Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Posse of Princesses by Sherwood Smith

A Posse of Princesses

A Posse of Princesses
by Sherwood Smith

Trade Paperback: 299 pages
Publisher: Norilana Books
First Released: 2008

Author Website

Source: Bought from Books-A-Million

Back Cover Blurb:
Rhis, princess of a small kingdom, is invited along with all the other princesses in her part of the world to the coming of age party of the Crown Prince of Vesarja, which is the central and most important kingdom. When Iardith, the prettiest and most perfect of all the princesses, is abducted, Rhis and her friends go to the rescue.

What happens to Rhis and her posse has unexpected results not only for the princesses, but for the princes who chase after them. Everyone learns a lot about friendship and hate, politics and laughter, romantic ballads and sleeping in the dirt with nothing but a sword for company. But most of all they learn about the many meanings of love.

This is a young adult fantasy "battle of court manners" novel. If you liked Sherwood Smith's Crown Duel book, then you'll likely enjoy this book. I certainly did.

The world-building and pacing were very good. The characters were engaging and realistically varied. The characters learned a lot of good lessons about making friends, why bullies can be mean, and so on, but the lessons don't come across as lectures. There was romance in the book, but no sex. Overall, it was a "good, clean fun" novel.

Excerpt: Chapter One
From the tower lookout in the royal castle--highest tower in all the kingdom of Nym--Princess Rhis peered down through the misting rain at a messenger on the road.

This rider slumped in the saddle of a long-legged lowlands race-horse that was now plodding up the steep road, occasionally hidden by tall stands of deep green fir. The messenger had to be from the lowlands. Anyone raised in Nym's mountains knew that the only animal for the steep roads was a pony. Their sturdy bodies and short legs fared better on steep slopes. The rider's cloak was crimson, a bright splash of color even in the gloom of a rainy afternoon. None of Nym's royal messengers wore crimson cloaks. This one must be an equerry from the Queen of faraway Vesarja, she thought, and turned away from the window to resume pacing around the little room.

Once, many years ago, the old tower had been a lookout for Nym's warriors, no longer necessary since the kingdom had established magical protection. Now the small, stone tower room had become Rhis's private retreat.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You
by Ally Carter

Trade Paperback: 284 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
First Released: 2007

Author Website

Source: Bought from

Back Cover Blurb:
Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school--typical, that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and if all students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy claims to be a school for geniuses, but it’s really a school for spies.

Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she’s an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real “pavement artist”--but can she have a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her?

Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she’s on her most dangerous mission--falling in love.

This book is a YA romance, spy-style. Pretty much everything about this book--the spy gadgets, spy stories, numerous hidden passageways, and so on--are all wildly implausible, but the story is nonetheless extremely funny (if you enjoy this type of humor). The overall tone of the book is very light and funny, but it ends on a serious note. The pacing was excellent, the world-building was good, and the characters were engaging.

However, I had a problem with the ending. Cammie has to decide what she wants in her future. In the last chapter, she's made that decision and is satisfied with it--and so was I. Then the author plays a trick on both Cammie and the reader, making us think she can have both instead of either/or, only to cruelly rip that hope away the moment she's embraced the idea. She's left with her original decision, but it no longer feels satisfying to me (or, apparently, to Cammie from the way she reacts). This wasn't major enough to make me not recommend the book, but I had to wonder why the author decided to turn a satisfying ending into a weaker one.

There is romance and kissing, but no sex or cussing. Overall, I'd recommend this as a "good, clean fun" novel.

Excerpt: Chapter One
I suppose a lot of teenage girls feel invisible sometimes, like they just disappear. Well, that's me--Cammie the Chameleon. But I'm luckier than most because, at my school, that's considered cool.

I go to a school for spies.

