Saturday, April 18, 2015

From the Archives: Mini Reviews of books by MaryJanice Davidson

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. The first half of 2006 seemed to be my time for series reading. Here are some of my reviews from 2006:

Derik’s Bane (Wyndham Werewolf, #3) by MaryJanice Davidson 
Berkley, 2005
Fantasy; 292 pgs

Derik’s Bane is about a werewolf who must go after a powerful sorceress (who doesn't have a clue she is one) in order to save the world. The novel is paranormal chick-lit at its lightest, humor and romance aplenty. The story was cute and the characters were charming. I felt a little out of the loop with some of the history of the characters and wonder if the short stories that came before the novel would make up for that. I have yet to read those.

Dead and Loving It (Wyndham Werewolf, #5/Undead, #4.5) by MaryJanice Davidson
Berkeley, 2006
Fantasy; 305 pgs

Comprised of four cute and romantic stories with appearances by some of the popular characters from the author’s Undead series as well as her werewolf stories, Dead and Loving It was a pleasant and fluffy reading experience. A pure guilty pleasure. All of the stories were lighthearted and sexy, with a touch of humor added in. The romance formula was pretty much the same in each story: strong protective man wanting to bed and commit to sassy strong woman upon first sight. Still, there was enough variety to make each story entertaining.

Undead and Unpopular (Undead, #5) by MaryJanice Davidson 
Berkeley, 2006
Fantasy; 257 pgs

I have heard a few grumblings about the latest Undead book about Betsy, Queen of the Vampires, complaints that the book was not worth its price and that the story has suffered since Eric and Betsy got together, among other things. I actually found the story in Undead and Unpopular pleasant and fun. The book lacked some of the intensity that occasioned itself in previous books to a small extent, but I’ve never come to think of Betsy and friends as being a part of anything but a lighthearted chick-lit type of paranormal series. So, I don’t expect much when I open up one of the Undead books, except for an occasional laugh and an easy, relaxed reading experience. In Undead and Unpopular, Queen Betsy has her hands full (what else is new?) with the visiting delegation of European Vampires, the planning of her upcoming birthday and wedding, a biography of her life about to be published, a zombie in the attic, a sick friend, and a possible homicidal vampire and her boyfriend who want revenge against the man who made the woman into a vampire.

© 2015, 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, April 15, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Diamond Head by Cecily Wong

Inside the car, it smells like hibiscus. ~ Opening of Diamond Head by Cecily Wong

Diamond Head by Cecily Wong
Harper, 2015
Fiction; 320 pgs

I hesitate to say too much about this novel, about the characters and their experiences, as anything might be considered a spoiler. I will say that at the helm of the family is Frank Leong, a wealthy business man who has made his fortune in the shipping industry. When tensions become high in his home country of China, he moves his family to the island of Oahu. Life seems idyllic for the family as they settle in their new home. Only, tragedy strikes in the form of a murder. And with it, secrets that come out are quickly hidden again as the surviving family members struggle to rebuild their lives. Years later, with another death in the family, the youngest Leong, eighteen year old Theresa, finds out the truths long kept secret and how the mistakes of the past, those of her ancestors, touch her own life.

As I closed Cecily Wong's Diamond Head, I sat a moment, reflecting, tears running down my cheeks. I was not ready for it to end. I found this novel to be a quiet one mostly, an inside look at a family's successes and failures and how decisions made by one person come to impact others, sometimes across generations. It's a theme I find myself drawn to again and again in novels.

Cecily Wong does not write in a linear fashion; her story is told in flashbacks, not always in order, spanning the early 1900's up until 1964. It works well for this novel; Wong weaves the various narratives and time periods together expertly. Diamond Head has a strong sense of place. I could feel the magic of Hawaii when Lin Leong, Frank's wife, first sets foot on the island on Oahu. Cecily Wong brings both China and Hawaii alive with her words as she shares the story of the Leongs with her reader.

The story of the red string of fate binding together true love partners runs throughout the novel in one form or another. And in that way, Diamond Head is very much a love story, albeit a tragic one more often than not. It is also the story of family and of the choices we make--or don't make--as well as of redemption. The talk of fate weighs heavily on the pages; it weighs on the characters, like the knots that form in the red string when they stray from their fate, how it can hurt and punish. Each of the characters in the novel has their own story to tell, and, through the women, we get to know not only the stories but how they are interconnected. I liked that the reader gets the opportunity to know each of the women from their own perspectives as well as from each others.

At various points in the novel I wished for different fates for the characters, that they could have made different choices, seeing the direction their choices were likely to lead. And yet, had they made different choices, would their circumstances been better? Many times, the characters thought so--which in an of itself is sad. There were a lot of regrets, guilt and sacrifice. Within that though, there was also joy and hope.

I ached for Lin, the abuse she suffered as a child to the betrayal she suffered later in her life. My heart broke for Hong who lost the love of her life. I suffered with her during her long journey to her husband's brother's house with her shoes falling apart, hunger eating away at her, admiring her strength all the while. I wrung my hands and cried with Amy as she had to make the hardest decision of her life: a choice between love and family. And I felt Theresa's anguish for what she was going through, alone. I also felt for the men in the novel: Bohai and his brother Kaipo, and their father, whose mistakes reverberated long after his death.

