Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: The Weather Warden Series by Rachel Caine

Storm clouds are gathering overhead again this week, threatening to bring more rain.  Mudslides and flooding closed area roads the last two weeks. I am just glad I do not have to be out in it. The weather has been perfect for curling up on the couch with a mug of hot chocolate and diving into Rachel Caine's Weather Warden Series. 

I can just imagine Joanne Baldwin, one of the most powerful Weather Wardens working her magic along with other Wardens with varying gifts to divert or calm violent weather, tame raging wildfires, or heal and manipulate the earth.  While the storm above my head isn't likely to warrant intervention, other more deadly storms would.

The novels follow the character of Joanne Baldwin, a rather rebellious and independent woman who can control the weather.  She loves high fashion and fast cars, but she also values human life and will do anything to protect mankind. She is part of a secret world organization that has used their power to protect humans and their property, controlling and manipulating the weather, mastering fire, and healing the earth and injured, for thousands of years. 

Each book in the series is pretty much nonstop action from beginning to end; the tension remains high throughout. This is a series that is best read in order, one book's ending leading straight into the next. As a result, it would be impossible to discuss each book in the series without risk of spoiling anything. I am going to try though.

In the first book of Rachel Caine's series, Ill Wind (Roc, 2003; 337 pgs), Joanne is on the run for her life, accused of murdering a fellow Warden.  She has other problems too, which only complicate matters. In order to clear her name and save her own life, Joanne seeks the help of an old friend, Lewis, the most powerful Warden known--and also the most wanted. Lewis has been hiding for years, on the run himself for stealing three Djinn, magical beings that have been used by Wardens for thousands of years to do their bidding.

In Heat Stroke (Roc, 2004; 335 pgs), Caine takes the reader into the world of the Djinn, both those bound to Wardens and those who are free.  Joanne's life is again in danger as is the life of her lover, David, a powerful Djinn whom we meet in the first book.  There is a very real threat out there to all humanity and the Djinn, and Joanne and David may be the only ones who can stop it.

Despite the title, things heat up in Chill Factor (Roc, 2005; 337 pgs) when Joanne goes after a teenage boy who can not only master fire, but came into other extraordinary powers by stealing them from a Warden. He is extremely dangerous. While trying to take him down, Joanne is haunted by her past, a past that takes form in the present, yet again putting her life at risk.  

Joanne's sister moves in and Joanne is on the outs with the Wardens. Joanne wants nothing more than to make a new life for herself. Yet someone is out to frame her.  In Windfall (Roc, 2005; 320 pgs), Joanne realizes she cannot shake them no matter how hard she tries.  With the Djinn on the verge of civil war, Joanne has her hands full once again. This is perhaps the loosest put together book in the series, and the on with the most humor. 

In Firestorm (Roc 2006; 292 pgs), the Djinn are bucking the chains that bind them, wanting their freedom from the Wardens who have enslaved them for centuries. There are those who want all Wardens to pay--with their lives. As the natural balance of life begins to go off kilter, Mother Earth is beginning to wake from her long sleep.  This poses an even bigger threat given she isn't very happy.

Thin Air (Roc, 2007; 307 pgs) is my favorite of the series. It also serves as a transition point from previous books in the series into the next few. Joanne has lost her memories and must find them again or risk losing herself completely.  She has her work cut out for her.  An impostor has stolen those memories and stepped into her life. 

Gale Force (Roc, 2008; 306 pgs), Cape Storm (Roc, 2009; 306 pgs), and Total Eclipse (Roc, 2010; 303 pgs) finish off the Weather Warden Series as David asks Joanne to marry him.  There are those who will do anything to stop a powerful Djinn and Warden from making vows to one another for it is unknown what exactly that will mean for the humans and the Djinn. It could make one group vulnerable to the other--or weaker as a whole.  Or perhaps it will do just the opposite. At the top of the list of those wanting to stop any wedding is an old enemy of Joanne's, a man who has a weapon that can wipe the Djinn out of existence. If that isn't bad enough, Mother Earth is now awake, and she will stop at nothing until all of humanity is destroyed.  

In each book, Joanne faces life and death situations, and frankly I am in awe of her resilience and strength. While she does get herself rescued a lot, often by one of the men in her life, she proves many times over she can think quickly on her feet and isn't afraid to think outside the box.  She weighs all the consequences before jumping into action, even when it means putting her own life on the line.

Joanne and David's relationship plays a significant role throughout the series, often in life altering ways. Love between a Djinn and a Warden are forbidden for a reason. I admit I didn't quite buy into the love story between Joanne and David at first, but it grew on me after awhile. I mean, David is pretty awesome.  And he is very devoted to Joanne, sometimes to a fault.

