Sunday, April 29, 2007

'The Bone Whistle' by Eva Swan

ISBN: 0809557924
ISBN-13: 9780809557929
Format: Paperback, 224pp
Publisher: Juno Books
Price: $12.95

In The Bone Whistle, three generations of Native Americans have their lives changed by the wanaghi, fey spirits who live under the Dakota Hills. Darly, her grandfather Jake, and her mother Vivian have all had their lives shaped by contact with these spirits, for better or for worse.

Every summer Vivian takes Darly out of the city to the reservation to find some peace. Darly dislikes having to go and swears to herself that this will be the last summer she spends there. With a fresh broken heart on her sleeve and failure at college dogging her steps, Darly goes with her mother for what she believe will be the last time.

On the way to the cabins where they spend every summer they stop at her grandfather’s small shop. Jake realizes that Darly is having problems finding her place in life and gives her a small white whistle. He tells her to blow it if she feels up to some adventure, although he does not her tell what kind of adventure to expect. Darly shoves it in her pocket and promptly forgets about it.

Later, while walking out alone, Darly surprises a rattlesnake and afraid for her life blows the whistle, hoping that it will bring some help. Suddenly a strange man is there, stepping out of nowhere to save her from the snake. She barely has time to thank him before he is gone.

Darly runs back to the cabin to tell her mother what happened and life as she knew it changes. Darly had believed all her life that her father was dead. When her mother tells her that he is one of the wanaghi and still alive, Darly decides that she must find him.

When she blows the whistle again, a different man, Osni, appears, and Darly follows him beneath the hill and into a different world. The story that follows is full of adventure and self-discovery, even a touch of romance. Darly must come to terms with the fact that her father is wanaghi, which makes her part of a world she never knew existed.

The Bone Whistle moves along quickly and is packed with action until the last page. Darly is a likeable heroine, but there are other characters that steal the novel. Mni, a wanaghi who appears as a small human girl or a large bird, is a great character and her mischievous ways liven up the book.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

'Night Life' by Elizabeth Guest

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley (April 3, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0425214826
Price: $ 6.99

Night Life is the first book in Elizabeth Guest’s Pharaoh’s Rising series. The first thing that caught my eye, besides the cover, was the blurb on the back from Stella Cameron: “He was beautiful. He was lethal. And Elizabeth Guest has let him have his way with our minds- our senses. You will give in without a fight.” How could you possibly resist that?

Adrian King is what the Ancient Egyptians called an Eater of Blood and a Breaker of Bones, in modern terms a vampire. Once he was a God King, a warrior, ruling Egypt until he was betrayed by those closest to him. Now he owns the Royal Palace in Las Vegas, a casino and hotel done in an Ancient Egyptian theme. He is a king still but over a different sort of land.

Christine Day is an Egyptologist who has had ‘waking’ dreams about Ancient Egypt ever since she can remember. As she grew older they became more intense, growing romantic in nature. When she comes to Las Vegas for a conference she is immediately drawn to the Royal Palace by its authenticity.

While looking at the reproductions and artifacts from Egypt Christine has another of her ‘waking’ dreams, highly erotic she wakes from it shaken to come face to face with Adrian, the man she has just been dreaming about.

Of course Adrian recognizes her and sets out to convince her that she is his destiny. But how is a mortal woman going to take the idea of an ancient Pharaoh walking around? But this soon turns out to be the least of Adrian’s problems when he learns that enemies of the past have risen and are stalking into his present.

So while this book is definitely a romance it does have a few twists of mystery thrown in to keep you turning pages. Sexual tension usually drives romance novels but some of that is lacking here. Both character jump into their erotic relationship early on and the rest of the story concentrates on peeling back the mystery that is Adrian.

Night Life really does have something for everyone. Vampires are such a hot topic right now but Elizabeth Guest gives this idea a new spin, and while the vampirism element is there, it doesn’t over power the story. It takes place in Las Vegas with the taste of high rollers and decadence while also hitting the historical high points with its Ancient Egyptian theme. Not to mention extremely sexy characters.

Friday, April 13, 2007

'Season of the Witch' by Natasha Mostert

ISBN: 0525950036
Format: Hardcover, 416pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Release Date: April 19, 2007
Price: $24.95

Mesmerizing from the first sentence to the last, each word in Season of the Witch is perfect; never are you jarred from the wild ride you take with Gabriel and the Monk sisters. Part thriller, fantasy, love story, and mystery, Season of the Witch balances all of these elements naturally with a sensual and brilliant voice.

