Tour’s Books Blog

October 30, 2013

Some Thoughts on Fall and Reviews

What is it about fall that makes us reflective?  Is it the knowledge that yet another year is slipping away?  That the cycle of our lives that crawled so slowly as children is suddenly speeding up, making us want to linger longer in the various seasons?  Spring lightens our hearts as the barren trees and gardens spring to life in a burst of green, pinks, white, purple with highlights of yellow.  Cool, soothing, young colors. Then summer sees all the local foods in farmer’s markets and gardens in full bloom and the smell of fresh cut grass.

Then fall comes ………………

Trees turn the colors of warm jewels, and I think the very fleeting nature of such amazing beauty is what makes it so memorable.  It also has a certain melancholy to it – fall is the final shining moment before winter closes in and shrouds our short days in cold and snow, or just leaves us barren trees and lifeless gardens till spring comes and begins the cycle with a riot of new colors.  Are the seasons a metaphor of life itself?  Maybe.  And maybe, as we grow older we appreciate just how truly fleeting perfect moments are, and how little we appreciated some in our past.  So on that perfect fall day, stop and remember and enjoy it.  Each day is unique and will not come your way again.

Fall also brings a surge of book releases, and not just the usual stuff.  This is when publishers release all those glorious ‘coffee table’ books intended as Christmas gifts.  When I was I kid, books like that were always on my Christmas list, but these days, fewer and fewer are printed.  Another victim of technology.  Cookbooks are still big sellers, reliably so.  But hey, Halloween is is almost here, so let’s do some paranormal and UF books!

Tempt the Stars

The Cassie Palmer series by Karen Chance is a good one, but with two huge drawbacks – first, it’s complex, yet lacks the subtle detail to fully flesh it out, and second, it’s a looooong wait between books.  So long, you’ve pretty much forgotten the characters and plot from the previous book!  Since each installment builds on a previous one, that’s a major stumbling block.

Tempt the Stars starts more or less where Hunt the Moon left off.  Pritkin gave his life to save Cassie in the battle with Ares – not by dying, but by returning to his father’s court – he’s an incubus.  Las Vegas, especially the casino, suffered in some of the fallout, leaving quite a mess.   But Cassie made up her mind – and a Pythia’s mind if tough to change when she can move thru time and space – she’s getting Pritkin back!  It helps that’s she’s the daughter of Artemis.  But the magic the goddess worked so long ago shutting out her other gods and goddesses from access to Earth is breaking down, and Cassie needs to talk to her mother, which means she has to move thru space and time.

First she has to get rid of the witches that showed up demanding an audience.  Witches, vampires, and war mages are not a great mix, especially for a Pythia that never had formal training in any of the court etiquette required – thanks to Master Vampire and the ultimate manipulator – Micrea, who is oddly absent here.  Cassie is determined to rescue Pritkin from his father, but in doing so, frightens the rulers into thinking her mother, Artemis, may try and stage a comeback.  As usual, the whining Casanova provides comic relief as our daring trio journey thru Hell.

Lightweight entertainment, following the rather complex and scattered plot can be a challenge, but over all a decent read.    Tempting the Stars gets a C+ to B- (3.5*) from me and is decent fun for fans of the series.  The book was purchased from Books-a-Million for $5.39 and worth a read for series fans.

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deathandthegirlheloves

Darynda Jones’ final installment in her young adult Darklight trilogy about a teenage girl and her association with Death and saving the world.  Now understand, I’m not a huge fan of young adult books, but this series had a good start and a good middle, aimed as it was at older YA readers, not early teens.   While she has worked wonders with her Charlie Davidson books, here, book 3, Death, and the Girl He Loves, got off to what still seems a pointless and diversion to a private school in Maine where Lorelei McAlister makes one friend, acquires a male sidekick, and ends up under the watchful eye of what seems to be the school tough girl, Kenya.  Again we have a trio of students, a girl, and boy, and Lorelei, just like back in New Mexico, and then the local tough – this time Kenya.

