The Iron Queen

The third book of the Iron Fey series was released this month, and like the first two books, I couldn’t put it down! The Iron Queen, by Julie Kagawa, continues the story of Meghan Chase, picking up where The Iron Daughter left off.

At the beginning of the book, an exiled Meghan and Ash are planning to visit Meghan’s family, but when they arrive, some iron fey are waiting for them. They want to capture Meghan and take her to the false king. Meghan knows that she (and her family) will never be safe until the false king is defeated, and that the longer he remains in power, more and more of the Nevernever will be destroyed.

Queen Mab and King Oberon have a short-term alliance, fighting the Iron Fey together. They also know that the false king must be stopped, but the only one who can enter his realm is Meghan, and they already exiled her! So, they make Meghan (along with Ash and Puck) an offer of pardon. Their exile will be lifted if Meghan agrees to kill the false king. Knowing that there is really no other option, Meghan accepts.

In addition to the usual cast of characters, a few more were introduced. It turns out that since Meghan defeated King Machina, the gremlins now consider her their master. One such gremlin, Razor, was especially cute, and I guess as cuddly as iron can be. Also, the rebel leader (there are still iron fey who are loyal to King Machina and oppose the false king), Glitch, was an honorable character as well.

Meghan, Ash, and Puck finally figure out exactly how to get to the false king. While Ash and Puck are busy fighting other fey, Meghan comes to the conclusion that the only way to defeat him is to sacrifice herself. She fully believes that she is going to die and after the false king is gone, asks Ash to take her to the great tree that is now King Machina. Knowing that staying in the Iron Realm too long will kill him, she uses his true name and tells him to leave, wanting to save him before she dies. Of course, she doesn’t die, though. Instead, being the one to wield the power of Machina, she has instead become the Iron Queen, and her duty is to her people and her Realm. And since killing the false king, the Realm has borders and is no longer encroaching on the rest of the Nevernever.

The new Iron Realm incorporates both Summer and Iron, and Meghan is half summer fey, which allows Puck to visit. However, the Winter Prince still cannot be around iron without getting terribly sick and even dying, so Meghan does not see Ash again. As a faery queen, she knows she has time, but she still longs to see him.

At the end of the book, Meghan goes to visit her family (her mother, stepfather, and little brother). After being gone for over a year, she is finally able to tell them about what has happened to her. After a tearful goodbye, she leaves the house. She believes that she can feel Ash’s presence, but then convinces herself that she is imagining things. She returns to the Iron Realm with Glitch, her first lieutenant. However, Ash and Puck are both there watching her. Ash knows that he must find a way to be with her in the Iron Realm, which sets up the scene for the fourth (and final) installment in the series, The Iron Knight.

I do have to say that while I did tremendously enjoy this book, it was not my favorite of the series. I think The Iron Daughter still has the top spot. I was really expecting a different ending, one in which Meghan and Ash would be together. I wanted the fairy tale, but ended up getting the faery tale. Anyway, it seems like Ash is determined to do what it takes to be with Meghan and I’m excited to find out how his story unfolds.

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Under the Mercy Trees

Under the Mercy Trees, by Heather Newton, is another book I won in a Goodreads giveaway. The author has written short stories before, but this is her debut novel.

Martin Owenby currently lives in New York City, having escaped the place of his childhood, Solace Forks, North Carolina. He is an unsuccessful writer, drinks heavily, and has meaningless relationships with various men. Martin is forced to return home to his family when his brother, Leon, goes missing. Bringing the Owenby siblings together again causes them to confront their past, and even present.

The author effortlessly weaves the past within the present story, showing how characters have been shaped and how they have come to be who they are in the present. Martin, a gay man who left his best friend Liza, the woman who loved him. Ivy, who sees ghosts and has been mourning the suicide of her son for twenty years. Bertie, Martin’s sister-in-law, who left her husband James for a three-day affair, who came back pregnant. And then there are the siblings’ children and friends who contribute their part to the story as well.

While I wouldn’t call this book a mystery, there was the question of what happened to Leon as well as the individual mysteries of the past. It is definitely a haunting, and even somewhat dark, family drama.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book. Initially, I did find it difficult to really get into it. It just didn’t capture my attention and I really didn’t want to read about “mountain people.” And keeping a written family tree and or cast of characters would have been helpful in the beginning as well. That being said, about a third of the way into it, I became engrossed with finding out what really did happen to Leon, as well as what happened during the past of the other characters that caused them to be who they were. I didn’t like all the characters, but that’s definitely a sign of a good story. Also, reading this book was almost reminiscent of some of the required reading from high school. In a few years, I believe it is very likely that this novel with be considered a true piece of literature.

