Rochelle’s #CBR5 Review #26: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov


The Master and Margarita is biting satire beautifully written.  The Devil and his entourage turn Soviet Moscow upside down and inside out.  Lives are ruined, lives are saved.  Two women throw off their clothes and discover their power.  Jesus is tried and crucified.  There is a theatrical spectacular and a grand ball.  Shots are fired.  Buildings burn down.  Love wins. Continue reading

Rochelle’s #CBR5 Review #25: The River of Doubt by Candace Millard


After I finished A Storm of Swords, I felt traumatized and brutalized.  I felt like I needed something gentler for my next read, so I picked up Candace Millard’s River of Doubt, Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey.  Because the best palate cleanser for fictional brutality is historical brutality.  Oh, it’s a different kind of brutality, less about people killing each other creatively, though there is some of that, and more about brutal deprivation and surviving in an inhospitable environment for which you are devastatingly unprepared.

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Rochelle’s #CBR5 Review # 24: First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

First Grave

This is a first book, and first books can be rough.  I’m not sure yet how I feel about Darynda Jones’ Charley Davidson series.  Charley is a grim reaper who lives in Albuquerque and works as a PI.  She can see and talk to dead people.  She is the portal to Heaven and the dead pass through her.  Some dead people stay behind, some want help finishing business – last words or finding a killer, and some just aren’t ready to cross.

I’m on the fence about this series.  It could either be good popcorn fun, or annoying.  I mostly like Charley.  She’s pretty funny, and her funny is both her nature and a coping mechanism.  Because her life isn’t so funny.  She has the potential to be a thoughtful multi-faceted character.  The other characters seem like things for Charley to bounce off or react to, but not like characters in their own right.  This could become a problem if it doesn’t change in the next couple of books.

My biggest concern with the series is the character Reyes Farrow.  Reyes is currently in a coma, but is able to non-corporeally visit Charley and make out with her.  I’m just going to go ahead and spoil this right now, because it isn’t a surprise when it is revealed: Reyes is the portal to Hell.  The physical embodiment of the portal to Hell is obsessed with the physical embodiment to the portal to Heaven and he wants to make the sex with her.  This is no ThunderSex (TM), partly because when they do finally make the sex, he is incorporeal.  He does give Charley orgasms that make her see the birth of the universe and reveal his entire history.  I don’t have a problem with romance or sex in books.  I don’t mind paranormal sex.  But Reyes, he could be a problem.  He is the character that will decide whether I like this series enough to continue beyond book three, or throw my kindle down on a soft surface and declare myself “over it!”  He has the potential to undermine Charley’s good qualities.  Or he could become an interesting antagonist.

I will definitely read the second book, but the first book hasn’t sold me on the series.

Rochelle’s #CBR5 Review #23: Star Crossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce


The older I get, the less often I am surprised.  I’ve learned to enjoy a well told story, even if I have a good idea where it’s going.  There aren’t any major surprises, the guy you think is going to be a bad guy is a bad guy, the twists are pretty predictable, and the biggest surprise is what doesn’t happen.  Even so, it’s well written and I love the main character, Digger.  Star Crossed doesn’t redefine the YA fantasy genre, but it’s a nice addition.

Digger is a thief and a forger in the kingdom of Gerse.  After a recent civil war, Gerse is now a theocracy that has banned other religions and all magic. The book opens as Digger has just escaped capture by the Greenmen – the goddess Cylestra’s Honor Guard and now also the King’s secret police.  Digger’s boyfriend was captured by the Greenmen, telling her to run rather than fighting them off himself.  He is presumed dead.  Digger is afraid to go back to her usual lair or to the man who hired her, uncertain if they had bad luck or if they were sold out.  Through luck she is able to get aboard a boat populated by young aristocrats and escape from the city.  She is given a place in an aristocrat’s household as a companion to a young lady getting ready to transition from childhood to adulthood.

Naturally, things aren’t entirely what they seem and Digger gets in over her head.  Digger is resourceful and smart, but she does get herself into trouble by thinking she’s smarter than everyone else.

Star Crossed is the first of an expected trilogy.  I have not been able to find an expected publication date for the third book, so…….

I recommend this as a good summer read.

Rochelle’s #CBR5 Review #22: A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin


I love listening to audio books on long drives (and during presidential primary season) and I tend to do a lot of long drives in the Summer.  This year I finally got back to A Song of Ice and Fire.  And now I remember why I took a break.  Don’t get me wrong, I have loved books 1 – 3, but they are brutal.  Brutally brutal.  Creepily inventively brutal.  Not necessarily inappropriately brutal, I get that this is a brutal, violent world, but by Culthu, these books are brutal.

