snugglekitty: (Default)
Title: Vulnerable: The First Book of the Little Goddess Series
Author: Amy Lane
Genre: Contemporary fantasy, erotica, GLBT
Pages: 265
Copyright Date: 2005
First Line: "If it hadn't been for Arturo, I never would have known what Renny and Mitch were, and if I hadn't known that, I never would have known what Adrian was."
Cover: Photograph. Black foreground, distorted trees and skies in the background.
Best part: The way that the characters perceive sex and relationships.
Worst part: The editing is very poor. Lots of plural errors.
Grade: B-
Recommended for: Anyone who likes the Merry Gentry books, and I know there are a lot of you out there.

Cory is just a small-town girl hiding behind a tough-girl attitude and a lot of eye makeup while she struggles to make it out of the sticks and into college. She writes her papers during the graveyard shift at the gas station. She wonders who the strange people are that regularly come into the gas station at night. Then one of them opens her eyes to a whole new world, full of vampires and pixies and runaways that can change into enormous housecats. (That was my favorite plot point, really - hundred-pound sentient tabbies? How can you not love that?) Will she find her place in this new world, or is she really what she believes herself to be - nobody special?

I wanted to get my hands on this book for a long time. It was published through iUniverse, a self-publishing house. Eventually [livejournal.com profile] desert_born got it for me. I hoarded it for a while and finally read it this week.

It's pretty much like the Kiss of Shadows books, except that it's much more queer.

Oh, you want more?

Fine. Well, it could have stood a good editor. Take a look at the epigraph, would you?

Read more... )

I think this poem encapsulates a lot of my experience of the book. It's intriguing, almost haunting. I couldn't get it out of my head the other day and was trying to remember the order of the lines. But it's poorly punctuated and the plurals are not just wrong, but inconsistent too. Still, the author's writing style shines through. There are moments of brilliance. The narrative is very strong. I had mixed feelings about the ending, but I think overall it's quite a good book. If you like the Faerie porn genre of fantasy, that is.
snugglekitty: (bookcase)
Cotillion by Georgette Heyer Didn't know there was a "witty YA romance set in the Regency era" genre? Well, you do now.
The Host by Stephanie Meyer Meyer became a household name this year, with her Twilight series soaring to new heights of popularity. In what I think her best work to date, she redefines the genre of romantic SF.
Holy Fire by Bruce Sterling Think a hard sci fi writer won't tackle issues like aging, beauty, and art? Think again.
The Autumn Castle by Kim Wilkins This lyrical treasure will give hope to anyone who thinks the golden age of urban fantasy is over.

Four and a Half Star Books. )

Click here for last year's best fiction.

As of today, I am going to switch from a five-star rating system to a grade point rating system. I've been talking about this for a while. I think it will allow me more nuance. I am also going to try out using an outline or summary outside the cut, with Title, Author, Genre, Grade, and similar categories, but that is more experimental and I may not do it beyond January.
snugglekitty: (bookcase)
207 books later... )

Five star titles, alphabetical by author

Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, & Other Outlaws by Kate Bornstein This book is not just for teenagers and the suicidal. It should be required reading for anyone who is really unhappy and/or doesn't know how to change their life.
Many Roads, One Journey by Charlotte Kasl A holistic guide to recovering from addiction, for women. Places our understanding of addiction in context of our lives and society.
Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz How to naturally ferment anything in simple, easy, unintimidating steps. If you don't know what to do with your garden surplus, or have always been intimidated by the idea of canning, you must read it.
Face to Face by Audrey Kishline and Sheryl Maloy What would you say to the person who killed your child? What if you believed God wanted you to forgive them? A true story.
Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott A brutally honest look at parenting from the front lines. Written with compassion and humor for everyone involved.
Strategic Sex: Why They Won't Keep It in the Bedroom edited by D. Travers Scott Possibly one of the best sexually-themed anthologies I've ever read, and I've read many.


Four and a Half Star Books )

Still not enough? Click here for my take on last year's best nonfiction.
snugglekitty: (book magic)
Heyer was recommended to me by [livejournal.com profile] polgaramalfoy and [livejournal.com profile] belgatherial in their generous response to my request for titles that might cheer me up. They were spot-on.

