Monday, August 23, 2010

Book Review: The Sevenfold Spell by Tia Nevitt

Title: The Sevenfold Spell (Book 1 of the Accidental Enchantments series)
Author: Tia Nevitt
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: 09/27/2010
ISBN: 9781426890604

If you're a fan of fairy tales or even if you're not, you've more than likely heard the tale of Sleeping Beauty or seen one of the many different film versions of it. You know the princess, the good fairies, the evil fairy who conspires to commit murder by spinning wheel, as well as the prince who eventually breaks the spell & wins the girl. But what about the other people, the ones who are hurt by the destruction of the kingdom's spinning wheels?

Nevitt gives us her own interpretation of this well loved fairytale, choosing to focus on a plain young spinner-in-training rather than on the princess Aurora. Our heroine of the tale is Talia, a hopelessly plain girl with a face full of warts who has no prospective suitors... save for one boy. When the ban on spinning wheels ruins her already slim chances of getting his father's approval, Talia sees her young friend being sent away to a monastery & decides to give him the only thing she has left: her maidenhood. From that moment on the tale of Sleeping Beauty begins to take its toll on all of the kingdom's inhabitants, pushing Talia ever closer to that inevitable moment where both her future & the Princess Auroras are entwined.

Fans of fairy tales will be excited to read this new interpretation because it's always fun to see how people can re-imagine these tales. All will be drawn into Nevitt's energetic & intriguing storytelling abilities. Many readers will love that the focus falls on a heroine who isn't perfection itself & that doesn't decide to sit & pine away for one person. Talia's actions aren't always the best but she doesn't sit & mope or wait for someone to sweep her off her feet. Nevitt also tackles the story with a sense of humor that many (myself included) will appreciate & find themselves laughing out loud at.

The only real complaint some might find is that while the ending is a satisfying one, it felt a little out of joint with the tone the story had been having until that point in time. This might be due to the story's length- it's only about 70 pages long, so the tale does progress very quickly. It's still a fun story overall & well worth the purchase so you can read & re-read this incredibly addictive story. With Nevitt promising more stories in this series I can only hope that I'll enjoy them as much as I did this one.

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Carina Press: Harlequin's e-book only branch

In June Harlequin released a new branch of their company that would focus on only digital releases. This means that for the time being the books released under this label will not be in traditional paper format.

This is an interesting development since it not only means that ebooks are becoming the way to go, but it also appears that it might allow for a wider variety of books to be published through this label. One look at this site shows a range from inspirational to horror to comedy to gay/lesbian themed titles. The prices don't seem to be too bad either, with books ranging from the $2 to $6 in price. There's even a free title on there.

While it looks like most of the titles are available for purchase on sites such as amazon, readers should still check Carina Press's website for all of the most recent titles.

Netgalley: It'll make you go broke!

Love reading? Love reviewing? Then you need to get in on NetGalley.

NetGalley is a site that allows professional reviewers, booksellers, & librarians access to electronic ARCs (advance reader copies) of some of the hottest new books that are out or going to be coming out. The best part? It's green. No paper is used to make these ARCs & there's no worry about having a huge amount of books left sitting around. If you have an e-reader you can easily put these books onto your reader, although I've read that Kindle users might have to pay a fee depending on how they send their book to their reader. (I've heard that by resetting the maximum payment amount you can get around that. It just takes a little longer.) Otherwise you can view these books on your computer through adobe or NetGalley's internet viewer.

I know that I review a lot of romance & fantasy here, but you can get all sorts of books from there. Nonfiction as well as fiction. Plus I have to say that so far I've loved all of the books I've requested from there. I've yet to read anything that I've disliked.

The only problem? You'll go broke because you'll want to collect all of the other books that these authors put out.

Book Review: To Wish or Not to Wish by Mindy Klasky

Title: To Wish or Not to Wish (Book 3 in the 'As You Wish' trilogy)
Author: Mindy Klasky
Publisher: Mira
Release Date: 10/01/2010
ISBN: 0778328309
Buy it from!

Love Sophie Kinsella? Like Meg Cabot? Longing for your next Kyra Davis fix? Then you'll love Mindy Klasky. Mixing everything that is so much fun from each author (minus Davis' mystery themes) & adding a sizable dollop of magic, Klasky manages to create a book that 'chick-lit' readers are sure to love!

Aspiring actress Erin Hollister believes that bad things come in threes. First she goes to an audition where she's sent packing before she's even able to complete the first sentence. Then she loses the catering job that was supposed to support her until she made her big break. Her third is that after a pregnancy scare her boyfriend unceremoniously dumps her. It isn't until a co-worker (at her second job) gives her an unexpected gift of the use of a beautiful loft & a tarnished lamp. Little does Erin know that this lamp has a gender bending genie with the potential to grant her four wishes. While her first two wishes were easy, Erin soon discovers that some of the best things in life don't come from wishing & that her wishing is on a deadline!