Power is a heavy burden that can easily corrupt. Joanne finds that out all too quickly. The Wardens are not as clean as she had once believed. Joanne is not sure who she can trust, even among her family and friends.  The Weather Warden series has is it all: plenty of white knuckled action, a high (I mean really high) body count, corruption of power, backstabbing, revenge, retribution, steamy romance, with a hint of humor.  In the final three books, the "protect the environment" message was hard to ignore (at least for me), but there was also an underlying message of hope and faith in humanity.

Rachel Caine is a gifted world builder, and the world she has created in the Weather Warden Series is full of interesting characters and history.  I was so taken with her books that I raced through the entire series.  At one point, I missed an entire toddler tantrum and fuss that happened right in front of me--I was so engrossed in one of the books. I understand Caine has another series set in the same world, following different characters.  I may just have to check it out.

You can learn more about Rachel Caine and her books on the author's website

Source: I purchased all nine books for my own reading pleasure.

© 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.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Where Is Your Bookmark? (12/16/2014)

I ended up changing my mind about what book to finish off the What's In A Name Challenge with. As I was getting ready to leave for the hospital last month for surgery, I grabbed the closest book to me, a Weather Warden book by Rachel Caine, Ill Wind, the first in the series.  I didn't actually read while in the hospital (although I did end up staying the night), but a reader has to have a book handy just in case, right? I have since polished off all the books in the series along with a few Christmas romances interspersed to help get me more in the mood for the holiday. Guilty pleasure reading for a mind and body that did not want to have to work too hard during those first weeks of recovery. I also, admittedly, watched a lot of television.  I am only now starting to get back onto the computer.

I am still in recovery, although feeling much more like myself these days. There is still some discomfort and I tire easily. My family has been a big help, although I really am ready to take back laundry duty despite the doctor saying not to just yet. I am also not allowed to vacuum, which is fine by me.  The cats love having me home with them during the day. I have a feeling we'll all be a little sad when I return to work come the beginning of the year.

I hope to get back to visiting blogs very soon.  We're in the process of changing internet providers, so fingers crossed that goes without a hitch.

At the moment I am reading Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta. The book has been sitting in my TBR collection for years, waiting its turn to be read. Now seemed like the perfect time. The novel is about a couple who were involved in radical protests during the Vietnam War. Forced to run and hide--and separate--when something awful happens, they take on new identities and begin new lives. The back cover describes the book as:
An ambitious and powerful story about idealism, passion, and sacrifice, Eat the Document shifts between the underground movement of the 1970's and the echoes and consequences of that movement in the 1990's. It is a riveting portrait of two eras [. . .]
I am looking forward to continuing on with the novel.

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.

This week I have settled into reading Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta. Here is a taste of the opening from the first chapter:
It is easy for a life to become unblessed.
Mary, in particular understood this. Her mistakes--and they were legion--were not lost on her.  She knew all about the undoing of a life: take away, first of all, your people. Your family. Your lover. That was the hardest part of it. Then put yourself somewhere unfamiliar, where (how did it go?) you are a complete unknown. Where you possess nothing. Okay, then--this was the strangest part--take away your history, every last bit of it. 
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.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

From the Archives: Suspenseful Thrills

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 two from December of 2005: 

Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz 
Bantam, 2004
Suspense/Thriller; 335 pgs 

As his grandfather takes his last breath, Jimmy Tock takes his first. This is the story of a man with a destiny. Jimmy’s grandfather predicts that Jimmy will face five terrible days, each dispersed throughout his lifetime. Jimmy walks us through each of those five days, along the way uncovering dark secrets and possibly bringing him closer to his own fate. Life Expectancy is a suspenseful thrill ride mixed with humor and fun loving characters that will win over a reader’s heart. I had fun reading this book, laughed many times throughout and held my breath a couple of times.

Sleep No More by Greg Iles 
Putnam Adult, 2002
Suspense/Thriller; 480 pgs

 A simple word and a smile awaken old memories for geologist John Waters and suddenly his life is spinning out of control. Sleep No More is a fast moving novel about love, obsession, jealousy and rage. Although I enjoyed this book overall, the story left something to be desired. I cannot seem to find the words to explain it, however. The novel seemed to get off to a slow start and while I was very much caught up in the story after awhile, some of the dialogue and actions seemed forced. Still, The plot and themes throughout the novel came as a bit of a surprise to me as I didn't know quite what to expect.  I found it very interesting, and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough in the final chapters, wanting to know what would happen next.

© 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.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: The Art of Arranging Flowers by Lynne Barnard

Daisy was not crazy. ~ Opening to The Art of Arranging Flowers

The Art of Arranging Flowers by Lynne Branard
Berkley Trade, 2014
Fiction; 320 pgs

From the Publisher:  
Ruby Jewell knows flowers. In her twenty years as a florist she has stood behind the counter at the Flower Shoppe with her faithful dog, Clementine, resting at her feet. A customer can walk in, and with just a glance or a few words, Ruby can throw together the perfect arrangement for any occasion.

