cannot scare off this battle-born witch. But when she discovers the handsome prisoner in the bowels of the castle, Blaire has no idea that she has unleashed anything more than a man who sets her heart on fire
Surprisingly, I enjoyed this paranormal historical romance a lot. Those of you who visit often probably know that I am not particularly crazed about this genre. But I also do give it a try from time to time because I believe that in literature you can find all kinds of gems and reading is one activity, hobby, passion (put your own here), that should be limitless. Anyway, It Happened One Bite turned out to be such a little, unexpected gem and I was very happy to lose myself in the story Blaire, her coven of witches and handsome Lord Kettering.

I am not exactly sure what it was that separated this particular romance from others this type, but I know that the writing was catchy and allowed me to get involved in the story enough to want to keep reading the book until the last page was turned. I was even glad to find out that there are more books by the author featuring the young and feisty witches. It Happened One Bite is simply a very fun, entertaining read. It doesn't have over-the-top sex scenes which I appreciated (there are enough of them there but just the right amount), the characters of Blaire and her older brother are extremely likable and most importantly, there were quite a few humorous scenes there which was an icing on the cake. If you're looking for a light and interesting story to get lost in for an evening or two, this book is definitely it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Raising by Laura Kasischke

The book's synopsis from the publisher's website:

The Raising: A Novel (P.S.)
Last year Godwin Honors Hall was draped in black. The university was mourning the loss of one of its own: Nicole Werner, a blond, beautiful, straight-A sorority sister tragically killed in a car accident that left her boyfriend, who was driving, remarkably—some say suspiciously—unscathed.
Although a year has passed, as winter begins and the nights darken, obsession with Nicole and her death reignites: She was so pretty. So sweet-tempered. So innocent. Too young to die.
Unless she didn’t.
Because rumor has it that she’s back.
I enjoyed this literary thriller thoroughly. It's my first Kasischke book so I didn't know what to expect, which is good in a way because I was pleasantly surprised. It's a very atmospheric story, the suspense is building pretty much from the very beginning and keeps the reader on the edge. I liked the characters' portrayal the most probably. Very well done. Some of them are nasty as hell and I was hoping they would get what they deserved, especially those sorority girls who thought they were above it all. Others, such as Shelly, the lesbian professor who was just the wrong person at the wrong time, or Craig, the poor boyfriend who fell for the wrong girl,  elicited a lot of sympathy and I was really rooting for them. The Raising definitely woke up a lot of different emotions in me, which I appreciated.

What I didn't appreciate and what ultimately brought the whole novel down a few notches for me was the ending. It completely threw me off  how quickly everything was wrapped up with really not much resolution or closure. Almost as if the author either got tired of writing the book and just rushed to the ending or too tangled up in the suspense and didn't know how to successfully finish it. It was very anticlimactic, felt rushed and even though I liked the whole novel,  The Raising would have been one of the top books for this year if it weren't for that dissatisfying ending.

I am willing to give Ms. Kasischke another try though, because I liked her style of writing and her skill with building the right amount of suspense. It was an altogether a pleasant experience since The Raising didn't just concentrate on the death mystery but the academia dynamics which I always find interesting, the sorority life and politics which I hate but found fascinating to read about. Let me tell you, there was a lot of injustice going on there and maybe that's why I was so disappointed with the ending, because no amount of justice was meted out at all.

The Raising by Laura Kasischke will hit the stores this Tuesday, March 15th.

I received an e-galley of this novel via NetGalley from the publisher, HarperCollins.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I Am the Chosen King by Helen Hollick

Description from the back of the book:

I Am the Chosen KingEngland, 1044. Harold Godwinesson, a young, respected earl falls in love with an ordinary but beautiful woman. He marries Edyth despite her lack of pedigree, pitting him against his turbulent family and his selfish king, Edward.
In France, William, the bastard son of a duke, falls in love with power. Brutal and dangerously smart, William sets his sights on England, finding ambition a difficult lust to conquer.
With Edward old an dying, England fall vulnerable to the winds of fate - and the stubborn will of these two powerful men.
In this beautifully crafted tale, Helen Hollick sets aside the propaganda of the Norman Conquest and brings to life the English version of the story of the last Saxon King, revealing his tender love, determination, and proud loyalty, all shattered by the unforgiving needs of a Kingdom. Forced to give up his wife and risk his life for England, the chosen King led his army into the great Battle of Hastings in October 1066 with all the honor and dignity that history remembers of its befallen heroes.
If you visit the book blogging community here on the Net, you will have read or seen many reviews of I Am the Chosen King by the end of March, since this is the month of this book's U.S. publication. Most of these review, if not all of them, will be praises to Helen and her talent, and rightfully so because she is one of the best storytellers there are and this talent of hers to draw a reader into the world of the past shines in this historical novel.

Helen Hollick is a fantastic writer and she created an absolutely wonderful piece of art in I Am the Chosen King. Yes, I believe that writing is an art and if done well, such as Ms. Hollick does it, delivers a lot more than just pure entertainment for the recipients, a.k.a. readers. In the days when I was reading I Am the Chosen King, I felt I was kidnapped by this story of the Saxon England. When I couldn't read the book, I thought about it during the day, I researched what I didn't know online and when sleeping, I dreamed about the characters (I believe I actually used such words as thegns, aetheling, housecarls in my dreams). I think it will not be an exaggeration when I say that Helen cast a spell on me, the one that made me fully absorbed in the world of I Am the Chosen King.

As amazing as the storytelling is, there's nothing lacking in other departments of this book either. The way the characters are introduced and made familiar to us is flawless. You will not even notice at what time they all become real, three-dimensional figures instead of merely ink on a piece of paper. And by all I mean quite a few characters. Harold Godwinesson, the future and last Saxon king is someone you just have to root for. His personality is endearing and causes others to really forgive him anything (not that there is much to forgive there, he really is a noble person). Edyth, Harold's taken-as-wife woman (in accordance to the Saxon law), is an amazing woman and as the story progressed, I admired her more and more for her poise and strength in the face of many, many hardships. As I mentioned in a conversation with Misfit, Edyth was ten times the woman I could ever dream of being. And then, there is the impossibly selfish, whiny, unable to function independently King Edward the Confessor. Supposedly, his reputation nowadays is being repaired by historians, but it was difficult for me to muster any compassion for this ruler. Of course there's no purpose in speculating about things past, but who knows what would have happened, had he been the King such as his predecessor, Cnut and such as England deserved to have.Those are only the three characters I decided to write about but in I Am the Chosen King, the multitude of them is astounding and almost every one is important to the story.

The time (1044-1066) might have been called the Dark Ages at one point but it's no longer that and Ms. Hollick shows us exactly why historians no longer choose to use that name. The Saxon England was everything but dark. The combination of Christianity and old Saxon laws and traditions provided for a very rich life indeed. The people were intelligent, interesting and could teach us a thing or two about what's important in life. There's much to be admired and much to be learned from that time in history and also much to be thankful for to Ms. Hollick for bringing it alive for us, contemporary readers. A perfect example is the final battle, The Battle of Hastings. It was breathtaking and heartrending to read it. Even though I knew what the outcome would be, I was still hoping for the impossible, still holding my breath in an event that maybe I read the history wrong and William, the Duke of Normandy didn't win. How incredible is that?! What a writing talent that can do that to a reader, to make you question the reality?! Brava, Ms. Hollick!

The Battle of Hastings - 1066
Some claim that Norman cavalry was too much for the Saxon infantry but according to the author, the Saxons were very well trained in fighting those mounted on horses and that was not the reason for the outcome of this battle.

Please watch the trailer. It's really worth. And don't forget to visit Helen Hollick's website. Make sure you read her article on Harold and on the Norman Conquest. Really fascinating stuff.