While this is the third & last book in the 'As You Wish' trilogy, readers will like that they'll be able to pick this last book up without worry of missing out on anything major. (Although like me, they'll probably end it wanting to find the other books in the series.) They'll also love watching Erin stumble through her wishes & indecision over what to wish for & whom she should be with. Although it'll be quite clear to readers what Erin should be wishing for & who she should end up with, half the fun is getting to that point. Readers wanting more serious fare should look elsewhere- this book is almost entirely a lighthearted read.

Readers will love this frothy & light read. It's perfect for that carry along book that you sneak-read inbetween work & other obligations. The only thing it isn't perfect for is reading before bedtime because you'll end up wanting to continue reading.

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Book Review: Past Midnight by Mara Purnhagen

Title: Past Midnight
Author: Mara Purnhagen
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: 09/01/2010
ISBN: 0373210205

Unless you've been studiously avoiding noticing such titles, there's no mistaking that paranormal teen fiction has enjoyed an enormous raise in popularity in the past few years. As such, more & more authors are putting out their own stories to thrill & entertain readers both young & old. (Let's be honest- teen fiction rocks regardless of how old you are.) With large amounts of similarly themed books entering the market it's difficult to find something that puts a different spin on things. Purnhagen seems to have found a good way to put a spin on the typical "girl & ghosts" story.

Since the moment she was born, Charlotte has grown up in a family of ghost chasers. Not just any ghost chasers but famous ghost chasers with their own television show & bestselling books. While Charlotte will admit that some of the perks are awesome such as traveling all over the world, the rest of it isn't so glamorous. She'd give anything to be able to stay in one spot for a while so she can finally have a normal life with friends she didn't have to say goodbye to a few months after meeting them. When her older sister strongarms her parents into settling into one area for Charlotte using a recent ghost scare as incentive, Charlotte's sure that she'll finally be able to achieve normality. Unfortunately whatever seemed to have freaked her sister out has followed Charlotte. And it isn't leaving until it gets what it wants...

While there's been a lot- and I mean A LOT- of "girl & ghost" stories out there, there hasn't been too many that have a reality ghost hunt show theme or plot element to them. Readers will enjoy this unique idea because it not only helps to set the book apart from a lot of similarly themed books, but it also helps to explain how Charlotte is exposed to ghosts & will continue to be exposed to ghosts. (This is the first book in a series.) Many will be able to commiserate with Charlotte's non-ghostly woes, especially the frustration about having to move & leave friends behind. Others will enjoy that Purnhagen didn't go for the "cheerleader mean girl" stereotype that many other teen books often employ. Charlotte does have the beginnings of a nemesis, but it's not a cheerleader & this girl actually seems to have somewhat of a reason to dislike her.

However where the tale seems to lack is in speed. Things take a very long time to get started & for such a short book, that seemed to detract from the overall enjoyment. This wasn't a huge detractor, but enough of one that many readers will wish for things to happen a little more quickly.

Overall though, the characters are great, the plot is interesting, & Purnhagen really does seem to be on the right track here with this series. This book deserves at least one good read (or three) & I can really see this becoming a favorite with many readers.

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book Review: Shadow of the Vampire by Meagan Hatfield

Title: Shadow of the Vampire
Author: Meagan Hatfield
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: 07/01/2010
ISBN: 0373775008

Are you a fan of steamy sex? Do you like vampires but are a little tired of some of the "stereotypical" types of vampires out there? Do you want something that's a little bit different? Even if you don't, you should still check out Hatfield's first entry into the paranormal romance field.

Alexia is not your average princess. For starters, she's not only a vampire but she's also a warrior who has been at battle with the dragons for more years than she can remember. Her days are filled not bloodshed she wishes she could avoid- along with her mother's creepy fiancee Lotharus. It isn't until she has a run in with the handsome dragon lord Declan that she feels true desire for the first time in her long life. Despite her vows to defend her country,eradicate the dragons, & kill their king, Alexia finds herself drawn to Declan even as she knows that she should torture him for the location of a magical crystal that could give her people the advantage in the war. Her desire is more than met by this fierce warrior king as he finds himself equally drawn to her. Is their desire an abomination destined to ruin their kingdoms... or destiny itself?

Despite being a newcomer to the field, Hatfield proves that she has the talent to not only write an enticing romance but to draw in readers who might not normally read paranormal romance. Readers will be seduced by the sizzling hot scenes between Declan & Alexia as well as enticed by the much of the world that Hatfield brings us. People who want a little action to their stories will also enjoy that Alexia is no shrinking violet- she knows how to defend herself as well as kick a good sized piece of butt. And the villain? Readers will enjoy seeing a villain that is evil for the sole purpose of being evil.