Gabriel Blackstone is an information thief with a talent for remote viewing. He lives a life on the edge, but completely comfortable with his choices, and has beautiful things around him to show for it. But his past has horrors lurking on the cobwebbed edges and in his imperfection lies his great appeal.

When his old flame Frankie comes to ask for help in the search for her vanished step-son, Gabriel agrees to help reluctantly. He quickly learns that the step-son was last seen in the company of the Monk sisters. Morrighan and Minnaloushe. One of starlight, the other of sunlight, they are the most beautiful as well as possibly the most dangerous women he has ever met. Confident, even cocky, Gabriel has never met his match - until now.

The Monk sisters are solar witches, studying the Art of Memory and alchemy. Together the two have built a house in which everything has an order, everything a place. A house with a million doors that holds the key to all knowledge. Gabriel catches his first look at the house in all its beautiful brutal glory early in the book and each time he visits it seems to become more fantastic.

Gabriel is quickly drawn into the sisters' alluring world, almost forgetting his original goal of discovering what exactly happened to Frankie’s step-son. Soon events have spiraled out of control and Gabriel is faced with the fact that the Monk sister he loves could be a murderer.

What I loved most about this book was that it took everyday things and made them magical. Small things were brought to your attention, the smell of roses or a silk scarf, and suddenly they held a hidden meaning.

Season of the Witch, Natasha Mostert's fourth novel, is simply and completely stunning. When I closed this book the only word that came to mind was ‘Wow’; still overloaded with images and sounds, the feel of the book in my hands, I let the final sentence echo in my head. “Oh yes, most certainly a love story.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

'The Strangeling' by Saskia Walker

ISBN: 0809557932
ISBN-13: 9780809557936
Format: Paperback, 224pp
Publisher: Juno Books

Maerose, the May-Born woman, is the key to a hundred-year old curse about to ravage the land of Edren. An undead army is on the verge of breaking though the earth at a place called The Strangeling and only Maerose, and the magic within her, can turn back the evil tide.

Long ago an Elder prophecy told of a woman who could break the curse with the help of one man. Both Bron and Veldor were trained to be this man by the Elders. While Bron stuck close to the Edlers and their teachings, Veldor split with them to follow a different, greedier path.

When Veldor kidnaps Maerose intending to use her to unleash the curse instead of control it, Bron comes to the rescue. Maerose and Bron then spend a few days coming to terms with their intertwined destiny and preparing to make their stand against the evil trying to enter the world.

A significant portion of this book is the erotic relationship between Maerose and Bron as he helps her unlock her magic. Though the book is short, the way the relationship evolves is natural without seeming forced or pushed too far.

The Strangeling, fast-paced and action-packed, is the kind of book you will sit down and read in one setting. You are quickly caught up in the characters and the story. Maerose is a very modern woman in a rustic setting and Bron the perfect hero, while Veldor and his gray eyes make for the perfect villain.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

'Girls' Poker Night' by Jill A. Davis

ISBN: 0345469674
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 256pp
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Price: $5.99

Ruby Capote, a New York columnist, is good at picking relationships where she will be the first one out the door. She refuses to set herself up for failure in anything, including the Wednesday night games she holds with her friends in Girls' Poker Night.

But there are reasons why Ruby lives her life in a shell. The divorce of her parents at a young age and then the death of her father keeps her in therapy. Ruby’s column is filled with her friends' lives sprinkled with bits of her own, but always things that keep the rest of the world out.

Life, however, isn’t about playing it safe; you have to take risks to get the things you want out of life. When Ruby falls in love with her boss, Michael, she learns these hard lessons firsthand.

The writing is sharp and funny; Ruby’s internal dialogue is biting at times. Her friends, while not fully developed, provide a good backdrop for Ruby’s character. But you wonder at the end where their lives ended up. You get a peek but the loose ends are not tied up.

I also have to admit that I found myself irritated with Ruby when she pushed Michael away for not being as perfect as she thought he should be. It fit with the character, fit into the story, and made sense, but it made me mad. While she does redeem herself later and the ending of the book is happy one, it was hard to like her after blundering about and being so self-righteous about it.

