So, I Guess It’s Been Awhile…

Hello? Is anyone still out there?

Well, what can I say, guys. What with juggling too much work and too much drama, I’ve been neglecting my reviewing and treating my books as pure escape, which means the idea of reviewing them later has seemed more and more like homework. That’s not to say I’m leaving this blog, just that me hashing out my opinions is going to be a very-once-in-awhile kind of thing for now. I’ll try to find some fun stuff to share so it doesn’t get too quiet over here, but reviews are going to have to take the back burner for now, at least until I’m not so overwhelmed.

In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been reading lately. If you want to discuss something, leave a comment!

Carrie by Stephen King

Stephen King Goes to the Movies by Stephen King


The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

See you later, guys!

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Manifestations of a Phantom’s Soul: A Duet – Michelle Rodriguez


Manifestations, book five (technically speaking, that is. I hear volume four is on its way!)


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Manifestations of a Phantom’s Soul: A Duet offers two novels by author Michelle Rodriguez that portray the power and passion behind the timeless story of the Phantom of the Opera.

In “Rib-Caged Hearts”, Erik realizes that he has a valid chance to win Christine’s heart as his forever. But as a rival from his past returns to taunt him and forces him to realize the sort of future he has to offer, he makes a seemingly selfless choice and is forced to suffer the consequences of callously giving true love away. As a new Opera Ghost rises to the throne, will Erik find a second chance at a heart he broke to pieces? Can he rewrite his definition of monster and instead play the hero to save Christine from the new ghost’s wrath?

And in “Unconditional”, after the final events at the opera house, Erik regrets a choice that sent Christine off with her Vicomte. For months, he seeks her out, desperate to repair his mistake. Will he be too late when he finally finds her? Will his past transgressions taint a love he could have had, or will Christine teach him the true meaning of unconditional love?


I’m more and more convinced that Michelle Rodriguez’s writing is like a drug, a sugary-sweet, sizzling-hot, emotional-roller-coaster kind of drug. No matter how much I get, I just keep coming back for more. How reassuring, then, that she never disappoints!

“Rib-caged Hearts” first. It started off with a curve ball, and it just kept going from there. I can’t say much about the story without giving anything away, so I’ll focus on the other details. Such as…the writing! Lush as ever and poetic as can be. I mean…. “One small tremor could quake the world on its axis if it strikes the right fault line, and you… You are my tremor; you shake me to my bones.” The hopeless romantic in me adored this story. It takes the original themes of obsession and redemption, and takes them in a new direction. And while I knew how the story must end, it put me through the wringer first. Put another way… “Broken hearts hurt; there was no sugarcoating that proven fact. But sense reinterpreted the pain and insisted it meant he’d loved, genuine and real, and wasn’t it better to live and feel than to exist with a heart in a cage?”

And then there’s “Unconditional.” There are curve balls, and then there are CURVE BALLS. What I loved seeing here was Christine having her greatest reason so far to be strong and not only rising to meet that need, but shaping into a mature woman and not the naive girl from the Opera House. Again, I can’t say much, but I think this is my new favorite among Michelle’s Phantom stories, beating out even The Opera Ghost Unraveled. Gasp! If I was to list my favorite quotes, I’d have to copy Chapter Four in its entirety! There are so many different factors that make this one stand out for me, and more than anything, I’m just glad that I got to read it.

Bottom line: If you haven’t read any of the Manifestations collections yet, what’s wrong with you? And if you haven’t read A Duet yet, what the heck is wrong with you?!

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Happy New Year!

I’ve only got a few hours left of 2015, and it’s been…. Hmm, still looking for the right words. Anyway, here’s to 2016! May it be the best year so far, or at least better than the last one! Since this is a book blog, how about a quote from Neil Gaiman?


