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Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

In Dead and Gone, Charlaine Harris reminded me again why I loved this series to begin with – ERIC!!!  To me, it felt like the series has been taking a bit of a detour with Sookie’s involvement in the were community and the other men that have come into Sookie’s life.  In this book, more Eric!  And I loved it!

In this book, the weres have decided to follow the vampires out of the paranormal closet.  At first, it seems like the big reveal for the weres are going pretty well.  But then, Sookie finds the body of a werepanther in the Merlotte’s parking lot.  “But what she doesn’t realize is that there is a much greater danger than the killer threatening Bon Temps.  A race of unhuman beings – older, more powerful, and far more secretive than vampires or werewolves – are preparing for war.”

The part in quotes are from the book blurb.  I have to say though, this part is a bit misleading.  It was a bit of a let down about these “unhuman beings” and the war they are waging.  But, I still enjoyed the book a lot.  Mostly because of Eric!  Ok, I can’t stop gushing about Eric.  So by now, Eric has remembered what he previously has forgotten. And now he’s seriously woo-ing Sookie.

Because I love Eric so much (can you tell?), I was pretty happy with this book.  We do get some visits from Sookie’s ex-boyfriends, Quinn and Bill.  And of course, Sam is always involved.  But overall, I’m satisfied with the way Sookie/Eric is progressing and look forward to the next book.  Oh, Sookie gets more involved in the paranormal world as she looks for the murderer, blah blah Eric blah blah.

Overall: B+.

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Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James

First, much thanks to my friend Janicu who introduced me to Julie James and sent me this book!  I stayed up until 4 am reading it the very day I got it. 

Payton Kendall and J.D. Jameson started as associates at a big law firm together and are now both up for partnership.  Payton concentrates on employment discrimination law, while J.D. focuses on class action lawsuits.  Payton came from a hippie family, while J.D. is your typical privileged white male whose dad is a judge.  Payton and J.D. can't stand each other, but must come together to win a client for the firm, their last hoop to jump through before reaching the partnership brass ring.  They grudgingly begin to get to know each other, What they didn't realize is that only one will be made partner. 

I enjoyed the book overall.  But I confess, I wasn't the biggest J.D. Jameson fan.  I mean, a white male attorney, whose dad is a judge, whining about reverse discrimination?  Oh please!  While I firmly believe people should be judged on their merits, the reality is, men and women, whites and minorities, straights and gays are not on an even playing field.  We're not entirely color-blind, gender-blind, or sexual orientation-blind.  We're trying (I think), but we're certainly not there yet.  And yes, while it is possible that a white male will be passed over for a white female in a partnershp decision if the firm is trying to increase diversity, I think the reality is, female partners have to overcome a lot more obstacle along the way to get there.  So J.D. annoyed me with his, oh-it's-so-unfair-you-just-have-to-wear-a-skirt-to-make-partner-even-though-I'm-more-qualified-than-you attitude. 

But, in the spirit of reading a fun, entertaining romance novel, I moved past it and tried to get into the spirit of the oil and water with the simmering sexual tension underneath storyline.  It was a bit predictable that Payton and J.D. couldn't stand each other, but are secretly attracted, and eventually came to realize both are dedicated and incredibly talented as lawyers.  Ok, here's another minor rant – seriously, in the 8 years of practicing, neither of them has ever lost a case?!  Not reality.  I liked Payton a lot.  She's smart, driven, and professional.  I just wish J.D. suffered a bit more or groveled harder before the happily ever after, especially something we found out he did toward the end of the book. 

Overall, it was a light, enjoyable read.  I think I enjoyed Just the Sexiest Man Alive a bit more, but I'm looking forward to Julie James's next novel.  It looks like it'll depart a bit from these two books, involving a female U.S. Attorney and an FBI agent. 