I am in awe of the way Martin has been able to keep so many balls (or severed body parts) in the air.  As he jumps from story line to story line I never feel like I have to get a refresher on what’s happening.  I never get the characters confused with one another, and I attribute that to excellent writing.   I have complicated feelings about almost all of the characters, again a product of great writing.

I am really looking forward to Book 4, but I’m saving it for next summer.  I need another break.

Rochelle’s #CBR5 Review #21: When Nixon Met Elvis by Igor Kultina – with video


On the 4th of July, after the fireworks, I came across Drunk History: Washington, D.C., three stories from DC’s history, all told by drunk young men.  The episode told the stories of Deep Throat – the Watergate informant, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and when Elvis decided he wanted a DEA badge and asked Nixon if he could have one.   Truth be told, the Lincoln assassination segment was the best – Adam Scott played John Wilkes Booth and the drunk narrator was an awesome bro.  But the Nixon/Elvis segment had some information with which I was not familiar.  Here is a little clip I found:

Drunk History: Elvis Meets Nixon – YouTube.

I knew, of course that Elvis and President Nixon had met, and that Nixon had given him a Drug Enforcement badge, but hadn’t thought about it in depth.  It seemed like there might be some insanity there for me to explore.  I found Igor Kultina’s When Nixon Met Elvis.  I hesitate to call it a book.  It is 44 pages of letters and mostly first person accounts of the meeting and the events surrounding the meeting.   I won’t spoil the crazy for those of you who don’t know the story.  Here is a little excerpt from Elvis’ letter to the President requesting the meeting:

I will be here as long as it takes to get the credentials of a Federal Agent.  I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and Communist brainwashing techniques and I am right in the middle of the whole thing where I can and will do the most good.  I am Glad to help just so long as it is kept very Private.

I can’t really give this a star rating.  I will be looking for more on this moment in history.  Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.

Rochelle’s #CBR5 Review # 20: Once Upon a Tower by Eloisa James

Once Upon a Tower

I read romance novels obsessively for more than 20 years.  I’m not entirely sure why, but I suddenly lost interest.  A few days ago I was in a grocery store and saw the new Eloisa James, and thought, “hey, I liked her.  Let’s try another one.”

This review is not appropriate for children or people with delicate sensibilities. Continue reading

Rochelle’s #CBR5 Review #19: A Conspiracy of Kings (book 4) by Megan Whalen Turner

Conspiracy of Kings


In A Conspiracy of Kings, the forth and possibly final book in the Attolia series, we return to Sophos, the missing heir of the King of Sounis.  Most of the book is told from Sophos’ POV as he is relating it to another character.  We learn early in the book that he has rescued himself from his captors and is the new king of Sounis.  But for most of the book he is a king without a country.  He is struggling to gain his throne, end the civil war, stave off an invasion, find his family, and secure the hand of the woman he loves.

There’s lots of adventure, but the Attolia books are driven by character more than sweeping adventure.  The tone of this book is softer and more reflective, because it’s narrator is a more reflective character than Eugenides.  Part of me did want to stay in Eugenides head and see him scheming his way through this story, but it wouldn’t have worked as well.  I liked Sophos.  I enjoyed traveling with him as he reached the point Eugenides intended him to reach.  And I enjoyed that Sophos reached that point in a way that surprised even Eugenides.

I highly recommend this series for fun summer reading.  Or really, for anytime.

rochelle’s #CBR5 Review #18: The King of Attolia (book 3) by Megan Whalen Turner

The King of Attolia

I loved the first two books of this series, The Thief and The Queen of Attolia.  I took a break from the series in an attempt to experience the beauty of delayed gratification.  Whatever!  I loved The King of Attolia, too.

We already know from the first two books that Eugenides, former Thief of Eddis, now King of Attolia, is smart and clever.  In The King of Attolia, Turner chooses to alter the narrative POV again.  This time, we see the story through the eyes of Costis, a young Attolian guard.  Costis despises the new King and thinks he’s a fool.  As the reader, we know Costis is wrong.  Part of the tension driving the story forward is the readers awareness that more is going on than we see through the eyes of Costis.

The story isn’t told only from Costis’ POV.  There are moments when we see other character interacting.  But for the most part, the reader is kept out of Eugenides’ head until he is ready to reveal himself.

He looked gravely at the king. “It isn’t an easy thing to give your loyalty to someone you don’t know, especially when that person chooses to reveal nothing of himself. But no matter, Your Majesty. You are revealed at last.”
The king looked down at his nakedness and back at the captain.
“Was that a joke?” he asked.