Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Review: THE SWIMMING POOL by Mary Roberts Rinehart

the swimming pool cover

THE POOL, THE OMINOUS POOL. In 1950s New York, Lois lives in genteel poverty with her brother in the dilapidated remnants of their parents' country mansion. Then her spoiled, wealthy, and glamorous sister, Judith, divorces her husband and decides to move in with them. All of the siblings think this a TERRIBLE idea, but naturally Lois agrees because it wouldn't be much of a book if she didn't. Soon their house is being broken into nearly every night, there's an entire battalion of lurkers in the bushes, the sketchy guy renting their cottage starts hitting on Lois, people can't step outside without being shot at, and there's a dead woman in the pool. Trouble follows Judith around like a bad cold. The only question is, when the heck is she going to move out?? (I kid, the real question is who killed the woman. Kind of.)

I really enjoyed the first part of The Swimming Pool. It's set up as a sins-of-the-fathers tale from the beginning, what with Lois and Phil living in the grand ruins of an American dream gone wrong, and the story of their father's suicide after the stock market crash in 1929 clearly having something to do with the current mystery--although exactly what isn't hashed out until the very end. I also thought Judith, while THE MOST ANNOYING CHARACTER IN THE WORLD, was interesting and fun to read about in a Norma Desmond kind of way. The tone of The Swimming Pool is also somewhat similar to Sunset Boulevard, in that it's a mixture of Gothic, tragedy, and humor; and I thought all those elements worked well together.

That being said, The Swimming Pool started to annoy me near the end. There were just too many break-ins and shootings happening without any advancement of the plot; and there were only so many times I wanted to hear Judith being questioned when it was obvious she wasn't going to say anything. If only she had been killed in the first half, it would have served the same purpose! Honestly, I expected Judith to die, since Mary Roberts Rinehart sets us up to hate her guts; but instead she gets a kind of pseudo-redemption that I found more annoying than anything else.

I don't want to slam this book completely, since I do think there were some big ideas and themes Rinehart was shooting for concerning entitlement, the nature of American success, and feminine beauty; but those themes are lost in the repetition of yet another break-in, yet another incident where Judith lies, and so on. If I took a shot every time a character mentioned the fifty thousand dollars Lois' mother received, I'd need a liver transplant. "Fifty thousand dollars!" "Fifty thousand." "Gee, fifty thousand." *FACEWALL*

Honestly, I don't think I can recommend The Swimming Pool, although I wish I could. It just goes on for way too long, and by the end I felt like I'd been chewing my own arm off to escape a trap and had lost the will to live (not to be overly dramatic or anything). You should read The Man In Lower Ten (review here) or The After House (review here), instead.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Review: A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES by Deborah Harkness

Proposed alternate title: Fifty Shades of Sweaters

a discovery of witches cover

Diana is a sexually repressed witch and historian who's doing a research sabbatical at Oxford. One day she recalls a rare alchemical manuscript from special collections at the Bodleian, and the next she's being hounded by vampires, daemons, and other witches. Why are they all so interested in a forgotten manuscript? Diana's totally clueless. The only person she trusts to help her is Matthew--a vampire, super scientist, and fine wine connoisseur who is also after the manuscript.

I'm a little torn about A Discovery of Witches. First of all, the writing style drove me crazy. It kind of reminded me of Fifty Shades of Grey (review here). Before you freak out, A Discovery of Witches is NOT similar to Fifty Shades of Grey in any way except: 1. it's obviously "inspired by" Twilight; and 2. the writing sometimes feels like the author is just vomiting up words. The book's almost 600 pages long and it isn't because the plot's complicated.

Now, you might not know this about me, but I favor a less-is-more approach to just about anything, and that includes writing. I refuse to read prologues, I hate flashbacks, and I've been known to DNF books for the sole reason that the unnecessary clothing descriptions were driving me crazy. And there are a hella lot of unnecessary clothing descriptions in this book (how many gray sweaters do these people own?), not to mention nonsensical details of the most random crap imaginable. For example, whenever Diana serves drinks, she takes care to point out that she did so "without spilling a drop." Does she often spill a drop while carrying drinks? If no, why mention it? "I walked across the room without tripping over any furniture, managed not to run into the wall, and then sat down on my ass! And then, when I drove to work, I didn't run over a single person. Hooray!"

