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Reviews Written by
J. Meegan "Voracious Reader" RSS Feed (Silicon Valley, CA)

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Eternal Eden (Eden Trilogy Book 1)
Eternal Eden (Eden Trilogy Book 1)
Price: $0.00

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Writing, Weak Plot, May 21, 2011
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I feel a bit like Scrooge when it comes to most ebooks. I have read some that I really, really enjoyed. But many, sadly, are mediocre at best. And it frequently seems that I am not a big fan of the ebooks that get the highest ratings. Unfortunately, Eternal Eden didn't break the mediocre least not for me.

Here's the deal...clearly the author knows how to write. Having attempted once or twice to write something of my own, I know just how darned hard it can be to get stuff down on paper that flows and keeps readers engaged. Ms. Williams definitely knows how to do those things and more. And I'm happy to turn a blind eye to the crappy editing because that's simply one aspect of the ebook phenomena. I felt this story had a lot of potential -- I was interested in Bryn, I liked her sense of humor, her stand-offishness, and wanted to get behind her big reveal. But as things began to evolve after Bryn meets William...I simply lost interest.

Bryn has a lot of interesting facets to her personality...but she also comes across as incredibly obtuse and rather self-absorbed for her age (how many handsome men need to tell her she's attractive before she wakes up and smells the coffee? Sometimes she seems like she's 14 rather than 19 going on 20). And William, sexy as he is, seemed far too one-dimensional and too-good-to-be-true. But more importantly, the plot didn't do it for me at all. It lacked depth, cohesion, and frankly it just wasn't all that compelling. I do feel this story could have gone somewhere interesting and perhaps with some revisions, it will. But in its current state, it felt too much like a knock-off of those other big seller YA supernatural books (speaking of which, note to future YA authors: please, can we stop setting these books in the Northwestern U.S.? Why not New Mexico or San Diego or Wisconsin? Or, hell, Hawaii?). As the title of this review says...I think the author has talent but I don't think this story did her justice.

I know I'm going to irk many folks who loved this story...but hey, the world would be a dull place if we all liked the same things.

Ruby Red (The Ruby Red Trilogy)
Ruby Red (The Ruby Red Trilogy)
by Kerstin Gier
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $8.74
113 used & new from $0.05

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely A Hidden Gem, May 20, 2011
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I loved this story! But first...let me give folks who haven't picked it up a few warnings:

1) this is more in the vein of a Harry Potter book than it is a typical YA fantasy/romance. yes, it does have romance/fantasy galore. and teens. but the love scenes are slow to build and rather tame for a YA book...and the world-building is quite lovely and rather complex whereas I find so many YA books today gloss over that aspect to focus on the lead character relationship.
2) the story takes a while to get going. and it felt awkward at the start...likely due to the gear shifting I had to perform to get into the groove of a non-American teen. Gwyneth comes across as younger than her age, likely due to all of the above. This isn't a turn off for me (but I'm a grown woman) however it could be kind of annoying for older teen readers who prefer things a bit more hip and less gawky.

Those two items aside...which, as far as I'm concerned, don't make the book any less awesome than it is....this was a fun and entertaining read. I literally could not put it down and ended up staying awake FAR too late last night, resulting in a reader hangover of the worst sort this morning. Not great when you have two young kids to feed and hustle off to school.

This book has it all....fantastically complex characters and a twisted plot that promises fun and danger/darkness in spades, a (so far) light romance (or two) to keep me happy, a likeable heroine who one can't help but root for as she bumbles along when her "gift" reveals itself in the most inconvenient way. The writing is crisp and clean with lots of humor and some pathos thrown in for good measure. I sense a lot of hidden mysteries waiting to pop to the surface. Some folks said the plot is predictable...aside from the expected romance, I didn't find this in the least. There were a lot of surprises here and I cannot wait for the story to continue in the next book.

I'm not going to go into the details of the can find that on the book description or read the other reviews. But I will say if you enjoy books that aren't afraid to delay gratification for a lot of detailed world building and in-depth characterization...and you like YA fantasy, romance, and time travel...please give this a try. I think you may enjoy yourself. Also, this book is perfect for tweens and teens given the lighter romance content.

BTW, what a gorgeous cover!!!

Tempest Rising (Tempest Maguire)
Tempest Rising (Tempest Maguire)
by Tracy Deebs
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.05
70 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Mermaid Story with Potential, May 18, 2011
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This is a 3.5 star book...I wish Amazon did half star ratings!