Overall: B.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

I absolutely LOVED this book.  Now normally, I read what my husband likes to call "trashy romance novels."  I roll my eyes at him because he obviously does not understand that there is more to the romance genre than just the bodice-rippers.  But that's a whole other story.  Anyway, my point is, he is right in that I do read a lot of romance novels, be it romantic suspese, historical romance, paranormal romance of whatever other category of romance. I very rarely pick up books outside of my normal reading range.  But I am so glad I picked up The Time Traveler's Wife, which, while definitely solidly in the fiction category (and potentially something Oprah might put in her bookclub), is still, at the heart of it, all about romance. 

This book is the love story of Henry (the time traveler) and Clare (the titular time traveler's wife).  I am completely awed by author Audrey Niffenegger's imagination in coming up with such a lovely, unique and complex tale.  It must have been so difficult to keep track of the time travels, who knows what at what particular time, who has met whom, what events have occurred or not yet occurred, and then wrapping the whole story up neatly and perfectly.  The first time I read the book, I just wanted to get to the end so I find out everything.  But now that I'm done, I definitely feel the need to go back and re-read the story again to further appreciate the complexity of it all and how it all ties together. 

The story is basically about Henry and Clare, whose lives are so closely intertwined throughout time.  Clare first met Henry when she was 6 years old but Henry first met Clare when he was 28 years old.  While we get to know Henry and Clare's love for each other, at the same time, we get to know Henry and Clare as individuals.  Both Henry and Clare have family issues that give further clarity to who they are.  I loved reading about how their relationship developed. 

While the book is about Henry the time traveler, time travel is almost an afterthought.  We just accept that it happens.  But the focus is really on Henry and Clare, their relationship with each other, their relationship with their family and friends, and their relationship with time. 

I am recommending this book to my husband to read.  Yep, I'm making him read it!  And I would love to watch the movie as well.  This is one of the most unique and interesting books I've come across in a long time.  I give it a solid A!

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To Seduce a Sinner by Elizabeth Hoyt

This is my very first Elizabeth Hoyt book and I absolutely LOVED it. I loved the characters, the plot, and the writing. In fact, there were moments where I thought to myself, I want to quote this for my review. And so I shall.

To Seduce is actually Book 2 of the The Legend of the Four Soldiers Series, revolvoing around the survivors of the 28th Regiment. During the war in America, there was a traitor who betrayed the 28th Regiment into massacre by the Indians at Spinner's Fall. For those who survived the capture and subsequent torture by the Indians, they are still haunted by those events.

The second book revolves around Jasper Renshaw, Lord Vale. We meet Vale on his wedding day when he has been dumped by his fiancee, who threw him over for a country curate. Seizing her chance, Melisande Fleming did something bold – she asked him to marry her. Vale agrees. Vale comes to find that while Melisande is the epitome of proper ladyship during the day, there are hidden passions that she allows him to see only at night. Melisande comes to find that while Vale seems the lighthearted aristocrat, he hides a deep pain from his traumatic war experience. Vale seeks to pierce Melisande's veil during the day; while Melisande braves the night to find the true Vale.

"Somehow she found it easier to be relaxed at night. The shadows made her brave. Perhaps she really was the mistress of the night, as he called her. And if so, did that make him master of the day?

She watched him, struck by the thought. He sought her out mainly during the daylight hours. Stalked her in the sunlight. He might like to go to balls and gaming hells at night, but it is during the day that he sought to discover her secrets."

The entire book was perfect from beginning to end. I was discovering Jasper and Melisande as they got to know each other. It slowly became clear that Jasper and Melisande's past experiences made them who they are today and a perfect fit for each other. Melisande possesses the strength and maturity to handle Jasper. Jasper is the one man who sees the person Melisande truly is. I loved that at the beginning of the book, Jasper vaguely recalls Melisande but does not remember her name. By the end, he sees her when no one else does. Melisande has always been a bit of a wallflower, but she comes alive with Jasper.

