Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - Cerulean Sins

Cerulean Sins is the 11th book in the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton and was published in 2003.

Continuing the adventures of our favorite necromancer, Anita continues to try to bring some order to her personal life, while simultaneously confronting a power play by Jean-Claude's vampire master, Belle Morte and attempting to solve a series of brutal killings by an unidentified shapeshifter.

Anita is happily living with newcomers, Micah and Nathaniel, while simultaneously dating Micah and Jean-Claude. She is contacted by a professional assassin who wants Anita to reanimate one of his ancestors to assist in genealogical research, but this is only his cover to get closer to her. Elsewhere, Jean-Claude is unpleasantly surprised by an early visit from Musette and her entourage, all of whom are representatives of the founder of Jean-Claude's bloodline, Belle Morte and represent an attempt by Belle Morte to test and possibly punish or capture Jean-Claude and his followers.

Asher is front and center in this book and more of his storyline is coming into focus. Richard is still mostly absent from this book, but it looks like he is finally over his self-destructing ways. Dolph and Zerbrowski are present again, helping Anita track down the shapeshifting serial killer, who turns out to be a werewolf member of the mercenary team sent to watch Anita herself. Oh, what a tangled web we weave ...

The meaning behind this book title is not clear, but may refer at least in part to the sheets in Jean-Claude's bed, which Anita refers to several times as cerulean blue in this novel. It may also refer to Asher's eyes, which Anita describe as cerulean blue, seeing as the novel has a very Asher-oriented plotline. It was at one time suggested by Hamilton that "Cerulean Sins" was the name of another of Jean-Claude's businesses, a store dealing in lingerie and other 'adult' products, but this was deemed too racy for the books and eliminated before publishing.

This is one of my favorite books of the entire series.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Air Around the Butterfly

The Air Around the Butterfly by Katerina Stoykova-Klemer

Paperback: 147 pages
Publisher: Fakel Express
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9549772640
ISBN-13: 978-9549772647

Katerina Stoykova's first book is a bilingual edition of poetry with each piece appearing side by side in both English and Bulgarian. Originally written in English, each work was translated by the author into Bulgarian, her native language. The book is comprised of three sections: My Mother Was Going to War; E.T. and I Phone Home; and The Apple Who Wanted to Become a Pinecone.

Although I have followed Katerina's work on the Internet and through her Lexington radio program, Accents, I did not meet her until just recently. She attended the September meeting of The Community of Mercer County Writers, and we were thrilled to have her with us.

Katerina is originally from Bulgaria, but now calls Kentucky home. This is her first book of poetry and it is actually a dual book - the left side is in English, the right side in her native Bulgarian. Divided into 3 parts, this insightful collection moves from the cancer diagnosis of her mother to the shock and awe of relocating to a new home and finally to the acceptance of the "foreign" American culture.

In the first part of the book - "My Mother Was Going to War" we learn her Mother is dying from cancer. Katerina opens her heart and allows the reader to see into her soul and reflect on her loved ones in Bulgaria. "Stones" highlights the agonizing pull of peer pressure, "Last Time" deals with the grief of death, and "Grandpa Refuses to Visit" shows the conflicted strife within many families. The tone of this first section reflects misery, regret, but anticipation of the events to come.

The second part of the book - "E.T. and I Phone Home" - is my favorite . I see a strong woman coming to grips in a strange culture, yet she is able to see beauty all around her. Without a doubt, my favorite poem of the entire collection is "Sus-toss."

"Sus-toss is a word in the Hopi language to describe the disease that people suffer when they move to live on new lands."
This poems speaks to my heart and tugs at the part of myself that keeps me from seeing the beauty around me. Wrapped up in my own cocoon of worry and strife, this poem opened my eyes to the possibility others are feeling the same way I feel - I am not alone. Hearing Katerina read this poem aloud, with your beautiful accent and power of conviction, "Sus-toss" took on an air of hope.

