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Bitten

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After simply loving the fantastic timing and characters in Kelley Armstrong's The Awakening and The Summoning, I thought I'd check out her backlist to see if her adult novels were just as good. I knew in picking up Bitten that I'd be getting a werewolf novel (perfect timing for Halloween) but didn't know much else. What I stumbled into was a complex and very character driven story about a strong female werewolf, trying to build a life for herself outside of the Pack. Since werewolves are only born male, Elena was bitten (against her will) and has never really gotten past that little detail. Even though her Pack has helped her try to accept this new part of her life, she's determined to break all ties with them in favor of trying to make it on her own in the city. She does pretty good for a while, even moving in with her boyfriend Phillip - a kind and patient man who has absolutely no idea what she really is. That is until the Alpha Jeremy calls asking for help and her return does she start to panic. Even though she's been gone more than a year, Elena still hasn't really sorted out her feelings about being a werewolf or her fellow wolves. She really doesn't know what to do about Clay, Jeremy's foster son, the man who stole her heart but who ends up breaking it since he tends to act more like a wolf than a man. Unwillingly, Elena returns to help the Pack only to discover they are on the brink of an all-out war with loner-wolves who will stop at nothing to get what they want.Elena's story moves at a fast clip with plenty of action and some truly memorable characters to lead the way. Unfortunately, as I got more settled into Bitten, I continued to have issues with a few aspects Elena's story. The characterizations are all there and there were even some really good Pack dynamics happening - I just couldn't get over my irritation with Elena. That's not to say I didn't like her at all, I actually did - she's had some pretty rough things happen in her life and has come out a strong, determined woman - very admirable, but I couldn't stand the way she treated Clay and Phillip. I mean, I know Elena had moved away, trying to make a clean break from her life with the Pack and had set up shop with Phillip; but when things change does she break it off with Phillip or even ask for some time apart? No, the girl doesn't know what she wants (somewhat understandable) and so continues to keep both men stringing along. Very bad form. I understand that there was a lot going on to distract her from making up her mind, but she was so dang slow about it just ended up hurting my head. Probably part of the reason is because I became super attached to Clay. Southern drawl and all, the man is a total package so just maybe, I might have ended becoming a little defensive where he was concerned. That said, Bitten spun an intriguing story full of what I like best: believable characters - I just wish some had acted a little differently.
Atonement

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This book was really great. McEwan is such a talented writer; by switching the vantage point throughout the novel I gained an amazingly complete picture of all the emotions and the complex relationship dimensions involved. Wow. I am constantly amazed by this guy. I can't wait to read more of his stuff!
The Boyfriend List: 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver

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Fairly good teen book. Ruby is a good narrator and I did find myself laughing out loud at certain parts. Ruby's 'angst' is fairly realistic in the teenage-girl-all-I-think-about-is-boys-and-friends scenario. Light, funny read.
Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)

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It was great to re-read this great classic. I think one of the reasons I enjoy the book so much is because it is so true to life, in all it's ugliness and beauty. The author doesn't try to gloss over the fact that Charlotte sucks the blood from flies or that animals are killed for human consumption.
Dragonskin Slippers

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I found myself enjoying this book even when I thought that I wasn't going to. It is about a girl who leaves her village and through a series of events winds up making friends with several dragons on her way to the city to make a life for herself. I found it a little predictable, but all in all, it was a fun, light read.
Obernewtyn: Obernewtyn Chronicles: Book One

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Way back in August, The Book Smugglers held their fantastic YA Appreciation month in which I furiously scribbled down book after book that I wanted to get to know better. Then they began spotlighting dystopian and post-apocalypse books over and over again and I began to feel a little faint. Literally. If you don't already know of my severe weakness for anything dystopian - I'll say it now loud and clear. I'm an unashamed addict and after reading Ana and Thea's glowing recommendations for the Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody, I was sold. Bought and paid for. I then and there began plotting on how to get a hold of the series before my curiosity did me in. And let's just say, my efforts paid off in full.Following the devastating nuclear fallout known as the Great White, wherein humans basically tried to destroy each other, only small pockets of civilizations remained on the barren and poisoned earth. Each civilization had to find a way of controlling their panicked citizens which eventually lead to the establishment of the Council of farmers, a group who by their strict governing have most people too scared to even think about stepping out of line. Since you have all that nuclear radiation floating around, human mutations have started to pop up everywhere and are not exactly popular with the Council. Any person suspected of having a mutation (real or imagined) is either put to death, or if caught in their youth, sent to a civilization shrouded in secrecy called Obernewtyn - established specifically for misfits. Elspeth Gordie just happens to be more scared of the Council than most - her mutation is one she's never even heard of and the thought of being discovered is enough to make her steer clear of potential friendships or informers. Not only does Elspeth have the 'common' problem of her dreams turning into actuality, but she can talk with animals; animals who mistrust humans in general but who also possess memories of the time before the Great White. She's also got some other serious undisclosed 'talents' that would definitely label her as Public Enemy No.1, so I see nothing wrong with being a little closed off. Unfortunately, Elspeth does find herself competely out of sorts after a not-so-chance encounter with Obernewtyn's misfit-finder resulting in her too-quick removal to that infamous settlement.Now, Ms. Carmody could have stopped Elspeth's story right there and it would have been just dandy. But oh nos - shes keeps going: firmly placing the restrained and self-contained Elspeth into a world where every person is shrouded in secrecy and around each corner is another creepy misfit that had the hairs on the back of my neck permanently standing on end. Maybe just a little out of her comfort zone, but Elspeth rises to the challenge and many cloak-and-dagger moments ensue. Add in a potential love interest and I was hooked for good. There is so much going on in the background as well - Elspeth's mental link with the moody cat Maurman (when are cats not fickle and moody?), the distrust of all technology and books - not even to mention the ever-increasing underground movement to overthrow the Council's control. All combined, it makes for some pretty compelling reading and I seriously cannot wait to return to Elspeth's world in book two, Farseekers.
The Kommandant's Girl

