The Desert Spear: Demon Cycle, Book 2

The Desert SpearAuthor: Peter V. Brett
Book Name: The Desert Spear
Series: Demon Cycle
Order: 2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  The sun is setting on humanity. The night now belongs to voracious demons that prey upon a dwindling population forced to cower behind half-forgotten symbols of power. Legends tell of a Deliverer: a general who once bound all mankind into a single force that defeated the demons. But is the return of the Deliverer just another myth? Perhaps not. Out of the desert rides Ahmann Jardir, who has forged the desert tribes into a demon-killing army. He has proclaimed himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer, and he carries ancient weapons–a spear and a crown–that give credence to his claim. But the Northerners claim their own Deliverer: the Warded Man, a dark, forbidding figure. Once, the Shar’Dama Ka and the Warded Man were friends. Now they are fierce adversaries. Yet as old allegiances are tested and fresh alliances forged, all are unaware of the appearance of a new breed of demon, more intelligent–and deadly–than any that have come before.

Review:  After really loving the first book in the series, I ended up rather frustrated with this book.  I’m still impressed by the world and the general concept that surrounds this series, but there were a couple of things that dropped the rating on this book for me from where I rated the first one.

The attitude and culture surrounding how women are viewed and treated in this book is pretty contradictory.  It would work better if we were talking about the way Krasian society treat women versus the rest of this world as they are different cultures, but the differences and contradictions are actually within a single culture.  Women are in one moment expected to be pure and chaste with only their husband and on the next page that same woman is being chastised for still being a virgin and encouraged to find and take a lover.  The two views and how they play out within the society do not mesh.  I don’t even want to discuss overabundance of the theme of rape throughout this book.

I’m not a fan of characters that are fickle and we see that with several characters in this book.  I don’t have a problem when characters change their minds when given reason, but I have a problem when characters turn their views, opinions or morals on a dime without explanation or reason.  The biggest example is with Leesha, who has apparently spent her entire life avoiding having a physical relationship with a man, preferring to find one that is worthy of her trust only to jump on a man that has given her no reason what-so-ever of being deserving of her trust and is more than likely an enemy, which she is well aware of.  It goes against her character as it has been built.  Besides that, there are at least 3 separate characters whose affections for other characters are easily turned towards others without second thought or skipping a beat.  It just makes what were previously characters that I was enjoying feel flaky and much less strong character wise.

The biggest downside I had with this book was the nearly 1/3 content that was focused on the history of the Krasian characters, some of which was even just a repeat of events from book one, but from a different character perspective.  Since this group is my absolute least favorite in this world, this part of the book seemed repetitive and tedious.  Much of it could have been cut or condensed and the reader still would have been able to get a better feel for the culture and characters that were needed in the series that we weren’t able to get in book one.

I did still enjoy this book despite those things.  I want to know more about what happens from here, but may find myself skimming a bit in the next book if I have to run across more of the same issues.

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The Warded Man: Demon Cycle, Book 1

The Warded ManAuthor: Peter V. Brett
Book Name: The Warded Man
Series: Demon Cycle
Order: 1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars


Blurb:  As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise–demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards–symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.

Review:  Finally!  A truly inspired fantasy worth reading.  This book has a beautifully crafted, unique world that is easy to get lost in.  It and the incredible characters are well articulated so it is easy to see what it is you are reading.  There is a lot that this book needs to cover to get the series going, so there are a few parts that may seem a bit slow, but are more than worth it to get to the really good stuff, of which there is lots.

The characters are wonderful, fully rounded personalities.  Each having their unique talents that we get to see germinate and grow through this book.  I liked that we got to watch that growth.  It is done in a way that we see all the important parts along the way without it becoming tedious or repetitive.  It stays interesting all the way through.

I am absolutely digging this world and all the different parts and possibilities with it.  Magic of this style, with the wards and the actual work and learning that goes into the different talents of our main characters, is exactly the kind of thing I love in a really good fantasy book.  Nothing is free and easy.  It takes time and effort to be truly great at it.

After reading this first book, as a reader, you know there is so much more to come and you are anxious to devour it.

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Cursed: A Fallen Siren, Book 1

CursedAuthor: S. J. Harper
Book Name: Cursed
Series: A Fallen Siren
Order: 1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars


Blurb:  Meet FBI Agents Emma Monroe and Zack Armstrong.
She’s cursed. He’s damned. Together, they make one hell of a team.