"The Apple Who Wanted To Become a Pinecone" is the last section of the book and I think Katrina managed her objective - to fall far away from the tree. She has found her voice and unnecessary words have been removed - she is short, direct and to the point. The verses may be short but they are dripping with emotions and oozing understanding. In "Reluctance" I begin to feel empathy for a spare tire - I'll never think of a flat tire in the same way again.

Katrina manages to take every day items - the alphabet, an apple, fish scales, even geometry - and transform them into delicious morsels for thought. She has made me look at poetry in an entirely different light, and for that I will always be grateful.

How do you write a poem? You "catch the air around the butterfly."


Thursday, September 24, 2009


Evermore (The Immortals #1) by Alyson Noel

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Language: English
ISBN-10: 031253275X
ISBN-13: 978-0312532758

While this book has been received with mixed reviews, I really enjoyed it and I think Alyson Noel has a great voice for writing tragic teen romance. Evermore is basically a girl meets boy love story, but there are a few obstacles including an ancient love triangle that gets in their way.

Ever Bloom is a 16 year old who had a near death experience when her entire family is killed in a car crash. Since the accident she sees auras, hears people's thoughts, and can know someone's life story by just a touch. This new power makes her over sensitive to voices and noise, so she hides under hoodies and iPod headphones to drown out the noise. She has moved to a new town to live with an aunt and become an outsider at her new school.

Then along comes Damen, handsome, rich, multi-talented, mysterious stranger who is also a newcomer at school. Ever tries to ignore him until she realizes she can't hear his thoughts or see his aura. He has the ability to silence all the chaos in her head. Naturally, she falls in love with him because he can take away her pain.

Ever is a typical teenage character and she grows throughout the novel. She is full of guilt over her family's accident and Noel portrays her grieving process in a heart-wrenching way. Ever is finally able to accept her new psychic gifts and her life moves in a positive direction.

One of the funniest characters in the book is Riley, the ghost of Ever's little sister. Even in death, Riley remains the typically kid sister, playing practical jokes and displaying jealousy of her older sister.

The one thing I did not like about the book was Ever's brief fall into alcoholism. I realize the alcohol was part of the plot to help Ever deal with her psychic abilities, but I cringed when I thought about all the young children and teenagers reading this book. I'm glad this phase in Ever's life only lasted a brief time, and I would have been happier without it.

Although many people compare this book to Twilight, I don't think this comparison is fair. Both Noel and Meyer have a unique writing style and they are both able to bring characters alive on the page. I realize this book is not a work of literary excellence, but it is a fun fantasy read that takes you away from your every day life. I'm now ready to start on the 2nd book in the series, Blue Moon.

The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Hardcover: 528 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385504225
ISBN-13: 978-0385504225

Because I was such a fan of The Da Vinci Code, I had eagerly awaited the release of this book. Dan Brown has a way of writing a thrilling tale that keeps you on the edge of your seat. That being said, The Lost Symbol is a thrilling page turner and Brown's historical research is evident. The problem is, this book is not as deep as it could have been nor as insightful.

After the 400+ page build up, I was quiet disappointed with the last 100+ pages. I was expecting the great ancient mystery to be just that, a great ancient mystery. Although I knew before I read the book that the major theme was to revolve around religious and philosophical subjects, I don't think I learned anything new other than the nation's capital is filled with mystical symbols and sacred buildings.

Robert Langdon - who started out in Angels and Demons as a wonderful hero - has been reduced to nothing more than a student. He spends more time being lectured to and making wrong guesses than he does solving anything. What happened to the fantastic symbologist from the prior two books? I was disappointed in the lack of growth his character took and the back sliding steps he did take. Although I was reduced to tears when I thought the unthinkable had happened (no spoilers here), even his fortunate outcome couldn't raise my growing opinion of him.

I did enjoy reading about the science of Noetics, but I'm not sure what it added to the actual plot. As for a secret laboratory in a Smithsonian storage facility, I found this very hard to believe. Apparently, part of the research for Noetics is trying to weigh the human soul but the inconsistencies in this scientific method were shocking.

