Monday, August 30, 2010

Artifacts by Mary Anna Evans






Every once in awhile,  I like to read a mystery or something else adult just to know that I still can.  So I picked the first in a series I had already started by Mary Anna Evans.  I reviewed Book number six in her Faye Longchamp mystery series.  I picked it from NetGalley as an E-book Arc because it took place in a city just south or where I grew up.  I really enjoyed the book, if anybody read the review and said I wanted to read the series so, here I am, starting the series.This is the first mystery in the Faye Longchamp mystery series. I reviewed number six in the series earlier in the year and though I wasn't lost, I was interested enough in the relationships, especially Faye's husband Joe Wolf Mantooth to find out more about the series. It took awhile for my library to dig up some of the books, but this one was so great it had me wishing I was home. There were all the elements of a mystery, murder, many suspects, doubt, subplots and looming threats to our protagonist Faye, the tax collector, the sheriff for illegal digging of artifacts, and a cat 5 hurricane, not to mention the murderer.



The story is told in third person mainly from Faye's point of view, but it depends on who is in the scene. Faye is doing something illegal, that I for one had never heard of pothunting. Apparently it's digging for historical artifacts on preserved lands or parklands and making a profit on them. Faye does it out of necessity, not that this makes it any less illegal and she has a Native American named Joe that sleeps on her land who helps her from time to time. She's desperate, subsisting on peanut butter and honey though Joe usually catches fish for dinner or squirrel or rabbit for dinner. Faye lives in her family's plantation house with no electricity or running water. It's in somewhat of a state of disrepair. And she's trying to evade the tax collector so she won't have to pay taxes on it. Her potshunting is her income and she uncovers an unlikely body, that of a 40 yr old missing girl (she finds this out after some detective work). She can't go to the police without revealing her illegal activities, but she can't help trying to figure out what happened to her. She has no job to speak of except a minimum wage job as an archeological assistant and when that gets shut down due to murder, the murder of two the students who were helping, Faye's income dries up. Since the bodies were buried in the wet soil and subject to the humidity of the South, there is absolultely no evidence as to why they were killed or who killed them, only how.

The main characters in the story are very well written. Faye Longchamp is neither black nor white. She has a mix of Creek, Caucasian and African American blood mixed in her. She is also a desperate woman one foot ahead of the law and the tax collector. Its all she thinks about. She isn't the kind to actively seek out trouble or search out the killer on her own. She does however put two and two together a little to late, but I never saw it coming. Joe is a Native American with the skills of an ancient warrior. He's protective of Faye though there is no relationship between them other than friendship. Faye thinks he would score only borderline normal on an intelligence test but I don't think she really sees him for who he is. He doesn't know about computers or cars, but he can live off the land and keep her safe and he seems to be a giant standing six foot something. He is at home in the wilderness surrounding Joyeuse, Faye's plantation. But I think he's smarter than she's seen yet.

Magda, the professor at the university unnamed is smart too. She knows Faye doesn't live on the dump of a boat she claims to live on. And puts two and two together to figure out where the plantation is. She also wonders why Faye doesn't go back to school and works on that. She's pretty sure she knows what Faye does to supplement her income, but she doesn't call her on it, knowing Faye would never disturb a truly valuable historically significant place.

Then there's the Sheriff McKenzie. He's known Faye it seems and he doesn't suspect her of murder, but he wants to know more about Joe. Then Joe is arrested by his deputies for murders so long ago he knows Joe wasn't even born. He questions Joe anyway and finds out about the other body, the girl, and remembers who she is, asking Joe to lead him to the body. All of this is happening while a hurricane brews in the Gulf. When the sheriff finds the body gone and smelling of bleach he realizes the killer as removed her body and they head back in the boat in four foot choppy waters to land. But Joe has other plans and disables the boat and jumps overboard. He has to save Faye from the hurricane.

If you've never lived in Florida, this story might be just another story, but Mary Anna Evans does her homework. The story mentions funny names of places in Florida, Cow Ford being one. I'm from Jacksonville and that's what they used to call it because somewhere along the St. John's River they forded cows across it. Hence the name. I couldn't tell you how it got it's current name. But she knows her hurricanes too. No one will ever forget Katrina.