Tempest is a teen with a huge decision looming over her: to stay human or to become, like her vanished mother, a mermaid. This was a good book with a lot of potential to become a great series (I'm assuming it will be a series since most teen fantasy books get serialized these days). I was engaged from the moment I read the first few pages. The angst Tempest feels is palpable, especially in the initial chapters when the change and what it may mean for her becomes more and more apparent. It's clear to me that the author is either a surfer herself or did her homework because the descriptions of the ocean and surfing were spot on. And the author's descriptions of Mark and Kona were incredibly detailed and really give the reader a sense as to what Tempest sees in the two of them -- Kona in particular just leaps off of the page from the moment we first meet him. I also loved the world was unique and intricate, leaving a lot of room for so much more in future stories. The relationships between the characters are fairly complex and not always obvious in terms of how things are going to unfold. For me, this was one of those books I had a hard time putting down... did have some weak areas which I hope to see strengthened in future books:
1) There seemed to be too many cooks in the kitchen at times. I kept finding myself losing track of the various side characters -- their names, who they were, why we were supposed to care about them. As a result, aside from the key characters, Tempest seemed spread a bit too thin in terms of her interactions with the supporting cast.
2) The key relationships go through some pretty big changes as the story progresses...but sometimes it felt like those changes happened really fast without a lot of foreshadowing or a slow build. In particular, Tempest's relationship with Mark took a surprising turn which I didn't feel was very true to those characters based on their behavior at the start of the book. Also, while I was a big fan of Kona in the beginning of the story...I felt he got pigeonholed way too soon and didn't always live up to how he comes across in the beginning. And the ultimate acceptance of Tempest's family struck me as way too convenient considering the complexities of her relationship with her dad and brothers.
3) The book is at its strongest when Tempest is back home in SoCal. The ocean world felt a bit shaky to me at times, like the author was less comfortable with the fantasy aspect than I would have liked.
4) At the start of the story, we hear about how Tempest is a painter. But we never see her painting, we never see the work she's done. It seems like a throw-away detail that the story could well have done without since it doesn't add much to her character or the plot.

Ultimately this was a decent story with enough action and great characters to keep me engaged. I look forward to seeing this talented author further evolve her skills in future books!

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie
The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $12.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Will the real Laura Ingalls Wilder please stand up?, May 12, 2011
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As soon as I heard about this book, I pre-ordered it without even bothering to read the back cover blurb or checking if there were any excerpts I could skim before shilling out my hard-earned $$. I mean, come on! As a female child of the 70s who went straight from a Holly Hobby obsession to the Little House series and dressed up in pioneer garb for no less than three Halloweens in a row, this book literally screamed my name. And now, having just finished the book, I am so grateful to Ms. McClure for writing it in the first place. Because in spite of the sometimes gritty reality behind the books, in spite of the sometimes disappointing visits the author makes to the various Little House sites, the book ultimately helped me remember myself as a young girl and the lessons I took away from Wilder's series.

But back to the book.

I can't say this was a wholly satisfying read. It was funny at times, dramatic at others, and a little depressing too. There were moments of touching beauty mingled with the absurdity of extreme fandom and the sometimes stark reality of pioneer life. But I can't say I felt satisfied when I finished the last page and set my Kindle on my bedside table. I suspect part of this was due to how widely the real story of Laura Ingalls-Wilder veered from her books. I was intrigued by the glimpses of the real Ingalls and Wilder families but also a bit saddened to see how little history matched up with its fictional counterpart. I think, too, it's because McClure seems to spend a good portion of the book seeking and craving a tangible connection with Laura and the Laura books but doesn't quite find least, one could argue, not in any obvious ways. Or maybe it's that the books were so much a part of my own childhood that I couldn't help but long for a time I clearly won't be seeing again in this life. I imagine I won't be alone in this feeling...

I also had an insight while reading this book: I can't help but wonder if so many women of a certain age who grew up in the 70s and 80s have subsequently gravitated towards a certain self-sufficient lifestyle as a result of these books. Are the Little House books the reason why I make my own bread at home and grow my own veggies and fruits out back and make play dough for my two girls? Hard to say but I like to think so!

A personal nit: I would have loved to see some actual photos included. Sure, it was easy enough for me to go on the web and find the pics myself...but there's something pleasing about reading the descriptions and then turning a page to see the actual photo in front of you. McClure's writing is such that you really want to have the various images there as you are reading her wonderful descriptions.

In a nutshell, I think anyone who has fond memories of the Little House series should definitely pick up this book. But do not expect McClure's book to gloss over the grittier aspects of Ingalls-Wilder's life...and do expect to laugh out loud...a lot!

