Posted by: jacstar | February 6, 2009

Touch the Dark by Karen Chance

touch-darkThis is the story about a clairvoyant named Cassandra. She has the ability to see, hear, and speak to ghosts. She also gets unpredictable glimpses at the future and the past. She owns and wears a jewelled necklace that is haunted by a ghost named Billy Joe. She was raised by the vampire mafia.

Because vampires are able to ‘feed’ without actually biting, almost everyone is unaware of their existence. Cassie also has a hard time deciphering between myth and legend as she has been told one too many bedtime stories.

In Touch the Dark, Cassie comes across everything including vampires, Mages, Were-animals, witches, fairies, and ghosts obviously. She’s on the run from all of these things it seems. Everyone wants to use her for something or other, or they just want her dead. So she’s got the Vampire Senate looking for her along with the Vampire Mafia and two Mage Circles (one good and one evil). Each group seems to be aligning themselves with some other mythical being.

At this point, I don’t fully have an opinion despite the fact that I’ve completed the novel. So much happens but so little happens. It took half of the book (no exaggeration) before it picked up. The first half of the book is just explanations on how everything works. This is a bunch of stories from Cassandra’s past. The second half, things get quite interesting as the story starts moving forward. I wish the whole book kept this pace, but so much is needed to be explained prior to.

It was a different perspective on vampirism but I found it hard to stay captivated. I almost feel that this should have been two separate books. But that would make the first book, more like a rule book and by itself would probably be boring.

I also found that there was nothing to relate to. This might not sound so surprising as it’s a book about fictional and mythical characters, but there should always be something we can relate to. There was a very graphic sex scene towards the end. I was slightly embarrassed to be reading this on the public transit for fear that someone was looking over my shoulder. I loved the scene and how it was written, so no disrespect, but considering Cassie’s history, it’s just not believable.

Without giving too much of the story away, I feel that anyone with Cassie’s sexual history would also not be able to relate to this scene. Considering that this is the only part in the story that’s remotely realistic, it’s kind of disappointing that it’s not ‘relatable’.

I guess I wanted more in some parts and less in others. Overall the book isn’t bad, but I’d recommend reading it when you can focus all of your attention. Because if you blink, you might miss something important.

Posted by: jacstar | January 22, 2009

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

peepsLet’s start by saying this is not your stereotypical vampire book. It’s not even close. This is a story about ‘parasite positives’ AKA peeps. Being a peep is just not as glamorous as being a vampire might sound. The parasite will slowly and ultimately drive one insane. It causes all sorts of symptoms such as having a never-ending feeling of stomach emptiness, better senses, almost superhuman strength and speed, and a hatred of all things in the past human life.

This story is of Cal Thompson, a parasite carrier. This means he’s affected with all of the good symptoms without the insanity of a full blown peep. His mission is to find all of the people he accidentally spread the parasite to so that they in turn don’t continue to spread.

Every other chapter in this book contains a new parasite. So you get to learn about tapeworms, Crohn’s, and a plethora of other parasitic conditions. I found this to be quite unique and informative. The story itself was quite slow (to me) but at least the parasite chapters were interesting.

It’s not long before the story also picks up and this becomes a book that cannot be put down. I recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy, but wants to be offered a new outlook on vampirism. Honestly, you’ll forget you’re reading about vampires at all!

Posted by: jacstar | January 14, 2009

Go Ask Alice

ask-aliceThis is the diary of an anonymous person. Names have been changed or blacked out entirely. Places and dates are also irrelevant. I get the sense that it takes place in the late 60s but I can’t be too sure. This book was published over 30 years ago, but who knows just how long ago it was written.

This young girl starts writing a diary shortly before her 15th birthday. She’s quiet, shy, and unpopular. She keeps to herself, gets good grades, and loves to read.

Shortly into the school year after her birthday she has a conversation with her classmate that leads to an invitation to a party. She’s so ecstatic about being noticed that she starts planning what to wear. It seems like it’s a brand new start and she’s happy.

At the party, bottles of coke are handed out to everyone. Little does she know, 10 of the bottles are laced with LSD. She drinks one of the 10. It’s not long before she feels the effects. She’s euphoric, elated, and all inhibitions are down. She feels fantastic and her high lasts throughout the night. Once she comes off her buzz she questions what happened.

