Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Review: Suzanne Collins's Catching Fire

Book 2 in the Suzanne Collins Hunger Games Series is Catching Fire.  If you haven’t read Book 1, it’s a must! Check out my review.  Also, I’m so enamored with the series that I’m giving away a copy of this book along with a $10 GC.  Contest ends tonight – see link for details.  Note: THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW!
After Book 1, the 16 year old girl on fire, Katniss Everdeen, made it home as a victor from the Hunger Games.  Peeta made it home too, but unlike Katniss, he’s nursing a broken heart.  Both of them did what they had to do to survive in the “kill or be killed” Hunger Games.  They barely made it out alive and caused quite a stir in the process.  In Book 2, unknown to Katniss, rumors of an uprising have surfaced, prompting her to receive an unscheduled visit from the diabolical President Snow.  He’s the man that smelled like roses and blood and he gave me the creeps. 

Despite all President Snow’s attempts at censorship with Katniss and Peeta’s act of defiance, a small flame has sparked an uprising among some of the Districts.  And now in order to defuse the volatile situation, Katniss was forced to continue to play the love match with Peeta.  Was it love or were they both still playing the game?  Off camera Peeta played the jilted lover, while Gale, Katniss’s life-long friend, secretly admited his true feelings to Katniss.  Sadly, Katniss was literally pulled in several directions that I wondered how she could really even decide?  The capital demanded her cooperation while Peeta and Gale wanted her love.  Her mother still saw her as a young girl and the Districts claimed her as the face of their rebellion.

Just like the games, it all happened so fast and the Capitol decided Katniss’s next course of action.  She’s now reenlisted – along with all the other District’s victors – back into the Hunger Games.  This time in the Quarter Quell; the Olympics of Hunger Games.  It was all rigged – the Quarter Quell and everything else for that matter.  President Snow figured the best way to minimize the damage is to kill all the District’s former victors or heroes.  And that’s only half of the story, guys.  I can’t tell you anything else.  It’s so damn good, you have to….HAVE TO READ IT!

I was so hooked; I went out the very next day and got the final installment, MockingJay.  I loved all three books in the series, seriously.  For me, Catching Fire was easily 4.75.  There is no question, this is one of the best YA series out there.

Mina B. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fridays with Fred: Memorial Day Weekend

Well, minions. It’s almost Memorial Day weekend. So I thought I’d give you a shot of Mister, a.k.a. Fred, posing with our American Flag. We're big supporters of Memorial Day since our family has ties to the military. Fred, himself, has been put through doggie boot camp (several times.) Not that it do any good. He’s a sorry excuse for a Marine’s dog, but we still love him. And since this weekend’s all about remembering…enjoy.
Oh, and Happy Memorial Day Weekend.

Anyway, check out shots of Fred  here. And remember to check out Schatze over at Mary's (BookHounds).
Mina B. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Splash Into Summer Giveaway Blog Hop

Hi there, minions!  Thanks for stopping by my Splash Into Summer Giveaway Blog Hop.  The Free Sh** Fairy has been buzzing incessantly since the last hop for this giveaway.  And to continue on with the Hunger Games madness I’ve been starving for, my FS fairy found for you…Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Book 2 in the Hunger Games series.) 
I'm # 269
If you haven’t read Book 1 in the series, Hunger Games you seriously are missing out.  I’m completely smitten with this dystopia tale.  For more details about this book, see my review here.   
I hope everyone’s excited about this summer.  And I hope I can add to it with this killer hop giveaway.  Oh, and before I forget…thanks to the Free Shit Fairy, I also have a $10 GIFT CARD from Starbucks to toss into the mix.  And so not only am giving away a book but some coffee too.  How's that for some Free Sh**?  Settle down, okay?  I know it’s a lot to take in. 