The novel is told over the span of many decades, touching on the Boxer Rebellion in China, the tensions in the country at that time, through the beginning of World War II and the bombing of Pearl Harbor up through 1964. As a lover of history, I would not have minded a deeper look into the history of Hawaii itself during the stretch of time encompassing the story, but so much else was going on in the lives of the characters, I am not sure how it would have been fit in.

I found Diamond Head to be beautifully written, and the characters intricately drawn. I was swept into the story and into the lives of the characters, caring about them and dreaming along side them. The ending did seem a bit abrupt on one hand, at least where one of the characters was concerned, but for some of the characters it was quite satisfying. My tears were testament to that.

Rating:  * (Very Good)

To learn more about Cecily Wong and her book, please visit the author's website.

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

Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. Copy of book provided by publisher for an honest review.

© 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, April 13, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (04/14/2015)

A friendly lizard visiting our house

How are you today? It is days like these I hate being cooped up inside an office. I would much rather be outdoors, enjoying the sunshine and cool breeze. It was a pleasant weekend too. Mouse started another season of soccer. I recognized only one child from her previous class in her current one, but this class seems closer to her age. 

Last week I finished reading Diamond Head by Cecily Wong. I was too busy catching up on my magazine reading this weekend to start a new book right away.  Plus, I needed a little time after Wong's book before sinking my teeth into another. I am now reading Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, which admittedly had not even been on my radar before the book arrived on my doorstep last month. It is the second book I have received for my postal book club.  I am saving that for when I finish the book. I am really enjoying being a part of this group and look forward to seeing what comes in the mail next month. I have been good and have not yet read the previous two book bloggers' journal entries. 

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 blurb from my current book, Peace Like a River by Leif Enger:
Once in a great while, we encounter a novel in our voluminous reading that begs to be read aloud. Leif Enger's debut, Peace Like a River, is one such work. His richly evocative novel, narrated by an asthmatic 11-year-old named Reuben Land, is the story of Reuben's unusual family and their journey across the frozen Badlands of the Dakotas in search of his fugitive older brother. Charged with the murder of two locals who terrorized their family, Davy has fled, understanding that the scales of justice will not weigh in his favor. But Reuben, his father, Jeremiah—a man of faith so deep he has been known to produce miracles—and Reuben's little sister, Swede, follow closely behind the fleeing Davy.

It begins:
From my first breath in this world, All I wanted was a good set of lungs and the air to fill them with--given circumstances, you might presume, for an American baby of the twentieth century. Think about your own first gasp: a shocking wind roweling so easily down your throat, and you still slipping around in the doctor's hands. How you yowled! Not a thing on your mind but breakfast, and that was on the way.
When I was born to Helen and Jeremiah Land, in 1951, my lungs refused to kick in.
What do you think? Would you continue reading?  

I admit it took me a bit to get into Peace Like a River. I was not sold on it right away, but it has grown on me the more I read. I am quite attached to Swede and Reuben now.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely ladies at Broke and Bookish.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday theme is Top Ten Inspiring Quotes from Books (anything that inspires you, challenges you, makes you think, encourages you, etc.). This is a challenging topic for me given how I do not write down or remember quotes from books very often. I mean, I am really bad at jotting down or marking quotes. I will give it a try though!

1. From Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos:
"Less is less. Heartbreak is heartbreak. You think I'm sitting here gloating. Telling myself that my suffering beats yours? Hurt is hurt. You don't measure these things."

2. From Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë: 
"I do not think, sir, you have any right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience." 

3. From Who By Fire by Diana Spechler:
"Everything is a choice," I say, but I'm not even sure I've said it aloud, until Chaim responds, "Even guilt is a choice."

4. From The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness:
“Here's what I think," I say and my voice is stronger and thoughts are coming, thoughts that trickle into my noise like whispers of truth. "I think maybe everybody falls," I say. "I think maybe we all do. And I don't think that's the asking." 
 I pull on her arms gently to make sure she's listening. "I think the asking is whether we get back up again.”  

5. From The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald:
Afterwards, in bed with a book, the spell of television feels remote compared to the journey into the page. To be in a book. To slip into the crease where two pages meet, to live in the place where your eyes alight upon the words to ignite a world of smoke and peril, colour and serene delight. That is a journey no one can end with the change of a channel. Enduring magic. 

6. From The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern:
“Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case.”

7. From Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
“You must never behave as if your life belongs to a man. Do you hear me?” Aunty Ifeka said. “Your life belongs to you and you alone.”

8. From Every Day by David Levithan:
“If there's one thing I've learned, it's this: We all want everything to be okay. We don't even wish so much for fantastic or marvelous or outstanding. We will happily settle for okay, because most of the time, okay is enough.” 

9. From The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy:
“I’ve never been fooled by the romantic, grand gestures. Love is all about the little things, the everyday considerations, kindness, and pardons.”

10. From The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari
“You have to find a way to laugh a little bit each day despite everything, or your heart will simply run out of the joy that makes it go.”

Have you read any of these books? What quotes from books have inspired or moved you in some way?

