December 26, 2009


Homeland: The Dark Elf Trilogy, Part 1 (Forgotten Realms: The Legend of Drizzt, Book I) (Bk. 1)Title : Homeland
Author : R.S. Salvatore
Reading Dates : 25 Dec - 10 Jan 2010

Book Summary of Homeland.

Drizzt Do'Urden is the youngest child of Matron Malice of House Do'Urden in Menzoberranzan. As the third son, Drizzt would have been sacrificed to Lolth the Spider Queen if by happenstance his older brother Dinin had not taken an opportunity to assassinate the oldest son Nalfein. Thus, Drizzt is spared and given into the care of his second sister Vierna for the first ten years of his life to be indoctrinated with the precepts of drow society, that of the inferiority of the male to the female. This is followed by another 6 years of service as a servant to the family before he is handed over to Zaknafein, Drizzt's father and weapons master of House Do'Urdern, to be trained as a fighter for another 5 years.

Drizzt is next sent to Melee-Magthere, the school of fighters. Drizzt proves his prowess as a fighter there as he wins the yearly grand melee 9 out of 10 times, losing only in the first year due to treachery. In his last year there Drizzt also meets the magical panther Guenhwyvar, owned by the wizard Masoj Hun'ett, whom he admires for its strength and dignity. His friendship with Guenhwyvar deepends during the time they spent together as part of the mandatory patrol forces which guards the boundaries of Menzoberranzan.

At the same time, Drizzt's disillusionment with his fellow dark elves grows with the realization that their sole motive is to promote themselves and their houses in endless intrigues and wars. Drizzt finally makes the decision to leave his homeland when Masoj attempts to use Guenhwyvar to assassinate Drizzt in the opening salvo of House Hun'ett's war against House Do'Urden. With Guenhwyvar's help, Drizzt not only escapes Masoj's trap but kills Masoj and his fellow wizard, Altor DeVir. When Drizzt returns to House Do'Urden in order to get his father to join him, he finds out that his mother has sacrificed Zaknafein to regain the favor of Lolth. Thus, Drizzt is forced to flee his home with Guenhwyvar into the dangerous Underdark.

Book Review of Homeland.
Rereading Homeland has taught me some memories are better left alone. The story of the dark elf, Drizzt used to be one of my favourite reads especially the introduction to Drizzt's past and how he first met Guenhwyvvar. This time round however, nothing much seems to be happening. Drizzt's journey from innocent child to an extraordinary warrior is hardly surprising with the early demonstration of his natural talents. Even his nearly single handed combat fights, first against an earth elemental and later on against 2 wizards, which are meant to be a superb show of his prowess are hardly exciting stuff. Ho-hum. Let's hope the next book in the Drizzt saga, Exile, fares better.

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December 22, 2009

Come the Spring

Come the Spring (Clayborne Brothers)Title : Come the Spring
Author : Julie Garwood
Reading Dates : 21 Dec - 25 Dec 2009

Book Summary and Review of Come the Spring.
Cole Clayborne wakes up from a bout of the flu to find that he has been sworn in as a US marshal while he was incapacitated. Cole is determined to relinquish his new responsibility until marshal Daniel Ryan shows him the latest crime scene in the town of Rockford Falls. The scene of the brutal murders of those in the bank at the time of the robbery by the Blackwater gang changes Cole's mind. Daniel himself has been on the trail of the bank robbers for nearly 2 years, especially since his own wife and young daughter became one of their victims.

The marshals are ecstatic at first to discover clues pointing to a possible female witness to the Rockford Falls bank robbery. The case however becomes complicated when all 3 women who might be the witness deny being in the bank at that time. The marshals believe that the 3 women are lying since Rebecca James, Grace Winthrop and Jessica Summers all give nearly the exact same testimonies when interrogated.

All 3 women later claim to be the witness when the boardinghouse where Grace and Jessica are staying is burnt down. Unable to determine who the real witness is, Cole, Daniel and marshal Jack Cooper decide to take all 3 ladies into protective custody and escort them to Blackwater where a judge is waiting to hear their testimony. As a safety precaution, the 3 marshals decide to separate the ladies and travel separately with Daniel, Cole and Cooper escorting Grace, Jessica and Rebecca respectively.

While traveling to their destination, Cooper is almost killed by Rebecca who is actually a part of the Blackwater gang. Luckily he survives to tell Daniel the tale. Once Daniel and Cole regroup, the 2 then set a trap. With the revelation that Jessica is the real witness, they finally put an end to the Blackwater gang.