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Deerskin – Robin McKinley

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As Princess Lissla Lissar reaches womanhood, it is clear to all the kingdom that in her beauty she is the image of her dead mother, the queen. But this likeness forces her to flee from her father’s lust and madness; and in the pain and horror of that flight she forgets who she is and what it is she flees from: forgets almost everything but the love and loyalty of her dog, Ash, who accompanies her. But a chance encounter on the road leads to a job in another king’s kennels, where the prince finds himself falling in love with the new kennel maid . . . and one day he tells her of a princess named Lissla Lissar, who had a dog named Ash.


I’m unfamiliar with the story of “Donkeyskin,” but I’ve been a fan of Robin McKinley for half my life, so I wasn’t about to pass this one by. I saw three-quarters of the reviews on Goodreads warn to approach this with caution, and at least that number call this a beautiful retelling, and thus armed, I began.

First of all, they weren’t kidding. This book deals with horrific abuse and its consequences, and Ms. McKinley gives no quarter describing either. Part One is filled with such dread and a sense of doom that I felt physically sick waiting for the inevitable to happen, and when it did I had to stop reading and come back when I could go on without crying. The rest details the pain and struggle to carry on after such a blow, and it was heart wrenching and emotional to say the least. I don’t think anyone who has experienced something similar could read this and not relate.

After an opening chapter that had an old-school fairy tale vibe, the rest was classic McKinley, with a poetic feel for language and imagery that stays with you. It was hard to connect with Lissar right away, she was kept so vague and overshadowed by her parents, but the neglect she endured through her childhood made the turnaround following her mother’s death hit even harder. Suddenly, she was her father’s obsession, and her struggle to avoid the manipulations of his court got me on her side in a hurry. The connection with her solidified as the story moved on, and I became genuinely invested in her, cared about her suffering, and wanted her to overcome it.

The supporting cast is quite limited and not nearly as dimensional; the human characters are overshadowed by dogs most of the time. I would have liked a little more depth in Ossin and to have seen a little more of Lilac, Ammy, and Barley. Ossin in particular deserved a little more attention, as he wasn’t the standard Prince Charming. He wasn’t handsome, he preferred dogs over people, and he wasn’t always rushing off to save damsels in distress. The friendship, compassion and love he showed Lissar was enough to get my attention, and it would have been nice if he had a greater part in the story.

It’s a trend with Robin McKinley novels to wander a bit at first and end with finales that make you scratch your head and wonder what just happened (Rose Daughter, Spindle’s End, Pegasus, Chalice, you get the picture) but this one made me reread every paragraph of the climax at least three times just to be sure of what was going on, and I still can’t be sure I got the whole thing. Not to say it wasn’t good, just that I didn’t see it coming and the execution was a little…iffy, perhaps? Given that I’m familiar with the author, I expected something of the sort, so no big deal, but it’s mainly why I gave this four stars instead of five.

I’ll close with some of my favorite quotes:

What remained was a sense of the Lady, of her voice, the touch of her fingers, the calm of knowing the Lady had intervened on Lissar’s behalf. The peacefulness was part of the intervention; Lissar knew she was grateful, beyond grateful, for having been plucked up from her old fate and set down again, facing some new direction, leading to some new fate; but the memory of why she had needed the intervention was an empty, battered box or trunk or cupboard. No, Lissar thought very quietly. It is not empty; but I can close it for now, and put it away. I will draw it down later, and open it again; the Lady has given me time and healing, time for healing. I will be strong again when I open that box, strong enough to open it. My strength now is to set it aside.

I was no child, for you and my mother gave me no childhood; and my maidenhood you tore from me, that I might never become a woman; and a woman I have not become, for I have been too afraid. But I return to you now all that you did give to me: all the rage and the terror, the pain and the hatred that should have been love. The nightmares, and the waking dreams that are worse than nightmares because they are memories. These I return to you, for I want them no more, and I will not bear them one whit of my time on this earth more.

I am hurt…in ways you cannot see, and that I cannot explain, even to myself, but only know that they are there, and a part of me, as much as my hands and eyes and breath are a part of me.

With the knowledge of her aloneness came the rush of self-declaration: I will not be nothing.

A beautiful and moving

story, and if you can survive the heartbreak and sorrow, it’s well worth it.