Go superstar!

Despite the fact that the writing style made me want to bang my head against a wall, however... I really enjoyed A Discovery of Witches. For one, I have an unreasoning love of books about books. This is why Chamber of Secrets is my favorite Harry Potter novel. And A Discovery of Witches revolves around a book; plus a good portion of it takes place in one of the most kick-ass libraries there is, so I definitely enjoyed that. You really feel like you're in Oxford while you're reading it, which is fabulous.

Two, I am a total sucker for brooding vampires and knights in shining armor, and Matthew is both. Matthew basically makes this book, let's get that clear right now. Yes, he is a clone of Edward Cullen, right down to watching the heroine sleep and refusing to get on with the sexy times because he's hopelessly old-fashioned; but I happen to like Edward Cullen. It's totally easy to fall in love with Matthew, and there is a lot of believable chemistry and romantic tension between him and Diana. Actually, the book overall is very romantic, in the literary sense, right down to damsel in distress and the hero rescuing her.

Furthermore, A Discovery of Witches tells an awesome story. In my experience academic mysteries (which this isn't exactly, but I started it under that assumption) can be really boring. I wasn't bored a single moment while reading this book. It has EVERYTHING. Seriously. Not just witches, daemons, vampires, and magic, but evolution and DNA, secret messages, cabal organizations, the Knights Templar, yoga, a wicked-awesome house that is my favorite thing evar, vampire babies, goddesses, dungeons, ghosts, mothafucking time travel, and Year of the Comet wine.

Honestly, A Discovery of Witches is the most entertaining, escapist, and romantic story I've read in a LONG time, and because of that I'm willing to forgive and forget the writing style (after I finish this review, of course). I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes to have fun reading a book.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

TSS-Where Has Tasha Been?

where the lolcat?

You probably haven't noticed--or maybe you have--but not much has been going on with the blahg lately. There really is no excuse. I'm busy with work, but not any busier than I usually am this time of year. I am reading, and even writing posts; I just obsessively edit them instead of posting them. Like I said, there's no excuse. Oh well! I'll get around to posting eventually.

So aside from me neglecting my blog, what ELSE has been going on?

Rereading--After reading two great posts at Medieval Bookworm and Angieville about rereading, I recalled that I'd resolved to reread more almost a year ago. That's not going terribly well (although I did cull a lot of books from those stacks and donate them to the library). Yada yada yada, I spent an entire morning yesterday counting all the books I have already read on my shelves. 259, in case you were wondering (not including the books on my mom's shelves, haha). That means I have 1/259 books reread. Yay!

eBooks--In related thoughts, I'm beginning to question how much investment I should put into eBooks. Because when it comes down to it, if given the choice I want to read paper. Maybe I'm old. Maybe I'm hopelessly anachronistic (considering I majored in art history, this is highly likely). Aside from the fact that eReaders aren't cuddly like paper books are, it feels like books take longer to read on eReaders. Plus I enjoy the physicality of books and rifling through pages.

That being said, eReaders are really convenient. And I like the fact that I can download public domain books to read now. So I'm not going to stop using them completely, by any means, but I think I'm going to consciously cut back on those impulse eBook purchases that I never get around to reading anyway.

Librivox--Speaking of books in the public domain, I have become totally addicted to Librivox recently. If you're not familiar with Librivox, it's a site where you can download audiobooks for free. It's way more user-friendly than Project Gutenberg because the people who create the audiobooks actually have to read them, so they provide summaries and even covers! Whenever I go on Librivox I end up downloading a random book that sounds interesting--The Faerie Queene (review here), for instance, was a chance download I loved; and right now I'm listening to Beasts, Men and Gods, which is the memoir of a scientist who escaped Bolshevik Russia by traveling into Mongolia, India, and China, before making his way to the US and seeking political asylum. It was described in the summary as, "an account of an epic journey... in the mold of The Lord of the Rings. The difference is: it's all true." Who can resist a hook like that? Not me.