Rating Come the Spring in comparison to the other books in the series, I would say this is my favourite after For the Roses. The camaraderie between Cole and Daniel and the antics of Jessica's adopted son Caleb is certainly interesting but it still falls short of the warmth and humour found in the bond between the Clayborne brothers in For the Roses. The Claybornes only make a brief appearance at the end of the story and do not make an impact at all. And since Cole, Daniel and Caleb each go their own way half way through the story, we don't really get to enjoy the best parts of the tale. I enjoy happy endings but there is such a thing as too much sweetness. For now, I'll be staying away from more of such similar romances.

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December 21, 2009

One Red Rose

One Red Rose (Clayborne Brides)Title : One Red Rose
Author : Julie Garwood
Reading Dates : 20 Dec - 21 Dec 2009

Book Summary and Review of One Red Rose.
The oldest of the Clayborne brothers, Adam, returns to Rosehill to find that the bride his Mama Rose found him 2 years ago has finally shown up. Although Adam finds Genevieve Delacroix almost irresistible, Adam is determined to maintain his distance and live out his life alone. However, after Genevieve disappears suddenly from Mama Rose's birthday celebration apparently fleeing from danger, Adam is forced to track her down and offer whatever assistance he can. After learning from Genevieve that she has in her possession money stolen by Reverend Ezekiel Jones, a false preacher, Adam lures the men after Genevieve to Middleton where 3 US marshals are investigating a bank robbery. With the help of marshal Daniel Ryan, Adam takes down Jones and his men. After almost losing Genevieve, Adam also realizes that he is in love with her and marries her.

The last of the Clayborne Brides books is also my least favourite of the 3 books. I find the heroine's sugary sweetness to be irritating. Giving away money despite being broke herself ? And her foolish behaviour disguised as concern for the man she loves only serves to put herself and Adam in danger. For someone on the run from dangerous men to behave as if she was on an adventure despite a destination obvious to all is no longer naivete but idiocy. When Genevieve runs straight into danger fearing for Adam, all she does is put a hostage into enemy hands. Thus, being the one again to put Adam in danger. The hostage situation may have been intended to demonstrate Adam and Genevieve's love for each other, but it only annoys me having to read of such a stupid heroine. Reading this book only makes me pity the Claybornes and wonder at the future troubles Genevieve is going to get them into. Even the Claybornes appearance at the start of the story does not save this book from being a disappointment. Let's hope the last in the Clayborne family saga does better.

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December 20, 2009

One White Rose

One White RoseTitle : One White Rose
Author : Julie Garwood
Reading Dates : 19 Dec - 20 Dec 2009

Book Summary and Review of One White Rose.
Douglas Clayborne walks in on a lone pregnant woman giving birth and finds himself helping to deliver an early baby. Baby Parker and widow Isabel Grant are being terrorized by the town bully Boyle who is determined to have both Isabel and her land. Unable to risk the new mother and baby by either moving them or starting a war with Boyle and his men, Douglas is forced to hide his presence from Boyle while waiting for Isabel and Parker to grow stronger. During the weeks of confinement together, Douglas and Isabel fall in love. Time runs out when Boyle's men, tired of waiting, attacks Isabel's home while Boyle is away. Luckily, the Clayborne brothers arrive in the nick of time after getting Douglas's summons for help. The Claybornes successfully routes Boyle and his men.

One White Rose isn't badly written, but it isn't anything special either. The drawing point for the story is that the story is part of the Clayborne family saga. Unfortunately, the time that we get to see the brothers interact is too short and we get no further glimpse into the Clayborne's past. I suppose it is too much to hope for more of what made For the Roses so interesting.

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December 19, 2009

One Pink Rose

The Clayborne Brides: One Pink Rose / One White Rose / One Red Rose (3 Books in 1)Title : One Pink Rose
Author : Julie Garwood
Reading Dates : 18 Dec - 19 Dec 2009

Book Summary and Review of One Pink Rose.
The year is 1880 and Mama Rose has finally joined the Clayborne family at Rosehill Ranch, Montana. Their sister Mary Rose is heavily pregnant with her first child and youngest brother Travis is following brother-in-law Harrison's advice and preparing for his apprenticeship as an attorney. But before that as a favour to Mama Rose, Travis is preparing to escort mail-order bride Bostonian Emily Finnegan to Golden Crest, Montana where she will meet her future husband, Clifford O'Toole. At the same time, he intends to hunt down Daniel Ryan whom the brothers believe have stolen from their Mama Rose.

When Travis finds out that Daniel Ryan is actually a United States marshal, he still stubbornly persists in believing that the man swindled Mama Rose out of her gift for Travis's brother Cole. Although the marshal later rescues Travis and Emily from an ambush by the O'Toole family, Travis still doesn't get to speak with the man as he was unconscious after getting shot. By the time, he awakens the marshal has already left. Travis and Emily get married of course after realizing that they are already in love with each other.