This is a start to a great mystery series. It doesn't have food or crocheting in the title. It's about archaeology, but you don't have to know anything about it to enjoy the series. Archaeology is just the means to get the main characters to their locations according to the last book I read which again was the 6th. Anyone who loves a good mystery with some history of Florida's panhandle thrown in will love this mystery. I'm looking forward to the next book.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

White Cat Curse Workers Series by Holly Black

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers -- people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail -- he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.


Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.

Holly Black has created a gripping tale of mobsters and dark magic where a single touch can bring love -- or death -- and your dreams might be more real than your memories.(Summary From Goodreads)

WOW!  This was such a great book!  I haven't read any of Holly Black's other books.  They are waiting patiently in my TBR stack.  They'll be moving to the top.  But the ideas in this book are totally original and mind blowing.

The first page of the book, first paragraph hooks you.  "I wake up barefoot, standing on cold slate tiles.  Looking dizzily down.  I suck in a breath of icy air.  Above me are stars.  Below me, the bronze statue of Colonel Wallingford makes me realize I'm seeing the quad from the peak of Smythe Hall, my dorm."   Now, if a boy sleep walking climbing to the peak of a roof in the cold, obviously barefoot doesn't get your attention, I don't know what will.  It sure gets the school's attention and he's suspended.  They don't want the liability.  They think he was trying to kill himself, though he is the one that called for help.

That's how we meet Cassel Sharpe on the roof of his dorm trying to figure out how to get down without calling for help.  He comes from a family of workers, though he himself is not a worker.  Workers are people with talents that vary from being able to give people luck to killing them with a simple touch of their fingers.  That's why everyone wears gloves.  Cassel is trying to fit in, yet he doesn't know how to be normal, so he does what he sees other people do.  Except he had to run the con.  He's a bookie.  But that seems to make him more popular than not. 

Cassel's family is and odd assortment of characters.  His oldest brother Phillip is married and has a son.  He thinks Phillip is a body worker, a touch of a bare finger can break something and knows he works for one of the biggest crime families on the East coast.  Eventually most of the workers do end up working for the crime families because no one else wants them.  Cassel's father is dead.  If it was mentioned how, I don't remember.  His mother is in jail for working a millionaire, making him believe he loved her and giving her thousands of dollars.  She got caught but her case is up for appeal.  His middle brother Barron is a memory worker and is going to Law school at Princeton.  And his Granddad lives in Carney.  He was a deathworker.  One touch from him and you're dead.  But, there are repercussions from curse work.  Something called blowback, sort of like instant karma, and Granddad's fingers are almost all dead, blackened and rotted.  But his gloves hide it. 

Cassel and his Granddad , after Cassel is suspended, go to his family home and clean it out.  It sounds like the worst case of Hoarders from t.v.  Apparently nothing has ever been thrown away.  It takes days to clean everything out.  In the meantime,  Cassel is still sleep walking and seeing a white cat in all his dreams.  The same one that is living in the barn behind his house.  Cassel starts to mistrust his brothers but doesn't know which one is using him and begins to doubt himself and his memories. He still dreams and thinks the white cat has something to do with his sleep walking.  He is haunted by the grin he had on his face when he killed Lila.  Then he visits Barron's apartment and sees all the reminders of his memories, the blowback from memory work is losing your own memories.  Cassel gets charms against losing his memory, just in case and puts them someplace they aren't easily discovered.  When he begins to unravel the truth he finds out the horror of what's been really going on.  He also finds he actually has friends he can count on when he needs them. He has to work with them to pull the biggest con yet.   But the final pages tell the real truth about the con.

The story is told in first person from Cassel's point of view.  He's so likable and tragic.  I just wanted to hold him, as a mom, and tell him everything would be okay, that all was forgiven. His mom, though she really seems to love him, doesn't seem to be that type.  She gives him a gift he'd rather not have.  It's heartbreaking when he finds out.  She belongs in jail in my opinion.