The supporting cast is also well developed. There is a secondary story with Sally, Melisande's maid and Mr. Pynch, Jasper's valet. There is Sir Mouse, Melisande's faithful dog. Then there is the hunt for the traitor. While I knew that the traitor would not be revealed in Book 2, the hunt had my attention and I can't wait to read the rest of the books. Finally, there is a nice setup for Book 3 that felt natural and not forced.

This has been an excellent introduction to Elizabeth Hoyt. I can't wait to read the rest of the Legend of the Four Soldiers stories, starting with To Beguile a Beast, which I won from @mbookworm.

Overall: A!

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Harry Potter Reading Challenge!

Yep, I'm joining another challenge. Good thing all these challenges give lots of time for me to complete them. I've been meaning to re-read all the Harry Potter books anyway. So this is perfect.

So I am joining Galley Smith's Harry Potter Reading Challenge. Woot!

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Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

At last, my first review as part of BethFishReads' Sookie Stackhouse Challenge.  This is actually a hard review for me to write.  I just finished watching Season 1 of True Blood.  So as I was re-reading this book, I kept comparing it to the series – what the series included, didn't include, how it was different …  In fact, when I started the book, my mental voice has a distinct Southern accent.  It was quite distracting!  Another problem is I know what is going to happen (with Bill, Eric, Bubba …) so my reading was shaded by what I know the future is going to hold for these characters.  But still, I enjoyed Book 1 and getting to know Sookie's world and all the characters in it. 

Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress at Merlotte's bar in tiny Bon Temps, Louisiana.  She has a "disability" – she can read people's minds. Due to this disability, Sookie is uber-happy to meet vampire Bill, because she can't read the minds of vampires.   Vampires came out of the coffin recently, thanks to the Japanese's invention of synthetic blood.  Some vampires, like Bill, are trying to live amongst the humans.  Other are not fully on board.  Humans are also trying to deal with the now-legal vampires.  Some humans, like Sookie, are more accepting of vampires.  Others, not so much.  In fact, someone seems to be killing off women who have relationships with vampires.  Sookie has to evade a killer at the same time she tries to navigate her way through a newly discovered supernatural world.

This book is a great introduction into Sookie-verse.  What I love most about Sookie is that she's just a girl who happens to read minds.  She's practical and sensible, but she also has a temper, gets her feelings hurt, and tries her best to deal with work, family, love and romance. 

It's hard to review the book without mentioning the True Blood series, which follows the book pretty faithfully.  I do have a few comments though.  First, I never pictured Anna Paquin as Sookie, but she does a good job.  I think the Sookie character is pretty faithful to the book.  However, in the books, her brother, Jason, is more selfish and less of a loveable idiot.  I think Bill and Sam are well portrayed.  While there are some deviations from the book, it's mostly very well done.  Except for the Tara storyline … not so sure about that part. 

Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the books before watching the series (I know it's only in Season 2). 

As for the book: B+.

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Sookie Stackhouse Challenge

Here is my progress tracker post for the Sookie Stackhouse Challenge:

  1. Dead Until Dark – TBRR
  2. Living Dead in Dallas – TBRR
  3. Club Dead – TBRR
  4. Dead to the World – TBRR
  5. Dead as a Doornail – TBRR
  6. Definitely Dead – TBRR
  7. All Together Dead – TBR
  8. From Dead to Worse – TBRR
  9. Dead and Gone

I am also entering GalleySmith's True Blood give away.  Will I win my second prize ever?  We shall see!  I can't wait to get to reading as soon as I receive the books!

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Update 0: [July 6, 2009] Yes, they are all TBR for now, but hopefully not for too long.

Update 1: [July 6, 2009] Found 2 previous reviews of the Sookie Stackhouse books (Definitely Dead and From Dead to Worse), which I linked above as well.  But I will probably do another mini-review after I re-read them.  And from my powers of deduction after reading my reviews, I think the book I missed is All Together Dead.  Maybe?  Gah, can't remember.  This is why I need to re-read them all!  And I don't think I've read Dead and Gone yet.  So I've changed some of the above to TBRR (To Be Re-Read).  *pats self for such a clever acronym*  haha.  

