Thursday, October 30, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover & Hex Appeal by Linda Wisdom

What better way to celebrate Hallowe’en than with a newly discovered paranormal romance author? Author Linda Wisdom introduced fiery witch Jasmine Tremaine this past spring in 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover and readers would be hard pressed not to fall for this kooky witch with her obsession with bath products, her rabid bunny slippers and her on-again, off-again (for 300 years) vampire boyfriend Nick.

Jazz and her sister witches were cast out of witch school for breaking the rules. Unable to stay out of trouble for long, the banishment has lasted over 700 years. Now living in Los Angeles, Jazz makes a living removing hexes and chauffeuring supernatural beings for her ghoulish boss Dweezil. Her sports car is haunted by Irma, a chain-smoking ghost, and her favourite bunny slippers Fluff and Puff have been banned from many establishments for destroying property.

In 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover, private investigator Nick has returned to Los Angeles to investigate a number of vampire disappearances. Hired by his former employers (the vampire police force), Nick is determined to get help from his former lover Jazz. Unable to decide if she wants to kill or kiss him, Jazz is determined to steer clear of the sexy vampire. As evidence mounts that the serial killer is a foe from their past, Jazz is reluctantly drawn into the case (demanding payment in the form of a hefty deposit on her Starbucks card), and back into steamy encounters with Nick.

Hex Appeal picks up immediately after the close of 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover. Jazz has received a new pair of animated shoes, a pair of crocodile stilettos that consume her makeup and flirt with any nearby male. Jazz and Nick are happily exploring their burgeoning relationship when disturbing and violent nightmares threaten their future. Jazz is convinced Nick has bitten her and Nick is plagued by visions of Jazz as a suburban soccer mom. When Jazz suddenly becomes mortal, the two must figure out who has targeted them. Is their enemy trying to break them up or kill them?

My major complaint is the over use of Jazz's trademark way of closing her spells "Because I said so, dammit." Given the number of spells featured in the two books, the quirky version of "So Mote it be" quickly became irritating rather than interesting. Linda Wisdom’s books are great fun and if she adjusts the balance on Jasmine’s spells I believe this series will be a hit with readers.

50 Ways to Hex Your Lover
ISBN10: 140221085X
ISBN13: 9781402210853

Mass Market Paperback
374 Pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication Date: March 1, 2008

Hex Appeal
ISBN10: 1402214006
ISBN13: 978-1402214004

Mass Market Paperback
368 Pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication Date: November 1, 2008


Sunday, October 19, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Wangari's Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter

“The earth was naked. For me the mission was to try to cover it with green.” – Wangari Maathai

Growing up in the shadow of Mount Kenya in Africa, Wangari is surrounded by an umbrella of green trees. The trees protect the birds, provide firewood to the women of the village and help keep the soil rich for the sweet potatoes, sugarcane and maize Wangari helps to harvest.

Wangari travels to America for school but when she returns six years later the trees are gone. No crops grow, the birds are gone and the women have to travel far distances to find firewood. On World Environment Day in 1977, Wangari plants nine seedlings in her backyard and begins the Green Belt Movement which, over the next 27 years, plants thirty million trees across Africa.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: a true story from Africa is the story of one woman’s effort to return green to Africa. Told in Jeanette Winter’s simple language and blocky, colourful illustrations, Wangari’s Trees of Peace is wonderful means to introduce 3 to 7 year olds to environmentalism, the interconnected nature of ecosystems and political activitism. It also introduces some difficult subjects that may make some children and parents uncomfortable: prejudice (“Women can’t do this”), violence (“Wangari blocks their way, so they hit her with clubs”) and imprisonment (“They call her a troublemaker and put her in jail”).

While Winter’s tale simplifies Wangari’s story to a basic level, it carries within it an important message, that one person can make a difference. Wangari’s simple act of planting a tree translates to an important environmental movement and the Nobel Peace Prize. Children are innate idealists and it is never too early to foster their belief that they can achieve anything.

In keeping with the environmental nature of Wangari’s Trees of Peace, the book is printed on 100% recycled paper with 50% postconsumer waste.

ISBN10: 0152065458
ISBN13: 9780152065454

32 Pages
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.
Publication Date: September 21, 2008


BOOK REVIEW: My Lady of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes

After the death of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII was convinced by his advisors to seek another wife. Edward’s health was precarious and a second son would be of great benefit to stability within England. Hoping to secure the Protestant faith’s footing in England, Lord Chancellor Thomas Cromwell suggested an alliance with the Duchy of Cleves, a Lutheran stronghold. Henry provisionally agreed and commissioned court painter Hans Holbein to paint miniatures of both Anne and Amelia, the princesses of Cleves. Amelia was on the surface the more attractive sister what Holbien saw Anne’s inner beauty and captured this in her portrait, in turn capturing the King’s eye.

Unfortunately for Anne’s happiness, she was not the King’s preferred version of beauty, being neither petite nor slender. Her height, large-boned frame and buxomness prompted the King to refer to her as a “Flanders mare.” She possessed few of the accomplishments common for women of the Tudor court, being more adept at managing a royal household. While they were duly married and Anne quickly won the heart of the people, the King’s eye had already strayed to young Katherine Howard.

Anne of Cleves is rare not only for surviving her marriage to King Henry VIII, she is one of only two of his wives to outlive him, but for speaking her mind to him. Heeding the counsel of her advisors, she agreed to an annulment on the grounds of non-consummation and in return gained her own household and continued access to Princesses Mary and Elizabeth and Prince Edward, his children by his previous three wives. In My Lady of Cleves: a novel of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves, Margaret Campbell Barnes tells the story of an unusual woman who discovers herself and finds true freedom only by giving up everything and holding herself apart from the politics consuming his court.

What is intriguing about Campbell Barnes’ novel is the fascinating portrait of Princess Mary. Unlike many novels of the Tudor court which show her as a bitter and unhappy woman, Mary is here portrayed with a nurturing and mothering nature toward Edward and warm emotions toward Anne.

Originally published in 1946, My Lady of Cleves stands the test of time, introducing Henry VIII’s enigmatic fourth wife to a new generation of readers.

ISBN10: 1402214316
ISBN13: 9781402214318

Trade Paperback
331 Pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: September 1, 2008