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I liked this book. It really captivates your interest from the start with believable characters and a mostly realistic plot. Fairly sad, but nicely written.
Wolfskin

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This book was such a discovery for me. I loved the characters and Marillier's take on the Viking culture and folk tales. It is a story of love, hate, revenge and courage to stand up for those weaker than yourself. I really enjoyed this story and can't wait to read Foxmask.
The Elves of Cintra: Genesis of Shannara

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Terry Brooks is back in action with this second book in the Genesis of Shannara series. I really didn't think much of the first book, but this one is vintage Brooks. The characters become so much more compelling and the story itself moves quicker and really pulled me into the action. Can't wait for the conclusion!
The Woman in White

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I'm not a huge mystery reader, but when I do sit down to a who-dunnit, I like my time period to be Victorian, my heroes to be relentless, and my villains to be seemingly unstoppable (care for a Lady Julia Grey mystery anyone?). When hearing that Wilkie Collins' most popular novel The Woman in White basically pioneered this genre, I knew it was one to go to the top of my TBR list and after reading it, I can only kick myself for not coming across it's brilliance previously."This is the story of what a Woman's patience can endure, and of what a Man's resolution can achieve."Thus begins the narrative of Walter Hartright.As Walter is walking home late one evening he comes across a mysterious woman, dressed head to foot in white garments, in desperate need of aid. Walter helps her willingly (ever the gentleman) even though he is plagued by strange impressions of the woman as he continues on his way as he is expected to leave the next day to for his new job as drawing master for two young ladies in the country, Miss Laura Fairlie and her half-sister Miss Marian Halcombe. Even though Laura and Marian are as close as two sisters could possibly be, they are distinctly different: Marian is dark and unattractive and very, very smart while Laura is blond, delicate and extremely beautiful. So guess which sister Walter falls in love with? Of course, he is smitten from the first with Laura but behaves like a gentleman at all times (naturally). Once Marian learns that Laura returns his affection, she feels bound to reveal that Laura has already been promised to another man, Sir Percival Gylde, upon which, Walter leaves heartbroken for an extended journey in Central America.Enter Sir Percival: he's the man Laura's dead father wished her to marry and has been nothing but proper but is now hoping to finally set a date to their marriage. Even though Laura is still heartbroken over Walter's departure, she agrees and the couple is soon married and leaves on their honeymoon to Italy before Marian knows what to think. But when the couple returns, Marian finds Sir Percival to be very different from the man he previously appeared to be - brutish and almost cruel to Laura. Sir Percival has also returned with his good friend Count Fosco and his devoted wife, who happens to be Laura's estranged aunt. It quickly becomes obvious that Sir Percival is experiencing extreme financial difficulties and that the oddly charming yet disturbing Count Fosco has some sort of manipulative sway over the man. Together, they have planned one of the most audacious, most brilliant crimes involving Laura, Marian and even the illusive woman in white encountered by Walter so many months before. Laura and Marian quickly discover that Sir Percival and Fosco will stop at nothing to get what they want and that they have no one to trust but each other and the resourceful Walter Hartright - who is determined to see justice done.Published in 1860, The Woman in White is said to be one of the first mystery novels ever written in the Gothic style - it's success primarily due to having a likable amateur detective as hero, Walter Hartright, matched with a highly unorthodox villain, Count Fosco. Lies, surprising secrets revealed, amnesia, intrigue, and manipulation all combine to make this an engrossing read. Written in a modified epistolary form from the perspective of multiple characters, I wasn't sure I would enjoy a novel written by several different narrators but each separate account combined to create a chilling story where the puzzle pieces slowly fall into perfect place. Each voice was distinct and unique - from Marian's forthright and intelligent account to Mr. Fairlie's openly condescending (yet often hilarious) impressions as the family invalid.I've alluded to this already, but the best part about this novel has to be the characters - and I'm not just talking about Walter and Laura (boo! no one likes a pretty doormat!). On no, there is a full and distinct complement of secondary characters who give background, realism and strength to the story. Let's go over a few of my favorites, shall we?1. Two words: COUNT FOSCO. Count Fosco is everything you could ever want in a villain - the man is creepy, totally smart, can be utterly charming when he needs to be. Perhaps the greatest point in his favor is that he saw past Marian's ugliness and fell in love with her for her MIND unlike everyone else who trailed after the spineless Laura. Add in that the man has confidence in spades, and you've got yourself a winner.2. Marian Halcombe is the ugly, poor half-sister to the lovely Laura but without her, Laura would have never achieved any sort of future or happiness. With limited resources she gets the job done, understands the meaning of subtly and has the memory of an elephant.3. Lastly, in the time-honored tradition of Victorian literature Wilkie Collins presents us with a masterpiece of an invalid in Mr. Frederick Fairlie. Acting as Laura's guardian, he's selfish, despotic and has some of the best lines in the entire novel - usually when he wants people to leave him alone and so begins to wax poetic about some random subject or other. For example, here he is trying to understand why a woman would cry when she is upset:"I distinctly object to tears. Tears are scientifically described as a Secretion. I can understand that a secretion may be healthy or unhealthy, but I cannot see the interest of a secretion from a sentimental point of view."The Woman in White may be full of Victorian language and legal descriptions but it quietly builds into a world class thriller, which left me clutching the book, dying to find out what would happen next. Each storyline is carefully planned out with each individual thread crossing and connecting in multiple directions - it's obvious Wilkie Collins was a master craftsman in his genre.Such storytelling, with some unforgettable characters, I was totally hooked.
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