Ms. Davis’ newest book, Ask Again Later, has some strong similarities to this one. Both lead characters have family problems with dead fathers and both have commitment issues and run from not perfect but great guys. Not to mention the sessions of therapy. In my opinion Ask Again Later is the better of the two novels. A more mature gentler read but still containing the humor and sharp insights.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

'Subterranean' by James Rollins

ISBN: 0380792648
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 410pp
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $7.99

Subterranean was Jurassic Park meets Journey to the Center of the Earth, but with a lost tribe of marsupial humanoids. It was just great. Great action, great adventure, great suspense, great mystery, and even some great romance — this book had it all.

It starts with some great characters: Ashley, an American anthropologist with her son Jason; Ben, the Australian cave diver; Linda, an American biologist; Khalid, a Egyptian geologist; and Michaelson, the Army man with a hand full of SEALS backing him up. These people form a team that Doctor Blakely has put together to search a cave under the Antarctic continent. There are other characters that come and go, some a little more unexpectedly than others.

In the main cavern, Alpha Base, dwellings have been carved all along one wall. Thousands of years old, maybe millions, these small homes belong to an extinct humanoid creature, or so the scientists believe. There are worm holes leading off the main cavern and the team has been put together to search the worm holes. They discover right before their departure that they are not the first to go down — a team went before them but never returned. They are not only on a discovery mission but also a rescue mission.

What they find in the bowels of the earth is like nothing else. Ben, the man with all the cave experience, claims that it is unlike anything else on the entire planet. They encounter living dinosaurs, species thought to be extinct long ago. All sorts of creatures block their path and obstacles are constantly being overcome, as they move farther and farther down. Alliances are formed and broken as the darkness presses close and they become lost in the maze of caves.

Some of the descriptions were a little light. You get a pretty good feel for the caverns and the different caves but it wasn’t always a clear picture. Sometimes you forget the characters are in a cave but that didn’t happen very often.

The thrill and the action take the front seat and are the driving forces for the book. The action never lets up, leaving you gripping the edges of your book and turning pages at a frantic pace. At every turn something new has happened and you hate to put it down.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

'The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After' by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

ISBN: 0152055568
Format: Paperback, 469pp
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Price: $6.95

In Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, the magical adventures of cousins Cecelia and Kate in 1817 England start. But in this England magic is an everyday occurrence and both Cecelia and Kate have a talent for it. The story is told by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer through letters between the two cousins. While one is stuck in the country, the other has a season in London and what first seems like two separate storylines soon converge.

With The Grand Tour, or The Purloined Coronation Regalia, Cecelia and Kate are newly married and traveling across Europe together on a grand tour with their husbands. This time Ms. Wrede and Ms. Stevermer told the story through diary entries and depositions.

The Mislaid Magician, or Ten Years After is exactly what the title says it is. The third installment picks up ten years after Grand Tour and we find Cecelia and Kate still happily married with children. This book is once again told via letters although it is not just Cecelia’s and Kate’s voice we hear but their husbands, James and Thomas, as well.

In this mad-cap adventure Cecelia and James are called to the north of England to discover the whereabouts of a disappeared magician. While Kate and Thomas stay at their country home they keep an eye on their children as well as Cecelia’s. Like in the other two books, two seemingly separate storylines come together in the end.

While Cecelia seems to have all the fun without the children, Kate has all the fun with them. But before things get too comfortable, Kate’s ditzy sister Georgy shows up refusing to say why she has suddenly come to visit. Not only will she not give her reasons but she asks that Kate not tell anyone where she is.

So how are the mislaid magician and the sister in hiding related? You’ll just have to read to find out. You will thoroughly enjoy discovering all the answers as well as the comic mishaps of these two families. I enjoyed reading the ‘letters’ between the characters, each revealing just a little bit more of the story, one more twist in the plot or one more smile.

I’ve read a lot of books that are told in letters or e-mails. Usually it’s a gimmick, one author playing both sides as it were. But having Ms. Wrede and Ms. Stevermer write the letters for their characters gives this book, as well as the others, a much more authentic feel. Cecelia and Kate have such separate real voices it‘s hard to believe that all is really just fiction. It’s a lot like stumbling across your great-grandmother's letters in the attic - but instead of just having part of the story you get to enjoy it all.