As I mentioned earlier, this book was a page turner and considering the main plot takes place over a 12 hour period, this is understandable. The Lost Symbol is not a "bad" book, but I was just expecting more from a Dan Brown novel we've waited over 6 years for. Of course, I can see this book being adapted to the big screen and I can't wait to see Tom Hank's reaction to the water torture scene. I'm sure it will be a blockbuster.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - Narcissus in Chains

Narcissus in Chains (Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter #10) by Laurell K. Hamilton was first released in 2001.

This book continues the adventures of Anita Blake, as she attempts to reconnect with her friends and allies after a lengthy separation. Can she undo the damage caused by her absence?

As Anita attempts to repair the damage and come to terms with her newly developing powers, she is also threatened by a series of attacks and disappearances within the shapeshifter community.

Narcissus in Chains takes place shortly after the events of Obsidian Butterfly and Anita has been out of contact with Jean-Claude and Richard, as well as the other vampires and werewolves. Anita is determined to renew her connections to Jean-Claude, Richard, and their followers, but she encounters several new problems as a result of "marrying the marks" that Jean-Claude has placed on Richard and herself.

This is the first book in which we see the ardeur, a rare power seen only in vampires of Jean-Claude's bloodline. Jean-Claude has passed this power on to Anita and she begins to develop powers of her own. Although this power allows Anita to draw energy from lust, it also requires her to "feed" on this sexual energy every day, sometimes multiple times a day.

Many of Hamilton's critics cite this book with the beginning of the increased sexcapades throughout her books. Many claim she has moved more into eroticism instead of the supernatural thrillers she is know for. Many others - like me - only think her writing has improved with the later books. You will have to read them to judge for yourself.

As with previous novels, "Narcissus in Chains" refers to a location within the novel itself. In this case, "Narcissus in Chains" is the name of a dominance and submission nightclub operated by Narcissus, a werehyena who is himself named after Narcissus of Greek myth.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Lost Weekend

Yesterday was one of those rainy kinda Sundays where all you want to do is by lazy. I spent my entire Sunday curled up with a book.

My hubby surprised me Saturday afternoon with Dan Brown's new book, THE LOST SYMBOL. From the first chapter, I was hooked - I've even had trouble taking potty breaks. I've read lots of great books this year, but it has been a while since one demanded my constant attention.

Even though I'm not finished with the 500+ page tome - I'm still fighting the creepy crud, so my brain is working in slow motion - I couldn't resist checking out Amazon to see what kinds of reviews the book is getting. Man, was I surprised!

Of course, there were plenty of raving reviews for the book, and although I probably won't give it 5 stars, it is definitely a 4+. Some people just like the book because it was written by Dan Brown. Some people, like me, just enjoy the thrilling, escapist ride the story takes. Then there are the people who dislike Brown and all his work - it is these people who have loved picking the book to pieces.

I guess my point in this post is to say, don't let reviewers persuade you into a negative opinion before you've had a chance to read the book. This is no work of great literature, but it is an entertaining mystery that will provide hours of fun and I really can't ask more from a popular book of fiction.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Motel of the Stars

The Motel of the Stars by Karen McElmurray

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Sarabande Books
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1932511660
ISBN-13: 978-1932511666
The Motel of the Stars is a novel set in Kentucky and North Carolina on the eve of the 1997 anniversary of the Harmonic Convergence, a mystical alignment of planets and a portending of universal peace first celebrated in 1987. Part satire of New Age philosophy and part commentary on a modern, fear-based era, the novel is the story of Jason Sanderson and Lory Llewellyn, who travel to the 1997 Anniversary Gathering at the foot of Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. Both characters have for ten years mourned the loss of Sam Sanderson, Jason's son and Lory's lover, and both must emerge from grief into a new age of possibility and hope.