Sherlock--I am obsessed with this series. I mention this for the sole excuse of posting the above picture. My friend Ruth from Booktalk & More has a great recap of the first second series episode, "A Scandal in Belgravia," where she takes issue with the portrayal of Irene Adler in the show. I have to say I really agree with her--although I enjoyed the scene where Irene confronted Sherlock naked, it felt like she was gratuitously hypersexualized. In the story (which is one of the few Holmes mysteries I've enjoyed), even though Irene doesn't say more than a few words, she is presented as an equal to the men-folk in intelligence, and not just as a sex object. The appeal of Adler and Holmes' interactions is in their intellectual connection, not necessarily THE SEX, so turning her into a dominatrix felt over the top. What did you think?

Those are the bookish thoughts that have been floating around in my head lately. I hope you all have a nice Mother's Day--and if you're looking for a perfect brunch drink I highly recommend strawberry-gin cocktails--refreshing, easy to make, and you can drink 2 or 3 without getting drunk. Cheers!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Excerpt: SOUL PROTECTOR by Misty Evans

soul protector cover

Soul Protector is the second book in the Lost Worlds series by Misty Evans


Dr. Nathan Hunter has forty-eight hours to save his job and find the missing Salt Coast Clan, a lost civilization locals believe is a myth. When ancient human remains turn up at the site of a new state water project along the Oregon Coast, he’s sure the lost tribe is real. Before he can examine the bones, however, a pretty female lawyer gets an injunction to stop him.

Nila Willopah sees ghosts. After failing to help a young boy cross over to the afterlife seven years ago, she hung up her shaman’s cape, left her family, and went to college to pursue a law degree. Three days before the bar exam, she’s summoned home by her grandfather to defend a sacred burial ground from a billion dollar state water project.

Although her soul is in danger from the unbound spirits unearthed at the site, Nila is the one person who can stop the project and protect her ancestors’ last resting place from Dr. Hunter. She’s also the only one who can help the angry spirits cross over.

Nila suspects the sexy anthropologist is hiding a dark secret behind his clear blue eyes and skilled hands. A secret she wants nothing to do with. But when one of the ghosts latches onto his soul, Nila must set aside her fears and suspicions and once again enter the world of spirit communication to protect him.

Even if saving his soul means sacrificing her own. 

Excerpt: The secret to redemption lies in their souls…

Nila’s head swam. The spirits unearthed by the quake swirled around the site, beating at her with their cold, non-corporeal fists and even colder energy.

She shouldn’t have come back. The bar exam was in two days. Two days!

What the hell was I thinking, coming home to this…this mess?

Thinking wasn’t part of the equation. That was the problem. At least she hadn’t been thinking about what she was getting into. When she’d heard the desperation in Rides The Wind’s voice when he phoned her, she’d responded the way any granddaughter would. She’d grabbed her one and only business suit, thrown a couple of sweaters and jeans in her duffle, jumped in her beat-up car and drove the hundred-and-twenty-two miles straight home, keeping the speedometer on her seventeen-year-old Nissan at ninety the whole way.

Now that she was here, though, every fiber of her being, every one of her six souls, screamed at her to run. Get as far away as possible. Go back to her apartment, pass the bar exam and forget she’d ever been a shaman. Forget she was the Fire Path Nation’s soul catcher.

Nila drew her psychic shield closer, tightening it against the wild spirits and nearly closing off her Sight—the sight that allowed her to see entities and spiritual beings on other planes as well as this one. If she couldn’t See them with her shamanic Sight, she could pretend she didn’t feel them either. Their energy, chaotic and angry, was understandable. These spirits were old, older than any she’d ever encountered, and they’d endured a trauma she couldn’t imagine. But even though a part of her wanted to help them, she couldn’t. Not after what had happened to Bil—

She stopped herself from thinking his name. Don’t go there. You can’t.

As a soul catcher, she wasn’t allowed to speak or even think the lost boy’s name. Souls who hadn’t crossed over to Mother Wolf were unbound spirits. Spirits who existed in the current plane, struggling to stay there instead of moving on to their next life. Even thinking their name could draw them to you, make them haunt you.

As if I’m not haunted anyway.

Nila rubbed the wolf pendant hanging at the base of her throat. Seven years and she still thought of the boy daily. Still wrestled with the grip the night of his death had on her. How could she ever hope to start over if she kept torturing herself with the past?