The only shortcomings to this book was that some readers might want a little more explanation about the world that these supernatural beings live in as well as have more development of the secondary characters & the social structure of the dragon world. There's signs of both races interacting with the human world (technology, guns), yet no explanation of how they can go undetected by humans- especially if they're having large battles like in the book. There's no human interaction with dragons or vampires in this book & as such the modern technology just felt a little out of place. (With today's modern technology you'd think that humans would have detected the dragons or the vampires.) As for the secondary characters & the dragon culture, we do get glimpses of them but not as much as we do the vampire characters & their world.

Overall though, the shortcomings don't really draw away from how incredibly fun this book was to read & with Hatfield bringing out more books set in this world, I'm certain that we'll get more explanation about the world & cultures of these people. I'm looking forward to seeing Hatfield flesh out the series as well as reading about the future adventures of Declan's sister Tallon. (Can't specify without revealing spoilers!)

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What is the future of Barnes & Nobles and the Nook?

As many might have heard, Barnes & Nobles went up for sale this month. This leaves many to wonder what will ultimately become of what was quite easily the strongest bookstore going for a while. As a bookstore employee for Books-A-Million I know that they're the biggest competition in our area. But I also know that like us, they've been hit by more & more people heading towards the e-book and/or online market.

What this leaves me wondering is what will become of the chain- and more importantly, what of the Nook? Does ownership of the product shift with the store or is that something to be sold independently of the chain? How will this affect the product's usage? I know that part of what is luring me into purchasing the Nook is that I can read many books for free while I'm in the store & I imagine that is the same for other buyers.

If the Nook is purchased along with the rest of Barnes & Nobles then it would be foolhardy for the new owners to discontinue the Nook or to cease some of the product perks. While the Nook hasn't had a launch as wildly popular as the first Kindle had, it is still considered to be one of the better e-Readers out there.

Book Review: Mr. Build by Steven Kreg

Title: Mr. Build
Author: Steven Kreg
Publisher: CreateSpace (Kindle)

If you go to a certain town you’ll inevitably see the Blue Institute for the Criminally Insane, a building with a horrific past. Inside those doors lurks only the most demented and troubled of minds, not all of which belong to the patients committed there. It is into the Blue Institute that Dr. Jack Torshe has returned after a long hiatus. He is there to treat David Delaney, a silent statue of a man who shows no outward emotions and is completely mute. David is there for the gruesome murder of Kelly McKinley, a woman taking solace in Rome, Indiana- and David- after having escaped from her abusive husband. As the story slowly turns back to show the how and why of Kelly’s murder, Jack finds himself growing increasingly more unnerved by the mute David and the specters of his own tormented past.

It is into the small town of Rome, Indiana that Steven Kreg places the reader as he unfolds his first satisfying, yet awkwardly written first novel. We are introduced the enigmatic and intriguing character of David first as a child tinkering while his mother screams for help, then later as a silent and emotionless adult. Although he was only a child, the entire town treats him with open suspicion and ridicule. Readers will be drawn into David’s silent demeanor, wishing to unravel his mystery just as much as the starcrossed Kelly does.

Kreg has some real skill with words, but where the novel stumbles is from several ideas put into one book. There’s so much going on that it detracts from the main story (David and Kelly’s) as a whole. There’s several great ideas in here and I really wish that we’d had one specific story to focus on. Readers should also take caution to note the changing of tenses that is used to distinguish between modern day and the past. It’s a bit jarring to read at first, but once you realize the intention, it is a rather clever idea.

Overall this is a decent story and a good first novel, but some readers might find themselves wishing that the plot had been stretched over several books rather than just one. Kreg is definitely an author to watch, though.

(ARC provided by author)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Book Review: Alison's Wonderland by Alison Tyler & others

Title: Alison's Wonderland
Author/Editor: Alison Tyler
Publisher: Spice
Release Date: 07/01/2010
ISBN: 0373605455

Have I ever told you how much I love you, Harlequin? Because I do. Completely & totally. I want to thank you for not only putting out a collection of well written erotic stories, but putting out erotic stories based on & inspired by some of the best loved fairy tales out there. The only problem? Well, several readers are going to find it hard to put this away & others might not realize how incredibly difficult it is to write erotica. (Hey, you try writing a sex scene & find ways to describe the same body parts & actions without repeating yourself!)

Alison's Wonderland is a compilation of erotic stories written by several different authors, each of which lend their own personal style & tastes to this exotic blend. There's stories here based on Cinderella, Beauty & the Beast, Red Riding Hood- even the Billy Goats Gruff! (Don't worry, there's no goats in that story, although there is a woman with the last name of Troll!)

I'll warn people that if they don't like a good heaping of BDSM, they might want to skip a few of the stories in the book. (Hey, some people like it, some don't.) No worries though- Tyler made sure to include just about everyone's tastes in this book. It also doesn't hurt that she also made the book cover into something that you can openly display on your shelf without worrying about anyone looking at it & immediately thinking "oh, porn on display". What will really intrigue readers is that Tyler tries to make sure that she collected stories that have deeper meanings to them. Whether it's Belle finding the will to assert herself or two women finding love with each other, it is nice to see that these stories have more to them than just sex.