Special thanks to Sourcebooks, Inc for sending me a copy of I Am the Chosen King by Helen Hollick.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Merely Magic by Patricia Rice

The book's synopsis from the publisher's website:

Merely MagicMagic is her birthright…
The daughter of one of the strongest magical lineages, Ninian Malcom Siddons is a powerful witch. Determined to only use her magic for good, she lives a simple, solitary life as a healer in her village, where she meets Drogo.
A man of science doesn’t believe in anything he can’t see…
Lord Drogo Ives believes only logic and science can explain the wonders of the universe and doesn’t believe the local folklore about Malcolm witches and Ives men, until he meets Ninian.
Despite the odds against them and their (many) differences, the bond between Drogo and Ninian grows stronger each moment they are together... until the chaos and danger surrounding them forces each to decide: their love… or their lives…
There really isn't a lot of magical happening in this book but it is a solid historical romance that is appreciated by many fans and I'm sure will be by many more. There is a ghost in there and a legend that is coming true as the romance between the Malcolm and the Ives grows, so I suppose one may even categorize it as a slightly paranormal romance. Regardless of which genre Merely Magic fits in, it's a fun read, with some steamy love scenes that will satisfy those readers who pick up books for romantic excitement. There's definitely a lot of that.

I appreciated the female characters, especially that of Ninian's, decidedly more than the male ones. Ninian is a very likable woman, fierce when she needs to be and protective of her village people and her heritage. She's not easily influenced or intimidated into submission. Ms. Rice definitely didn't make Ninian one of many. Drogo however is a little too predictable for me. His reluctance to acknowledge Ninian's attractiveness, his almost animal desire in bedroom and then aloofness outside of it were off putting to me. Merely Magic is a nice read though. If you're looking for an escape from your daily life, especially those dreary winter days, this novel will provide you with one. Historical romance fans will especially be happy to dive into this one.

Special thanks to Sourcebooks, Inc. for sending me a copy of Merely Magic by Patricia Rice for review.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick

The book's synopsis from the author's website:

To Defy a KingThe privileged daughter of one of the most powerful men in England, Mahelt Marshal’s life changes dramatically when her father is suspected by King John. Her brothers become hostages and Mahelt is married to Hugh Bigod, heir to the earldom of Norfolk. Adapting to her new life is hard, but Mahelt comes to love Hugh deeply; however, defying her father in law brings disgrace and heartbreak. When King John sets out to subdue the Bigods, Mahelt faces her worst fears alone, knowing neither she, nor her marriage are likely to survive the outcome. A story of huge emotional power set against the road to Magna Carta and the fight to bring a tyrant king to heel.
Ms. Chadwick's reputation precedes her, but her actual writing exceeds her reputation by a mile. I was really taken by the ease with which Elizabeth writes about history.There wasn't a dull moment in this book, which is sometimes a difficult feat for even the most experienced historical fiction writers out there. Some parts of history are dull but necessary after all. I sped through To Defy a King though. If I didn't have to get up at 4:30 am every day (yes. that's when my son gets up), I would no doubt stay up all night just to read a little more and then some, of this story.

And what a story it is too. King John of England was one cruel, tyrannical S.O.B. I thought Henry VIII was bad but he at least accomplished things for England. John did no such thing but rather worked his hardest to maximize the number of people who'd hate him and led his country to near ruination. I read Penman's here Be Dragons that showed this part of English history from the side of the Welsh people. Ms. Chadwick gave me an opportunity to learn more about that time from another perspective, the one of the English barons and English people who suffered probably the most because of King John's blind ambition to be the best ruler England had ever had (needless to say, he turned out to be one of the worst).

Of course, the best point of To Defy a King is Mahelt ('of course' being in my opinion). My appreciation of her grew with every page and I started off not liking this girl at all. But yet again, thanks to Chadwick's talents, Mahelt grew into not just some heroic, fiery, out of this world, perfect female (unfortunately, some authors tend to go that way) but a strong woman with flaws, with feelings that were not always pretty, a woman who made mistakes, who felt hopeless but who in the end knew who she was, remained true to herself and spoke her mind whether asked or not. Mahelt was human and many women today can easily identify with her (I did) and that's what makes such an important and close to our hearts character, even if historically she was a minor one.

Really, whether you like historical fiction or are not sure, you are a hardcore fan or a newbie, you should definitely find a permanent spot on your bookshelf for To Defy a King. I simply cannot see how you could be disappointed after reading it. You'll most likely want to rush to the store or a library to get all the rest of Ms. Chadwick's books (I most certainly do!).

Special thanks to Sourcebooks, Inc. for sending me a copy of To Defy a King for a review.