Update 2: [July 10, 2009] Received the Sookie Stackhouse books from Melsbookshelf.  Time to get to readin'!
Update 3: [July 14, 2009] Finished Dead Until Dark (book 1).  Review here.
Update 4: [October 14, 2009]  Finished Dead and Gone (book 9).  Review here.  

I can’t believe it!

I actually won Mel's Bookshelf's Sookie Stackhouse contest!  I've seriously never won anything before.  Not a single dollar from a single lottery ticket or any other contest.  Hmm… maybe I should go buy a lottery ticket now? haha. 

Well, I'm super excited.  I've been a Sookie Stackhouse fan for years.  But I guess I've always borrowed the books from the library so I don't actually own any of them.  And I'm pretty sure I missed a book somewhere in the middle.  Oh, and I've been Netflix-ing True Blood, which I LOVE so far.  So I'm definitely excited about having my own set of books and re-reading all of them. 

Thanks again, Melissa!  for an awesome contest.  And, since I no longer have the excuse of now owning any of the books, I am joining Beth Fish's Sookie Stackhouse Challenge

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Everything Austen Challenge

I've decided to join the Everything Austen Challenge.  Surely I can read/watch 6 Austen-related things by years end, right?  Here are my choices, which may change …

  1. Mansfiend Park - The movie starring Frances O'Connor and Jonny Lee Miller. I've seen this move before and it's one of my favorites.
  2. Becoming Jane – This movie is already in my instant queue on Netflix.  Plus, I love Anne Hathaway.  I'm looking forward to watching it.
  3. The Jane Austen Book Club – Again, already in my queue.  But too bad it's not on instant queue, which is an awesome feature!
  4. Jane Austen Ruined My Life – Sounds like an interesting book. Plus, my friend Janicu is reading this one too.
  5. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Definitely want to check this book out.
  6. Pride and Prejudice – Need to re-read this book.

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Mr. Cavendish, I Presume by Julia Quinn

Julia Quinn is one of my favorite authors, whom I just discovered last year.  I really enjoyed her series about the Bridgerton siblings.  I've also liked some of her non-Bridgerton books.  But I'm a bit unsure about this one.  I enjoyed it, but I wouldn't say I loved it.  

Amelia has been engaged to Thomas, the Duke of Wyndham, since she was a baby.  Even though Amelia is getting to be a bit on the shelf, Thomas is still taking his time.  Thomas likes to be engaged and he does intend to marry Amelia … one day.  But just as he's starting to see Amelia as a person and finding out that he's attracted to her as a woman and a person, his long-lost cousin shows up.  His long-lost elder cousin.  If Thomas is not the Duke of Wyndham, who is he?  And is he still engaged to Amelia?

Overall, I liked Amelia and Thomas.  But I'm not sure I felt the chemistry between the two of them as much.  Plus, I knew this is one of a pair of books.  The other one, the Duke of Wyndham, is written from the cousin's point of view.  So the entire time, I was feeling like I'm missing something.  So I'm definitely going to read the other book and see if I can fill in some blanks, if there are any to be filled. 

[Slightly SPOILERISH]  I thought there would be more of a mystery about who is who, who is the real Duke of Wyndham.  But I guess the titles speak for themselves. Hah!  So in that sense, I was a little disappointed because it seemed too easy that Thomas just accepted that he's no longer the Duke and turned everything over to his cousin.  I guess I was expecting a bit more conflict, a bit more fight in him.  But he seemed to just accept that it's the right thing to do and seemed almost happy and relieved he's no longer the Duke with all of the ducal resposibilities.  I dunno, it just didn't feel authentic to me.

So, I'm going to pick up the other book and read it and see how I feel after that.  B-.

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