Emma Monroe is a Siren, cursed by the gods and bound to earth to atone for an ancient failure. She’s had many names and many lives, but only one mission: redemption. Now that she works missing persons cases for the FBI, it could be just a rescue away. Unless her new partner leads her astray.

Special Agent Zack Armstrong just transferred into the San Diego Field Office. He’s a werewolf, doing his best to beat back the demons from his dark and dangerous past. As a former Black Ops sniper, he’s taken enough lives. Now he’s doing penance by saving them.

Emma and Zack’s very first case draws them deep into the realm of the paranormal, and forces them to use their own supernatural abilities. But that leaves each of them vulnerable, and there are lines partners should not cross. As secrets are revealed and more women go missing, one thing becomes clear: as they race to save the victims, Emma and Zack risk losing themselves.

Review:  While this was an interesting story, I was just hoping for something a little different.  I am not, nor have I ever been much of a fan of books that have stories/series that are a constant and ongoing struggle and this is one of those.  There was a resolution to the main plot line of this story, but there was not a positive or clean resolution to the secondary romantic plot that apparently continues on in this series.  I just wanted something a bit more solid and less angsty than what this book is.

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Broken: Will Trent, Book 4

BrokenAuthor: Karin Slaughter
Book Name: Broken
Series: Will Trent
Order: 4
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Good
3+stars


Blurb:  When Special Agent Will Trent arrives in Grant County, he finds a police department determined to protect its own. Officer Lena Adams is hiding secrets from him, and while her role in the death of the county’s popular police chief is unclear, that man’s widow, Dr. Sara Linton, desperately needs Trent’s help to crack the case of a prisoner’s death. While the police force investigates the murder of a young woman pulled from a frigid lake, Trent investigates the police force. Caught between two complicated and determined women, trying to understand the facts surrounding Chief Tolliver’s death, Trent will uncover explosive secrets–and confront a thin blue line that could be murderous if crossed.

Review:  Another addition to the Will Trent series.  In general, I am still liking the stories in this series, but there are things that are starting to get a little old and beginning to grate on my nerves.

The attitude and treatment towards Will’s dyslexia from both his boss and partner is beyond irritating.  Not only is it pretty darn ugly, but it just doesn’t strike me as being remotely realistic.  Either it is an acceptable disability to have in his profession and concessions are made to help him find work arounds for some of the areas where he lacks or it isn’t and he shouldn’t have that job.  The ridicule and snide comments, even the occasional things that are said and done that may even make his job harder just don’t add up.  The fact that we are at book 4 in the series and none of that has changed is annoying.  That and when Faith was introduced in this series, she seemed to be accepting and non-judgmental towards him, but now she is nearly as bad as the boss.

There is also a pretty consistent presentation for regular police officers in this series and this book continues that trend where normal police officers are lazy, stupid, corrupt or any combination of those traits.  Every single police officer, with an extremely rare few, in every book so far has been presented this way.  It is yet another aspect of these stories that just doesn’t really ring true and is starting to get pretty old.  It takes away from all the rest that is going on in the books, which is usually pretty good if you can get around these other things.

The last is Will’s relationship with his wife.  I had hoped after some of the things in previous books that we would finally be getting away from this horrid relationship that, other than adding a rather ugly element to the stories and makes Will seem even more pathetic, has no real bearing on the stories.

When you combine all of those issues that run consistently through all of the books so far in this series, you end up with these really bleak and hopeless characters that, even when the crimes are solved and the story is wrapping up, leaves a depressive taste with the reader rather than a feeling of resolution and growth.  It isn’t that good of a feeling.

I generally like the crime elements of these stories and, even though he does come across as mostly pathetic, I like Will’s character and want to see some good going on for him.  Have actually been hoping to see that from the beginning, yet this book is just the same no change, no improvement, general hopeless misery we’ve seen from the beginning.  I’m beginning to wonder what the point is as I’m so not a fan of the dreary feel.

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Honey Whole Wheat Bread

One of the things I’ve done over the last several years is try and move more towards eating all or nearly all whole grains.  I’ve tried a few different recipes for a really good bread and so far, this one is probably my favorite.  I have another that I use if I’m making rolls.  This one is the one I use when I want big slices of soft bread. Continue reading “Honey Whole Wheat Bread”

Rivel Soup

This is a family favorite that was inspired by something my Mother In Law used to make.  Sadly, I never got the chance to have her show me how she made hers so I had to go off of what I knew from eating it and come up with my own version.  It is a very simple cream based soup that takes very little time and is easily modified. Continue reading “Rivel Soup”