Phillip and Barron are thoroughly unlikeable.  They are detestable.  You don't know much about them, except Phillip is working his own wife.  Enough said.  I don't know how or why, but Cassel overhears his Granddad and Phillip talking about it.

Granddad is the only one that seems to have Cassel's best interest at heart, but he's only partly in on things so he can only help so far.  And Cassel is so confused, he doesn't know who to trust.

It is a great read, maybe a little slow in the beginning, but once it speeds up, you won't be able to put it down.  The world Holly Black created of Curse Workers is so creative, the idea that everyone has to wear gloves and there's legislation being put to vote that everyone has to be tested to see if they are a worker, but the government won't use the information.  Even we know that isn't true.   I can't wait for the next book in the series.

Heather in not so sunny Sandwich

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Interview with Stacy Kramer an Author of Karma Bites


Here is my interview with Stacy Kramer one of the author's of KARMA BITES

1.How did you get the idea to write KARMA BITES?

The idea came out of a very, very, very long lunch Valerie (my writing partner) and I had, upon her return from a year in Hawaii learning to surf and taking some time off with her family.  I was feeling frustrated and burned out from t.v. and movies and wanted to try my hand at something different.

A tv idea, a kid's cooking show for Nickelodeon, had ultimately not panned out after months of work but I still really wanted to work cooking and kids into a story.  Val and I discussed the show at lunch, as well as our love of movies like CHOCOLAT or LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, that use cooking as a metaphor for storytelling.  We loved the notion of placing real recipes throughout the book.  And after much discussion about our own middle school experiences we stumbled upon the idea of KARMA BITES, the story of a border crosser, a role I played in middle school ( a person who can move within various cliques with impunity).  We also wanted to write a wacky comedy adventure in the vein of FREAKY FRIDAYCLUELESS and MEAN GIRLS as we didn't think there were enough comic novels for girls.  Thus and so the idea for KARMA BITES was born.  From there, the story took shape almost immediately.

2.Do you have daughters that are preteens or did you have to do research on how they act and if so where and how?

I have and eleven and a half year old daughter so it's not hard to do research.  All I need to do is spend time with Sadie, my daughter, and her friends, and the stories and dialogue emerge.  I find pre-teens to be such fascinating creatures because in some ways they are so sophisticated and in others so wildly naive.  It's a very fun and slightly schizophrenic period for girls.  Glorious to capture in fiction as there's so much emotion and drama associated with the tween years.

3.Do you believe in magic?

I don't believe in the magic of crystal ball and fairy wands but I do believe in karma.  I think that the universe has a way of keeping track of when you do good and when you don't.  Of how much negative juju you put out there and how much positive.  Of how much love you extend and how much you withhold.  And, at the end of the day, I think you get back what you give.

4.How long have you been a writer?

I have been writing full-time for thirteen years, part-time for two years before that.  But all my life I've written short stories and plays and studied creative writing in college.

I used to be a film and tv producer in Los Angeles.  When I moved to New York City fifteen years ago, I started writing as I was producing.  I sold my first script to Twentieth Century Fox, after having my first child, and stopped producing after making IGBY GOES DOWN as it became too difficult to do with children.  Writing is a much better career for a mother of three.

5.What is your favorite part about writing or being a writer?

I love creating something out of nothing.  And making people laugh.  While it can be grueling and frustrating many days to stare at the blank page, hoping to come up with something mildly amusing to say, there is no better feeling than watching people read your work, or view it on television or in the movie theater and seeing them laugh at your labors.

6.Will KARMA BITES be a series?

We certainly hope so.  We've sent out publisher a number of ideas for the sequel and are hoping to land on the idea for the second book soon.  Unfortunately, it will have to wait a bit as we have two older YA books that we're committed to before beginning the sequel.

7.What is the release date of  KARMA BITES?

August 16, 2010


Thanks for answering my questions Stacy!  I hope the book sells well!


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel

"Throughout all my histories, I found no one I loved more than you...no one."