Honolulu

My mom loaned me a book recently and could not stop singing its praises. I had to read it myself to see just how good it really was. The book was Honolulu, by Alan Brennert, and it was an amazing story that I couldn’t pull myself away from.

The book begins by introducing Regret, a Korean girl, named for the feelings her parents had when a girl was born to them. Knowing what type of life awaits her in Korea, Regret takes matters into her own hands and becomes a “picture bride” for a Korean man in Hawaii. She has also been told that girls may attend school in Hawaii, and she hopes that her dream of receiving an education might be realized. Along with a handful of other girls, Regret finds herself in Hawaii, looking at shabbily clad men, much older andmuch different than believed to be, awaiting them. All but Regret’s closest friend, Sunny, go through with the marriages and Regret now finds herself to be Mr. Noh’s wife. Mr. Noh works on a sugar cane plantation and has bouts of drunkenness and cruelty. Finally, he beats Regret, causing her to lose their baby (a girl) and injuring her. Regret leaves him.

Now calling herself Jin, (or Gem, as this was part of a nickname given to her by her teacher), she makes her way to Honolulu. She meets a colorful cast of characters, and is befriended by one of the famous women of the red light district. She eventually takes a job at a pineapple canning facility, where she meets Jae-sun. He is very interested in Jin and they develop feelings for each other. Finally, Jin decides to get a divorce and breaks the news that she is married to Jae-sun. He eventually gets over it, saying that losing her would be a great punishment. They get married among friends and Jin finally has the life she never dreamed of, full of love and a husband who wants her for something more than a mere servant.

Jin and Jae-sun have three children: Grace, Harold, and Charlie. Jae-sun opens a restaurant and Jin works as a seamstress. They have many happy years before the depression forces them to close the restaurant. At this point, Jin becomes the sole bread-winner for her family. Times are hard for everyone, but tension between whites and the “locals,” a term which becomes encompassing of native Hawaiians as well immigrants such as the Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino, etc is escalating as well. One such incident between the haoles and the locals results in the death of a close friend of Jin’s, Joe Jr.

The book ends with Jin’s 60th birthday celebration. She is surrounded by friends and family, including many grandchildren. She has become a successful businesswoman and employs many seamstresses. She makes an entire clothing line, which all began with the increasing popularity of the “Hawaiian shirts.” When asked if she would have done anything differently in her life, she answered. “I have no regrets.”

The author brought Hawaii’s rich history to life through the eyes of a Korean woman. I also liked the fact that the author incorporated real characters from Hawaii’s history, such as May Thompson, Joe Jr., and Chang Apana. It further enriched an absolutely amazing story.

I’ve also read many great reviews of another book of Brennert’s, Molokaka’i. Reading Honolulu really made me want to run out and grab Brennert’s other book, just so I could stay in this amazing world that he brought to life.

The Black Widow Trainer

I won the book The Black Widow Trainer, by Craig Odanovich, in a giveaway on Goodreads. I have the habit of clicking on the “enter to win” link usually before I have read the blurb to see what the book is even about, but I have had the opportunity to read some unique books, some out of my comfort zone, and some that I would not have looked twice at otherwise. This is one of those books. Maybe if I’d read the blurb, I’d have noticed that this was “an erotic adventure novel.” Anyway, that being said, I still read the book.

Misty is a personal trainer who has grown bored with her lackluster marriage to longtime best friend Rob. After about eight years of not enough passion, she finally understands that she will never love him the way he loves her. Away from her husband for a weekend at a yoga retreat in Maui, she meets “The Man,” the one that sets both her body and mind racing. After her one night stand, she returns to Rob.

She confesses to Rob, who is actually understanding about her affair. They agree that she should go back home to Malibu while Rob finishes up his business in Hawaii, and they will discuss their options in a few months. When Rob comes home, Misty has convinced herself that her only options would be trying to stay together and playing her part as a “good wife,” or getting divorced. But Rob surprises her with a third option, an open marriage, in which the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule applies, but only if the other person involved is “only a fling.” He says that he doesn’t want to own Misty and wants her to have her freedom, but he loves her too much to lose her completely. Misty finally agrees to this and reminds Rob that if she is to have this freedom, it’s only fair that he is able to see other people as well.

Misty has always wanted adventure and travel, and she’s very good at her job as a personal trainer, thus the “Black Widow Trainer” is born. She accepts applications and choses her clients based on her own preferences, which include their location and attractiveness, of course. Her contract is for three months of training sessions, and she will sleep with the client only once, if he so chooses. However, once he decides to sleep with her, she delivers the “bite” of the black widow and returns home, and whether it’s been a week or two months of training, she is paid in full.