Not So Easy

I really thought that I was being smart when I reset my daily step count goal to 5000.  I mean, there for a while towards the end of the summer I was getting a daily average every month of over 11,000.  5000 shouldn’t be that hard.  I did okay, even good the first couple of days this week and then yesterday I was busy in the kitchen, got really close and then up and forgot to get a little bit more walking in after the kids went to bed and missed my goal by less than 300.  Today, another day spent playing in the kitchen, isn’t looking much better. Continue reading “Not So Easy”

Songs of the Earth: Wild Hunt, Book 1

Songs of the EarthAuthor: Elspeth Cooper
Book Name: Songs of the Earth
Series: Wild Hunt
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  The Book of Eador, Abjurations 12:14, is very clear: Suffer ye not the life of a witch. For a thousand years, the Church Knights have obeyed that commandment, sending to the stake anyone who can hear the songs of the earth. There are no exceptions, not even for one of their own.

Novice Knight Gair can hear music no one else can, beautiful, terrible music: music with power. In the Holy City, that can mean only one thing: death by fire—until an unlikely intervention gives him a chance to flee the city and escape the flames.

With the Church Knights and their witchfinder hot on his heels, Gair hasn’t time to learn how to use the power growing inside him, but if he doesn’t master it, that power will tear him apart. His only hope is the secretive Guardians of the Veil, though centuries of persecution have almost destroyed their Order, and the few Guardians left have troubles of their own.

For the Veil between worlds is weakening, and behind it, the Hidden Kingdom, ever-hungry for dominion over the daylight realm, is stirring. Though he is far from ready, Gair will find himself fighting for his own life, for everyone within the Order of the Veil, and for the woman he has come to love.

Review:  This has a lot going for it.  The world seems to be really interesting and well built and there are a variety of characters that I was really liking by the end of the book.

The biggest downside is that other than the very beginning and the end, there wasn’t a whole lot else going on, at least not a lot that had any actual relevance to the rest of the story as it was laid out in this book.  I have a feeling that this book is mostly set up for the rest of the series and all the stuff that was in between is information that will be needed moving forward.

This is getting the rating it does because of its potential towards the rest of the series.  Hopefully that potential will play out.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Cupcakes

I’ve heard these called by other names in the past, Black Bottom Cupcakes and Cheesecake Cupcakes, but I’ve always just called them my Chocolate Cream Cheese Cupcakes.  Basically they are chocolate cupcakes with a drop of chocolate chip cheesecake in the center topped with cream cheese icing. Continue reading “Chocolate Cream Cheese Cupcakes”

Death By Chocolate

As my boys have gotten older they no longer think a fun or cool cake is the thing for birthdays as much.  Instead they lean more towards “What I like to eat the best”, and that is usually not cake at all.  For Middle Child’s birthday this year, he chose Death By Chocolate.  Again.  Continue reading “Death By Chocolate”

Welcome to Forever: A Hero’s Welcome, Book 1

Welcome To ForeverAuthor: Annie Rains
Book Name: Welcome to Forever
Series: A Hero’s Welcome
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars


Blurb:  In Seaside, North Carolina, there are two kinds of people: Marines, and kids of Marines. Then there’s Kat Chandler. Recently hired as the principal of Seaside Elementary, Kat makes it her mission to turn the school into a place of peace and calm. That’s not going to be easy with hard-liner parents like Micah Peterson storming in, telling her how to do her job–and then kissing her with those gorgeous lips of his and turning her brain into mush.

As a Marine Sergeant and a single dad, Micah Peterson has just two priorities: doing his job better than anyone else, and getting the absolute best for his son, Ben. But when he meets Ben’s beautiful new principal, a different yearning shifts into focus. He wants her, sure, but he’s also moved by the connection Kat forges with her students. So after learning that she refuses to date Marines, Micah sets two more objectives: convincing Kat to give him a chance . . . and then holding on to her forever.

Review:  This was a sweet, lighthearted read with lots of feel good parts and likable characters.  I’m just not sure that there was really all that much to really differentiate it from a whole host of other romance novels out there.  It didn’t grab me emotionally and drag me on a journey through the story, it was just a nice, entertaining story.

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Silent Scream: D.I. Kim Stone, Book 1

Silent ScreamAuthor: Angela Marsons
Book Name: Silent Scream
Series: D. I. Kim Stone
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  Even the darkest secrets can’t stay buried forever…

Five figures gather round a shallow grave. They had all taken turns to dig. An adult-sized hole would have taken longer. An innocent life had been taken but the pact had been made. Their secrets would be buried, bound in blood …

Years later, a headmistress is found brutally strangled, the first in a spate of gruesome murders which shock the Black Country.