Those were some of Rhode's last words to me. The last time he would pronounce his love. The last time I would see his face.
It was the first time in 592 years I could take a breath. Lay in the sun. Taste.
Rhode sacrificed himself so I, Lenah Beaudonte, could be human again. So I could stop the blood lust.
But Justin was...daring. Exciting. More beautiful than I could dream.
I never expected to be sixteen again...then again, I never expected my past to come back and haunt me...
(From Amazon)

This was a great book!  It goes back and forth between Leanah in the present and her remembering her past as a vampire Queen.  She had been truly evil as a queen, building a ruthless coven of men so that she was protected by wit, strength and ability.  She was bound to a vampire named Vicken which meant he was unable to harm her.  But the coven was bound to her as well and they were duty bound to the coven to destroy a vampire with humanity.  Of course, this isn't a problem for Lenah because when she wakes up after one hundred years, she is a human.  A sixteen year old girl living in an exclusive school attending high school.
Of course, there's always the possiblity that her coven will come looking for her when they find she isn't in her grave when they unbury her, but the possibility of them finding her is very slim.  And that she's human, they would never expect that.

She hides from the sun in a wide hat and sunglasses and makes friends with a boy named Tony that paints her portrait.  She also falls in love with the campus dare devil.  He has no idea who he's falling in love with.  She immerses herself into the life at school and being a sixteen year old sometimes wondering what she's supposed to do.  She loves food.  Speaks 25 languages and is in all the AP classess.  I wondered about the science and math thinking that certainly that must have changed since 1910 and even though she got a short lesson in history from Rhode before he died could she really ace history from 1910?  But, hey, it really wasn't a big part of the story.  Tony and Justin, they boy Lenah falls in love with, obviously don't get along and Tony gets ditched for Justin.

I can't decide if I like Lenah or not.  She seems to forget Rhode, her lover of over 600 years easily, but then maybe that's how vampire love is, it doesn't feel the same as human love.  Hope to never experience vampire love.  In the beginning she's with Tony making fun of Justin and the girls they are with and Justin makes fun of her.  Then, all of a sudden, they are in love.  Tony has a right to feel ditched.  Lenah is all the sudden the girl she was making fun of before and all the girls are copying her style.  But whatever as long as she's having fun!
However, she does truly care for Justin and even when he says the big L she doesn't return it right away until she's sure.  I think that shows character.  And when it comes to the final confrontation, she's there for her friends, protecting them.  And she committs a final selfless act before the end.

Lenah as a vampire is definitely despicable.  She preys on children.  She leads her prey to think they will go free and then sets dozens of vampires on them.  She is ruthless and even Rhode leaves her after she preys on a child whom she let play in her house.  She has some odd idea about her blood being pure.  He leaves her for 170 years and when he returns is when she decides she wants to be human again.  She is tired of all the evil and bored with eternity.  He agrees to do this for her knowing he will have to give up his life for the sake of returning her humanity.  Rhode, in the few pages that we see him, is the most likable character in the whole novel.  He seeks knowledge and uses his love for Lenah to keep him from being evil.  And he is totally self- sacrificing.  He sets everything up for Lenah so that she can go to school and live as a human and possibly more.
*SPOILER ALERT-  Don't read beyond this point if you haven't read the book!!!
I liked that the first chapter of the next book was included.  You know there's a sequel and I'm not sure who the bad guys are, but it will be an interesting love triangle. 
It was an easy to read novel though it seems like Lenah might have nine lives.  I thought the chapter when she came back as a vampire and showed up in Justin's room was particularly funny.  I didn't think Vicken deserved salvation, but apparently someone did.  I'll be eagerly awaiting the next book.

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

In Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past…and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabel, who already lost her brother to the wolves…and is nonetheless drawn to Cole. At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love–the light and the dark, the warm and the cold–in a way you will never forget(/From Goodreads)


Well,  this was not what I expected.  I enjoyed the book until the last seventy five pages.  I liked the new werewolf Cole.  He added a little danger and excitement to the mix.  But the whole book focused on Cole, Isabel, Sam and Grace.  Didn't Grace want to know anything about Olivia her best friend who chose to be a werewolf?  There was no mention of her at all.  And what about the uber jealous Shelby who wanted Sam for herself?  Where was she?  It was like all the other wolves disappeared and these four with a little of Victor mixed in was there.

