Archive for September, 2010

Maybe This Time

Maybe This Time

Jennifer Crusie
Hardcover, 352 pages
St. Martin’s Press
August 31, 2010

I won an ARC of Maybe This Time from St. Martin’s Press and I’m so glad because it’s not something that I would usually read and I loved it! 

Andie Miller is about to get married again.  But before she does there’s one thing she has to take care of first – return the ten years of alimony checks that she never cashed to her ex husband, North Archer.  But when she finds herself sitting across from him at his office at the family law firm, they’re both in for a big surprise when he makes an unusual proposal and she accepts. 

North recently became the legal guardian of two orphans who live in a monstrous, dilapidated 200 year old home brought over from England (complete with moat).  They’re all alone in the house except for the housekeeper, Mrs. Crumb, who’s been with the house for sixty years, and they refuse to come live with North in Columbus.  After going through a string of nannies, North asks Andie to take one month to care for the children, Alice and Carter.  Get their education up to speed so they can enroll in school, make sure they’re healthy physically and emotionally, and convince them to come to Columbus. 

When Andie arrives at Archer house, she soon finds out that there’s more going on here than kids with behavioral problems and fed up nannies.  Alice and Carter are terrified of leaving the house and Mrs. Crumb insists that the house is haunted.  Andie has her hands full trying to win the kids’ trust, reassuring her distraught fiancé, and dealing with feelings for North that seeing him again has stirred up.  Things really get interesting when the house is flooded with unexpected guests.  North’s brother Sullivan (who Andie calls Southie) arrives with his semi-girlfriend, TV reporter Kelly O’Keefe, who in turn brings a medium and a parapsychologist so she can investigate the haunting (though she has a hidden agenda).  North’s overbearing mother comes to stop Kelly, and Andie’s tarot-reading mother shows up because she couldn’t get her on the phone, and the pair resume their decade long feud.  To top it off, her fiancé also shows up uninvited to save their shaky relationship. 

A storm prevents Andie from kicking everyone out and chaos ensues as she tries to keep everyone in line amidst séances and tantrums.  The final visitor turns out to be North, and Andie couldn’t be more relieved to see him, thinking he’ll be able to help her restore order and finally get the kids away from the house (plus she hasn’t been able to stop thinking about him since she arrived).  But things are about to get a lot stranger, and the real danger hasn’t even begun.

Maybe This Time was such an engaging and fun book!  It’s all about second chances, learning from the past, and starting fresh –  not starting over.  Andie won me over immediately and North followed shortly after.  I was glued to the page whether for Andie and Alice’s daily Three O’Clock Bake ritual or murder and mayhem.  The cast of characters is kooky and entertaining – a fabulous mish-mash!  I didn’t want it to end but when it did I was left feeling perfectly satisfied and content.  What else can I say?  I loved it!

This was my first Jennifer Cruise book but I’ll definitely be checking out her other ones!

Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell

Stonehenge: 2000 B.c.

Bernard Cornwell
Paperback, 448 pages
HarperCollins Publishers
December 01, 2004

I just finished Bernard Cornwell’s Stonehenge and I am impressed and amazed at this piece of work that is part epic historical fiction and part fantasy.  I say fantasy because though it takes place four thousand years ago in modern day Britain, there are zero modern geographical or temporal references.  All the deities, characters, settlements, and tribes are fictional and without the book’s title or cover art I could easily have thought the story took place in some other realm.

Stonehenge is about exactly what it sounds like, though it focuses more on the people responsible for the construction of the mammoth standing stones and the reasons they had to build it (as imagined by the author).  It’s a tale of sacrifice, ritual, murder, love, and the power of belief to achieve the impossible.  The story is narrated mostly by Saban and his brother Camaban, though the cast of characters span generations and tribes across the land.  Saban and Camaban are two of the three sons of the chief of Ratharryn.  The third, Lengar, brings an end to his people’s way of life when he happens upon an Outlander carrying gold lozenges from the settlement of Sarmennyn.  The priests declare the gold a gift from the sun god Slaol and refuse to return it to its rightful owners. 