But when human remains are discovered at a former children’s home, disturbing secrets are also unearthed. D.I. Kim Stone fast realises she’s on the hunt for a twisted individual whose killing spree spans decades.

As the body count rises, Kim needs to stop the murderer before they strike again. But to catch the killer, can Kim confront the demons of her own past before it’s too late?

 

Review:  I was pleasantly surprised by this one.  So many times, I struggle with British writing because there is often enough of a cultural difference, both in the quirks and phrases used as well as presenting the subject matter in a rather dry way, that I don’t often like them.  While I did run into a few issues of just not knowing a particular term here and there, none of the other issues that I’ve found with other authors seemed to really be a problem here and I ended up really liking this one.  The biggest issue I did have was that I’m not even remotely familiar with British police procedures and norms, so it was, at times, a little difficult to determine believability and is the only reason this didn’t get a higher rating.

I did really enjoy the many layers and threads running through this story and it kept me interested all the way through.  It was complex and a little challenging to follow without being overly convoluted.  I liked Kim’s character and the fact that she is a female authority but doesn’t step into that stereotypical ball buster role that so many women in any position of power tend to get shoved.  She still has all kinds of attitude, but it isn’t an ugly or vindictive one, just spunky with an interesting personality.

 

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Whispers: Lisa Jackson

WhispersAuthor: Lisa Jackson
Book Name: Whispers
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Okay
3+stars


Blurb:   When Voices In The Night Become Whispers. . .

In the chill of an Oregon night, a man plunges to his death. Another vanishes without a trace. A third drowns in the murky waters of a quiet lake. Alone in the dark, a ruthless killer is certain that every loose end has been cut, every enemy silenced except one. . .

Be Afraid. . .

It’s been sixteen years since Claire St. John fled in terror from her family’s home on Lake Arrowhead. Sixteen years since her fiancé’s tragic death and the shocking secret she promised never to reveal to anyone. But that was before journalist Kane Moran began probing the mystery of that horrible night, turning a light on the darkest corners of Claire’s life, exposing her once again to a cold-blooded murderer’s vicious fury. . .

Be Very Afraid. . .

Now, as Claire returns home to face a past she’s tried to forget, another body is unearthed, revealing the twisted nature of a killer who is ready at last to make Claire pay the ultimate price…

Review: I wasn’t a big fan of this one.  It started out decent and then shifted time perspective and for a good 1/3 of the book, you are basically reading a young adult book with some pretty messed up teen drama and sex, which I seriously am just not interested in, before jumping back to the present.  The whole book is really just about some convoluted, twisted and unhealthy relationships, most of which really struggle to ring true even through the lens of teenage ignorance and intensity.

Just like the relationships in this, the story line is twisted and convoluted as well.  Pretty early on, you kind of figure out who the bad guy is, then get a few misdirection threads tossed in so you question it, but when it is all said and done, those first impressions prove true, in a much more messed up way than your originally thought.  That part isn’t bad, but it is all just a bit too over the top for my tastes, especially when mixed with stereotypical spoiled, entitled teens and other side of the tracks bad boys for the underdog.

This just isn’t the kind of story I really enjoy.  I can’t say that it is badly written or that it isn’t worth the read as others may really enjoy it, but it just isn’t my thing.

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Past Cake Projects

I’m getting ready to head into what I consider cake season as all of my kids birthdays fall over the next couple of months.  Sadly, the two oldest no longer want a “cool” cake that I can get really creative with, so I may end up only actually doing my daughter’s cake, which she never fails to push me to top the previous year. Continue reading “Past Cake Projects”

Bones of Betrayal: Body Farm, Book 4

Bones of BetrayalAuthor: Jefferson Bass
Book Name: Bones of Betrayal
Series: Body Farm
Order: #4
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Good
3+stars


Blurb:  Dr. Bill Brockton is in the middle of a nuclear-terrorism disaster drill when he receives an urgent call from the nearby town of Oak Ridge — better known as Atomic City, home of the Bomb, and the key site for the Manhattan Project during World War II. Although more than sixty years have passed, could repercussions from that dangerous time still be felt today?

With his graduate assistant Miranda Lovelady, Brockton hastens to the death scene, where they find a body frozen facedown in a swimming pool behind a historic, crumbling hotel. The forensic detectives identify the victim as Dr. Leonard Novak, a renowned physicist and designer of a plutonium reactor integral to the Manhattan Project. They also discover that he didn’t drown: he died from a searing dose of radioactivity.

