I am a mom, wife, and art history professor from the southern U.S. I live with my husband, daughter, dog, two cats, and a tankful of fish; I like to think of my home as a zoo.
When I am not working or just hanging out with my family, I read, read, and read some more. I am a late night reader and frequently stay up waaaaay too late reading. I don't believe in savoring a good book but devouring it.
About my library: I will read almost anything (except poetry) but have several genres that I tend to prefer. I gravitate toward paranormals (vampires first), young adult, and historical fiction with art/art history and royalty being among my favorites. I also like continuing series - some characters are just too hard to give up.
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Smashwords book reviews by arthistorychick
- A Job From Hell (Ancient Legends Book 1)
on Aug. 29, 2011
What could be better than a summer in Scotland house-keeping in an old yet incredibly beautiful mansion that is owned by a boss you rarely ever see? Although cooking and cleaning are not really strengths (or even skills) she possesses, seventeen-year-old Amber sees the job as the perfect escape from her off-again relationship with her boyfriend and a way to build her college fund. Surely she can fake her way through a little cooking and cleaning, right?
Within a few days of her arrival, Amber gets a call from her brother Dallas who convinces Amber to accompany him on a smash and grab mission in the woods near the mansion. This is one of the few instances in A Job From Hell that I couldn’t really buy into for two reasons: 1) I couldn’t accept that being siblings was reason enough for the otherwise smart and responsible Amber to go along with theft and; 2) Scott goes to great lengths to establish the remote location of the mansion so how likely is it, really for Dallas to have found out about the jewels and their location in such a remote place? I got over myself and kept reading
The ill-fated trip into the woods establishes Amber as the winner of a paranormal contest that was meant to be won, this time around, by none other than her boss, the totally lickable vampire, Aidan. For Amber, being a mortal and the winner of a paranormal contest is a dangerous combination. What Amber begins to discover is that winning the contest imbued her with certain powers that are held in high regard by most of the paranormal world. In other words, the pretty little mortal now has a huge target on her back – it so sucks to be her! As Aidan begins to unravel Amber’s role in the contest he also discovers an undeniable attraction to his housekeeper that he just can’t shake. Aidan’s attraction to Amber causes him to take more and more risks in order to ensure her safety and protect her life.
One of the things I like most about this book is Amber’s attitude and toughness. Rather than freaking out over the fact that her boss is a vampire and most of his friends are either vampire or some other breed of weird, she takes it all in and rolls with it. Additionally, as Amber comes to know Aidan and his reasons for so desperately wanting to retrieve the jewels himself, she sees no alternative but to suck it up and help him if she has any hope of returning to her “normal” life. Amber is resilient, snarky, and vulnerable all at once while Aidan is protective, stubborn, and vulnerable all at once. Aidan and Amber’s journey is fraught with drama, dilemmas, near-death (which is kind of huge for immortals) experiences, and ultimate victory. What the reader doesn’t see coming is the ultimate victory and what that victory actually is. Thank you, Jayde Scott for this particular ending - I find it tiring and completely unsatisfying knowing how a book is going to end before it actually ends.
Bottom line: this book was very good and perfectly directed at a young adult audience. For me, this book has it all: strong lead and secondary characters; a plot that is both strong and interesting; an appropriate level of fighting and action; and just a little bit of romance. In all, I found A Job From Hell quite entertaining and would certainly recommend it to those who enjoy a little paranormal in their lives.
on Aug. 29, 2011
Being a teenager sucks but it sucks twice as hard when your mom is bat-crap crazy and has to be locked in the attic for everyone’s safety! So begins Phaedra’s story in Marcia Colette’s young adult novel Bittersweet. Any book which starts out with this kind of description is going to grab my attention.
The first half of Bittersweet outlines the life young Phaedra is forced to live as a result of her mother’s unique abilities. In a nutshell: Phaedra attends high school (BLECK); cares for her spunky younger sister Nadia; ventures into the attic on a regular basis to care for mom; and tries to keep her emotions in check so that her own abilities don’t bring death, despair, and destruction to those around her. Add to all of this: the regular trips to the ER to repair the bodily harm caused by mom; the constant fear that Child Services will show up; and the sudden and unexpected return of the prodigal brother, Kurt. And you thought your teenage years sucked - WIMP! Phaedra must deal constantly with her worry over her mother’s condition, the knowledge that the condition is genetic and already manifesting in Phaedra, as well as her anger at her brother Kurt for abandoning the family and then returning as if nothing happened. The first half of the book is good and there is plenty of low-level action but I found myself always feeling as if something big was coming and it never did. As a reader, I found this very frustrating.
