Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Monthly Reading List: December

(Not Pictured: Chronicles of Steele: Raven)

Raging Heat (Nikki Heat #6) Richard Castle
Favorite part of the Richard Castle Novels? Imagining Nathan Fillion reading them.
This is the latest novel in the Nikki Heat series, and (for fans of the show) a nice recap of Season 6. Complete with unidentified bodies falling from the sky, evidence pointing to a prominent political figure as the perpetrator of the crime, and so much more. It was a lovely time, and an excellent adventure, and I look forward to the next one!

Rocking Chairs and Wrinkles, Rose Withering
I found this particular novel to be a dramatic and enthralling tale completely missed because the author did not take the time to craft the story.
Two people, completely unrelated, have several chance encounters, and discover a connection over personal tragedies with similar details. That much was certain. Both had lost their spouses, and the guy knew that his mother had undergone the loss of her family—so when a woman surfaces with details from her past that match his, the lines start falling into place. Secrets come out, and a mystery is solved, and reconciliation happens.
The trouble I had with this book was the prodigious amount of rote dialogue. As with Thornburg's Daughter, I was forced to work my imagination overtime to try and follow the events of the scene before they faded to a "blank screen with audio", as scenes with dialogue alone are wont to do. Small shifts are all right in the course of a conversation, for variety's sake; I understand the aversion to using "he said"/"she said" all the time. But when a scene begins with just dialogue and does not include any kind of character movement (not even the normal posture shifts that occur when someone is speaking) till a character is ready to leave the scene, it's a problem. What made it especially difficult was the fact that Rose Withering puts such heart and soul into her dialogue, and this story is definitely one that needs to be told—but a heart and soul without a body is just a wandering ghost. 

Chronicles of Steele: Raven, Pauline Creeden
Wonderful story from start to finish! I will admit that I technically only read half this book, having already burned through the first two "episodes" of the four and thirsted for more. Creeden did not disappoint! The action just keeps right on going, and these mysteries that seemed so much like subplots at first abruptly take on an identity most sinister and dire as the connections are revealed. Still throughout, Creeden treats her characters carefully, keeping them distinct and colorful so that every situation has the proper response and  the very mention of their names brings them to life as vividly as real people, or even actors in a film. For anyone looking for an excellent steampunk adventure, check this one out for sure!

Beauty Sleep, Cameron Dokey
Gorgeous and magical.
Have I said enough how much I enjoy the retellings of Cameron Dokey? Because I love them, every part of them. 
This one was Sleeping Beauty—and after reading Suzanne Weyn's "Water Song" which left much to be desired, and watching the movie "Maleficent" which left me confused, I was understandably apprehensive.
I should not have worried.
First, Cameron starts with a world where magic is acknowledged and exists, but is feared and relegated to isolated areas where "nobody goes." Then she fashions the Princess Aurore as a headstrong girl cooped up inside the castle (instead of sent far away) under the watchful eye of her father (instead of shunned by him) who only wants to be outside and free. Clever Cameron deftly weaves a tale that at first seems "all wrong," but then she manages to pull in the details we know so well at just the right moment to turn her thrilling story into the fairy tale it was always meant to be. I loved the characters and I loved the way this story worked!

Once (Before Midnight, Golden, Wild Orchid) Cameron Dokey
So this happened to be the "Month of Cameron Dokey." Which I did not mind in the least!
"Once" is a compilation of three of Dokey's novels, retelling the stories of Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Mulan.
Before Midnight: Obviously this is Cinderella—but get this: her nickname, "Cendrillon", is not bestowed disparagingly, but lovingly. Moreover, the stepmother is actually relatively kind to her; she and her two daughters treat Cendrillon like one of the staff only because they don't know that her father had a daughter. And she makes friends with an orphan boy whom she has grown up with, and a soldier from an enemy Royal court who ends up helping Cendrillon reunite with her father and bring about several other things that give the ball vastly more importance than just "love at first sight." It was a gorgeous tale, not unlike the film "Ever After" but simply more sweet and family-oriented.
Golden: Rapunzel's tale—but again, Dokey turns the "traditions" on their head. In this story, Rapunzel is cursed to be bald as an egg, because her mother was so obsessed with her own golden hair. She lives with the "sorceress" on a small farm in the country; it is the sorceress' own daughter, Rue, who is the golden-haired Princess locked in an enchanted tower as a punishment meted by a self-righteous wizard. The same story, but not quite, and vastly more entertaining when told from another perspective! 
Wild Orchid: Mulan did not interest me at first; I didn't much care for the rebel Disney princess who masqueraded as a boy to gain acceptance and hated wearing dresses until she was recognized as a hero at the end, at which point it was totally okay and nobody minded that she lied and nobody even knew the farce till the very end.
Dokey's version completely redeemed the tale for me. She gave her a father to focus her need for acceptance; she gave her a stepmother who again cared for her (I love the consistency of Dokey's loving stepmothers, defying the whole "evil" stereotype!) and friends who give her wise council and immediately recognize her when she shows up for the war draft! She even gives the Prince brothers, balancing his character and all but removing the "true love and social advancement package" that usually comes in a fairy tale. 
This writer's skill remains unmatched, and this reader would dearly love to get her hands on absolutely every book in this "Once Upon A Time Tales" series!