Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: A Vampire's Promise & A Vampire's Soul by Carla Susan Smith

I was folding laundry and watching an old CSI rerun on TV when Laycee called. ~ Opening of A Vampire's Promise

A Vampire's Promise by Carla Susan Smith
Kensington, 2014
Romance (Paranormal); 306 pgs

From the Publisher:
Rowan Harper is nothing but a smart-mouthed bookstore clerk with a crappy love life on the night she walks into Rosie's Bar. Most of the drama in her life is borrowed from her best friend's adventures. But when she meets Gabriel--tall and movie star gorgeous--everything changes. Never mind that she turns down the drink he offers, or that he brims with secrets she can't begin to guess at. He ignites a desire in her she never suspected--and shows a fascination with her she can't explain.
He has no family, no job, no bank account;he knows where she lives and her favorite flower. An aura of mystery cloaks him, even as Rowan grasps for facts, even as she fears an answer that could destroy her happiness. Gabriel can guide her through a wonderland of new sensations. But only if Rowan trusts him enough to follow. . .

I took to the character of  Rowan right away even if I didn't agree with all her choices.  She is a bit awkward and doesn't have it all together the way her best friend, Laycee, does, but, in her own way, she's a strong woman.  She speaks her mind as she sees fit.  Rowan hasn't had the luck with men that her best friend has had either, and so she has some self-esteem issues when it comes to men.  She can't quite believe someone like Gabriel would be interested in her. 

I really liked the early interactions between Rowan and Gabriel.  He comes off as one of those perfect men--good looks, humble and yet strong, caring, and wanting to cater to Rowan.  He has his secrets though, and while I appreciated that Rowan didn't press him in the beginning, I found myself getting annoyed with her the more involved she and Gabriel became for not asking questions. It went to show just how desperate Rowan was to hold onto Gabriel.  I wanted to reach into the book and shake her.  So, maybe that wasn't the part where she was at her strongest.  Still, she did prove to be strong in other ways, and I have to give her credit for that.    

Of course, I knew what Gabriel was from the beginning even if Rowan did not.  And as perfect as he is, I still found myself enamored by him.  The attraction between Rowan and Gabriel was clear from the very first moment and, as the novel went on, it was clear the two were perfectly matched.  

As a book lover, I wouldn't have minded spending more time in the bookstore where Rowan worked, but, well, the book isn't about the bookstore.  Or books for that matter.  Although, I did have to wonder at times how someone so well read, including having read many vampire books, didn't instantly think "Vampire!" given some of Gabriel's behaviors and actions.  Then again, in a world where most people do not believe vampires are real, I suppose I shouldn't be so hard on her.  I mean, our brains automatically want to rationalize what we see and hear and put it in a context that fits our reality.  I thought the theory Rowan came up with was great, although I questioned her judgement in staying with someone she thought was up to no good.  

I had such fun reading this novel and trying to figure out just what a vampire's Promise is.  It's clear that Rowan is special to Gabriel for a reason, and I found myself floating many theories as I read.  Some came true, just maybe not for the reasons I expected.  The vampires in Carla Susan Smith's world are definitely more on the side of the angels--well, some of them, anyway--than they are like the ones you might run into Bram Stoker's Dracula.  But that's okay. It is a paranormal romance, after all.  

Warning: If you do decide to give A Vampire's Promise try, plan to read A Vampire's Soul as well.  The first book doesn't bring you much in the way of resolution.  The two books read as Part One and Part Two.
*                      *                       *

There are some people who will tell you that if you fall in a dream it's a bad thing. ~ Opening of Vampire's Soul.

A Vampire's Soul by Carla Susan Smith
Kensington, 2014
Romance (Paranormal); 270 pgs

From the Publisher:
Rowan Harper’s world has been wrenched apart. The man she thought she loved—the man she does love—is a vampire, and not the kind that glitters. Running away isn’t an option. Gabriel isn’t just her lover. She’s bound to him in ways she can’t comprehend, ways that put both of them in desperate danger even as Rowan’s desire for him blazes anew.
The rules of her life before are gone. But she has a power of her own, a power she is remembering in fits and starts even as time races against her. With her life and Gabriel’s very soul on the line, Rowan has to choose who to believe—and who to trust…

I would not recommend anyone start with this book without first reading A Vampire's Promise. A Vampire's Soul picks up where the first book ends.  Rowan has just discovered that not only are vampires real, but that her boyfriend, Gabriel, is a vampire.  Rowan's reaction when she does discover this is how I imagine a real person might react--complete panic and utter fear.  It was an aspect of the book I really appreciated.   The author did a good job of bringing out Rowan's emotional turmoil.  I could feel her fear, frustration and confusion.  I could understand her anger and also her feelings of uncertainty.  