The gently bred Kitty Charing is the ward of a pennypinching, hypochondriac man, no actual relation to her, who is also a big meanie. He has devised a scheme to keep everyone in the family under his thumb. He wants Kitty to marry one of his great-nephews. If she does this, he will leave her all his fortune. If she refuses them all or marries someone else she will be cut off! Without a cent! Penniless!
She cannot bear to face either fate, so she devises a cunning plan. She will pretend to be engaged to Freddy, the one nephew who is secure in his own fortune and completely uninterested in hers. This will gain her a London Season. And in a London Season, anything can happen!

This book is what fans of Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope should read while they are on vacation. It is set in the Victorian era, but was written in the 1950s. It is shorter and easier to follow than most books actually written in that time period, but it has a very authentic feel. It is sweet and clever and not annoying. Once I got into it it was very hard to put down. Heyer, where have you been all my life? WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? Five stars. Fans of period pieces will find it very entertaining.
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I have been in a mystery mood lately, so when a bookstand was closing up for the winter and giving away FREE BOOKS, I picked this one up.

My girlfriend [livejournal.com profile] trouble4hire was recently saying that there is a niche mystery market for everything these days. Mysteries for people who like coffee, who like knitting, who like golf for Goddess' sake. No book could prove this point more aptly than The Gourdmother, which is a mystery about a woman who moves out to the country to try to make a go of her own business... decorating gourds.

You read that correctly the first time. Talk about a niche market. I think knew vaguely that sometimes gourds get decorated. I guess I have a decorated gourd rattle that my sister got me in South America some years back. But I was never aware of the time, commitment, and passion that people bring to these objects. In that regard the book was interesting.

In general as a mystery it was okay. It was not quite a cozy - it follows the general pattern of small town, focus on friends and family, the violence happens off-page... but a very graphic and horrible act of violence is referred to at a point in the book, which I found disturbing and surprising. So, although this mystery seems to be meant for a cozy audience, I think it has a little too much edge to satisfy us. Two and a half stars.
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In the previous book, The President's Daughter, Meg's mom ran for President - and won. (I would normally consider this a spoiler, but I'm pretty sure that the title gives it away, and even if it didn't, the blurb on the back outright states the outcome of the election - neither of which choices I agree with.) Now Meg and her brothers live in the White House and go to fancy private schools. Meg is finally starting to adjust. She has friends, a sweet boyfriend, and a place on the school tennis team. But then a tragic event rocks her family, and everything changes.

I found this sequel every bit as satisfying as the first book, and how often can you say that, really? I enjoy Meg's snarkiness, her mother's drive, her boyfriend's steadiness. The plot was predictable but you still want to find out how everything happens. I do have a few small complaints, though, which I hashed out with [livejournal.com profile] trouble4hire.

Complaints, no spoilers. )

Still, I recommend these books to those who are interested in the narrow but interesting genre of YA political fiction. Three stars.
snugglekitty: (dragon reading)
I found this book in a used bookstore when I was craving fantasy and decided to give it a try.

Dhulyn and Parno are Mercenary Partners. The bond between them can never be broken. But when a routine guard assignment leads to treachery, betrayal, and the unveiling of secrets that have been hidden for years, that bond will be strained to its limit. Can the magically gifted forme slave and the former nobleman hold together against all comers?

This book is so good, and so unique. It made the mercs-for-hire plotline seem new and fresh again. Questions of loyalty, of belonging, and the power of the past are central. Four and a half stars.
snugglekitty: (Default)
I am a big fan of Vargas from her internationally bestselling Commander Adamsberg series (English titles God Have Mercy on Us All, Seeking Whom He May Devour, et cetera). I was intrigued by this mystery which seemed like perhaps it would be a bit lighter than those. I mean, there's a tree as a significant plot device, for heavens sake!

Three historians down on their luck move into a large, delapidated house in a nice neighborhood. They will renovate the house in exchange for a cheap place to live, and perhaps get a chance to turn their luck around. But Sophia Simeondis, the retired opera singer next door, has a problem - a mysterious tree has been planted in her yard. She asks the three historians for their help. When she disappears, they feel compelled to investigate. What secrets are hidden in this quiet French neighborhood?