This book revolves around the concept of the harmonic convergence between the planets and stars to meld a story about despairity and faith. We get glimpses into the depths of two aching souls, looking for escape through love and acceptance. Jason Sanderson and Lory Llewellyn are both grieving the ten year loss of Sam – Jason for his son and Lory for her lover. Their grief could be anyone’s grief and McElmurray openly paints the story through the wounds of loss and sadness.

But we not only get the all-encompassing grief, McElmurray teases us with memories of the past and give us characters we can believe in. Jason and Lory maybe flawed people with a common grief, but they are unique individuals you will continue to think about long after you close the last page of the book. These are characters you will want to revisit again.

I was first introduced to Karen McElmurray by my friend and writing mentor, Tony Sexton, after he attended one of her writing workshops. McElmurray demonstrates the powerful way a mutual loss of a loved one can bind two totally different people together. She has a uniquely powerful voice and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

The book was the Linda Bruckheimer Series in Fiction 2007 winner from Sarabande Press.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - Obsidian Butterfly

Obsidian Butterfly (Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter #9) by Laurell K. Hamilton

In this book, Anita travels to New Mexico in to help Edward, aka Ted Forrester, investigate a series of supernatural attacks. To Anita's shock, she discovers that "Ted" has a fiancee, Donna, who is a new age bookstore owner. Donna does not know Edward is an assassin; she becomes a target by trying to stop an unauthorized (but profitable) archaeological dig. Before this is resolved, Donna's children are kidnapped and abused.

Anita acquires a new power from the vampire Obsidian Butterfly, the first instance of her picking up a power from a vampire. She is nearly killed by another vampire; her "closing" of the marks with Jean-Claude and Richard has weakened her abilities, making her more vulnerable to metaphysical attacks. By the end of the book Anita is convinced that she needs to return to her relationships with Jean-Claude and Richard.

As with previous novels, "Obsidian Butterfly" refers to a location within the novel itself - a nightclub operated by Itzpapalotl, a vampire who claims to be the Aztec goddess of the same name. "Obsidian Butterfly" is one of the English translations of Itzpapalotl.

This is the first book in the Anita Blake series to be originally released in hardcover. From this point on, all the books were first printed in hardcover, then later released in paperback. You realize books are becoming popular when first editions are hardcover.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lincoln’s Advocate: The Life of Judge Joseph Holt

Lincoln’s Advocate: The Life of Judge Joseph Holt by Susan B. Dyer

Publisher: Acclaim Press (August 15, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935001264
ISBN-13: 978-1935001263

From Amazon.Com: One of the state s highest-ranking national figures, the story of Judge Joseph Holt and his remarkable life has remained untold...until now. Susan Dyer has dove in with both hands, uncovering a brilliant legal mind who had been appointed cabinet posts under several presidents in such diverse positions as Commissioner of Patents, Postmaster General, Secretary of War, and finally, our nation s first-ever Judge Advocate General, where he had the tremendous responsibility of prosecuting the conspirators who had slain the very president who had appointed him to that office, President Abraham Lincoln. Similarly fascinating, this book tells the story of Holt Mansion, its many mysteries, legends and historic events and the immense project to acquire and restore it to its antebellum splendor that is underway today. No Kentucky s collection or library will be complete without this amazing account. When President Abraham Lincoln appointed fellow Kentuckian Joseph Holt as America s first-ever Judge Advocate General, he could never have imagined that this very talented gentleman s greatest role in their divided nation s history would be that crucial position which he would play in the prosecution of Lincoln s own assassins. Thus, America s Advocate became Lincoln s Advocate.