Alright, let’s clarify once more. For my Splash Into Summer Blog hop, I’m giving away one (1) copy of Suzanne Collins’s Catching Fire (Book 2 in her Hunger Games series) and also one (1) $10 Starbucks Gift Card! (Retail value of $23)


The Splash Into Summer Giveaway Blog Hop runs from 12:01 AM on Wednesday, May 25th to 11:59 PM on Tuesday, 31st, midnight.

And now…here’s how to enter.

To enter…
You MUST be a follower of my blog and MUST fill out this entry form. (And yes, I do check GCF)

Extra entries
+2 For Becoming my Fan/Like on Facebook/MinaBurrows
+2 NEW/OLD Followers on Twitter @MinaBurrows
+1 if you Retweet this (limit 1 retweet)

The contest runs from 12:01 AM on Wednesday, May 25th to 11:59 PM to Tuesday,May 31st. Contest is for US residents only. Want to see who else is participating? Take a look at the links below and hop on by.

Mina B.

(Note: The Winner will be notified by email and will have no more than 72 hours to respond before another winner is drawn. Winners are selected by the reputable Random.org.)

UPDATE:  I'm having issues with the Google Form.  If for some reason, you see the form is not working, please comment on this post with your name, GFC name, email and don't forget to mention extra entries!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Creepy Classic: The String of Pearls

The String of Pearls (Dodo Press) is an original penny dreadful tale that sparked an undying allure of what I believe one of the most nefarious villains of all time: Sweeney Todd.  Broadway and Hollywood immortalized Sweeney Todd in the mystical movies and plays of The Demon Barber on Fleet Street, but it all began with The String of Pearls.  The version I was able to read was by Thomas Peckett Prest.
I can’t say enough about Sweeney Todd.  His character is genius in print.  Yet as bizarre, terrifying and evil as he is, he is somehow likeable.  To me, Todd was the Victorian’s forethought to the modern day, literary icon, Hannibal Lecter.  Both are oddly horrifying and menacing yet somehow entertaining. 

The story starts out where a patron, Lieutenant Thornhill, visits the barber’s establishment for a shave before meeting with the lovely Johanna.  He must inform her that her beau, Mark, died at sea and give to her Mark’s last gift: a string of pearls.  Sadly, Todd polishes off the Lieutenant and he never makes it to Johanna’s.  What’s unique about this patron is his god-loving faithful dog, Hector.  Apparently the owner and his pooch were inseparable and so when his master fails to exit the barber’s shop, the pooch becomes frantic.  Oh, I can’t convey the sentiments stirred in me by this dog.  For it not for him, the story would not be possible since he’s the one that ignites the investigation of his master’s disappearance.  One of my favorite quotes “Give me my master, and I will forgive you all that you have done…”  The relentless canine then enlists his master’s friends which was too adorable for words.  Between the dog, Johanna, Lieutenant Thornhill’s friends and even the barber’s apprentice, Tobias, Sweeney Todd battles some serious heat.  However grotesque this story is, without the dog and even Tobias, I think I’d been happy allowing Todd slitting the throats of his innocent patrons.

The story curves and dips around the extravagent and very hot string of pearls.  You gotta love Tobias, who in the beginning instinctively knows his boss (Todd) is murdering his clients.  Aside from how cruel Sweeney can be to the poor lad, Tobias notes that the client’s often enter the shop and oddly leave their belongings.  It didn’t take the poor chap too long to figure out something was amiss.  Another one of treasured quotes from this tale is Tobia’s “-I only wish that I were dead.” Poor kid. 

The tale unfolds the horrifying mystery of what happened to the barber's clients, introducing key details like Mrs. Lovett and her savage pies.  Between the serial killings, the cannibalism, the wistful romance, the apprentice and loyal friends that extend as far as one’s dog, this book has all the makings of a timeless classic.  If you have seen or read Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber on Fleet Street, I beg you to try forgetting what you already know about the character and read its original tale with fresh eyes.  Only then, can you truly grasp how purely raw, brilliant and unforgettable this creepy classic is.  I won’t tell you want happens it wouldn’t be right. 