Emily and Travis's love story starts out rather enjoyable in the beginning especially due to Emily's behaviour. Emily has been jilted and betrayed by her groom and sister. As such, she has determined that only frivolous and dishonest women like her sister Barbara are able to win men over. Thus, Emily is determined to discard her own practical nature and emulate her sister in pretending to be a helpless female. This of course both amuses and exasperates Travis. My only disappointment was that the rest of the Clayborne family only makes a short appearance at the start. After all, the best part of For the Roses was learning about the Clayborne's eccentricities.

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December 15, 2009

For the Roses

For the RosesTitle : For the Roses
Author : Julie Garwood
Reading Dates : 14 Dec - 18 Dec 2009

Book Summary and Review of For the Roses.
The story starts from 1860 in New York City when 4 of the hundreds of homeless and abandoned street children finds a baby girl in the alley where they sleep. The boys ranging from the eldest 13-year old Adam, an escaped slave, to the youngest 9-year old Travis decide to form a family and raise the girl as their sister. They name the baby girl Mary Rose after Cole's and Adam's mothers and take Travis's family name Clayborne as their own. Realizing that the baby would not be able to survive the city and fearing that Adam's owners might come after him, the 4 decide to make their way west and finally settling in Montana.

Inevitably, the man leading the hunt for the long-lost Lady Victoria, only daughter of Lord William Elliot and Lady Agatha, arrives in Blue Belle where the Claybornes live in 1879. Lord Harrison Stanford MacDonald had come to investigate the Clayborne family after an acquaintance of the Elliot family glimpses Mary Rose who is nearly the spitting image of the late mother. Harrison and Mary Rose of course falls in love and are married.

After Harrison reveals his initial motive for coming to Blue Belle, Mary Rose agrees to visit her father and relatives in England. Although Mary Rose grows to love her father, she finally runs back home to her brothers when she realizes that not only is her father and relatives unwilling to accept her as she is but they are also determined to sever all ties between her and her brothers.

Harrison and Elliot realize their mistake after Mary Rose disappears and chase her to Montana where they seek her forgiveness. Harrison also arrives in time to save Adam from being hanged by his former owners.

Time and again when I read For the Roses my favourite part remains the bond between the Claybornes. The Claybornes have made a family bonded not by blood but love. Neither Douglas, Cole, Travis or Mary Rose have any problems of thinking of Adam's Mama Rose as their own mother. And they soon make Harrison and Elliot a part of their family. A family where one brother shoots the imaginary monsters under his sister's bed so she can sleep without worries at night while another learns how to play the piano with his sister in order to give her a well-rounded education. There is nothing special in the love story itself. Instead it is the story of the Claybornes' past glimpsed through letters communicated between the siblings to Mama Rose and Harrison's experiences when he first joins them which provides both the humor and warmth. It is this which continually makes this story a keeper and makes me wish to read on in order to learn more of the Claybornes.

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December 5, 2009


Title : Beauty
Author : Sherri S. Tepper
Reading Dates : 4 Dec - 12 Dec 2009

Book Summary of Beauty.
Beauty, the only daughter of Duke Phillip of Monfort and Westfaire and the Lady Elladine of Ylles is the heroine from which the legend of Sleeping Beauty revolves. Since Beauty's mother disappeared while she was still an infant and her father has largely ignored her, Beauty only learns that her mother is a fairy and she herself cursed to sleep for a hundred years on her 16th birthday shortly after her father becomes engaged to Sibylla de Vinciennes d'Argent..

Sibylla had taken an instant disliking to Beauty and was determined to make life difficult for her including taking over Beauty's rooms. When Beauty moves in to what was her mother's rooms, she discovers the letter her mother left for her and a box containing magical threads to help Beauty find Elladine. Beauty sews an invisibility cloak using the black thread and escapes the curse placed on her. Instead her illegitimate half-sister Mary Blossom born on the same day as her is the one who falls under the spell of the enchantment with the rest of the Westfaire inhabitants.

Although Beauty escapes from Westfaire, she is kidnapped by
time travelers from the 21st century documenting the end of magic and brought to their time. Even when Beauty sews a pair of 7 league boots using the brown thread, she is unable to escape as magic no longer exists in that time. One of her abductees Bill takes pity on Beauty and convinces several others of their group to escape their dying world by travelling 100 years into the past together with Beauty.

Beauty and Bill's peaceful life in the early 1990s is disrupted when another of their group, Jaybee, kills Bill and rapes Beauty. To escape from further degradation by Jaybee, Beauty escapes back to her own time with the 7 league boots.