As that same peril threatens the medical examiner and even Miranda, Brockton enlists the help of a beautiful, enigmatic librarian to peel back the layers of Novak’s life to the secret at its core. The physicist’s house and personal life yield few clues beyond a faded roll of undeveloped film, but everything changes when Brockton chances upon Novak’s ninety-year-old ex-wife, Beatrice. Charming and utterly unreliable, she takes him on a trip back into Oak Ridge’s wartime past, deep into the shadows of the nuclear race where things were not quite as they seemed.

As Beatrice drifts between lucidity and dementia, Brockton wonders if her stories are fact or fancy, history or myth. But he knows one thing — that she holds the key to a mystery that is becoming increasingly labyrinthine. For as the radiation count steadily rises, and the race to find the truth intensifies, the old woman’s tales hint at something far darker and more complex than the forensic anthropologist himself could have ever imagined.

Review:  This one was missing much of what I have found I really love in the Body Farm books.  The dorky humor was there, but it sort of fell flat this time.  We had almost no actual forensic work or science in this at all and it was a bit on the dull side to me.

I think the biggest problem and why so much of those things are missing is because this is more of a history on the Manhattan Project and the creation of the atomic bomb, the culture of Oak Ridge and very little else.  Bill’s part and his participation in this entire story never made any logical sense to me outside of discovering the older body and working with those remains, which again, was a tiny part of the overall story.  Even the revelation of the bad guys was really off in this one, with little to no science or police work really being how those bad guys got found out.

What is there is as well written as any other Body Farm book, but it is just way outside of my sphere of interest and isn’t at the level I’ve come to expect from these books.  It comes very close to skirting the border of what I dislike most with many books in this genre by having Bill being and doing things well outside of his sphere of expertise and being in places and talking to people he has no reason to professionally.  At least in other books, it has been made to work in ways when he may fall close to that kind of behavior to make those situations believable.  It just wasn’t here.

This is by far my least favorite of the series so far and I’m hoping that this isn’t an indication of where the series is going from here.

Troubled Waters: Elemental Blessings, Book 1

Troubled WatersAuthor: Sharon Shinn
Book Name: Troubled Waters
Series: Elemental Blessings
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars


Blurb:  Zoe Ardelay receives astonishing and unwelcome news: she has been chosen to become the king’s fifth wife. Forced to go to the royal city, she manages to slip away and hide on the shores of the mighty river.

It’s there that Zoe realizes she is a coru prime ruled by the elemental sign of water. She must return to the palace, not as an unwilling bride for the king, but a woman with power in her own right. But as Zoe unlocks more of the mysteries of her blood—and the secrets of the royal family—she must decide how to use her great power to rise above the deceptions and intrigue of the royal court.

Review:  While I did like this, it just seemed to take forever to actually get anywhere or to have anything truly interesting happen.  When things did start to happen, it was really good, but a huge part of this book dragged on with a large portion of the book dedicated to Zoe shopping and not nearly enough dedicated to the parts that got pointed out in the blurb.  It took until nearly the 30% point before any real hint that she held any actual mystical power was indicated and then nearly 60% before she actually actively uses it.  Considering those really are the best parts of the book and outside of a handful of times that really only occur in the second half, not much else actually happens.

I was torn on trying to figure out where to rate this because I did really enjoy parts of it, but it was just so incredibly slow that it brings it down quite a bit.  I’ve got the next one in this series on my list and am hoping to find that one to be a bit better than this one.

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Finding Balance

Apparently I don’t have enough things to do to keep me occupied, I have to go and create a bunch of blogs.  Not just one, because there are some things I need to keep organized and this is just one of ways I can be incredibly anal.  I debated a while about just doing a single blog, but I really wasn’t comfortable dumping the personal drama on the reading site and I didn’t think that everyone that wanted to read about books would care about the art or the cake.  It is possible, but there is no need to pump out a bunch of stuff that just may not be something someone wants to read, even if the main reason for all of this is for me. Continue reading “Finding Balance”

Exploring My Hobbies

To say that I’m a creative person would be an understatement. I have so many hobbies that I love doing that I spend a lot of time not doing them at times because I can’t decide which one to focus on.  I have actually been on something of a creative hiatus because I haven’t been overly inspired.  The last few months, I’ve had a few ideas fermenting in the back of my mind but they weren’t quite ready to come out and play, so I’m hoping that break is about over and it is time to get back into my studio. Continue reading “Exploring My Hobbies”