To Beguile a Beast (The Legend of the Four Soldiers)
To Beguile a Beast (The Legend of the Four Soldiers)
by Elizabeth Hoyt
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $6.77
142 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Kids Take Center Stage. Oh, And There's A Romance Too., May 4, 2011
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Cover aside (Dear Romance Publishing Houses: Enough with the ridiculous, frilly "clutch" covers already!!), this book was fantastic. For an 18th century historical set in the wilds of Scotland, it was -- at times -- gritty in its realism without becoming oppressive or losing its sense of "escape" reading.

I loved the physically and psychologically scarred hero, Alistair. His back story was gripping and pretty darned horrific (at least the bit that explains how we got injured in the first place). But unlike so many damaged heros, this one is wonderfully multifaceted and not 100% prone to feeling sorry for himself as so often seems to happen in these types of stories. And he's retained his sense of humor and, even more importantly, his sense of humanity. This comes through loud and clear over and over again and like Helen, I completely forgot the scars and other injuries. Oh, and for a dude missing a few fingers, an eye, and badly scarred on one side of his face...Alistair is pretty darned hot!

Next to the hero, our heroine seems to pale a bit by comparison but she's still a worthy match for him and, praise the lord, we finally have a "mom" heroine who actually ACTS like a parent. If the author is not a mom herself, she clearly has ample experience with young, active children and how they can equally be a trial and a blessing at the exact same moment. As a mother, I had total sympathy for Helen's plight and why she left London. And in the last third of the book when the drama picks up considerably, I was on tenterhooks waiting to see how the situation with her children got resolved. I also admire Helen's pluck -- her willingness to tackle seemingly insurmountable tasks and to do so with minimal tantrums.

But by far the very best part of the book? The children!! Jamie and Abigail were fantastic. They were incredibly well written and vividly imagined. Let me say this: of all the romance books I've read in which children played a central role, none of them have engaged me as much as this. In fact, I actively avoid romances with kids because -- well -- as a mom, I prefer my escape reads to be a TOTAL escape. So I was more than pleasantly surprised at how much I loved the kids in this book and looked forward to their scenes.

The only place where this book fell flat for me? The sex scenes. Don't get me wrong...they were well written. But they felt a bit more frank and gritty than what I'm used to...or what I like. However I think it's safe to say the sex suited the tone of the book and the personalities of the main characters to a T. And regardless, the chemistry between the characters was pitch perfect.

If you are looking for a well-written historical that feels more like a true glimpse into 18th century life than a costume ball, this is most definitely the book for you. And I dare you not to like the kids!

The Vampire Dimitri (A Book of the Regency Draculia)
The Vampire Dimitri (A Book of the Regency Draculia)
by Colleen Gleason
Edition: Paperback
36 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Edge of Your Seat Regency/Vampire Romance, May 3, 2011
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After reading and writing a four-star review for "The Vampire Voss" (the first book in Gleason's "Books of the Regency Draculia" series), I decided to pick up "The Vampire Dimitri". While I enjoyed the former book, I think it's safe to say Gleason has hit her stride with this second book in the series. While it's not a flawless story (more about that in a bit) it is very well-written, intelligent, with fascinating and multi-faceted characters. I've given this five stars simply because I cannot give 4.5 stars and because I think this book is an improvement on "The Vampire Voss".

The Good:
- I'd like to give a big shout out to the cover artist. Hot damn!
- Dimitri, when he's not being an overbearing ass, is truly a wonderful character and a very swoon-worthy hero. He's dark, tormented, and determined to Do The Right Thing at all times. But when he lets down his out! The smoke literally pours off of the pages during the more sensual scenes between he and Maia. While Voss was much more fun, I think Dimitri is infinitely more sexy. But perhaps that says more about me than it does about him?
- Maia comes off SO much less annoying than she did in the first book. The glimpse into what's going on in her brain allows the reader to feel a lot of sympathy for her character. She's downright likeable!
- In each book in the series, Gleason focuses in on different characters and different moments even though for the most part, this second book is a rehash of the first book (but with a different point of view and a timeline that extends beyond what occurred in "The Vampire Voss"). I absolutely love how cleverly Gleason pulls the curtains back a little bit more each time, revealing tantalizing bits and pieces of the next book.
** side note **Frankly, I cannot wait to find out what happens for Narcise. While I could easily predict which hero would end up with which heroine for the first two books, Gleason has done an excellent job of muddying the waters and making it tough to know the ultimate romantic fate of Narcise. One assumes it would be Chas. But one is starting to wonder if that might not be the case...
- Gleason is a masterful writer with an exquisite attention to detail. There were several instances where I could absolutely "see" a specific scene in my head...something that I struggle to do when reading other books, especially Regency-styled novels where the dialog tends to take center stage.