When Beauty discovers she is pregnant with Jaybee's child, she seduces Edward of Wellingford into marrying her. She names the daughter she bears after her mother Elladine. Like her mother, Beauty abandones own child shortly after birthing her when she sees Jaybee in Elly. Beauty seeks out her mother and finds her in the imaginary land of Chinanga. She also meets the clock fairy, her Aunt Carabosse, who had originally cursed her and learns all is not as it seems. Aunt Carabosse seems to actually be her ally and the curse was intended as a form of protection from those who would harm her.

Beauty travels with her mother to Ylles, a province in Faery, only to flee later in order to escape being used as payment to the Dark Lord. Though Beauty has only spent a few years in Faery, she finds that in the real world more than a decade has past and she herself is old. She seeks out her daughter Elly pretending to her aunt Catherine. To her surprise, Beauty finds herself playing the role of fairy godmother to her daughter, nicknamed Ella of the ashes by her stepsiblings, from which the fairy tale Cinderella would be borne. Beauty is also reunited with her lost love Giles shortly before he disappears, apparently set upon and killed by robbers.

Beauty stays with Ella who dies giving birth to Beauty's granddaughter Galantha. She then decides to return the 1990s in order to seek revenge upon Jaybee whom she blames for Giles and Ella's death. Beauty succeeds in her plans and stays on in that time hoping to work towards changing the future she saw in the 21st century. She stays too long in the 20th century and almost fails to return to her own time later as the amount of magic declines the further from her own time.

When Beauty does return to her own time, she finds 50 years have past since she left. She is reunited with Giles, who had been overpowered by an impress gang. Together they attempt to seek out Beauty's granddaughter or descendants. Again Beauty finds her kin the subject of another fairy tale with Galantha or SnowDrop as she is called, the heroine of what would be known as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in a future time.
After Snow's prince finds and weds her, Beauty returns to Wellingford with Giles.

When Giles falls severely ill, Beauty brings him back to Westfaire. Thus, instead of dying, Giles falls under the sleeping enchantment of Westfaire.

Snow's father-in-law, King Zot, soon sends Snow's newborn baby boy to Beauty. The child is the product of an extra-marital affair between Snow and a courtier, Vincent. Beauty names her great-grandson Giles Edward Vincent Charming and is at first more than happy to raise the child. She soon realizes that baby Giles's foster mother resents her and decides to visit her mother in order to avoid disharmony in Wellingford.

Forgetting the danger she was once in, Beauty finds herself handed over to the Dark Lord. When Beauty finally escapes her imprisonment, she finds years have past and she is now a hundred and three. For breaking the covenant with the Holy One by bringing harm to a human, all of Faery are no longer immortal, even Beauty's friends and allies.

Beauty's Faery allies though sees hope of saving the world where once there was none. And thus, though all of Faery believes that they will perish, a great host gathers to fight the Dark Lord. While the Faery fail to destroy the Dark Lord, they do succeed in banishing him into another dimension. Although most of Faery have perished, those who still have the strength have chosen to pursue him. Only the Bogles remain to guard the earth and prevent the Dark Lord's horrors from returning.

Meanwhile, Beauty who has returned to Westfaire finds her great-grandson in the form of a frog after being enchanted into that form by Carabosse. Beauty grows fond of her great-grandson who reminds her of herself in her youth. She helps him to recover his human form and gets him to help her save the world. Treating Westfaire as an Ark, Beauty's great-grandson Giles and the Bogles help to collect mankind's creations and every species of life in order to preserve it. By doing so, they hope to save them for a time beyond the end of the world in the 22nd century when life returns.

At the end of their work, Beauty grants Giles permission to carry out Mary Blossom out of Westfaire and live out their days.

Book Review of Beauty.
This retelling and weaving together of several fairy tales sometimes gives a rather sad twist to some of the stories. In this tale, there is a meanness in Beauty's daughter, Elly which prompts her to cause her stepsister's death unlike the kind Cinderella. And unlike Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which has the dwarfs taking Snow White in out of kindness and Show White being tricked again and again due to her trusting nature, here the little men actually lusted after Snow Drop and Beauty's granddaughter is fooled again and again because she is an idiot. The only one of her family whom Beauty grows to like is her great-grandson Giles who has inherited both her brains and beauty. Unfortunately although these unexpected twists certainly makes the tale more interesting, it ruins the fairy tales and leaves me feeling disappointed. The ending of Beauty no doubt is intended to be hopeful, but it only leaves me with a bad taste. Even in the face of destruction, can mankind not change and save the world ? Surely, yes. Yet, Beauty seems to say otherwise.

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