Of course, technically, the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women is a school for geniuses--not spies--and we're free to pursue any career that befits our exceptional educations. But when a school tells you that, and then teaches you things like advanced encryption and fourteen different languages, it's kind of like big tobacco telling kids not to smoke; so all of us Gallagher Girls know lip service when we hear it. Even my mom rolls her eyes but doesn't correct me when I call it spy school, and she's the headmistress. Of course, she's also a retired CIA operative, and it was her idea for me to write this, my first Covert Operations Report, to summarize what happened last semester.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Stand-In Groom by Kaye Dacus

Stand-In Groom

Stand-In Groom
by Kaye Dacus

Trade Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing
First Released: 2008

Author Website

Source: Netgalley, online ARC from publisher

Back Cover Blurb:
When wedding planner Anne Hawthorne meets George Laurence, she thinks she's found the man of her dreams. But when he turns out to be a client, her "dream" quickly turns into a nightmare. Will Anne risk her heart and her career on this engaging Englishman?

George came to Louisiana to plan his employer's wedding and pose as the groom. But how can he feign affection for a supposed fiance when he's so achingly attracted to the wedding planner? And what will happen when Anne discovers his role has been Stand-In Groom only? Will she ever trust George again? Can God help these two believers find a happy ending?

This Christian romance is a well-written, thoroughly enjoyable read. The pacing was excellent and kept me wanting to know what came next. I liked how the two main characters truly strove to live out their high ideals in less than ideal circumstances. While neither main character was perfect, they were very clearly perfect for each other.

The first part of the book was the typical "they'd get together if they just talked out their misunderstandings," but the reason they couldn't clear up the misunderstanding was a very good one. The second part of the book was devoted to after the misunderstanding was cleared up. The two of them get to know and start to trust each other while learning to forgive those who hurt them in past relationships. Overall, the story was very satisfying.

Both main characters are Christians and their faith plays a lot more vital role in their lives than is typical in many Christian romance books. This is a book that should please Christian romance devotes, but probably wouldn't interest many non-Christians.

Excerpt: Chapter One
Nothing like running late to make a wonderful first impression.

Anne Hawthorne left a voice-mail message for her blind date, explaining her tardiness, then crossed her office to the gilt-framed mirror that reflected the view of Town Square through the front windows. At a buzzing jolt against her wait, she flinched, smearing her lipstick.


The vibrating cellular phone chimed out the wedding march. A client. She reached for a tissue to repair her mouth while flipping the phone open with her left hand. "Happy Endings, Inc. This is Anne Hawthorne."

"I can't do it! I can't marry him!" Third call today.

Why had she agreed to be set up on a date the Thursday of a wedding week? If it were just the regular weekly dinner with her cousins, she could skip out and get some work done. "Calm down," she said to her client. "Take a deep breath. And another. Let it out slowly. Now, tell me what happened."

Fifteen minutes later, still on the phone, she pulled her dark green Chrysler Sebring convertible into a packing space in front of Palermo's Italian Grill. She sat in the car a few minutes--air conditioner running full blast--and listened to the rest of her client's story.

When the girl paused to breathe, Anne leaped at her chance. "I completely understand your concern. But, sweetie, you have to remember most men aren't interested in the minute details of a weeding. Just because he doesn't care if the roses are white variegated with pink or solid pink, don't take that to mean he doesn't love you anymore. White ones do you like the best?"

"The variegated roses," the bride-to-be sniffled into the phone.

Anne turned off the engine and got out of the car. The heat and humidity typical for the firs day of June in central Louisiana wrapped her in a sweaty embrace. "Then get the flowers you like. He will be happy because you're happy. Do you want me to call the florist in the morning?" One more change the day before the wedding. Saturday couldn't come fast enough.

"Do you mind?"

"That's what I'm here for." She opened her planner and made a note at the top of the two-page spread for tomorrow. "Feeling better?"