Camaban, who starts out as a crippled outcast who narrowly escapes being sacrificed to the moon goddess Lahanna, comes under the tutelage of the sorceress Sanna in Cathallo, who heals his twisted foot.  The student soon becomes the master and he uses his newfound status as a powerful sorcerer to manipulate the leaders of all three tribes to do his bidding.  He convinces Lengar, now chief of Ratharryn, to return the gold lozenges to Sarmennyn if they give him one of their temples.  Camaban has a plan to banish winter and end all human toil and suffering by reuniting Slaol and Lahanna with the temple.  He enlists Saban to build the seemingly impossible temple of standing stones and arches. 

What follows is an account of the 20 years of backbreaking labor, uneasy truces, raids, and violence that ensues while Sarmennyn’s temple is dismantled and transported back to Ratharryn.  The blood and sweat of the laborers and the careful planning and execution of Camaban and Saban as they struggled to figure out a way to erect the immense stones in their new home that would bring an end to winter was beyond measure.  Camaban’s demands become increasingly unrealistic and as the years go by he begins a slow but steady descent into madness.  He becomes obsessed with the temple and will stop at nothing to see his vision realized. 

The size and scope of what would come to be known as Stonehenge was impressive in its own right, but learning about the lives and deaths of the ones responsible for its creation was even more satisfying.  My mind wandered during the pages dedicated entirely to the finer details of the mechanics of shaping and erecting the stones (I definitely don’t need to read about levers or sleds again any time soon), but everything else was enthralling. 

I loved Saban and Camaban throughout the book.  I agonized over the uncertain outcome upon the temple’s completion, mourned the loss of loved ones, and gloated over exacted revenge right along with them. 

This book was so different from anything else I’ve read lately and it was exciting, tragic, and captivating – a fascinating account of what might have been.  We’ll never really know who built the engineering marvel that stands today on Salisbury Plain or what its purpose was but I’d like to think that Cornwell’s version comes close to the truth.

The Uncrowned King by Rowena Cory Daniells

The Uncrowned King

Rowena Cory Daniells
Paperback, 448 pages
Rebellion
July 27, 2010

* Thanks to Rowena Cory Daniells for sending me a review copy!

The Uncrowned King is the second book in the fantasy trilogy, The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin (click here for my post about the first book, The King’s Bastard).  There are so many things I want to say about the storyline but to ensure I don’t give too much away I’ll just give you the summary from the back cover:

Thirteen year old Piro watches powerless as her father’s enemies march on his castle.  A traitor whispers poison in the King’s ear, undermining his trust in her brother, Byren.

Determined to prove his loyalty, Byren races across the path of the advancing army, towards the Abbey.  Somehow, he must get there in time to convince the Abbott to send his warriors to defend the castle.

Meanwhile, the youngest of King Rolen’s sons, Fyn, has barely begun his training as an Abbey mystic, but he wakes in a cold sweat, haunted by dreams of betrayal…

After reading the first two books I am loving this trilogy.  Not only is the storytelling engaging, fun, and exciting, but the worldbuilding is spot on.  I love how I’m able to picture Rolencia and get a sense of its people and their beliefs and lifestyles.  The magical powers and abilities of those touched my Affinity continue to fascinate me as well, and one of the highlights for me was when Byren is accepted by an ulfr pack that adopts him as one of their own.  Love it!

The pacing is lightning fast as we follow Byren, Fyn, and Piro on their individual journeys to defy the king’s enemies and save their family.  Orrade isn’t in this book since he’s taken up his late father’s post as Lord Dovecote and is currently leading his people to safety, but Florin and Leif return and we’re introduced to a few new characters, my favorite being Lord Dunstany – the power worker who takes Piro as his slave after the fall of the castle. 

The helpless frustration I felt while reading The King’s Bastard stayed with me during this book (in a spine-tingling, good way).  The constant threat of betrayal, the uncertainty of who to trust, and the slurry of rumors and misinformation hiding the truth kept me on the edge of my seat with suspense and anxiety.  Piro and her brothers are all isolated, not knowing if the others are alive or dead, yet determined to push on. 

I’m so excited to see what happens next and how the power struggle will play out in the end.  I’m especially anticipating Piro’s role as a servant to King Merofyn’s daughter.  Looking forward to more intrigue and adventure in The Usurper!