How could she not torture herself after she’d failed so miserably to put him out of his pain? To bring justice to his father?

The crack in her shield, no more than a tiny fissure after all this time, pulsed and swelled. The cold energy of the ghosts seized on it, slipping icy fingers under her skin and trying to pry it wider. Fighting against it, Nila lurched backwards.

Next to her, the anthropologist and his dog noticed her stumble and then right herself as she locked her knees. Dr. Hunter’s heavy brows banged against each other as he frowned. His face was handsome, prominent jawline hidden under a few days’ worth of beard. He was tan and lean, the hair under his cowboy hat weeks past due for a trim.

But his eyes…they were a clear blue. As clear as the Oregon sky on a sunny day, and Nila could see his souls, all four of them, vying for her attention.

Staring at him was far more pleasant than Seeing the spirits. His physical and mental souls were strong and bright, glowing like translucent rocks lit from within.

The other two, his emotional and psychic souls, were dimmer, more opaque. Obscured to her Sight as if someone had thrown a blanket over them. His aura flashed in fits and starts like a radio station fading in and out. Nila could barely get a read on him.

Which meant he was hiding something. He’d buried some type of painful memory deep within.

Haven’t we all?

The shaman in her was compelled to help him, as it always was when she came across someone hurting so badly, but again, she couldn’t go there. She couldn’t help her own souls, much less someone else’s.

An unbound spirit swarmed between them, shrieking and cutting off further analysis. It sucked the air from around her, freezing her skin and choking her with its heavy misty energy.

Fingers reached out, the unbound spirit determined to attach its energy to her. A ghost rider who wanted to suck her energy away. The ground rolled under her feet, the world dipping and heaving. Was it an aftershock or had the ghost managed to rip open her shield?

Nila’s knees buckled, but before they hit the ground, Dr. Hunter grabbed her elbow and prevented her fall.

“Miss Willopah.” He searched her face, a dozen questions etched on it. “Are you all right?”

The shrieking and beating of the unbound spirits stopped. The ghost rider disappeared.

The ground grew solid under her feet and Nila closed her eyes and reopened them slowly, letting her Sight fully see the man holding her.

Her breath caught. Nathan Hunter glowed before her, his sudden protective energy shutting the spirits out completely.

She knew she should say something and opened her mouth to do so. “I…uh…”

Good, Nila. Real smooth.

Clutching his arm, confusion knitted into her souls. By the spirits, was he a soul catcher too? Was that why his psychic soul was jacketed by a barrier? Why his energy was even now wrapping itself around her in a warm, golden glow?

Could he See her souls and guess why one was black?

She started to pull away and her limbs rebelled. His light flooded her body with peace. A peace she hadn’t felt in seven years. “Are you…a…”
His aura flared to life, concern turning it an orangey-red, stopping her question. Opening her psychic shield a fraction, she probed with light mental fingers to see if her spirit could talk to his. After several heartbeats, all she felt was the heat from his body, his warm breath caressing her face. A slight hum under his skin, signaling an interest in her.

The normal male makeup of lust and desire fueled by testosterone.

Disappointed, she slumped. He wasn’t a shaman, a soul catcher, like her. He was just an ordinary man, albeit one with latent empathic skills and maybe something more. Something that blocked the spirits from communicating with her.

Nila gave herself a mental shake. She was gawking at the man who still held her. A man who was about to desecrate her ancestors’ land by digging up the bones and running scientific tests on them.

While she understood and appreciated how much science had improved the world, she found no value in a stranger, a non-Fire Path man, handling her ancestors’ bones and gathering data on them. What good would that do anyone, especially the current members of her tribe? Clothes, shoes, and education…those things would help. Not another depressing history lesson.

Worse, this man was unknowingly about to put his souls in danger from the unbound spirits. She doubted he believed in ghosts—in her experience, scientists rarely did—but that didn’t matter to the ghosts. Especially angry ones like these. The theft of their bodies through whatever had befallen them had turned their spirits into ghost riders. Ghost riders, who would resort to body thievery in return.

On the other hand, maybe they wouldn’t bother him. Maybe his abilities, latent or not, were enough to keep them at bay. They were certainly keeping the spirits away from her.

Lightning jumped from one rain cloud to another above Starved Rock to the north. Soft thunder rumbled in the distance. A storm was coming.