This book reads like a work of lyrical prose as we are taken on a historic journey through the early childhood and legal career of Joseph Holt. Holt had an excelling legal mind and had been appointed cabinet positions under several presidents, including Commissioner of Patents, Postmaster General and Secretary of War. He is most noted as our nation’s first Judge Advocate General appointed by President Abraham Lincoln and he was later in charge of prosecuting the conspirators who assassinated President Lincoln. It was heartwarming to see the loving relationship between Holt’s parents and the strong sense of self-pride and character development Holt learned from them.
A Kentucky native, Dryer lives in Breckinridge County with her family and in addition to this book, she has been actively involved in restoring Holt’s boyhood home, Holt Manor, as part of the Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration.
Saving the Joseph Holt House and its marvelous story are among the most significant legacy projects of the entire Lincoln Bicentennial! Our congratulations and deepest thanks go to Susan Dyer for championing this most important cause. --Kent Witworth Director, Kentucky Historical Society

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Frontiersman's Daughter

The Frontiersman's Daughter by Laura Frantz

Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Revell (August 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0800733398
ISBN-13: 978-0800733391

I was honored to receive a review copy of Laura Frantz’s first novel, The Frontiersman’s Daughter. I first discovered Frantz’s wonderful prose on her blog, Imagination, and was pleased to learn her first book was being released in August. We have become “bloggycyber friends and I look forward to meeting her in real-life at the Kentucky Book Fair in November.

The Frontiersman’s Daughter is the story of Lael Click, a strong frontierswoman who battles life while dealing with many family secrets. Her father, a celebrated frontiersman – think Daniel Boone - is a former captive of the Shawnee Indians, a fact that haunts Lael throughout her childhood. She grows into a young woman while battling the hostile settlement her father founded in “Ken-tucke” – think Old Fort Harrod in Harrodsburg, Kentucky - the demons of family secrets and the destruction caused by a family feud.

Ma Horn is a great role model for Lael, teaching her how to heal with medicinal herbs. Simon, Doctor Ian Justus and Captain Jack make excellent heroes because they are all multi-dimensional characters, although I would have like to have seen more of Capt. Jack. Maybe there is a sequel in the near future? Lael finds it hard to decide between the three possible love interests.

The main focus of the book is Lael sometimes wavering faith in God. We watch her grow in her religious beliefs to become a strong Christian woman.

Frantz did an excellent job researching Kentucky history for this fictional biography; and of course, she is a Kentucky native, so the interest was natural. I think her details of the white man vs. Indian conflict were spot-on and she was able to give us both sides of the issue. Her writing prose is beautiful and flows from page to page and she has created a book you want to read from cover to cover without putting it down.

**In full disclosure, I live in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, so I am very familiar with The Old Fort Harrod - the oldest settlement in Kentucky. Growing up in Harrodsburg, I've had a natural love for all things related to Daniel Boone and James Harrod. I have read many non-fiction books on Kentucky history, but there are very few creative non-fiction books on the market. The Frontiersman's Daughter is one of those books. I cannot recommend this book highly enough - to my family and friends, and to people who have a natural curiosity about Kentucky, or just want to learn a little more. You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - Blue Moon

Blue Moon is the 8th book in the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton

Blue Moon takes Anita to Myerton, Tennessee to help clear Richard of rape allegations. In the process, Anita and her allies are drawn into a supernatural conflict with the Master Vampire of that city, Colin, as well as the criminal scheme that Richard's frame-up was meant to conceal.

During Richard's investigation, Anita juggles being a leader among both the werewolves and the wereleopards, a job that is getting harder and harder. Anita and Richard reconcile during the book, with Richard offering to accept Anita's continued involvement with Jean Claude as long as Anita accepts that Richard isn't monogamous either.

This is the first book where we see Marianne, Anita's magical Wiccan mentor. Marianne is not a lycanthrope but works with the local werewolf pack in Tennessee and she begins teaching Anita how to be a better leader of the wereleopards.

We learn Damian is showing signs of being Anita's vampire servant and that Jean Claude gains power from sex. The latter frightens Anita enough that she demands a break from both Jean Claude and Richard; Marianne helps her to temporarily close off her metaphysical "marks" to them.