She is told about the drugs and she starts thinking. This is so uncharacteristic of her so she’s glad that she was tricked. It’s not something she would have done willingly, but everything worked out so she has no regrets. She liked the feeling of her high but she knows she’ll never do it again. She does start to ponder some other drugs though, figuring it’s OK to try things once.

From here on in, it’s a downward spiral. She falls in with the wrong crowds, she runs away from home and her life becomes a race to find the next fix. She takes uppers for energy, downers for relaxation, and sleeping pills or tranquilizers to sleep.

Keep in mind, the diary is written from her 15th to her 17th birthday. It seems as though things can’t possibly get any worse for her but they always do. I was so completely shocked at the life of this young girl! How could she do all this to herself? She writes of being raped the way I would write of eating mashed potatoes. It’s just another common occurrence in life.

I suppose this is how things were in the ’60s – fighting the establishment and living life on love and happiness, which translates to acid and pot, or any other drug.

Even when she decides to quit, it’s still a struggle and you find yourself questioning her motives. You begin to have faith in the young girl but just because she’s able to say no doesn’t make her life any easier. All of the people at her school hate her. The good crowd hates her because she used to be bad, the bad crowd hates her because she’s trying to be good.  She just can’t win.

At this point, I can’t talk about the diary anymore. So much happens and the poor girl seems to have the worst luck. She does learn from her past experiences and she seems to grow and mature throughout the book.

My only suggestion to those who want to read this, is do not read the epilogue. It’s reality, and it’s statistics, but it’s just so disappointing.

I felt sorry for the girl throughout all her struggles, and I really hope the message is sent to all young people. We always hear that “drugs are bad” but ‘Go Ask Alice’ says it better than anyone.

Posted by: Yona Williams | January 12, 2009

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

geekloveIf you’re looking for a tale of two nerds falling in love, think again. You’re certainly in for a roller-coaster ride of emotions, as ‘Geek Love’ by Katherine Dunn delivers an insightful journey into the world of a rather functional dysfunctional family. During the days when circuses traveled from town to town – the term, ‘geek,’ was used to describe a carnival performer who typically entertained audiences with something peculiar or “different.” For example, they may have bitten off the head of a live chicken or used a physical deformity to their advantage.

In ‘Geek Love,’ we meet Aloysius “Al” Binewski and his wife, “Crystal” Lil – a couple facing hard times with their business until they decide to create a freak show of their own. Al and Crystal start manipulating the genes of all their children with the help of an assortment of drugs and radioactive material.

As a result, the two produce:

  • Arturo (“Arty”) – born with flippers for hands and feet
  • Electra (“Elly”) and Iphigenia (“Iphy”) – Siamese twins
  • Olympia (“Oly”) – hunchback albino dwarf
  • Fortunato (“Chick”) – the most normal looking offspring with telekinetic powers

Throughout the entire novel, you encounter their life story, as told by Oly.

Just like any other family, the siblings fight, dream, and compete for attention. Jealousy often rears its ugly head. They also protect and love one another despite fleeting tinges of resentment. However, please take note that ‘Geek Love’ is shocking. There will be times that you’ll feel grossed out. You might shut the book in disgust, but quickly return to see how the brood rebound from tragedy and societal obstacles. The novel also tugs at the heartstrings.

I loved the book and wished it never ended. I may even read it for a second time and that’s something I rarely do.

Posted by: jacstar | January 10, 2009

Seeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer

seeing-naked1This is a novel about Elisabeth Page. She’s a pastry chef in an upscale restaurant in L.A. She’s the daughter of two-time Pulitzer Prize winning, novelist Ben Page, and heiress to the Foster Family Fortune, Ballard Foster. Her brother, Rascal Page, is also a famous writer following in, and in some ways surpassing, his father’s footsteps. Elisabeth has some mighty big shoes to fill and isn’t exactly sure of where to start. She started with a five-year plan to own her own patisserie and eleven years later, she’s still working in the same kitchen.

Elisabeth soon meets Daniel Sullivan. He is a basketball coach and new to the city. As he knows nothing of her famous family, she finds she is able to open up to him more freely. In doing so, she discovers who she really is. Not a shadow, but her own unique self.