Hold onto him, the shamanic magic she drew unbidden from the earth advised her. If she released Dr. Hunter’s arm, the spirits would come after her again, demanding she right the wrong that had been done to them. They wouldn’t cross over until she helped them.

Which, damn everything, placed Nathan Hunter right in their path if he stayed.

Ghost riders were drawn to shamans because of their healing energies. They were also drawn to weak-willed souls, or souls who had been acutely damaged, because they were easier to lock onto. Like a disease locking onto a person with a compromised immune system.

Nila looked down at the ground, shutting off the Sight. Before the death of the boy, everyone’s spiritual troubles had been her problem. Her magic had demanded she heal and comfort and carry the souls of the dead to Mother Wolf and protect those still living.

Now she had to ignore the call of her blood, block the souls calling to her, large or small. She couldn’t save anyone any more. Couldn’t protect them. It was too risky. She could lose her own souls in the process.

A child’s mummified skull lay half exposed near her right foot, mouth open as if in a scream. She resisted the urge to call out to his spirit. To try and comfort him. She could not fix what had happened. If she couldn’t handle one little boy’s death seven years ago, how the hell could she manage dozens, if not hundreds, of spirits, all bubbling with pent up rage and hate?

Blood would call to blood and they would recognize her as one of their own. They would suck her into their world. What good would that do anyone?

Nila shuddered. Grandfather would have to find another shaman to tackle this mess. She had a bar exam to take.

Keeping one hand on Dr. Hunter’s arm, she rubbed her forehead with the other and called up a firm sense of strength and purpose. There were other soul catchers who could handle this. Other lawyers who could stop Swift Water and Hunter from further destroying this sacred site.
But first, she would find out all she could about Hunter’s plans. She could at least appease her grandfather with that.

And maybe she could figure out what he was. What his latent ability was.

Once more in control of her emotions, she smiled her most charming smile at the anthropologist. It was shaky, but the best she could do. “I’m a little dizzy. Could we continue this discussion somewhere else? Away from this area?”

Staring into her eyes, he opened his mouth to say something, then stuttered. He blinked, the move purposeful and exasperated as if he had to force his eyelids to obey the command. Her smile often did that to men.

At least the ones like Hunter who didn’t see her heritage as a disease.

His gaze bore into hers and Nila struggled not to look away as her confidence rocked back against his arresting stare.

He can’t see my souls. He doesn’t know.

After a second, he seemed satisfied by what he did see and gave her one brief downward nod. Facing the other two men, he motioned for them to start walking. “Let’s go.”

The men exchanged a look, the lawyer opening his mouth to argue, but Dr. Hunter waved him off. “We can discuss everything in the foreman’s trailer.”

The lawyer shook his head, not one to like being overruled, but he and the foreman started walking. The two put their heads together and Nila heard the lawyer’s disparaging comments about her whispered under his breath.

Whatever. It wasn’t the first time she’d heard those ugly terms.

The dog ran a few steps in front of her, occasionally stopping to whine at the spirits.

I know, boy. You’re right to be afraid of them.

As Dr. Hunter walked beside her, Nila looked over her shoulder at the massive grave of her ancestors behind them, once more calling up her shamanic vision. The sight was horrifying, in and of its own.

But what turned her blood to ice were the swirling, angry ghosts, freed from their earthly prisons and able to roam. They wanted blood. They wanted revenge.

Chilled, Nila looked away.

They wanted hers and Dr. Hunter’s damaged souls.

misty evans

Misty Evans  has two paranormal stories in upcoming anthologies, including Entangled, of which all proceeds will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Her Witches Anonymous series has garnered many 5-star reviews and was dubbed a Fallen Angel Reviews Recommended Read. Both the Super Agent Series and the Witches Anonymous Series have been on multiple Amazon Kindle bestsellers lists.

She  is currently at work on the first book in her new Kali Sweet series. She likes her coffee black, her conspiracy stories juicy, and her wicked characters dressed in couture. When not reading or writing, she enjoys hanging out with her husband of twenty-two years and their twin sons. Learn more and sign up for her newsletter at www.readmistyevans.com.

Find Misty on:
Yahoo! Group

Buy Soul Protector:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...