As with previous novels, "Blue Moon" refers to a location within the novel itself. In this case, the "Blue Moon cabins" are a set of rental cabins owned by Verne, the local Ulfric of the werewolves. "Blue moon" is also used to refer to an upcoming full moon, the second in that calendar month, which is a rare occurrence.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Language: English
ISBN-10: 015206396X
ISBN-13: 978-0152063962

From Amazon:
If you had the power to kill with your bare hands, what would you do with it? Graceling takes readers inside the world of Katsa, a warrior-girl in her late teens with one blue eye and one green eye. This gives her haunting beauty, but also marks her as a Graceling. Gracelings are beings with special talents—swimming, storytelling, dancing. Katsa's Grace is considered more useful: her ability to fight (and kill, if she wanted to) is unequaled in the seven kingdoms. Forced to act as a henchman for a manipulative king, Katsa channels her guilt by forming a secret council of like-minded citizens who carry out secret missions to promote justice over cruelty and abuses of power.

There are not enough words to express how much I loved this book - I did not want it to end. Keeping my fingers and toes crossed there will be a sequel, or better yet, a series.

Katsa is the powerful heroine of the story and she is a strong female character. At the beginning of the book, we learn of her "Grace," her special ability - she is able to kill anything or anyone. She learned this when she was 11 years old and she tried to fight off the sexual advances of an uncle. Only meaning to stop her uncle from touching her, Katsa killed him with one blow.

From that moment on, she became the secret weapon of King Randa, trained to be his assassin. Half way through the book, Katsa undergoes a transformation, discovering a strength of character to match her physical strength. I was spellbound watching Katsa blossom from a bitter little girl to a self-assured young lady.

Katsa's eventual romance with Po was heartwarming and very realistic. Although most of the relationship is off screen, parents should give thought to allowing children younger than 14 or 15 read this book. For a 47 year old woman like myself, the romance was captivating.

Although I loved the romantical aspects of the book, I think my favorite thing was the genuine friendship Katsa has with her few friends. Her closeness with Raffin, Oll and Giddon, and later Po and Bitterblue, was refreshing. Katza is full of passion and compassion, and although she could kill someone without a single thought, it pleases her to share her talents and teach others how to fight.

Cashore is a talented writer and although this is her first novel, I feel sure she will be around for a long time. She has given us believable characters with all their flaws intact and she did something many authors aren't able to do - she made me fall in love with the characters. I cannot recommend this book highly enough! Although I read a library copy, this is one book I must add to my home library.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - Burnt Offerings

Burnt Offerings is the 7th in the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton.

Burnt Offerings continues the adventures of Anita Blake, as she attempts to solve a series of arsons and other crimes, and deal with a threat to one of her lovers, the vampire Jean-Claude, as he fends off a political challenge from the Vampire Council. Anita must also balance her romantic life with her roles as supernatural police consultant, vampire executioner, zombie animator, human servant and lover to the vampire Master of the City and Richard, the Ulfric of the local werewolf pack.

Because Anita killed the leader of the local wereleopard pard (pack) in The Killing Dance, the wereleopards are now looking for a leader. She accepts the role of Nimir-Ra, leader of the wereleopard pard. She is already the Lupa of the werewolf pack.

This is the book were we discover Anita has developed 3 new powers. She was able to raise 2 vampires (like she does the zombies), when she accidentally raises Damian and Willie. She now has the ability to cause harm from a distance with a slashing attack similar to some vampires. We also get another glimpse of Raina when Anita is able to call Raina's munin (sexual energy) to heal wounds or cause harm.

We are also witnessing the reconciliation between Jean-Claude and Asher, a vampire almost as old as Jean-Claude. We also see Jean-Claude push for his relationship with Anita to become more public. As with the other later novels in the series, Burnt Offerings blends elements of supernatural, police procedural, and erotic fiction.

As with previous novels, "Burnt Offerings" refers to a location within the novel itself. In this case, "Burnt Offerings" is a vampire-themed theme restaurant where some of the events of the novel take place. (The fictional restaurant is itself named after the real-world 1976 haunted house movie, Burnt Offerings.) As with the first 6 books, Burnt Offerings was originally released in paperback, but has been reissued in hardcover.