While I'll admit that I didn't fall in love with every story in this book, I will say that I did love the book as a whole. Readers will find this book a scintillating read that they'll be returning to time & time again! You'll read through it once for the hot sex, but you'll come back for the wonderful tales of people claiming their own personal freedoms (sexual and otherwise) and/or finding that one person that's just for them!

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

When did you read your first “real” book?

You know what type I’m talking about. Your first step up from the board & chapter books of your youth. The book that only has pictures every 20-30 pages, if it has one at all. A book that you chose yourself rather than the stuff your teachers & parents made you read.

For me that first book will always be the book version of ‘The Gnomemobile’ in the first grade. (Prior to this I did read about 10-20 pages of ‘IT’ before my mom wisely moved her copy to a new location. Since I was prone to freaking out after every horror movie, she figured that me reading a book about a monstrous child killer was probably a bad idea.) I remember being so proud of it since it was the first book I’d read that didn’t have cartoonish characters on the inside. I’ll admit… part of me did kind of long for lots of colorful pictures every now & again.

So I can’t help but wonder what those books were for other people. What was your first “real” book?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Book Review: Draw the Dark by Ilsa J. Bick

Title: Draw the Dark
Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Release Date: 10/01/2010
ISBN: 076135686X

Sometimes first impressions can be misleading. When I first took a look at this book, I have to admit that I passed it over in favor of other flashier titles that were out there in the YA categories on NetGalley. I kept coming back to it though- the idea of the book just sounded interesting. I have to keep reminding myself that sometimes some of the best books can be the most unassuming.

Christian would like to tell you that he's just your average teenager, but that'd be far from the truth. From a young age he's always been thought of as different. One of his first teachers hung herself because of what she saw in one of his drawings. His aunt suffered a horrible car accident after he drew something for her in a fit of anger. His parents mysteriously disappeared, although he doesn't think he had anything to do with that. So it's no wonder that most townsfolk view him as a freak. You see, he can't help but draw & many times his drawings show people an uglier side of themselves they'd rather ignore. When Christian finds himself in trouble for graffiti drawn on a barn belonging to the richest man in town he discovers that he's uncovered something truly ugly- something that the town's been hiding for years. Nazi prison camps, murder, & a door without a doorknob, Christian is about to discover that his peculiar talent might actually help save him rather than hurt him.

Bick manages to write a solidly entertaining book that crosses over several different genres & succeeds at thrilling the audience. Many readers will be surprised to discover that the USA hosted several Nazi prisoner of war camps instead of it being something Bick cooked up for the book. (I've always been aware of other types of internment camps, but not these.) This helps bring a much needed level of realism to the book that makes the more fantastical & supernatural elements of the book that much more effective.

The characters in the book are wonderfully written & many readers will be glad that Christian doesn't spend the majority of the book angsting or being emo about his predicament in life. That frees up a lot of time for him to wonder exactly what is going on with him & give the reader a nice look into his past & current ways of thinking. The only downfall is that the book does take a while to get started & some readers will have to give the book a little for it to establish itself. Once the book gets started the pace of the book picks up very quickly & you'll find yourself frantically reading just to find out what exactly will happen next.

I'll warn the reader- Bick leaves the book open-ended enough to where she could very, VERY easily write a sequel or three if she chose to. (I hope she chooses to.) This book was far better than I could have ever hoped & when I finally reached the last page, it was with a little bit of regret- I really wanted to know what would happen with Christian, his talents, & everyone around him.

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Book Review: My Soul to Keep by Rachel Vincent

Title: My Soul to Keep (SoulScreamers #3)
Author: Rachel Vincent
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: 06/01/2010
ISBN: 0373210051

If you haven't read any of Rachel Vincent's SoulScreamers series, then you are seriously missing out. Young & old alike can find a lot to enjoy in this series. For the adults, there's well written plot lines, great characters & for the younger readers there's just as much to love. They get to enjoy all of the stuff that the adults would like but they also have the joy of knowing that at no point does this book "write down" to them. As a teen I'd often get irritated at the overly perfect characters & the preachy morals that many authors tried to insert into their work. (The good girls never drank or stayed out late, always studied...) Vincent tries hard to avoid those cliches & worn out ideas in her series- and succeeds.

Kaylee's had it rough. Not only has she spent most of her life assuming that there's something wrong with her, but even after she discovered her bean sidhe heritage it hasn't been easy. She's had to fight demons, save people from death- or worse, & put up with her bratty cousin. Kaylee's just hoping that she'll finally get some time to relax with her hunky boyfriend & be as normal as she possibly can be. Unfortunately for her, someone's smuggling Demon's Breath into the mortal world- a substance so incredibly addicting that coming down from it can kill you. It's up to her to find out a way to stop the distribution of it before her entire school becomes addicted.