Whether intended to rekindle a romance, mark a celebration, offer sympathy, or heal a broken heart, her expressive floral designs mark the moments and milestones in the lives of her neighbors. It’s as though she knows just what they want to say, just what they need. 
Yet Ruby’s own heart’s desires have gone ignored since the death of her beloved sister. It will take an invitation from a man who’s flown to the moon, the arrival of a unique little boy, and concern from a charming veterinarian to reawaken her wounded spirit. Any life can be derailed, but the healing power of community can put it right again.

I needed a book that would fit into the sixth category of the What's In A Name Challenge, and thought The Art of Arranging Flowers would be a perfect fit. Plus, the beautiful cover called out to me, promising a feel good book that was much needed after my having read several heavier books before it.

There was much I liked about The Art of Arranging Flowers.  The small town setting.  The way the characters were there for one another. Ruby's dog, Clementine. I enjoyed getting to know all of the characters. I can't think of one I didn't like.  Ruby is a town's fixture, having been the florist there for years. She is well respected and liked. She knows her customers well, and has been known to give romance between them a little extra push when needed. 

The novel is a quiet one, with not a lot happening, especially early on. While I liked this approach at first, it grew a little tiresome after awhile. I wondered if the level of detail in the main character's actions was necessary.  About half way through, the novel began to pick up again. Still, it wasn't until the end, as I looked back over the book, that I realized just how much had happened and how much had changed for Ruby. It was mostly very subtle and there was something refreshing about that.

In some ways, one could argue that this was a too perfect book with too perfect characters and everything fell into place, well, too perfectly.  It really wasn't perfect though, not completely.  Not for the young woman with cancer, the young boy who was still grieving the loss of his mother, or for Ruby, who had blocked off her heart after her sister's death, unwilling to let anyone get too close. There were other issues as well for many of the other characters.  Each one struggling through life as best they could. All the characters were nice good-hearted people, and to some that might be too perfect and unrealistic, but it fit with the story the author was trying to tell.  I would have liked more depth into some of the more major but minor characters in the book, a closer look at what they were going through or had gone through. It might have strengthened my connection to them and their individual back stories.

I liked the flower talk throughout the novel, the descriptions of their beauty and individuality, as well as their meanings. They were very much their own character in the book.  I appreciated the significance of flowers and plants in Ruby's life, how they changed her, gave her strength and just what they meant in her life, and those around her.

The Art of Arranging Flowers is more of what I would call a light book. There are serious issues touched on in the novel such as grief and loss, substance abuse, regrets and the power of friendship, but the author does not linger on them long.  Overall, I liked The Art of Arranging Flowers. I liked how it left me with a smile on my face as I turned the final page.  And I enjoyed my time in Creekside. 

Rating: * (Good)

You can learn more about Lynne Branard (aka Lynne Hinton) and her books on the author's website

Source: Review copy provided by 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.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Random Musings, Playful Kitties & A See You Later, But Not Goodbye

I used to be a night owl.  Then I settled into being more of an afternoon person.  Now I am a morning person.  I knew for sure the morning I woke up at 10:30 a.m. and my first thought was one of panic.  I had wasted half the day by sleeping!  

For some reason, I always picture cozy heroines as being much older than they often turn out to be, and I am always surprised if the main character turns out to be much younger.

If I am starting a new book during my lunch break at work, I have to know ahead of time which book I will be reading or else I spend the entire time trying to figure out what to read next.

I woke up early one morning recently with a little seed of an idea, and I began writing until I had gotten all the words out, all that emotion that needed a voice. It has been years since I last wrote a poem and it will likely be years before I do so again.

I have always believed that our current place in life impacts our perceptions of what we read.  I have never felt it more acutely than I have now that I am a mother.

Sometimes when my daughter is pretending to talk on the phone, she talks to our dog Riley. She always asks him how he likes Heaven. 

Musings of a Bookish Kitty will be dark for the next three or so weeks, depending on how long it takes my body to heal enough for me to sit at a computer for any length of time. Today is my surgery day. I am going to use my recovery time to lose myself in books I have been meaning to read, and maybe catch up on movies and television, if the mood strikes.  My mother is bringing old photos for us to sort--and I've got plenty of my own to go through. I am sure I will be on Facebook and Twitter given the ease of using my phone for both. I wish it was that easy to use with blogs.

Happy Thanksgiving wishes to my American friends, and, for all of you, I hope the coming weeks treat you well.  Try not to forget about me. I will be back. You can't get rid of me that easily!

© 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.