The String of Pearls is a classic so you can get your copy at the library, a book store or even an ebook retailer.  I downloaded mine for free at manybooks.net, so now you have no excuses.  For me The String of Pearls was a 4 ½ .  Stripped to the very core, its horror and mystery at its finest – I will forever smile when I think of Sweeney Todd and equally shudder when I think about those revolting meat pies.

Mina B.     

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fridays with Fred: Watermelon

Well, MM’s...I found out something new about my furry friend, Fred.  He likes watermelon.  Shocker. Who doesn’t?  Anyway, I was so amused; I took this shot of him tearing through a slice.  I thought it was fitting seeing as Memorial Day is right around the corner.  Like most folks, we’ll be celebrating the weekend with some sort of barbecue, featuring yummies like charred meat, grilled corn and yes even watermelon.  Fred will be there too and as usual, he’s already started partying
Have a good weekend.
Next up: Seed Spitting Competition
Anyway, check out shots of Fred here and here.  And remember to check out Schatze over at Mary's (BookHounds).
Mina B. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Book Review: Jennifer Turner's Eternal Hearts

Jennifer Turner’s Eternal Hearts is Book 2 in her Darkness Within series.  In order to appreciate the series, I recommend you read Book 1 in the series, Eternal Seduction. (Click here for my review.)
If you’ve read Eternal Seduction, then you already know Drake Black (one of my favs.)  I have to say there’s something about Drake.  He’s a man’s man and a woman’s dream.  Anyway, for this book, I was intrigued to learn more about the female who caught his eye.  Drake is a preternatural assassin who believes he’s only good at one thing; killing.  Living among the vampires and the werewolves, hidden by the Veil, he usually is hired to kill.  As an assassin, Drake effortlessly annihilates until one day he receives an unusual order to protect.  And from that moment on his life would never be the same.  His charge is Toni Tutoro, a fledgling (new vampire) and she’s an outright mess.

As fledgling, Toni turned a few years prior in the city of Chicago, in the place she called home.  She learned early on that the vampires had hierarchy and rules, ones dictated the city’s Lord Christian and those above him.  One of the most sacred rules is to not break the Veil that shields and separates the supernaturals from the humans.  Fracturing that fragile wall can get a being killed, whether you’re human or not.  Like a pawn in a deadly game, Tina did the unthinkable the instant she saw her human family murdered in cold blood by conspiring vampires.  She lost is mind, demanding retribution and nearly lost her eternal life.  Instead, the emotionally unstable fledgling was banned from the city, ordered to never return.

Three years later, Toni’s back in Chicago, begging Lord Christian to let her stay.  Once she’s back, Drake receives his order of protection and he’s a bit out of place with the entire notion of protecting vs. killing.  Still, he rallies and soon becomes intrigued by the spunky vampire vixen.  Sure, Toni’s moods are like the wind and at first he’s having a difficult time trying to figure her out.  But eventually, their attraction breaks down their barriers, sparking a deeper connection between the two.

What I love best about Jennifer Turner is she’s bold with her female heroines and their flaws.  She takes paranormal romance and submerges it into a dark, menacing world.  And she’s not afraid to take on difficult characters.  In Book 1, there is Logan, a strung out, homeless junkie.  In this tale, there is Toni, an emotional firecracker, with deep ties to the human world.  Both Drake and Toni have difficulty fitting in and yet somehow, they fit together.  There’s a ton of exciting sub plots and characters that I could go on and on about.  Turner nails Toni’s evil vamp nemesis: Natasha Stryker.  Odin and Oktober make appearances too but nothing is as delicious as Stefan Nelek.  It wouldn’t be a DW novel without him pulling someone’s strings, now would it?  I won’t tell you anything else, except that you’ll finally learn what Drake really is.  He’s a *bleep!*

I enjoyed this book just as much as the first, probably more because of the new characters and the foreshadowing of what’s to come in the series.  For me, Eternal Hearts is a 4.