Once again Vincent manages to write a fantastic & fast paced read. Kaylee manages to remain an intriguing & sympathetic character that many teens will find themselves relating to. Also interesting is the character of Nash, Kaylee's boyfriend who may or may not be more in love with the fact she's a bean sidhe than with Kaylee herself. He goes through a lot of character development in this book, which is a good thing- he needs to prove himself to the audience & to Kaylee.

There's also new characters introduced in this book, one of which will hopefully turn into a new suitor for Kaylee. (Hey, Nash needs competition.) Teens will love the pacing of the book & parents will love that the book deals with sensitive subjects like drug addiction & sex (Nash wants it now, Kaylee wants to wait) in a way that won't alienate anyone or go over the top.

This is a great entry into a series that has been strong from the start & looks like it will be going strong for quite some time. If you haven't been reading the series, I highly suggest that you start from the first book in the series as well as reading the free "chapter zero" available on Vincent's site.

(ARC provided by NetGalley)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book Review: Ghost Shadow by Heather Graham

Title: Ghost Shadow
Author: Heather Graham
Publisher: Mira
Release Date: 06/29/2010
ISBN: 0778327914

If you've taken a vacation away from Heather Graham, now is the perfect time to dive back into one of her books! I'll admit that while some of her recent books haven't been up to her usual standards, this one is firmly in the "good" category.

Key West is full of ghost & murder stories. David Beckett's ex-fiancee became one of them the moment her body was discovered in one of the exhibits at his father's wax museum. Ten years later wax museum has been closed for a while & the enticing Katie O'Hara wants to purchase it & return it to it's former glory. Her plans are stalled when David returns back home. Despite their rocky start, Katie finds herself falling for him- despite him possibly being the one behind the murder! But Katie has an edge. She can see & talk to ghosts & she's determined to use that talent to discover who the murderer is. Too bad the murderer has other plans in mind...

Intriguing characters & a twisted murder mystery spark off Graham's newest trilogy. While Katie & David might not have the flash-bang chemistry of some of Graham's other character matchups, the pair does have a sweet sense of familiarity to them. They take to each other as if they've been together all along. Also fun is the character of Bartholomew, a deceased privateer (he takes issue if you call him a pirate). The scenes with him in it are some of the best of the book.

Graham does a good job of utilizing the mysteries of Florida- having Robert the Doll & the ultra-morbid story of Carl Tanzler really does help to enhance the creepiness of her book. (And if you haven't heard of either of them before- no worries. Graham gives a bit of back story to each of them.)

The only things some readers might take issue with is the lack of said flash-bang chemistry between the two leads as well as how underused Katie's talent is in this book. Hopefully we'll get to see more of both things in the next two books in the series.

In the end, this is classic Graham. It might not be my absolute favorite book she's written, but it is still very much worth reading. With the final book in the series coming out in just a few weeks, this is the perfect time to start reading so you can be ready when the last book releases!

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Book Review: Why Jesus? by William H. Willimon

Title: Why Jesus
Author: William H. Willimon
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Release Date: 10/01/2010
ISBN: 9781426700286

"Be warned: In reading this book you are taking a risk of getting discombobulated, commandeered, and befriended by the most interesting person in the world."

Often highly informative & occasionally humorous, Willimon's Why Jesus? manages to not only hook in the readers but to also entertain as well. In this book Willimon dares to ask why exactly so many people have been entranced & lead by the Bible's most well known character (well, aside from God, but that's a given).

Willimon focuses on several key aspects of Jesus's character, such as Jesus as vagabond, savior, & ultimate party dude. (I kid you not- there's a section entitled "Party Person".) Through focusing on these certain aspects Willimon manages to create an entirely readable book about someone that many will admit that they probably don't know as much about as they'd like to think they do.

It isn't all fun & games though- through this book the reader is also challenged with the notion that we should constantly be on the move to do good by ourselves & by others. Willimon also manages to challenge himself, often humbling himself & his writing during the course of the book.

Just as the warning above states, many readers will find themselves challenged by Willimon's viewpoints. I myself wasn't expecting to see "Jesus as a party guy" in this book & I wasn't expecting to be as entertained as I was. People will read this once to absorb all of the information about Jesus, but they'll return because the book manages to be one of those that keeps them thinking & entertained long after they've turned the final page.

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Book Review: Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour by Brian Lee O'Malley

Title: Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour
Author: Brian Lee O'Malley
Publisher: Oni Press
Release Date: 07/20/2010
ISBN: 1934964387

While I greatly enjoyed the final volume of SP, I'll admit that I was slightly disappointed by it. I was rooting for a specific pairing to occur by the end of the book & it didn't happen. I do like how the book resolved, though.