She travels include such places as Ireland, Buenos Aires, Denver, Alaska, New Orleans, and London. As a professional, she tries not to get too attached to her clients, but one does in fact steal a bit of her heart. When she arrives in Buenos Aires, she is shocked to discover that her client is a woman, Gabriella. However, the two become quite good friends and Misty feels deep regret upon leaving after her three month contract is up. But Gabriella issues an open invitation for her and the two keep in touch on the phone.

Meanwhile, Rob is getting lonely and drives to an inconveniently located Starbucks in order to get to know Amelia, who looks as if she could have been Misty’s sister. As the two become closer, Rob conveniently forgets to inform Amelia about the unconventional nature of his marriage. After the two have spent the night together for the first time, he lets it slip, and Amelia throws him out of her house, telling him she never wants to see him again.

Rob thinks about his options, and through the advice of a mutual friend, Becca, decides to tell Misty that he wants her to be his full-time wife again. She tells him that she will think about this decision, but in the meantime, travels to London to meet her latest client. After more adventure than she really wanted, and barely escaping with her life, she returns home planning to tell Rob that is ready to give up her career and be his wife again. Hearing splashing coming from their bathroom, she strips and plans to surprise her husband, but walks in to find Rob in the bathtub with Becca, who actually has had ulterior motives for a while. After a few days to herself, she and Rob ultimately decide to divorce, and Misty speaks to Amelia, convincing her to give Rob another chance. Misty returns to Buenos Aires to Gabriella and finally feels as if she’s home.

Overall, this was an entertaining and quick read, and although sex did play a role in the book, it was not the “erotic” book I had anticipated from the cover. Not that that’s a bad thing. However, I did have some issues, (besides the complete lack of morals of all of the characters). Rob’s character was initially completely unbelievable. Oh, and there was a paragraph that had the following lines:

“The plane was well over the Atlantic when Misty finished her bagel with cream cheese. She thought maybe now would be a good time to take some Ambien to help her relax. To prevent snoring and her fear of having a little drool roll down the side of her mouth, she only took enough to take the edge off.”

Um, excuse me? Ambien is a sleep aid. To “take the edge off,” Misty probably just needed a benzodiazepine, such as alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam, etc. Oh, maybe I should mention brand names instead, seeing as how more people know what they are. So that would be a choice of Xanax, Klonopin, or Valium, but definitely not Ambien. Why didn’t a pharmacist get a turn at editing?

Moving on… It was an entertaining read. There were many interesting, even if not quite believable, characters. And I did like how the scene changed with each new client Misty took, from ski slopes to tropical paradises. This is the first book in the “Black Widow Trainer Series,” and although I’m curious about what happens to Misty, I can’t say that I’ll go out and buy the second book. But I’d still read it if a copy was given to me, though.

Spoken From the Heart

It seems I’ve been too busy to read much lately, but the most recent book I finished was Spoken From the Heart, by former first lady Laura Bush. The book spans most of her life, and it seems as if there were really two separate parts: growing up and beginning a career, and then meeting George and being in a political spotlight.

Laura Welch grew up in Midland, Texas as an only child. She always wanted siblings, but due to multiple miscarriages, she remained an only child. She speaks of her love of books and literature and her career as a teacher and librarian. Her parents and friends were, and still are, a huge part of her life. She even writes about a car wreck she had in high school that resulted in the death of one of her friends and the grief that she will forever carry with her.

She taught elementary school in inner-city schools and trained to be a librarian. Finally, at age 30, she met George Bush. The two were introduced by friends in Midland. A mere three months later, “the old maid of Midland married Midland’s most eligible bachelor.” And with George’s large family, Laura finally had the siblings that she had so longed for. She and George soon discovered the difficulties of starting their own family. Finally, at age 35, Laura gave birth to twin girls, Barbara and Jenna, named after each of their mothers. Laura hoped she would have more children. “The years unwound and it didn’t happen. George never once said that he wanted more children. He never once said that he would have liked a son. He has always been thrilled with the two girls we got. We both are. But my heart was deep enough for more. There remained that twinge of what might have been.”

Laura recounts the election for Governor of Texas and the time spent as the first lady of Texas. She began a Book Festival in Texas, inviting many authors. This was also something she began when she was in Washington, founding the National Book Festival. During her husband’s time in the White House, Laura was involved in many projects near and dear to her heart. She valued education and freedom, two things she worked to bring to Afghan women who had been under Taliban rule. She also reached out to African nations where malaria and HIV were prevalent, but could be prevented or managed easily with simple things such as mosquito nets, or medication and education.

She recounts stories of antics in the White House, from guests to Congress members. She writes with honesty, compassion, and even a sense of humor. Overall, a beautifully written memoir that provides insight and explanation as to how Laura Bush has captured the minds and hearts of people across the nation and the world.