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The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Stieg Larsson

Millennium, book three


The stunning third and final novel in Stieg Larsson’s internationally best-selling trilogy.

Lisbeth Salander – the heart of Larsson’s two previous novels – lies in critical condition, a bullet wound to her head, in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital. She’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders. With the help of her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, she will not only have to prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she will plot revenge – against the man who tried to kill her, and the corrupt government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life.

Once upon a time, she was a victim. Now Salander is fighting back.


Oh. My. God. This is one of those rare occasions when a strong series concludes with a brilliant installment, and one of those not-so-rare ones when I’m so floored by a book that I don’t know what to say. Considering I’ve been waiting years to finally read this, I’m so glad I found it as incredible as I did.

As always, nitpicks first. Again, I feel like things are lost in translation, and the background information about Swedish politics, media scandals, espionage and civil rights all feels like filler for the foreign audience. It’s useful, but it sticks out like a sore thumb in a pinkie factory.

Now for the good stuff. Picking up immediately where Fire left off, Hornet’s Nest was intense from the start and carried on to the end. There were necessary slow points, but for the most part it was unnerving and unrelenting. I binge-read about two thirds of the book over a single weekend, I just couldn’t leave it alone. There were multiple story lines, but each related to the other in a way that was significant to the plot and the finale. Mikael Blomkvist leads the ragtag group dedicated to exposing the conspirators responsible for violating Lisbeth Salander’s civil rights in the most outrageous way possible; Salander herself conducts her own particular kind of investigation from a guarded hospital room; the government agents determined to lock her up for good begin taking extreme counter measures; Erika Berger faces opposition at one of the biggest newspapers in Sweden.

Salander has carried me through this series for the most part, but when it mattered most, the rest of the cast won me over. I find that pretty interesting, since the landscape has expanded with each book and the cast has grown to include more characters. All of that is just a longer way of saying, I finally liked Blomkvist. It took three long, complex books to get it done, but it happened! And I’m so glad sister Annika finally got more page time, because I had always been interested in her and my curiosity was amply rewarded. Her work with Salander was rocky (surprise, surprise) but she was another strong female in a series built on one strong female in particular. And honestly, what more can I say about Salander that I haven’t already? She’s difficult and different, but she’s a fighter. Annika’s argument at trial says it all: “Let me tell you something. I admire Lisbeth Salander. She’s tougher than I am…she fought back with the only weapon she had available…” Nothing and no one can break her. She survived one injustice after another through sheer force of will, and despite her unusual temperament she earned the loyalty and respect of those who helped her take her life back. I still wouldn’t consider her a good role model, but I wouldn’t discount her merit, either.

This was such a clean, orderly finish to the series, with no loose ends to speak of. That’s a pretty difficult feat to accomplish in any series, let alone one of this complexity. For all the nitpicks I had with it, I feel comfortable saying I’ll revisit it in the future and would call it a “must-read” for suspense, crime drama and thriller readers. It gained momentum with every installment and grew more taut and intense, and Lisbeth Salander is definitely a character to remember. I for one am not likely to forget her anytime soon!

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A Time To Kill – John Grisham


Clanton, Mississippi. The life of a ten-year-old girl is shattered by two drunken and remorseless young men. The mostly white town reacts with shock and horror at the inhuman crime. Until her black father acquires an assault rifle and takes justice into his own outraged hands.

For ten days, as burning crosses and the crack of sniper fire spread throughout the streets of Clanton, the nation sits spellbound as young defense attorney Jake Brigance struggles to save his client’s life… and then his own….


The movie was better. That’s the short version. The long version is that I’ve finally decided that I don’t particularly care for John Grisham’s work, and if you give me a minute I’ll tell you why.