Without Ramona in his life, Scott Pilgrim has spent most of his time on his sofa playing video games. His friends attempt to get him to take action but to no avail- he is completely unwilling to move. When he finally does decide to take action, it is so he can spend his time chasing after other girls in an attempt to forget Ramona. Inevitably Scott is drawn to Ramona's final & worst ex, despite Scott no longer dating Ramona. In the end, only one person will be standing at the end of this fight.

This volume contains lots of reminders as to why the series has been so popular. With tons of references to old video games & lots of closure to previous plot elements, many readers will find tons of joy in this volume. Of course the artwork is O'Malley at his best & you'll find yourself flipping through the volume to take another look at your favorite panels or scenes. (I love any & all of the artwork concerning Envy Adams. She's gone from being one of my least favorite characters to one of my favs.)

The one thing readers will be torn on is the resolution of the book. I'll warn you- it's a little open ended & many are left to decide for themselves what will ultimately happen afterwards. Some readers will like how it ends, some (like me) will be disappointed, & others just won't like it.

One thing is for certain- this is quite possibly O'Malley's best work so far. I can't help but hope that he follows up on this series in the future & follows along with some of the secondary characters. I'd love to see a series based around Knives, the wonderfully psycho teen.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Book Review: Afterlife by Naomi Clark

Title: Afterlife
Author: Naomi Clark
Damnation Books
Release Date: 12/01/2009
ISBN: 1615720529

I was a little nervous about reviewing this at first. After all, I know the author & I was worried: what if I didn't like it? What type of review would I write then? Luckily for me, this is a solidly awesome read.

Yasmin isn't your average girl. She might look like one, but in reality she's a wraith. That means that in order to survive, she has to eat souls. Yasmin is a wraith with a concience, so she tries to stick to revenants- dark souls that have returned from the afterlife, causing them to become bloodsucking fiends. During one of her hunts Yasmin sees a man get dragged into the Netherworld by a shining ghost. Unable to forget the sight, Yasmin involves herself in the investigation & unknowingly involves herself in something even more dangerous than she'd ever expected.

Taking a page from such UF (urban fantasy) favorites as Kim Harrison & Kelley Armstrong, Clark manages to take a plot that's been done before & not only make it her own, but bring a creative new twist to it. Wraiths aren't your usual UF fodder & Clark does a fine job of bringing in several as of yet non-mainstream spookies or giving already known spookies (vampires, necromancers) a makeover.

There's a lot to like in this book & fans who are jonesing for their next UF fix will find a solidly written tale here with a likable & sympathetic heroine. Readers should be warned- this book has been left open-ended & Clark's site says that there's going to be a follow up novel that will focus on one of the secondary (but still important) characters in the book.

The bottom line is that Clark did an incredibly good job with this book & I'm honestly puzzled as to why she's not on the bookshelves of some of the major chains out here. She's better than some of the others out there & this is just with the first book.

(Reader copy provided by author)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Book Review: Chicagoland: The Drained Brains Caper by Trina Robbins

Title: Chicagoland #1: The Drained Brains Caper
Author: Trina Robbins
Publisher: Graphic Universe
Release Date: 09/01/2010
ISBN: 9780761346012

With eco-friendly lifestyles becoming increasingly more visible & popular, it makes good sense for someone to put out a book filled with those themes & similar ones. After all, kids can be into cruelty-free pet shops, animal rescue, & anti-establishment issues too, you know.

Chicagoland #1 follows the adventures of Trina (a free spirited young vegetarian who isn't afraid to speak her mind) & Raf (a computer savvy son of a pet-free supply store) as they attempt to figure out exactly what is wrong with Trina's summer school. Initially Raf is slow to warm up to our haiku creating heroine but he slowly begins to come around as Trina opens up to him about her disastrous school past as well as her creepy new school environment. Little do they know that there's a heinous plot behind the sloppy joe wielding staff members & Stepford Child-esque school children...

Robbins set out to create a comic filled with issues near & dear to her heart. For the most part she succeeds with creating a story that will not only strike a chord in many children's hearts (who hasn't had a teacher who tried to make us conform?) but also show them several issues that need to be addressed. (It'd be fantastic if there were more pet-free stores out there!) The artwork is wonderfully playful & characters such as the adorable Bradley stand out as the highlights of the book.

It's not all fun & games in the book though. While I agree whole-heartedly with many of Robbin's viewpoints, at times those themes seemed to be a little awkwardly placed. There were also points in the book where the character speak seemed to be a little off for kids who are supposed to be in their early teens. I also wish that there were a few links to some kid-friendly sites where kids can learn about some of the issues discussed in the book. But those were somewhat minor complaints & overall this was a decently solid book that should appeal to a wide age group of kids. (I could see my 6 year old nephew totally digging Bradly.) While the book is full of various themes (too many to list here), Robbins manages to make the child aware of them without making them overly horrifying. (This is aimed towards a younger audience, after all.)