I liked this book and it was funny in places. However, the three central characters, Marc, Mathieu, and Lucien I found almost impossible to tell apart. I couldn't remember anything important about them - they were too interchangeable. That was a serious flaw in an otherwise good book. Three stars.
snugglekitty: (Default)
(No, not THAT Richard Stevenson. Another one.)

First, let's begin with the hilarious summary from amazon.com, excerpted here for your reading pleasure:

"It's 1979, the height of the post-Stonewall era of gay sexual liberation, and a young man has been brutally murdered. The gay son of a wealthy family has disappeared. Now it's up to private dick Don Strachey to get to the bottom of this mess--even if he has to cruise every gay bar in the city to do it!
Set in the glorious, promiscuous pre-HIV late 1970s, Death Trick is a fast-paced excursion through the seamy underside of gay Albany. From gay discos where the hard-pumping music never stops, to the city's infamous baths, to the dark alley behind the local precinct house, this hard-bitten private dick searches for answers to the questions that plague Billy's parents and the police.
Don't you owe it to yourself to take this trick home tonight?"

Death Trick is a mystery, the first featuring gay detective Donald Strachey. I ran across it because the new installment, Death Vows, is getting good reviews. I am happy to tell you that it is much, much better than the above description would suggest. Notice how they only used the phrase "private dick" twice? How restrained of them. But anyway. What I liked best about this book is that it was a little snapshot of a time and place in the queer community, now gone forever. This is after Stonewall and before AIDS, full of promiscuity and drug use and devil-may-care attitudes, along with such commonplace homophobia as to offend the more modern sensibility.

I enjoyed the witty repartee and the shades of grey morality we find all the characters inhabiting. Most of the pop culture references passed me by. I'm not sure I actually knew that the world had so much disco in it. The ending was nothing like what I anticipated, but it was quite good. If you like queer-themed mysteries, give it a try. Three stars - a C+ in the new system, and I am planning to read the other books in the series.
snugglekitty: (Default)
This book is the newest in the Gillengaria sequence. The Twelve Houses series is over, but this book picks up afterwards. There is strong reliance on the events of the previous books - I cannot recommend that you read this is if you have not read that series. But you have? And you want to know how the new one is? Read on.

Wen, the former King's Rider, cannot face those who were once her fellows. She can't face what she sees as her failure. She wanders the road alone, looking for people who need her help, trying never to let herself get too comfortable or let anyone get too close. But then she saves Karryn, a young serramarra who is similarly bound by the past, from abduction. Both Karryn and her enigmatic guardian Jasper urge Wen to stay with them and protect the serramarra. Will this be another in a series of broken promises, or has Wen found a duty she can't fail?

I enjoyed this book a lot. I had no idea how much I needed a crossdressing swordswoman in my life this month (and the book has started me on a Shinn-rereading-orgy which is also going very well). The plot, the characters, the descriptions were all very satisfying.
I only have two complaints. Read more... )
Still, this is one of the better Gillengaria books. I recommend it to fans of swordswomen, especially - it does not have as much magic in it as the Twelve Houses books. Four stars.
snugglekitty: (emma)
I very much enjoyed Agnes and the Hitman earlier this year, so I thought I would give another of Crusie's novels a try.

Sophie Dempsey and her sister Amy are trying for their big break. Sophie is content with their small wedding-video business, but Amy has stars in her eyes. She wants to hit the big time. So it's off to the town of Temptation, Ohio, population you-don't-wanna-know, to help highstrung actress Clea Whipple make her big comeback. Problem # 1: the car accident. Problem # 2: Clea is more famous for porn than anything else. Problem # 3: the car accident was with the town's most fervent conservatives. The problems will just keep coming, but what no one knows is that the Dempseys have a system, they will do anything for each other, and they always get what they want.

This book was just plain fun. If you're interested in a small-town romance with big-city secrets and a lot of laughs, give it a try. Four stars.
snugglekitty: (dragon reading)
This is a tough month for me and I figured that some Pratchett couldn't hurt. I was right. I didn't like this one as much as Guards, Guards! but it was still cheering.