Until next time, read a Darkness Within novel…the darker the better.

Mina B.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fridays with Fred: Get a Rope

Hey, minions.  I haven't been able to post in a few days.  In fact I didn’t think I was going to be able to post today’s Fridays with Fred because of the issues with Blogger.  No worries, though.  We’ve made it.  Now, for those that don’t know JRT’s are notorious buggers when it comes to their toys, especially the rope toy.  Fred get’s in a frenzy when he plays with that thing.  And when he does, I find strings of rope around the house.  But the funniest thing is when he growls and whips it back in forth until he knocks himself in the head.  Poor buddy…not a pretty sight, but you can’t help but laugh.
Have a great weekend.
Anyway, check out Fred’s other toys here.  And don’t forget about  Schatze over at Mary's (BookHounds).

Mina B.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fridays with Fred: Pretty in Pink

Hey everybody!  Fridays with Fred is here and better late than never, huh?  There’s a cute story behind this picture.  Back when we had Buffy, she slept here in the pink princess bed Fred’s lounging in.  It was the perfect snuggle pad where she could burrow herself for hours.  Now Fred uses it and I just have to laugh.  It’s so girly, complete with pink polka dots and fuchsia embroidered princess crown in the center.  Anyway, I thought I’d share. 
Enjoy your weekend.

Don't tell the guys.
Be sure and stop by and visit Schatze over at Mary's (BookHounds). She's one of Fred's other hot babes.

Mina B.

Book Review: Kresley Cole's Wicked Deeds on a Winters Night

Book 3 in Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series is Wicked Deeds on a Winters Night.  Cole is such a phenomenal writer that you’re almost always guaranteed a great book, let alone series.  Her cast of bizarre, likable and complex characters always somehow stick with me.  Each time she introduces a new character, I wonder if or when she’ll write their story.

A case in point is in Wicked Deeds on a Winters Night, Bowen MacRieve  (a Lykae and close friend of Lachlain – the King of the Lykae/werewolves) was introduced to us in the first book, A Hunger Like No Other (my review.)   His sad story began when his life mate, Mariah, died while running from him during their mating ritual.   And once she died, so did Bowen’s reason for existence. 

Fast forward to nearly a century later and now Bowen is on a quest to find Thrane’s key.  Every five hundred years, immortals convene and compete in the Hie; an immortal race equivalent to the human’s “Amazing Race” but far more deadly.  The key holds the chance for Bowen to go back in time and right the wrong that stole Mariah away from him. 

During the competition, Bowen meets Mariketa: The Awaited.  She’s a witch and a damn powerful one too.  Bowen doesn’t trust her because she’s a witch.  And when he starts lusting after her, he believes she’s enthralled him somehow with her sorcery.  He curses her while his body craves her.  His desire is awakened, forcing him to question if she's his new life mate or is she bewitching him?  Mari is attracted to Bowen too, but she’s wary of Lykae.  Her future was foretold that a powerful Lykae would claim her as his life mate and that his overprotective and controlling nature would cause strife in her coven.  And that’s just the beginning, folks.

Neither one of them trusts each other, which doesn’t make for a great start in any relationship.  Between the backstabbing, the deadly spells and the never-ending old flame (Mariah), you wonder if Bowen and Mari are even meant to be.  I won’t tell you what happens only that it’s…oh so goooood!

Cole is an amazing storyteller, weaving intricate plots and sub plots so methodically and effortlessly.  After reading just a few IAD books, I began appreciating not just her writing, but how she artfully or thoughtfully crafts the entire series.  How does she keep it all connected?  Her skill is a mark of a master, no doubt. 

For me, a Wicked Deeds on a Winters Night was a 4.  Reading Cole’s Immortals After Dark is almost like eating Lay’s potato chips – cuz you can’t just have one.   

Mina B.