And then, Grace's parents.  They'd been absent her whole life and all of a sudden they are so interesested in her life.  There's not a real good explanation there except that she has a boyfriend.  And they aren't very concerned when she's sick.  Sam is more concerned.  Isabel is more concerned and proactive than her parents.
*SPOILER ALERT
And will there be a book three or is this how it ends.  Sam searching for a cure and them having summers together.  Or will she not even turn even during the summer.

I'm just not a big fan of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series.  I am a fan of Steifvater.  I loved the faerie books.  I just wanted this to end happy I don't know how long we'll have to wait for the next one and I hate having them torn apart and Sam living on numbered days as well.  And I can't stand Grace's parents.  There are just so many things to hate in this book, but most especially, the end.

Cut by Patricia McCormick

Fifteen-year old Callie is so withdrawn that she's not speaking to anyone including her therapist at the residential treatment facility where her parents and doctor send her after discovering that she cuts herself. Her story unfolds primarily through dramatic monologues, gradually revealing the family turmoil that led to her self-destructive behavior. Her little brother, Sam, is ill he nearly died in her care. Since Sam's illness, Callie's mother has become so worried and fragile that she rarely leaves the house. Her father has responded to the psychological and financial stress of Sam's illness by disappearing into his work, and when that doesn't work, into his drinking.




Callie's efforts to understand herself and her family illuminate her process of recovery honestly and with hope. Cut provides an insightful look at the psychology of cutting a form of self-abuse an estimated 2 million teenage girls inflict on themselves. (From Goodreads)

Cut is an older book, but one I picked up at the library in a desperate attempt to find something to read.  I have to wait for the good books to come from other libraries.  I was intrigued by the way this novel was written.  At first, Callie doesn't speak at all.  She talks in her head, even answers people in her head, but we have no idea what has made her this way.  In group therapy there are an assortment of girls there for various things, eating disorders, substance abuse, and Callie the lone cutter.
 
The attendants at what the girls call "Sick Minds" really called Sea Pines are not exactly observant.  The girl with anorexia is throwing up while the attendant sits in the doorway and reads her paperback.  Callie knows but she's not talking.  She's able to sneak an aluminum pie tin out of the cafeteria and use it to cut herself.  I believe that's when she decides she wants to get better.  She doesn't want to die as she watches the blood drip from her arm faster than it ever has before.  That and the fact that there's a new cutter there wearing short sleeves and tank tops showing off her scars like she's proud of them with words carved into her arms.
 
Callie slowly starts to spill her story out to her therapist and talks in group and gains an understanding of her disorder.  She begins to understand why she does it and in an act of symbolism shows her therapist that she's ready to stop cutting, that she wants to heal.
 
It's a sad story, her whole family is damaged by the near death of her brother.  The girls in "Sick Minds" are subject to the corporate world of insurance and kicked out when insurance won't pay anymore despite the fact that they aren't cured.  And they have serious addictions be it food, drugs, cutting, or something else.  But they bond as a group and as one leaves the group has to deal with the loss of a family member as well as coping with their own illness.  The book ends on a high note with the possibility of Callie's family being able to heal from this.
 
I'm quite sure there are newer books on cutting and probably more fiction out there on cutters, but having never read one, I think this was a good book to start with.  There weren't a lot of details about the process just about Callie's struggle not to and her struggle to talk.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tyger, Tyger A Goblin Wars Book by Kersten Hamilton

Teagan Wylltson's best friend, Abby, dreams that horrifying creatures--goblins, shape-shifters, and beings of unearthly beauty but terrible cruelty--are hunting Teagan. Abby is always coming up with crazy stuff, though, so Teagan isn't worried. Her life isn't in danger. In fact, it's perfect. She's on track for a college scholarship. She has a great job. She's focused on school, work, and her future. No boys, no heartaches, no problems.