I think it's a bit complex for the kind of plot summary I usually do, but it concerns the Ankh-Mopork diplomatic mission to Uberwald, land of things that go bump in the night. The usual suspects are all here - the brave (and not brave) men (and women and dwarves and trolls and...) of the Ank-Morporkh Guard, Lord Vetinari, and a cast of new friends as well. If you were just getting started with the Discworld books I don't think this is the place to do it.

Some favorite quotes. )

I recommend this to fans of Discworld, but those who are not delighted by Pratchett generally can probably skip it. Three stars.
snugglekitty: (closed book)
This is a time of year when I read trashy fiction in all genres to soothe myself. I chose to read Lie by Moonlight because I like the Arcane Society novels by the same author (Jayne Ann Krentz, who apparently doesn't understand the true meaning of the phrase "pen name.")

Concordia Glade is a teacher. She suspects something dreadful is going to befall her four pupils, and devises a plan to spirit them away from the suspicious "private school" where they have all been living. Much to her surprise, the getaway encounters a small snag - the handsome, mysterious Ambrose Wells. Sparks immediately fly between the two of them, both romantic and confrontational, as they each attempt to pursue their own goals while trying to ignore their deepening feelings for each other.

If you like Victorian romance with headstrong women and occaisional fantasy elements, Quick is the writer to know. I found this book charming if light, and it had me laughing out loud in places - no easy feat at my least favorite time of year. Three stars (C+). Take it on a plane ride.
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I decided to check out this book after reading Harvey's piece in Greatest Hits, the hit man anthology I read a few months ago.

Charlie Resnick is a cop's cop. His marriage is long gone and his career is solidified. All that greets him at home at day's end is a couple of cats and an unused baby nursery. Two cases he can't get off his mind - that of a girl sexually abused by her father, and that of a single woman found murdered in her home. These two cases will come together in a way no one could ever have anticipated.

This book is also bleak. The subheading "Crime Novel" was a good clue about that. I liked the characters, but the plot seemed contrived in cases. Also, in some places the villainy of the bad guys got on my nerves (and I'm not just talking about the criminals here). Still, it was definitely compelling and kept me on the edge of my seat. If you are a fan of dark detective novels, you should give it a read. Three stars (a C- in the new system).
snugglekitty: (fall)
Angels in America was the last book for my queer book group. It is a play in two parts, "Millenium" and "Perestroika," about the AIDS crisis and the gay male community. When I started the play I thought I knew two things about it - that it involved Mormons and that it had to do with baseball. Only the former proved to be true. As for the latter, I think I may have had it confused with Angels in the Outfield. My bad.

This is a play, and I can find reading plays to be a bit awkward. But it is compelling, and there were few enough characters that I didn't get confused. The plot centers around two struggling couples - Louis and Prior and Joe and Harper. Prior is very sick. Harper is emotionally unstable. Their partners each look for something to hold on to, in the midst of chaos.

I found this play to be a bit bleak, but then, it's about the AIDS crisis. Bleak makes sense. My favorite character was actually that of Roy Cohen, who is based on a real person. Not that I liked him, but I enjoyed hating him in that way that sometimes we enjoy despising fictional villains. The play is well-written, and I would be interested in seeing it performed, though I'm less sure about watching the movie. Three stars - a C+ in the new system. I think it deserves craft points though I didn't enjoy it as much as a four or a B.

[livejournal.com profile] omnia_mutantur, who is also in the book group, suggested that we all bring lists of the books we would have chosen for the group to our last meeting. We are also going to bring one or two favorites "in the binding" as it were. My top two choices are Companion to Wolves and The Merro Tree. What would yours be?
snugglekitty: (open book)
This book was recommended to me when I asked for suggestions of inspiring and soothing reads. I thought it might be interesting because the recent election has made me more interested in politics (at least on a fictional level, and yes, that does mean I have started watching The West Wing).

Meg loves to play tennis. She has plenty of friends at the exclusive private school she goes to. She just wishes she got to spend a little more time with her mom, who is an up-and-coming Senator. But when her mom takes her aside for a special talk, she is shocked to discover that Mom is running for President! Can Meg and her family survive this wild ride?