I found this book to be just as good as Palmer’s first book, Conversations with the Fat Girl. Her characters are intelligent and witty, and sarcastic as hell. The Page family are quite profane despite their wealthy upbringing. I absolutely loved the relationship that Elisabeth has with her brother.

This story proves that it’s true what they say.You can’t be happy with someone else until you’re happy with yourself. Seeing Me Naked isn’t just about showing that special someone all of your intimate parts, it’s about letting someone know you and all of your deepest, darkest secrets. You’d be amazed at how much you learn about yourself through this process. I guess you get to see yourself naked through someone else’s eyes.

 

This book also includes 5 recipes that are mentioned within the story. That was a pleasant surprise for me waiting at the end of the novel.

Liza Palmer is the next best thing and one of my favourite chic-lit authors to date!

Posted by: jacstar | January 7, 2009

A Place Called Here by Cecelia Ahern

placehereHere is a place where all missing things (both living and non) turn up. Those people who vanish without a trace, and those socks that go missing from the dryer, all end up Here. Sandy Shortt runs a missing persons agency. She has been consumed with thoughts of missing things and missing people since she was ten years old, when a classmate disappeared and was never found. Thus the story begins.

Jack Ruttle’s brother has been missing for a year. Jack comes across Sandy’s ad and since everyone else has given up hope, he figures he’ll call in an outsider. Maybe a fresh set of eyes is what is needed to solve this mystery.  But then Sandy goes missing.

This is a tale similar to that of the Wizard of Oz, where Sandy is cast as Dorothy. Funnily enough, this is mentioned in the book and although Sandy doesn’t play Dorothy on stage, she does have a hand in the making.  But alas, this is just a tangent.

This novel can be slow at times, but it’s wonderfully written. The ending (without giving anything away) made me cry for Here.

I have to recommend this book to anyone searching for their place in the world. It helps you to appreciate what you already have. You’ll soon realize the cliché “you never know what you have until it’s gone” is quite powerful.

It’s a nice way to think about things that have been misplaced or vanished entirely. But it questions everything you thought you knew.

Posted by: jacstar | December 31, 2008

Twilight Movie Companion by Mark Cotta Vaz

twilightmovieThis book is an illustrative paperback edition and has very little to do with Stephenie Meyer’s novel, Twilight. It is a behind the scenes look at how the movie was made.

If you are not interested in the movie business, or Twilight in general than this is clearly NOT the book for you. I, on the other hand, found it very interesting to see just how many people it takes to do certain tasks. Because there are so many jobs involved, from this point on I will refer to each person as ‘the crew’, this way I do not confuse any job titles and accidentally offend anyone.

No one ever assumes that making a movie is easy, but when it seems that everything is against you to start with, it’s far more complex. The entire cast and crew had to work with the weather. The movie takes place in a small town called Forks, which is the cloudiest place in the Continental U.S. and is probably known best for it’s rain. The crew found a place resembling Forks in New Jersey and filmed most of the movie there. They had to deal with hailstorms and other severe weather conditions, but as they say in showbiz – the show must go on.

To be honest, I didn’t understand a lot of the language, or maybe it just didn’t interest me for long enough to retain anything. I started reading this book before the movie came out and I loved to look at the pictures but other than that, the information was lost on me. Then I saw the movie and things made more sense.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants a future in the movie industry AND likes the Twilight movie. Or perhaps like me, a collector of all things Twilight, the pictures are enough to get you by.

Posted by: jacstar | December 29, 2008

When the Wind Blows by James Patterson

when-wind-blowsThis novel is about an 11 year old human experiment named Max. She is, by all appearances, a girl with wings. Genetically, it’s much more complicated. Her and her brother, Matthew, break out of the School that created them. This ’school’ is essentially a scientist prison for mutants. Basically, it’s the bad version of the Mutant school in X-Men.

Doctors have been experimenting on infants, trying to grow the unimaginable and when they fail, they put the children to sleep. No remorse. If the child doesn’t function they way the doctor wants, or has birth defects, they are put to death. Max and Matthew break free but are separated. Max is discovered by Dr. Frannie O’Neill (coincidentally she is a veterinarian.)  Matthew is barely mentioned again in the book.