The "Meh":
- As much as I like to read about angst-filled heros, it can get old if it continues for too long. While I respect how dedicated Gleason was towards making Dimitri as tormented as one might expect of a reluctant vampire, I also found myself wanting to smack him upside the head more than once. Kudos to Maia for having faith in the poor man. But I could have used a bit less "stiff upper lip/tormented soul" behavior and a bit more levity. By the last third of the book, his constant need to hide his true nature/desires and wall himself off from other people was just damned annoying and I couldn't wait for the climax so we could get beyond that crap.
- Without providing any spoilers, I feel strongly that the Alexander situation changed far too quickly and dramatically. His dramatic moment felt more like a plot device than anything else and, frankly, it just didn't sit well with me given what we thought we knew about his character.
- Chas taking off to Scotland on the eve of his sister's (or was it sisters'?) wedding(s) seemed pretty lame. We're supposed to believe he's a caring, loving brother who is trying to do the right thing for his siblings even though he often hies off to parts unknown. But the way he asked Dimitri to convey his regrets to Maia just seemed, well, classless. Having said this, I think I want Chas to act like a hero but perhaps Gleason is setting him up for a lesser role, at least for the next book.

Having said that, I still feel Gleason pulled off quite a coup with this book and this series. It's an interesting twist on some VERY worn out themes...and her "Memento"-like plot device gives these books a clever, cinematic quality that keeps the readers guessing even when we think we know what's going to happen next.

The Vampire Voss (Regency Draculia Trilogy)
The Vampire Voss (Regency Draculia Trilogy)
by Colleen Gleason
Edition: Paperback
31 used & new from $0.01

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Pleasant Surprise, May 1, 2011
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I'll be honest, based on the reviews and the not-fantastic-cover (really, what were they thinking with that hero! He looks like Lyle Lovett), I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. But once all was said and done, I ultimately feel I got my money's worth.

The start was slow going. There were even a few points where I was sure I knew exactly where the story was headed and contemplated stopping completely: lovely but misunderstood heroine with a "gift", a family who doesn't understand her, a "rake" who falls in lust with her from the moment he sees her, lots of fangs and vampire-angst, redemption, etc. But aside from the first few chapters, Gleason managed to keep me on my toes through much of the book, wondering if she was even going to give the two leads any resolution at all...or if it was going to continue through the next few books in the series.

I liked how Gleason sets the story up so the reader expects the usual sort of behavior from her characters (see previous paragraph) but then they veer in less predictable directions: Voss doesn't suddenly turn into a "reformed rake/vampire" over night. He continues to act like the shallow, hedonistic predator he is for a good chunk of the book, going so far as to do some rather questionable things. And Angelica doesn't suddenly toss aside her values and morals the minute Voss shows up. She acts much as one would expect when confronted with real vampires whether they are the bad guys or Voss. It takes both characters a while to come around and when they do, things still don't go quite as expected until the final chapter. The side characters were equally fascinating and showed some additional depth...Maia as the grating, older sister who ultimately cares deeply for and tries to protect her younger sister; Dimitri as the reluctant, overbearing guardian who, in spite of himself and his wards, attempts to do the right thing; Narcise and the hidden complexities that I hope to see revealed in the third book of the series (which, based on the cover, will feature her story). The world building was decent...I felt the whole vampire bit could have been a tad stronger or more detailed but overall, it was solid and Gleason clearly put a lot of thought into it.

The story was not without of which, to my mind, was the speed at which Angelica turned from dislike and fear of Voss to care and love. It was all bound to happen, mind you, but it seemed to transition a bit abruptly. And while I enjoyed the change Voss ultimately undergoes...I felt that too seemed to progress rapidly. It isn't until the last quarter or third of the book that Voss and Angelica really have their moment together (aside from the titillating bit near the middle prior to the "big misunderstanding" which, considering what happens, is actually quite intense). My overall sense is the book could have been longer or the character arcs needed to happen earlier so as to make the changes seem more believable. I also think some things seemed unnecessary to the plot: the bit near the beginning when Angelica uses her gift to aid a young woman at a ball, the reader gets the sense that this "side job" of hers (of which she donates all funds to an orphanage) might play a more integral role throughout the book. But it only seemed to be there to give the reader a glimpse of her specific talent.

Overall, the story showed a lot of promise for the continuing series and while I felt it probably wasn't Gleason's strongest work to date, there were enough hidden gems within the book to convince me that she's an author worth keeping an eye on.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 7, 2011 8:30 AM PST

Haven (Winterhaven, Book 1)
Haven (Winterhaven, Book 1)
by Kristina Cook
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.91
72 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good But Not Outstanding, March 6, 2011
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I suspect I will peeve a few folks with this review but I only tell it like I see it.