Until Finn Mac Cumhaill arrives. Finn's a bit on the unearthly beautiful side himself. He has a killer accent and a knee-weakening smile. And either he's crazy or he's been haunting Abby's dreams, because he's talking about goblins, too . . . and about being The Mac Cumhaill, born to fight all goblin-kind. Finn knows a thing or two about fighting. Which is a very good thing, because this time, Abby's right. The goblins are coming.


I received this as an E-Book ARC at my request from Net Galley.  I am receiving no monetary or other type of compensation for this review.

I must admit that I put off reading this book for awhile.  I requested the e-book, but didn't think I'd like it so I thought I wouldn't read it.  I didn't know what a Goblin was and didn't think I'd be interested in something about a monster.  Boy was I wrong!  I felt obligated since I'd requested the book and I'm so glad.  It may be the best book I've read so far this year.

It starts with Teagan at her job at the zoo observing Cindy the chimp who has her sweater and won't give it back.  She's in love with the doctor in charge of primate research at the zoo and she's jealous of Teagan.  Teagan finally understands and using American Sign Language (ASL) tells her she's not in love with the doctor and Cindy gives the sweater back, but with a little present that Tegan is unaware of.  She puts it on and due to allergies doesn't smell the present on the bus, but everyone else does and not until her friend Abby gets on the bus does she find out.  But that's the least of her worries.  Abby drags her to St. Drogan's and lights a candle for her soul b/c she had a dream about Tegan that monsters were after her.  Tegan dismisses the idea.

When they get to her house, a social worker is there discussing Finn a long lost relative, the nephew of Tegan's mother.  The social worker is a busy body and almost doesn't want to let Finn into their lives, but the Wylltston insist he's family and he will stay with them.  He comes to stay the next day and sparks fly between Tegan and Finn.  But she has no room in her life for boys and Abby is immediately against him.  They fight constantly whenever he is around, but he doesn't stay long and Tegan is the only one to witness his departure.

One year later life has changed drastically for the Wylltstons and Finn appears again.  They have to journey to a place called Mag Mell, the land between that is ruled by Fear Dorich because the goblins have taken their dad and they must get him back.  Teagan learns a lot  about herself, her mother and her heritage and just who Finn McCumhaill is and what he was born to do.  Her mother always said, "The Irish don't have happy endings."  For Tegan and Finn she could be right.

Teagan is a well developed character.  She has a plan to finish school and go on to be a veterinarian or some time of behavior specialist.  Her experience proves useful in their journeys.  She's very protective of her brother and understands how his mind works.  And she constantly reminds herself to act using her brains instead of using her emotions.  Think instead of panic and just react.  And she's very kind hearted despite what it may cost her.

Finn is also well developed.  Although we don't know much about him in the beginning he shares more of himself as they travel, that he is a survivor and Mamieo, tells Teagan a lot about him.  That he is The Mc Cumhaill born to fight the goblins. But there is also an explanation for his steering clear of  his obvious attraction to Teagan.

Aiden, Tegan's little brother is an enigmatic character.  He is afraid of the tooth fairy and Elvis impersonators.  He spends hours setting up his toy army men for battle and listens to books in verse that his father reads that no child at five would ever listen to that I know of.  And he makes everything a song and has a beautiful singing voice.

There are other characters as well and you can learn about them as well.  I just think this author did a great job of developing the plot, the characters, the narration, the mythology everything.  My only problem was how they left the bad guys in Mag Mell, but then there couldn't be another story if they'd done anything else, and I really want another story!!  So, just as well.

This novel hooks you from the very beginning and although I got bogged down a little with the Irish mythology, it was repeated enough that I understood it well enough to understand the prejudices and allegiances.  I will buy this when it comes out because I think it will be a classic.  I only hope the second is as good as the first.  It held my attention completely except when I was shooing kids out of the room and glaring at my husband when he turned the t.v. on while I was reading.  This is a book for both boys and girls of all ages, though some of the monsters might scare younger readers.

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