I thought this book was sweet and charming. But it does still talk about real issues - lack of privacy in the lives of the families of politicians, people who can't cope with being around them, and people who just want to use them for a few minutes of fame. I also liked that the relationship between Meg and her mother Katharine was very difficult, not sugarcoated. I think that's pretty typical of teenage/parent relationships. If you enjoy YA fiction, give this one a try. Four stars, and I definitely plan to read the rest of the books in this series.
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I read a book bad enough that I didn't want to write a review. That was The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. I had chosen it for lack of literary merit but my choice was a bit too good. English speech patterns have changed since the Napoleonic Wars. Enough said. But it was an enjoyable bit of fluff if you can ignore that. Two stars.

I also finished Greyhounds: Everything About Purchase, Care, Nutrition, Behavior, and Training by D. Caroline Coile. This book is short and full of color pictures, compared with Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies, which is long and full of interesting facts. I thought it was a good overview. You can definitely tell that the author has a bit of a bias towards show greyhounds as opposed to racing greyhounds.

Here is a quote:
"It is undeniably special to save the life of a retired racer, but keep in mind that the AKC Greyhound puppy could need you just as much.. Responsible breeders do not breed a litter unless there are homes lined up for puppies, and the greater availability of retired racers has meant that most people wanting a pet Greyhound get a Greyhound from racing stock, not show stock... If these dogs were bred, show breeders fear that the influx of their genes into the AKC show Greyhound type." p 10

I don't feel that saving the life of something that's alive is morally equivalent to setting up a situation where a new life will be created or contributing to the preservation of purebred stock. It seems to me to be a bit irresponsible to get a purebred show puppy purely as a pet when there are still thousands of former racing dogs put down every year. (Of course, if showing dogs is your thing, that's different...) It reminds me of that flyer you see sometimes where you can save 10,000 cats by spaying your cat. Saving is not the same thing as preventing something from being born either.

In general, though, I think that this is a good book. Three stars. Stay tuned for my review of Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies, when I get done with it. :)
snugglekitty: (Default)
Lucy is fit to be tied. She has been separated from her cheating bastard of a husband for six months when her mother calls her to say that he is dying. She doesn't want to care, but she wants to do her duty, so she flies back to the home they shared. But why should she be alone in her pain when her husband was never alone in his fun? How is that fair? In a fit of drunken pique, she starts calling the women in his little black book, saying, "Artie Shoreman is dying. Please call to schedule your time at his deathbed." Much to her suprise, the Sweethearts do come to call - with their own agendas, secrets, and needs. Unlikely bonds develop and Lucy comes to realize that love comes in many forms.

A quote from the first fifty pages. )

This book is funny - if the quote behind the cut didn't make you laugh, I suspect your sense of humor may have been removed. It is touching and struck me as being very real. I could imagine this happening partly because it is so out of left field, as real life frequently is. The themes of death and cheating were handled tastefully. I recommend it to fans of chicklit. Four stars, a solid B in the new system.
snugglekitty: (Default)
This book is the second in the popular Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series. The first was The Cater Street Hangman, in which they were Inspector Pitt and Miss Ellison. Now they are happily married, with a baby on the way. Charlotte is shocked when her husband tells her that the skeletons of two babies have been found in the tony Callander Square. She is sure there must be something that she can do to help solve the mystery...

This book features multiple viewpoints, including Charlotte and her sister Emily, as well as people living in the Callander Square neighborhood. The plots are intricate and realistic - this novel really captures the simmering eroticism, poverty, and violence lurking below the veneer of Victorian life - and are resolved in the end in ways you never would have expected.

Perry does not disappoint. Changes among the "family" characters are generally slow and in the background, while the "case" families are prominent. I enjoyed this, although I hear that the books start to go downhill around number 25. Guess I'll just have to stop reading before then. :) Three stars - a C+ in the new system.
snugglekitty: (Default)
This book was a re-read for book group. You can see my initial review here.

It was very cool to look at this book with a group. People pointed out a lot of things that I hadn't noticed, such as some of the ways that Bechdel uses the graphic format. We talked about the picture epigraphs, the chapter titles, the book's cover, the literary references. We talked about the way that Bechdel makes her own unique and specific experiences feel universal. We all liked the book.

And admittedly, I found it somewhat gratifying that no one in the group liked the other book we were discussing, Fumbling Towards Divinity.

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