In A Vampire's Soul, Rowan is soon to learn exactly what a vampire's Promise is and how it impacts her. Despite her new found knowledge that her boyfriend is a vampire, Rowan realizes she loves Gabriel with all her heart.  He will do anything to protect her, but is she willing to risk everything for him, even if it means she might lose her life?  It's a question she has to ask herself the more she learns about Gabriel's past and a promise made long ago. 

In the midst of trying to remember a moment in her past she has locked deep away as well as figure out a way for her and Gabriel to have a life together, Rowan must also contend with a jealous vampire hell bent on getting her revenge.  It places those closest to Rowan in jeopardy as well.  This is where Rowan really shows her strength as a person, I think.  She's the kind of person who would not think twice about giving someone the shirt off her back if he or she needed it.

The reader gets a better understanding of Gabriel and his past in this novel.  I had my doubts at first, but the the author pulls it off well, I think.  It does make me want to know more about him.  

I was completely pulled into Gabriel and Rowan's story, both in this and the first book, A Vampire's Promise.  The revelations in A Vampire's Soul brought some satisfaction, but also more questions.  I am guessing the author will continue to write more books set in the world she's created with A Vampire's Promise and A Vampire's Soul.  Or at least I hope so.

Rating of Books: * (Good +)

You can learn more about Carla Susan Smith and her books on the author's website.

Source: I received e-copies of both books for review from the publisher via NetGalley.

© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Where Is Your Bookmark? (07/22/2014)

Yesterday, when I went to pick Mouse up from school, my daughter greeted me with a huge grin and hug, asking me if it was a swim day, cheering when I said yes.  As much as she loves her time in the water, getting her in her swimsuit and in the car on our way to the public pool is never a straightforward task.  There is always something to do and friends to play with.  To say three year olds are easily distracted is an understatement.

 The swim lessons are going well.  She went from being the first to volunteer to jump off the diving board her first day three weeks ago, to being afraid to get close to it the next.  Fortunately for all of us, last week, the little ones weren't asked to try.  When her class of five beginning swimmers were marched to the diving board yesterday, my daughter, along with another boy, stayed back, clearly afraid. One of the instructors coaxed Mouse over and helped her jump off the diving board and into the arms of the instructor in the water below.  Mouse was grinning ear to ear when she got out of the pool. She said she wants to do it again tomorrow (now today).  She may feel differently this afternoon.

I am still working extra hours at work, and it is wearing on me.  I miss my family time most of all, but it is also leaving me exhausted, both physically and mentally.  I am looking forward to my normal three day weekend coming up.  I am finally at a place where I can slow down with the overtime and can settle back into a more normal routine.  Mostly.  All of this in preparation for my upcoming surgery, which will hopefully be in the late fall.

In the beginning of June, I began working out every morning (five days a week) in an effort to be more fit, lose weight and to see if it would help ease some of the chronic pain I suffer from.  I always balked at the idea of having to get up any earlier than I already do to get to work on time, but I finally reached a point where I decided it was worth a try.  Trying to fit exercising into the evening after work is impossible, as much as I wanted it to work.  Except for a the two days I skipped when I was sick and the one day because I hadn't slept the night before and decided sleep was more important, I have kept to my schedule. I am very proud of myself. It has not been easy, especially when my bed looks so inviting.  I feel so much better though.  There might not be any obvious changes on the outside, but I feel better on the inside and my pain has lessened considerably.  I still have bad days, but I also have good ones--and that makes it worth it.  Now to stay motivated . . .

One of the many things I like about reading is how it forces me to slow down a little.  And, especially right now, I need that release.  Every minute I get to read is a treasure.  Fortunately, the books I have been reading have been worth treasuring too.  I finished reading Countdown City, the second book in the Last Policeman Trilogy, by Ben H. Winters last week.  I started The Book of Life, the final book in the All Souls Trilogy, by Deborah Harkness over the weekend, and finished it last night--it felt so good to immerse myself in Harkness's world.  How I loved visiting with Matthew and Diana and all their family and friends again!

Now I am back in that difficult but fun position of deciding what to read next.  I am anxious to see if the world survives in Ben H. Winters' trilogy of which I have the final book, World of Trouble, but I am also curious about Yangsze Choo's The Ghost Bride, described by the publisher as "a startlingly original historical fantasy infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, and unexpected supernatural twists."  Doesn't that sound good?  At least I have narrowed my choices down to two this time . . .

What are you reading at the moment?  Is it something you would recommend?