In the end, parents can relax in peace, knowing that their kids are not only learning valuable lessons but also reading a book that has no real violence to speak of or objectionable language. Very kid safe, which is becoming a rarity with some of the books out there today.

(ARC provided by NetGalley)

Book Review: Graphic Women by Hillary L Chute

Title: Graphic Women
Author: Hillary L. Chute
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Release Date: 11/05/2010
ISBN: 9780231150637

If you ask the average person about women in comics or graphic novels, most will probably respond with a comment about their favorite Marvel or DC female superhero or the girlfriend of one. If you ask about women CREATING comics or graphic novels, some might be able to point out their favorite artists but sadly most might draw a blank at naming even the author of one of the local weekly comic strips in their local paper.

Luckily with female created comics such as Persepolis & others becoming more prevalent, hopefully more readers will start to take notice of women as both serious & talented artists. Chute attempts (and succeeds) to draw attention to not only this, but to also showcase several extremely talented women in the field.

Chute's words are interspersed with pictures from various comics that help illustrate her points. The end result is a more powerful reading experience for anyone who is looking to broaden their reading horizons. This book would make for an excellent add on book for any art class, especially now that more colleges are offering classes based around comics as an art & history form. (I dare someone to say that you can't see history in the comics!)

There will still be some readers who might be a little disappointed that this book takes more of an informative & educational standpoint, but they should stick with it- maybe it would help them develop a deeper appreciation for what they read!

(ARC provided by NetGalley)

Book Review: Shift by Tim Kring, Dale Peck

Title: Shift (Book 1 of the Gate of Orpheus Trilogy)
Authors: Tim Kring, Dale Peck
Publisher: Crown
Release Date: 08/10/2010
ISBN: 0307453456

If you are a Heroes fan, you are sure to recognize Tim Kring as the creator of the series. For some readers this knowledge will either hurt or help your perception of the book. As for me, I've never watched the show, so I went into this book without any preconceptions about Kring or Dale.

Shift begins in the year 2012. A fiery figure appears in the sky before several witnesses. Many say that the figure seemed to be searching for someone but couldn't find them. The book then jumps to the 1960s when Kennedy was President. Chandler Forrestal is a rather average young man whose interests only involve such tame things as becoming a professional student. He meets the sultry Naz in a bar & from there Chandler is thrown into a top secret project involving LSD- a project only known as Project Orpheus. When he escapes, Chandler is followed by a homicidal rogue agent known only as Melchior, a man who is willing to do anything to get what he wants. Anything. But why are they doing this? And how does this tie into the assassination of President Kennedy?

Drawing on the fascinating mystery behind the Kennedy assassination as well as actual government experiments on LSD, Kring comes up with a story premise that is truly intriguing. In addition to the cool premise of LSD superheroes & JFK, Kring also gives us several fantastic characters, including the beautiful Naz. Despite her somewhat negative (but understandably so) outlook on life, her pure charisma managed to shine throughout her brief but important interactions in the book. And the LSD trips? Those are the moments when the book really shines & takes off. You can't help but be interested in what is seen & done.

Where the book veers off course is through the all too frequent character shifts. While each shift has something interesting to add, at times it just interrupted the flow of the book. Occasionally I would find myself getting into the actions of a specific character (Naz & Melchior being my personal favorites), only to find myself getting thrown off when the action would jump to Chandler or one of the other characters in the book.

This didn’t make the book bad, just a little harder to read at times & I can’t help but think that a reader looking for more casual fare would be turned off by this book. This is no leisurely beach read- this is a book that has a lot going on & expects the reader to read & interact with it. But for those willing to put a little effort into this read, it is sure to be rewarding.

(ARC provided by NetGalley)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Book Review: Russell Wiley is Out to Lunch by Richard Hine

Title: Russell Wiley is Out to Lunch
Author: Richard Hine
Publisher: AmazonEncore
Release Date: 10/12/2010
ISBN: 1935597140

I'm going to lay it straight- this isn't really all that similar to Sophie Kinsella like the book blurb claims. That is both good & bad. That's bad because many might pick this up expecting a Kinsella-esque read, then get disappointed when the book doesn't fulfill that promise. It's good because a Kinsella-esque story wouldn't work as well with a male lead character.

RWIOTL surrounds the character of Russell Wiley, a man who is just trying to survive in the middle of a floundering marriage & a job that is on the verge of extinction. Despite his subtle attempts to influence his newspaper bosses, they always seem to go for the bad idea & back the useless employees. When his bosses not only hire a consultant to work a new angle (an angle that Russell himself knows is foolish), but expect Russell to babysit him, he has to figure out a way to keep his sanity as well as convince his wife to get intimate with him.