For starters, there is a whole lot of could-have-been going on with this book. It could have been a taut, intense legal thriller. The characters could have been lovable, or even likable. The social commentary could have been insightful. Here’s the problem, though. The legal aspect sprawls with boring details and leaves little room for action. Most of the characters are too focused on the publicity surrounding Carl Lee Hailey’s trial than the trial itself, or the crime that made it necessary to put Hailey on trial in the first place. The social commentary is delivered on a soap box about corporate lawyers versus street lawyers, blacks versus whites, fathers seeking revenge versus the law delivering justice…some of the time. The strongest message I got was of jury manipulation and intimidation. If you put enough pressure on them, you’ll get whatever verdict you want, thus completely undermining the entire concept of justice.

I could have let all of this slide, if it wasn’t for Grisham’s style, or in this case, lack thereof. It was bland and did absolutely nothing to engage my emotions. I had nothing vested in the story but the time I was willing to spend reading it. I just had no reason to care, which has been the case with every John Grisham novel I’ve read. He doesn’t push my buttons or do anything to get me involved, and by the time I’m finished I’m just glad it’s all over, for my own sake. I couldn’t care less about the characters and their struggles. I really wanted to enjoy this book, but I think I’ll stick with the movie from now on.

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The Girl Who Played With Fire – Stieg Larsson

Millenium, book two (and OMG, there’s a FOURTH book now?!)


Mikael Blomkvist, crusading journalist and publisher of the magazineMillennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation between Eastern Europe and Sweden, implicating well-known and highly placed members of Swedish society, business, and government.

But he has no idea just how explosive the story will be until, on the eve of publication, the two investigating reporters are murdered. And even more shocking for Blomkvist: the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to Lisbeth Salander—the troubled, wise-beyond-her-years genius hacker who came to his aid in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and who now becomes the focus and fierce heart of The Girl Who Played with Fire.

As Blomkvist, alone in his belief in Salander’s innocence, plunges into an investigation of the slayings, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous hunt in which she is the prey, and which compels her to revisit her dark past in an effort to settle with it once and for all.


After rereading Dragon Tattoo, I decided I wasn’t so crazy about it. After rereading Fire, I’m crazier than ever about it. I picked up on details I missed the first time, I was able to pay more attention to the intricacies of the plot and have greater appreciation for them, and with greater focus on Salander, I was even happier.

Not to say I don’t have the same beefs with this installment as I did the last one. Some things still feel lost in translation. Larsson’s terse, almost emotionless narrative runs into some stale patches. The theme of sex trafficking and exploitation of women is nauseating and disturbing as ever–but not nearly as bad as Dragon Tattoo. This time around it’s addressed as a serious issue that must be combated against in whatever manner is best. The main conflict is Salander and the corruption she is caught up in.

If it’s hard to discuss Dragon Tattoo without giving anything away, then it’s nearly impossible to discuss Fire. The book is massive, yet everything is linked somehow, with little to no deadweight. As with the first book, this one takes awhile to get warmed up but once it does, it just doesn’t stop. Mikael Blomkvist, cutting edge journalist, is a bit more likeable here. My problem with him the last go-round was how diffident he seemed and how he didn’t seem to have any clear principles. With Millennium’s huge expose on the sex trade in Sweden slated for publication, he finally looks like he’s taking a definite stance, and when Salander is accused of murder, he’s in her corner from the word go. All in all, he’s pretty frigging cool.

And then there’s Lisbeth Salander. She makes this series awesome. I loved learning more about her past, and the more you learn the more incredible she becomes. It’s so hard to rant and rave about her the way I want to because it’s all spoilers! I think the best I can do is give my favorite quotes:

“There are no innocents. There are, however, different degrees of responsibility.”

“I’ve had a fucking miserable week and I’m in a fucking bad mood. You know what the worst thing is? Every time I turn around there’s some fucking pile of shit with a beer belly in my way acting tough. Now I’d like to leave. So move your ass.”

Corruption at the highest government levels. Hard core investigations. Hidden scandals. Collateral damage. Secrets and exposures. And all four feet eleven inches of the greatest heroine in modern literature. Not to mention one hell of a cliff hanger! You can take my word for it, this is a freaking awesome book. But it’s worth your time to find out just how awesome for yourself.

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