"Yeah. Thanks, Miss Anne. I've got to call Jared and apologize."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book Review sites

For those interested, here is a list of other sites that review science-fiction and fantasy novels:

A Dribble Of Ink
Adventures in Reading
The Agony Column
The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
Barbara Martin
Bibliophile Stalker
Blood of the Muse
The Book Swede
Breeni Books
Cheryl's Musings
Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews
Darque Reviews
Dave Brendon's Fantasy and Sci-Fi Weblog
Dragons, Heroes and Wizards
Dusk Before the Dawn
Enter the Octopus
Fantasy Book Critic
Fantasy Cafe
Fantasy Debut
Fantasy Book Reviews and News
Fantasy and Sci-fi Lovin' Blog
The Fix
The Foghorn Review
The Galaxy Express
Genre Reviews
Graeme's Fantasy Book Review
Grasping for the Wind
Highlander's Book Reviews
Jumpdrives and Cantrips
Literary Escapism
Michele Lee's Book Love
Monster Librarian
Mostly Harmless Books
My Favourite Books
Neth Space
OF Blog of the Fallen
The Old Bat's Belfry
Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
Post-Weird Thoughts
Reading the Leaves
Realms of Speculative Fiction
Rob's Blog o' Stuff
Sci-Fi Songs [Musical Reviews]
Severian's Fantastic Worlds
SF Signal
SF Site
SFF World's Book Reviews
Silver Reviews
Speculative Fiction Junkie
Speculative Horizons
Sporadic Book Reviews
Temple Library Reviews
The Road Not Taken
Urban Fantasy Land
Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic
Variety SF
Walker of Worlds
Wands and Worlds
The Wertzone
WJ Fantasy Reviews
The World in a Satin Bag

Foreign Language (other than English)

Cititor SF [Romanian, but with English Translation] [French]

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I is for Innocent by Sue Grafton

I is for Innocent

I is for Innocent
by Sue Grafton

Mass Market Paperback: 329 pages
Publisher: Fawcett Crest
First Released: 1992

Source: Bought from library book sale

Back Cover Blurb:
Since she was fired by California Fidelity Insurance, Kinsey Millhone has lost her usual swagger. And her new case is no confidence builder. Attorney Lonnie Kingman is going to court on a civil suit in three weeks when his P.I. drops dead of a heart attack. With the statue of limitations running out, Kinsey has to tie up the loose ends of a murder investigation. The victim, an affluent artist named Isabelle Barney, had been shot with a .38; her husband, David Barney, was tried and acquitted of the murder. Now her ex-husband is suing Barney for Isabelle's estate, claiming the jury made a big mistake.

Thins get complicated when Barney gets to Kinsey, insisting he's innocent. Everything he says checks out. But if David Barney is innocent, who's guilty? In trying to learn who's been getting away with murder, Kinsey may be courting her own...

This is a "hard-boiled PI" detective mystery. The focus is mainly on solving the mystery, and the answer to the mystery was clever.

Kinsey is the point-of-view character. She has a temper that sometimes gets her into trouble, a penchant for not playing by the rules, and a sometimes crude vocabulary. In this novel, she does pretty much stick to doing things by the book, doesn't curse, and don't jump in bed with anyone, but I get the feeling she might do any of those things in the other books.

While the characters were all interesting, I didn't particularly like any of them. I didn't mind spending a lot of time in Kinsey's head, but she also wasn't the type of character that I wished was a real person I could be best buddies with. Other readers might really bond with Kinsey, though.

The pacing and the suspense were good. The world-building was very good (and it's clear the author really knows the streets in that city). Overall, I'm not sure I would call this novel 'clean,' but it was good fun.

Excerpt: Chapter One
I feel compelled to report that at the moment of death, my entire life did not pass before my eyes in a flash. There was no beckoning white light at the end of a tunnel, no warm fuzzy feeling that my long-departed loved one were waiting on The Other Side. What I experienced was a little voice piping up in an outraged tone, "Oh, come on. You're not serious. This is really it?" Mostly, I regretted I hadn't tidied my chest of drawers the night before as I'd planned. It's painful to realize that those who mourn your untimely demise will also carry with them the indelible image of all your tatty underpants. You might question the validity of the observation since it's obvious I didn't die when I thought I would, but let's face it, life is trivial, and my guess is that dying imparts very little wisdom to those in process.

My name is Kinsey Millhone. I'm a licensed private investigator operating out of Santa Teresa, which is ninety-five miles north of Los Angeles. For the past seven years, I'd been running my own small agency adjacent to the home offices of California Fidelity Insurance.