The second half of Bittersweet was much more intense and fast-paced as Colette finally begins to unravel what she was leading up too in the first half of the book – something big, finally happens. And there are hags - HAGS! I must say, the use of hags is something that doesn’t appear in paranormal novels very often and I was quite glad to read something new. Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some vampires and werewolves but a girl cannot live on vampire and werewolf porn alone. Colette completely devotes the last half of the book to the solving of problems: Kurt has brought a not-so-ideal “cure” back with him that can help the entire family; Phaedra is admitted to the Hub – a school which specializes in the training and teaching of people like her; and the hags, who have caused a great deal of trouble for the family are dealt with handily. It is in this half of the book that we see Phaedra get over herself and start truly fighting for her future. Phaedra unleashes her abilities in order to save her family. Phaedra becomes more than an angsty teenager: she becomes a strong lead character that will play well in future novels.
Bittersweet is a typical first-in-a-series novel. That is, the author has a lot of ground to cover in terms of establishing characters, creating an interesting plot, and setting the reader up for the future of the series. This is a tall order and one that Colette fills reasonably well. While I was frustrated by the first half of the book I found the second half to be quite satisfying. By novel’s end there is a sense of resolution but also the knowledge that the series is going to continue. Bottom line: this series has potential but only if Colette allows her characters and plot to evolve. As long as there is evolution I will continue to read this series as it becomes available but I don’t see it as a series topping my must-read list.
- Sleeping Kings (Dark Force – Book One)
on Aug. 29, 2011
John Prentice’s Sleeping Kings is a young adult novel that revolves around the lives of Nicola, her geologist father, and super-nerdy neighbor, Daan. After her mother and father divorce, Nicola’s father moves the two of them to a small town in France where Nicola is forced to give up her one true love, on-line gaming. While Nicola is sure life as she knows it is over, she is about to find out that her life has only truly just begun.
Prentice moves quickly into the plot where, on a field trip with their class, Nicola and Daan unceremoniously fall into an old and uncharted cave. As if this doesn’t suck enough, the two find themselves face-to-face with Pedro, a living, breathing man who can apparently turn any substance into another and died in the year 1213. Okie dokie, Nicola and Daan surely bumped their heads a little too hard on the way down, right? Not so much – neither were hurt in the fall and both become immediately embroiled in a conspiracy that stretches all the way back to the 13th century.
Prentice offers the reader an easy read that is moderately-paced and steeped in French Cathar history. This history is one of the novel’s greatest strengths and it is used to help further the major plot line: the Cathar discovery of the secrets of alchemy. Nicola and Daan are essentially forced into helping Pedro and his comrades put down a modern-day plot to recover the Cathar secret, known as the Power and destroy the world. What is interesting about the kids’ involvement is exactly how connected they really are to both Pedro and the Cathar legacy.
I liked the characters in this book and in particular I liked Pedro and Daan. Pedro is an honorable man who has literally sacrificed centuries to protect what the Cathars discovered. Additionally, Pedro helps Nicola understand her role in the plot and protects her when necessary. Daan, on the other hand is a contemporary character whose knowledge of history and spouting of historical facts is rather delightful. Rather than dryly reporting the historical information that is necessary for the reader to understand the plot, Prentice uses Pedro and Daan to convey the information through dialogue; a clever and much more entertaining way to tell me what I need to know.
The only parts of the book that I found off-putting are the chapters that take place in a place called “Somewhere Else”. I believe these chapters are meant to lay the groundwork for the continuation of the series but frankly, they added absolutely nothing to this first-in-the-series book. For me, these chapters were annoying interruptions of an otherwise very good read.
The bottom line: even with the bothersome Somewhere Else chapters, Sleeping Kings is still a very good start to the Dark Force series. There is plenty of action, good and very interesting historical information, and characters who work nicely within the plot. This is a novel that will certainly appeal to both young adults and adults.
If you enjoy book one, you will pleased to know there is already a book two, The Devil’s Gate which is set to release July 29, 2011.