Dr. O’Neill is a vet who lives essentially in her animal hospital. She lost her husband in an unsolved murder case and never quite recovered. Kit Harrison AKA Tom Brennan is an FBI agent secretly searching for the lab doing inexplicable experiments. He follows a lead that takes him to Dr. O’Neill. This now becomes a story of ’survival of the fittest’ and the race begins.

When the Wind Blows is the first of the series. It is also the adult version of the Maximum Ride series which is written for kids.

I wasn’t blown away by this book, which is strange given my background in science. I didn’t like that the story was told from so many different perspectives. Max, Frannie, Kit, Matthew, and Uncle Thomas are just a few examples. I understand the first three mentioned but beyond that it was just too many.  I did like the concept. It was interesting, and slightly disturbing, how these mutants might actually be our future. Given the explanations, it did seem entirely possible. However, these weren’t just people who could fly, they were also superhuman in strength and knowledge. This for me, was where the concept became ‘over the top’.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a good read, but personally, I am not sure I will continue on in the series.

Posted by: jacstar | December 21, 2008

Enchanted by Nancy Madore

enchantedThe full title is “Enchanted – Erotic Bedtime Stories for Women”

This is a book of short stories and the first erotic novel that I’ve ever read. First of many, I should say. Each feature is based on a fairy tale or classic bedtime story. There is Cinderella, Snow White, The Ugly Duckling, The Goose Girl, etc.

I wasn’t a big fan of Cat and Mouse. This is a story about a cat who chases a mouse to make her do sexual things to him and ultimately end up as his wife. It’s a cute story except for the fact that I couldn’t get over the animal aspect. I also didn’t like the Ugly Duckling. It would have been a good story in the beginning, but unfortunately this was the last story in the book and it just wasn’t erotic at all. In fact, there is absolutely no sex. The entire book is about sexually pleasing women but the Ugly Duckling doesn’t do that at all.

Beauty and the Beast is funny because it’s told from Belle’s perspective and she basically says that everything was good until the Beast became human. Isn’t that always the way? Cinderella trades in her glass slippers for some comfortable pair of shoes that change her into a free spirit.

There is also a story called “Mirror on the Wall” which is about the witch in Snow White. So even the “bad guy” gets their story told.

I would recommend this novel to any woman who hasn’t read erotica. It eases your way into it nicely. I also recommend you read the last story first, otherwise you might be disappointed with the finale.

Posted by: jacstar | December 20, 2008

Love Starts With Elle by Rachel Hauck

love-elle1This is a novel about love and faith.

Elle Garvey is an art gallery owner and artist. She falls in love with Jeremiah Franklin, who is an ex-football pro turned Pastor. His career takes him to a new state, so he asks Elle to join him. She leaves her world behind in a huge leap of faith, but soon discovers that sometimes love cannot conquer all… or maybe it’s not the love she wanted. She finds herself back in her home town but starting from scratch. She has no business, no job, and no place to live.

Heath McCord is a single dad, recently widowed, living in New York with his daughter. Everything reminds him of his late wife so he needs an escape. Just to collect his bearings and get to know his little girl, he moves them both to a small cottage for six months.

The story goes back and forth between Elle and Heath as they restart their lives. Elle paints and Heath writes but even that isn’t easy. Life isn’t easy, but with faith, heart, and patience it can be exactly what you want. The story that Heath is writing is also told throughout the novel as well. Funny, that turns out to be a love story also.

At first, I felt that I couldn’t relate to any of the characters. It’s a world that I don’t really come from. This is a small town in South Carolina, it’s hot, sunny, friendly and cottage-like. Everyone knows everyone because they’ve all lived there for their whole lives. I, on the other hand, come from a big, cold city, I move every year, and right now I couldn’t even tell you what my neighbour’s name is – or what they look like for that matter.
But “Love Starts With Elle” is just so easy to get into, and after a while I felt as though I could relate to each and every one of them for different reasons.
They are determined and passionate and even though they don’t fully understand, they know in their hearts that everything happens for a reason.

It’s a religious story about trusting God’s plan. This story made me want to move to a small town, start my life over, and head to church to learn a few things. Rachel Hauck has a way of describing things that makes you feel whole. She breaks you down and builds you up. I felt all of Elle’s heartache and that made it all worth while when she finds her strength. I wanted to give Elle a high five and a huge hug by the end of the story.

This is definitely worth the read, especially if you feel lost or down on your luck.

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