Every Tuesday Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea hosts 
First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where  
participants share the first paragraph (or a few) of a 
book they are reading or thinking about reading soon.

I love the All Souls Trilogy and was so excited (and a little sad because it is the last one) when I saw that The Book of Life had come out in stores.  It didn't take long for me to purchase my own copy.  Here is the opening of Deborah Harkness's The Book of Life:
Ghosts didn't have much substance.  All they were composed of was memories and heart. Atop one of Sept-Tour's round towers, [Name removed to avoid spoiler] pressed a diaphanous hand against the spot in the center of her chest that even now was heavy with dread.
Does it ever get easier?  Her voice, like the rest of her, was almost imperceptible. The watching? The waiting? The knowing?
 Would you continue reading?

© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: The Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan

I was already wide-awake when they came for me. ~ Opening from The Curiosity

The Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan
William Morrow, 2013
Science Fiction; 448 pgs

From the Publisher: 
Dr. Kate Philo and her scientific exploration team make a breathtaking discovery in the Arctic: the body of a man buried deep in the ice. As a scientist in a groundbreaking project run by the egocentric and paranoid Erastus Carthage, Kate has brought small creatures-plankton, krill, shrimp-"back to life." Never have the team's methods been attempted on a large life form. 
 Heedless of the consequences, Carthage orders that the frozen man be brought back to the lab in Boston, and reanimated. As the man begins to regain his memories, the team learns that he was-is-a judge, Jeremiah Rice, and the last thing he remembers is falling overboard into the Arctic Ocean in 1906. When news of the Lazarus Project and Jeremiah Rice breaks, it ignites a media firestorm and massive protests by religious fundamentalists. 
Thrown together by circumstances beyond their control, Kate and Jeremiah grow closer. But the clock is ticking and Jeremiah's new life is slipping away. With Carthage planning to exploit Jeremiah while he can, Kate must decide how far she is willing to go to protect the man she has come to love.
Imagine if there really was a way to bring a living being back to life after it had been frozen.  There are those today who believe it is possible.  In Stephen P. Kiernan's novel, The Curiosity, he takes the idea of cryogenics and brings a human back to life, a human that had been frozen in a block of ice for over a hundred years.  The author raises food for thought about ethics and morality, faith, our media culture as well as exploitation.  This is also a novel about love and finding one's path.

The novel is narrated by four different characters, including Dr. Kate Philo who first discovered the frozen man, reporter Dixon, the leader of the Lazarus Project and rather egocentric Erastus Carthage, and Jeremiah Rice, the reanimated man and judge from the early 1900's.  The fact that Carthage's section of the novel was written in second person seemed quite fitting given his personality.  It was a nice touch on the author's part, although it did take me a moment to get used to.

I do wish Carthage and Dixon had been more filled out as characters, although the reader is given an idea of what motivates them to some degree.  Dixon more than Carthage.  Carthage's character never grew on me, and I suppose he wasn't supposed to.  He was a purely selfish man who lost sight of the science and was more interested in the attention, power and riches.

Jeremiah and Kate were the most developed characters, and I liked both.  I appreciated Kate's dedication to her work and to Jeremiah.  And Jeremiah . . . I can see the draw to him, why the people he came into contact with liked him so much.  He was charming and kind.  He had an old worldliness to him, which given the time period he came from, it's no wonder.  Admittedly, sometimes he seemed too good to be true, but that never got in the way of my enjoying the book.  I loved his reaction to technology and the progress he saw all around him.  It's easy to take it all for granted given we live in a time when passenger airplanes and cars are common place.  Jeremiah's sense of awe and finding beauty in all that was around him even despite the violence he learned about was, in a way, inspiring.

I liked the way the author approached the ethical issues involved in science in research as well as the moral issues raised by the media, protesters and scientists themselves.  Kiernan did not shy away from showing humanity in a realistic way, including how we treat those in the spotlight given our media driven culture.  I hated to see how objectified Jeremiah was in the eyes of those around him.  The fact that he was a feeling and reasoning being was ignored by some, the progress of science being more important to them.

The relationship that grows between Jeremiah and Kate takes its time to unfold.  If you are expecting lots of romance and steamy sex, you won't find it here.  The book is better for it.  Both of the characters grow as people in part because of their relationship with each other--their friendship and growing love.

My only fault with the book is that I never really felt fully a part story.  I felt like an outsider looking in. At times it seemed more academic than anything else.  And maybe that's the way it was supposed to be, given the scope of the novel.

Overall, I enjoyed The Curiosity and being able to get to know Jeremiah and Kate.  I can see this book being a good one for a book club discussion.