© 2015, 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, April 08, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: A Highlander's Passion by Vonnie Davis

Kenzie Denune pedaled the bicycle harder, her thighs burning from the exertion. ~ Opening of A Highlander's Passion

A Highlander's Passion by Vonnie Davis
Loveswept, 2015
Romance (Paranormal); 300 pgs

After finishing A Highlander's Obsession by Vonnie Davis, I was ready to jump right into A Highlander's Passion, the second book in the trilogy. This novel focused on Creighton's brother, Bryce, the youngest of the three Matheson brothers. A Higlander's Passion takes place not too long after the events of A Highlander's Obsession, some of the events in the first book leading up to what happens in the this second book.  Even so, this novel can be read as a stand alone.

Bryce is a bear-shifter like his brothers. He is also the father to an adorable little girl who desperately wants a new mother.  And not just any new mother.  She wants Kenzie Denune to be her mother. It isn't such a giant leap really. Kenzie and Bryce had been best friends growing up and they became lovers after the death of Bryce's wife. Kenzie has loved Bryce since they were children, and when he spurned her first for his wife and then again because he couldn't let go of his dead wife's memory, she swore she would never give him another chance.

Kenzie has only just lost her husband, a loss she is more grateful for than not. Her husband was a terrible man, beating her throughout the course of their marriage. Bryce blames himself, believing that if he'd not been too afraid to commit to Kenzie, she would not have found solace in another man's arms, especially one that mistreated her.  He has his work cut out for him if he wants to win her back.  He knows now she is the love of his life.

Kenzie learns early on in A Higlander's Passion more about her abilities as a witch, powers that came into being the last time her husband beat her. She blames herself for his death, believing a muttered curse was the cause.  Effie, an elderly American, who had inherited the Scottish manor she now lives in, takes Kenzie under her wing, revealing she, too, is a witch, the head of the coven, in fact, a coven assigned to protect the weak and innocent.

Kenzie's world--and life--are threatened when an evil bigger than any she has ever known seeks her out to use her for his own gain.  Bryce is determined to protect her at all costs just as she is determined to live.  Everything she has known or thought she knew about who she is becomes a question mark the more she learns.

Vonnie Davis continues to write with humor and wit in this second installment in this series, although this book comes with some very heavy issues. The author does not gloss over the subject of domestic violence and the grief that comes with a miscarriage.   There are two scenes in particular that stood out for me above all the rest in the book--the scene at the lake with the white roses and then a scene shortly after Kenzie lashes out at Bryce physically.  The author handled both of those scenes was with compassion and thoughtfulness.

A Highlander's Passion was quite an entertaining read, exciting and action-packed. I admit Bryce had to win me over along with Kenzie given his past behavior, but it was clear he was devoted to her.  I am eager to read the next book in the series and find out more about the middle brother.  And perhaps spend more time with Effie, who continues to be a favorite character of mine.

Rating: * (Good +)

You can learn more about Vonnie Davis and her books on the author's website

Source: I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.

© 2015, 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, April 06, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (04/07/2015)

I am not participating in the Top Ten on Tuesday meme this week hosted by Broke and Bookish. I ended up catching my daughter's illness late last week and, while I am feeling better, I am still struggling to regain my energy.  As a result, I have not been able to keep up with responding to comments, visiting other blogs, or do much blog writing myself.

We did have a nice Easter for the most part. It's not a particularly big holiday in our household, to be honest. We aren't churchgoers. and it's too short a weekend to travel to visit extended family.  As a result, it was just the three of us and the cats. Even so, the Easter Bunny did drop baskets off at our house, one for each of us. We also had an Easter egg hunt. Mouse loves searching for eggs--more so than knowing what's inside them. She may have opened a handful yesterday, but otherwise the eggs are still sitting in her basket untouched.

While sick (because I am not a sickbed reader as much as I wish I could be), I watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which I enjoyed quite a bit, much to my surprise. It's silly, but funny with a premise you wouldn't think would make good comedy. With Tina Fey involved though, anything's possible.  I also watched a couple of Lost Girl first season episodes, a Canadian show I hadn't really known much about before reading the description on Netflix--I'm already hooked.

On the bookish front, I am reading Diamond Head by Cecily Wong. I am in the middle of a critical moment for one of the characters as she has to make a difficult decision. It's obvious what her decision will be given the character is reflecting on her past, but nonetheless, I find myself wishing she would have made a different choice. The majority of the book is set on the Hawaiian island of Oahu and is about a wealthy family that immigrated there from China in the early 1900's and how the actions of our ancestors can impact future generations. It's very good so far.

What are you reading at the moment?  Is it anything 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 thought today I would share the opening of the book I am currently reading, Diamond Head by Cecily Wong.  The novel is set over a span several decades, told from the perspective of several different characters.
November 1964
Honolulu, Hawaii
 Inside the car, it smells like hibiscus. It was his mother's idea; something subtle, she told him, but fresh. Something alive. As the man pulls from his driveway he is grateful, just this once, for his mother's meddling. He breathes in. Already, the sweet smell is working on his nerves.  
Would you continue reading?

© 2015, 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.