Lorelei is struggling to adjust to her loneliness away from her grandparents and friends, but suddenly, everyone she touches triggers visions of death and darkness.  EVERYONE.  Plus, someone wants her dead and his killing her will start the Apocalypse.  She needs to get back to New Mexico and fix whatever is wrong.  Turns out Kenya is not bad but, but her guardian, raised by members of the group her grandfather leads and rescues her form a supposed friend and gets her safely back to New Mexico.  Well that was a complete waste of 75 pointless pages as only the Kenya character actually stays thru the book and the whole thing serves no other purpose.

And we’re back to the bickering Brooke and Glitch, the brooding Jared and testy Nathaniel and her loving grandparents.  Now that ‘the end’ is near, Lorelei has to figure out how to save the world.  This is when I have to start reminding myself this is YA paranormal, because frankly, the premise was a bit thin from the start, and the many shortcomings were hidden behind the facile charm of the characters.  Or maybe we are conditioned to the ‘Harry Potter Complex’ of an 18 year old saving the world.  The difference between the two, though, is Harry Potter suffered and grew wise beyond his years, but here, Lorelei solves it all in the nick of time without paying the price of her wisdom.

I am in a distinct minority in saying the ending just didn’t work for me.  The characters didn’t evolve in any meaningful way to earn insight and wisdom and Death should really have been the mentor – or at least a much more mature character given his age.  That was kind of creepy, even is Death appears as a teen, he ISN’T.

In many ways, the Darklight plot is pale shadow, suitably watered down for teens, of her darker and funnier Charlie Davidson story.  But for me, the ending didn’t work.  OK, I suppose within the context of the story it was acceptable, but my credulity broke and couldn’t be mended.  What should have been the strongest of the 3 books was the weakest redeemed, in part, only by the last few pages.

Death, and the Girl He Loves gets a C+ (3.5*) from me.  I was not impressed, but if you’ve followed the series, it is a must read.  I just think better ones are out there.  A ‘chick book trilogy’ in that teen girls will swoon.  Judging by the Amazon reviews, so did the moms, but I was still kind of astonished by the ‘ick factor’ that was seen as romance between ageless Death and a high school girl.  Did no one else get kind of creeped out by this?  Putting a character that existed since the beginning of time into an ‘apparent’ 18 year old body, does NOT make him 18.  EWWWWWWWW!

Death, and the Girl He Loves was purchased from Amazon for about $9-10.  I think it over priced, but then, I’m not a hormonal teen.

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Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

OK, here is another Young Adult book aimed at younger readers – the 14 to 16 set.  No romance, just the further adventures of Sophronia Teminnick and her friends at Miss Geraldine’s Finishing Academy.  Finishing School is a very different kind of series from the Darklight books, focusing on the growth, curiosity, and indomitable Sophronia.  Shrewd, observant, and very intelligent, Sophronia had all the making of a spy and is given a scholarship of sorts to the floating school, a ‘finishing school’ for spies that protect England.

In book two, we are back to the problem of the device that went missing and what exactly that device can do.  It seems everyone wants it and Bunsen’s and Miss Geraldine’s are collaborating on building a replacement.  Boys on board!  And one young lord tries to ‘court’ Sophronia, which puzzles her no end as there are too many far more interesting things than boys.  Especially self adsorbed young lords.   The escapades that the girls get into while trying to unravel what’s going on move at a swift pace.  Sophronia is perfect lead character, oblivious to anything but her insatiable curiosity.  She does, however, recognize the value that good manners has in this kind of ‘war’ where battles can be won or lost in the drawings rooms of society.

With her classic wit and style, Ms Carriger spins a good tale here with lots of thrills and more than enough plot, but it is a very short novel.   Too short.  Yes, 14 year olds are not big on long stories, but I was left with the impression it would have been fleshed out more had there not been a rush to publish book 2 in the series.

Curtsies and Conspiracies gets a solid B- (3.8*) and might have earned more had it been more polished.  It’s a great series for young teen girls and anyone who enjoyed Harry Potter.  Sophronia is smart, likable character with quirks and a gift for observation and a shrewd mind that has just the right amount of over-active teen imagination that many lack.  I received a free ebook pre-publication copy of Curtsies and Conspiracies.  It’s current price on Amazon is $12, though it had been lower.  Frankly, I’d say stick with an ebook version as this one is too short a novel for the money being asked.

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