Cover: as quite a few have said, it REALLY is a snooze and I can only imagine 1) the publisher was on a budget when they threw that together or 2) this is a self-published deal in which case, it looks pretty darn good (compared to some of the homemade jobs I've seen).

Story: So. The story really didn't capture my interest the whole way through. There were a few times when I was debating on not finishing but I persevered. The writing is fine, the story is solid...but it's just not that fresh and interesting. Feels very "been there, done that" to me...kind of like a mash up between every supernatural boarding school YA book I've read + Twilight. The angst-o-meter is turned up way high, many of the secondary characters seemed kind of flat, the relationship between the two leads felt like it lacked something -- overall chemistry, spice, something. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad book. But it's not jump-out-of-your-seat and riveted-to-the-page compelling (or at least I didn't think so). I think the dialog could have been tightened up a tad with some additional depth added to flesh the characters out a bit more.

Overall if you are looking for something new, with a different angle...this probably won't satisfy very much. But if you really like boarding school settings and Twilight-like angst between your two main characters, this might just be your next purchase!

Clarity (Clarity Novel)
Clarity (Clarity Novel)
by Kim Harrington
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.99
82 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant Surprise, March 5, 2011
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The cover doesn't wow me...looks like packaging for a RPG game of some sort. And the plot/setting description had me worried the story itself would be very "been there, done that." But seriously, this was a really well-written, fun read. I actually would rate it at 4.5 stars because there were a few things in the story I'd like to see the author tighten up next time (way too many cooks in the kitchen at one point, for example). But ultimately, I think the story is solid, the characterization is fine-tuned with all players getting enough depth to avoid the "shallow secondary character" situation that most mystery books seem to suffer from. And the dialog...well, it's crisp, funny, and spot on almost 99.9% of the time.

As far as the mystery goes...usually I know who did it about a quarter to 1/2 way through a book. But the number of false trails the author throws out really had me guessing up until this last quarter of the book. This is a good thing...I like to be kept on my toes and not feel like I'm finishing something simply because I paid for it, damn it.

Clarity was a wonderful character....easy to like and cheer on. If there is any complaint I have, it's that she (and some of her other teen counterparts) seem a tad too mature in terms of how they handle situations and what they have to say for themselves. And for those of you who like a little romance in your books, there's plenty going on here...enough to make you look forward to what happens in the next book in the series (make no mistake, this will definitely be a series).

This is a fast, fun read...with just enough depth to take it from good to great. Enjoy!

The Iron Thorn
The Iron Thorn
by Caitlin Kittredge
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.12
94 used & new from $0.01

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Unique, Well-Written, February 27, 2011
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This review is from: The Iron Thorn (Hardcover)
It took a few chapters before this book really started to grow on me. First off, I'm not a huge fan of the 1950s...and the idea of a steampunk story set in an alternate 1950s sounded even less appealing. Secondly, I spent a large portion of the book wanting to slap Cal silly. Lastly, in an era supposedly filled with simple, easy to spell and pronounce names (Jack, Sue, Lucy), why in the hell would you give your main character a name like Aoife?!

But eventually I got sucked in and now, having just finished it, I can honestly say this was one of the most creative and entertaining YA books I've read this year. Seriously, this book has it all: steampunk, gothic horror, fairies, romance, a strong heroine, a compelling hero, and enough twists and turns to keep even the most jaded reader on her/his toes. I can safely say I absolutely did not see some of the big reveals in the second half of the book coming. At all. Kittredge really knows how to play her hand without showing her cards too soon. Frankly, in the hands of a less talented writer, this story could have been an unholy mess: there's SO much going on and so many layers to the story. But I think it all unfolded perfectly...and I don't think it was overly long as some folks have said. But then I like my stories to suck me in and hold me there for more than a few hours.

I really liked Aoife a lot. She's quite a change from the usual batch of YA urban fantasy heroines--either they're mature beyond their years and overly competent OR they are too pliant and simply looking for a hero to prop them up and save them. Aoife is a wonderful foil for the period she lives in, a time when girls were expected to be good, get married, and not do much with their brains. Aoife is the exact opposite of all that but she's not perfect either...she alternates between wanting desperately to be a nice, normal girl and trying her damnedest to knock down the walls that have fenced her in for most of her young life. Dean, the male lead, is the perfect counterpoint to Aoife and I look forward to seeing their relationship grow in the coming books.

For those of you who might be drawn to this book because of the fairy warned, the "otherworldly" creatures in this book are pretty dark, twisted, and -- dare I say -- Lovecraft-ian. But all isn't quite as it seems...and I'll leave it at that and let you discover the rest!

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