Rating: * (Good +)

To learn more about Stephen P. Kiernan, and his books, please visit the author's website and Facebook page.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about The Curiosity on the TLC Book Tours route!

Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. Print copy of The Curiosity provided by publisher.  I bought an e-copy to read, however, for sake of convenience.

© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Where Is Your Bookmark? (07/15/2014)

Mouse in swim class.

This past weekend, my husband and I celebrated our sixteenth wedding anniversary.  Anjin surprised me with dinner at a mystery dinner theater.  Set in 1950's France, we were among the guests of a lavish birthday party, one in which the guest of honor was found murdered.  This was not the first dinner theater experience, but it is my favorite so far.  It made for a wonderful evening out.  A rare treat in our household.

Poor Mouse didn't fare so well.  She was sick most of the weekend.  She seems to be on the mend now, just in time to start her second session of swimming lessons.

I have managed to fit in reading here and there.  I spent some time in Larissa Ione's MoonBound world in Bound by Night, the first book in her new fantasy (vampire) series.  I also polished off the final two books in the Fifth Avenue romance trilogy, Scandalize Me and Expose Me. And I read and loved The Last Policeman trilogy by Ben H. Winters. I am now reading The Hexed by Heather Graham, a mystery/romance novel set in Salem, Massachusetts. Yet another series book.  I seem to be on a series reading roll of sorts right now. 

What are you reading at the moment?  Is it something you would recommend?

Every Tuesday Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea hosts 
First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where  
participants share the first paragraph (or a few) of a 
book they are reading or thinking about reading soon.

The Hexed by Heather Graham has a cozy mystery sort of feel to it with paranormal (ghosts) and romance mixed in.  Here's a sample from the opening:
"Help me, Rocky!  Help Me!"
Craig Rockwell--Rocky to family and friends--was seventeen, a high school senior.  It wasn't that he didn't like Melissa Wilson; he just wasn't interested the way she was interested. 
He rolled over restlessly on the bed, her voice--frantic as always--pushed to the background as his half-sleeping mind returned to the thoughts that had occupied him earlier as he drifted over homework.

 Would you continue reading?

As far as beginnings go, this one did not grab me immediately, although it does set the stage well for the type of teenager Rocky was and what was to come in the story. I love that the female protagonist in the story is a children's book author who writes stories about a witch. Of course, she isn't introduced until a few pages later.

 4th of July BBQ

© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

From the Archives: Crime Fiction in October 2005

I began keeping a reading journal several years before I began blogging. I find it interesting to sift through my thoughts of books that I read back then. My reviews were often brief and contained little substance, but I thought it'd be fun to document them here on my blog as well as share them with you. Here are three from October of 2005: 

Utterly Monkey by Nick Laird
Harper Perennial, 2006
Fiction; 368 pgs

Nick Laird’s debut novel is described as being a “searing, fiercely funny, and ultimately redemptive novel about surviving an office job, outwitting the bad guys, and, hopefully, getting the girl.“ Set in London and crossing the sea into Ireland, this is a novel about a corporate attorney whose life suddenly gets interesting when an old friend appears on his doorstep. So often today books set in the United Kingdom are Americanized, the language used adapted, however that was not the case in Utterly Monkey. I loved the descriptions and expressions used throughout this book. It made the story as well as the setting come to life. The characters were quirky and fun and the book was full of humorous moments mixed in with more serious issues. Although the book got off to a slow start, the ending took off at a record pace and had me racing to the last sentence.

 Got the Look by James Grippando
Harper Torch, 2006
Suspense/Thriller; 467 pgs

James Grippando has earned a place among my “must read” authors. Got the Look hooked me in from the very first page and kept me captivated until the very end. FBI Agent Andie Henning and Jack Swyteck are trying to track down a kidnapper/killer who has recently abducted Jack’s new girlfriend. Will the ransom paid be enough to keep her alive? Although this particular book is the latest in a series featuring attorney Jack Swyteck, I hardly noticed even though I had never read anything by this author before. The characters were well defined and I found the plot itself quite intriguing in its varying nuances. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Derailed by James Siegel
Grand Central Publishing, 2003
Suspense/Thriller; 368 pgs

James Siegel’s Derailed was just as suspenseful and exciting as everyone claimed it was. Although my guess from the beginning about the mystery turned out to be correct, I still enjoyed every page of Derailed. This is the story of Charles Schine, a successful executive who meets a beautiful woman on a train. An illicit affair turns into a nightmare and his life will never be the same. Mr. Siegel is a gifted storyteller, keeping the reader on the edge of his or her seat through the entire book. [Skip the movie based on the book.  It was awful.]

© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.