Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Fire Me Up

Fire Me Up is the second book in Aisling’s series and brings back all the enjoyable characters from the first book such as Jim, the demon in a Newfoundland’s body, Rene the mysterious French cab driver that’s always in the right spot to get Aisling out of a jam. And of course you can’t forget the captivating leader of the Green Dragon Sept, Drake. When the book opens, Aisling is certain that Drake is out of her life forever, but like she does with most things in the supernatural world she now inhabits, she doesn’t take her place as his claimed mate seriously. And that’s Aisling’s biggest problem. She’s entered into this world within a world, the supernatural underworld filled with demons, witches, dragons, wizards, and all sort of other creatures that make up our best folklore. She’s out of her depth and in Fire Me Up she is trying to learn more so she can understand this world she now inhabits. But the problem is, she doesn’t take it seriously enough. She only goes so far down the path to understanding before she allows love, life, or a mystery to distract her and it hurts her position with the green dragons, the Guardians she tries to petition for training, and the supernatural community (known as the Otherworld) as a whole.

The book is highly entertaining and readers get to learn so much more about the Otherworld and the Dragon Septs, which was a highlight for me. But throughout the book I couldn’t help but be disappointed in Aisling, her personality is great and I love the chemistry between her and the dragons. But as much as I like her, her attitude towards this world she’s a part of is far too flip. She’s learned just enough to get herself into trouble, but has natural talent (and luck) to get herself out again. She doesn’t consider the consequences very well. Makes for interesting but frustrating reading at times.

What frustrates me the most is when Drake shows up and does his best to make sure Aisling will honor her duties as his Mate during a conclave of the Dragon Septs, she has to make a choice and sadly, she never really does. She wants Drake and wants to help him, but she doesn’t really listen when she’s told that the role of a Mate, a role she willingly accepted, was far more important that she realized. A Wyvern (sept leader)’s mate is more than just his lover or wife, a Mate is an advisor, ruler, and partner; someone who needs to be focused on the Sept’s welfare and interests. It’s a lot to take in and Aisling just doesn’t get it. The consequences of her actions in the previous book are brought to light and she has a very steep learning curve by the end. I’m hoping to see an added bit of maturity in her dealings with the Sept in Light My Fire, the third book of the series.

If you enjoy quirky paranormal mysteries like the Southern Vampire series, and you enjoy feisty heroines like Sookie Stackhouse, you can’t go wrong with Aisling Grey.

Living Dead in Dallas

Another from my Summer of Charlaine selection! (I really didn't intend to have an over-arching theme for the summer, but what can you do?)

Second in the Southern Vampire Series, Living Dead in Dallas is all about how Sookie's gift of telepathy is used by Vampire regent Eric as a favor to his counterpart in Dallas. One of the Dallas vampires has gone missing and Eric expects Sookie to be able to help find him. Instead she makes an impression on the vampires, the humans that want to rid the world of vampires, and the shapshifters she didn't even know existed. No matter what, Sookie's life is nothing if not interesting.

This one is fun, but by taking Sookie and Bill out of Bon Temps, I lost a little enjoyment because the supporting characters weren’t there. Sookie is great in any setting, but Bill just doesn’t hold my attention and even still his screen time was very limited so I had to get used to a new set of supporting characters, which we may never see again. With Living Dead I discovered that Bill isn’t on my top three favorite characters list since he tends to be a bit too cold and removed from Sookie in many ways. While I think this works really well for this character that’s forgotten what it means to be human it doesn’t endear him to me that much. The fact that he tries to see things from her point of view and sometimes will react a bit more like a regular guy is interesting, but when he shares the page with the more outrageous and charming Eric, Bill simply pales. Perhaps if I’d read the first novel before Dead to the World I wouldn’t think so, but Eric won me over in the fourth book. Still, even with the sadly dull and remote Bill, Living Dead in Dallas is a fun and enjoyable book.
Quick Status Update: The past couple of weeks have been hectic and my promised review per week simply hasn't occured. This week I'm planning on catching up with all the June reviews so I can start on the July reviews next week. While I don't intend on flooding the blogosphere I do want to catch up so I can review the books I'm currently reading rather than wracking my brain to remember what happened and exactly how I felt with the last few. Two more reviews for June then it's on to July!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Poppy Done to Death

I almost forgot this "traditional" mystery I read in early June. After discovering Charlaine Harris through Dead to the World I had to read more. I enjoyed the book too much not to. So June became the month of Charlaine. The next book I took on was Poppy Done to Death, the last book in the Aurora Teagarden series. This is a quiet, traditional mystery in the sense that there's no vampires, telepaths, or other paranormal elements. While I firmly classify it as a mystery there is also a romance element in the form of Aurora's boyfriend, True Crime writer Robin Crusoe. This book is smart and funny with an interesting plot that revolves around the murder of a local woman who happens to be close friends with Aurora (Roe to her friends). It was a quick read, but I didn't figure out who the murderer was until very close to the end. I like it when the culprit isn't obvious halfway through the book. But another thing that I like about the series is slightly superficial. Aurora is a librarian and nine times out of ten I'm drawn to characters that share my profession. Still Poppy Done to Death is a nice easy summer read that I'd recommend to anyone looking for a good mystery.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Dead Until Dark

Charlaine Harris introduces the world to a new reality with Dead Until Dark. The first of the Southern Vampire series, Ms. Harris tells us about how Vampires have always been all around us, but thanks to a Japanese creation of synthetic blood now they can come out of the coffin, so to speak. With that one detail readers are whisked away into the world of Sookie Stackhouse and the small town of Bon Temps, LA.

With the first novel of a series a writer has to throw a lot of information at readers while still gaining their attention and interest in the characters. Setting up a environment, a world so similar to the "real world" with only one or two differences could be glossed over, but that's not what happens. Instead readers are shown (instead of just told) the dangers to both vampires and humans. Along the way you meet Bill the Vampire, Sam Merlote - Sookie's boss and occasional star of fantasies, her womanizing brother Jason, and a cast of characters that you enjoy visiting in other books in the series. Sookie is a reluctant sleuth, but she is a brave one. She sets out to figure out who's causing a series of murders in Bon Temps with only the smallest hesitation. Her humor and outlook on life are fun additions to the story and will keep you coming back to the series.

Two books down, thirteen more to go before September 1st.

Not quite a review (I will get back to that, I promise), but still about books.

After a blog post from the Looking For Group guys, I went in search of an Alternate History book, one I've picked up and put down over and over again: Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove. This time I'm giving it a good go and man, it's fascinating. Getting into the mindframe of General Lee and his officers as well as the foot soldiers like Nate Caudel is incredibly interesting. The twist that makes the story an alternate history is one that just makes you go, "Wow, what if?" Though I have to say, while probably historically accurate (and Mr. Turtledove is well known for his research) the repeated use of the n-word (yes, I abhor that word enough to not write it) is one of those things that does twist my stomach a bit every time I see it. It's so interesting to read about the mindsets, but man...the phrasing, that insult side by side with some of the nicer thoughts about the African-American characters just bugs me. And even though I know it was probably an accepted, almost expected use of the word in day to day speech, it comes close to pulling me out of the story every time it's used. I'm taking my time with this one, but I figure I'll finish it before July 20th. I have to, otherwise it'll get abandoned for the weekend while I read Deathly Hallows. :)
Coming up: a review on Charlaine Harris's first Southern Vampire book Dead Until Dark.