Well... I'm kind of torn about this book. On one hand it is very good for a new author- Hine, relax. You did good poopie. On the other hand there's a lot of flaws here- don't get too relaxed, I think you need more fiber. While the idea of the book is a good one & I like that the main character is a bit on the jerky side, I really felt that the pacing needed a lot of work. (You can tell that he's just as much to blame for his bad marriage & job situation as anyone else is.)There isn't a lot that happens in the first half of the book & much of it is Hine repeating the notion that Wiley's marriage is doomed & his job isn't very satisfying. At some point I couldn't help but get irritated- I *got* it. I know that he's not happy with his life.

The last half to third of the book just felt very compressed. Minor characters that weren't really fleshed out in the beginning & when they come into play later in the book I couldn't help but wish that Hine had done some foreshadowing earlier in the book. A prime example is Angela & her specific problem. (Which I won't list here because it is a spoiler.) Hine could have had little things show up earlier in the book so that when her big reveal comes about, it builds up anticipation. Another thing that I felt needed more work was the resolution. Everything happened too fast & I really felt that it needed more work. Again I bring up Angela. When her issue was aired, it was quickly dropped for the most part & suddenly at the end her life is fine again. Because everything was so squished into the end & the pacing was sort of off, the big surprises, hurrahs, & endings just seemed to fizzle a little instead of pop.

This isn't a bad book though- Hine does show skill at writing & the plot kept me involved. It's just that I got the impression he could do far better than this. This book would be good for an airport or beach read, but ultimately it'll leave the reader hungry for meatier fare. Still, Hine's an author worth watching. I have faith that he'll eventually work out the kinks in his work & will be an author to contend with.

(ARC provided by Amazon Vine Voice)

Book Review: Koko Be Good by Jen Wang

Title: Koko Be Good
Jen Wang
First Second
Release Date:

Graphic novels have always had a good fanbase, but now that they’re gaining more publicity there’s been an influx of books (both series & standalones) flooding the market. While that’s great in so many different ways, it also means that it is that much easier to get lost in the crowd. Unfortunately Koko might be one of those books that some might overlook, which would be a shame.

The book follows three characters- the titular Koko (an energetic girl who seems to want more), Jon (a 20 something who just wants to move to Peru to be with his girl), & Faron (Koko’s sidekick). When Jon meets Koko & Faron at a party, he can’t help but become captivated by her, only to then see her vanish into the night after an ugly scene. Jon later discovers Faron at work in a local diner & convinces him to introduce the two of them. What follows is a voyage of self discovery as Jon tries to figure out what he really wants, Koko tries to gain more meaning into her life, & Faron just tries to get by.

The artwork really is the best part of this book. Wang’s artwork manages to capture both the various emotions of the cast as well as Koko’s almost inexhaustible energy. She doesn’t skimp on the backgrounds either with just about every scene getting lovingly captured in water colors. Wang seems to play around with color, using it in various formats to enhance the scene. One scene that sticks out in my head is one later in the book of Koko’s room where it lacks a great deal of color- enhancing the empty feeling of the scene & the characters’ emotions.

Unfortunately where the book lacks is in the storytelling department. The artwork manages to smooth over the rough spots, but not to the point where you don’t notice that it needed more finesse. It takes a while to get into the story & to figure out what is going on. Wang might have intended for the reader to fill in the blanks with their own interpretations, but it would have been nice for a little more story & character definition. Not a whole lot more, but just a little more backstory on some of the characters would be nice. (I’d like to see more of Koko’s history as a Candy Girl.) It just lacks a little coherence at times.

This is a good story with awesome artwork, but it’s just not quite a 5 star type read for me. I can’t help but think it just needed to simmer for a little while longer. This is definitely a great graphic novel & Wang’s going on my list of “to watch” indie artists, but it just needed a little more work on the storyline.

(ARC provided by Amazon Vine Voice)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Book Review: Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Title: Spy Glass (Glass book #3)
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Publisher: Mira
Release Date: 09/01/2010
ISBN: 0778328473

If you're familiar with Snyder's Study series, you'll be aware that some readers have remarked on how perfect her female characters are portrayed. I'm glad to say that in Spy Glass Snyder seems to have toned down these aspects for the third & final book in the Glass trilogy. (Although fans will be interested to know that there will be another book set in this universe & from the title of Ice Study, it appears that it will be another Yelena novel.)

Opal has lost her magic. Out of a sense of preservation for herself & all around her, she voluntarily siphoned her own magic into the form of diamonds in order to keep it out of dangerous hands. The experience has left her a wealthy woman (she got to keep the diamonds) but also a shell of her former self. Then Opal discovers that when her previous captors had been taking more blood from her than was needed for their rituals, which means that there is still some of her blood out there. Which means that she can use it to get her powers back. In order to discover the whereabouts of her blood Opal travels to where Devlen & the others are held prisoner. She assumes that with some effort she'll be able to reach them. However, Opal never expected that it would be so impossible for her to get into the prison... or that she'd find herself so drawn to Devlen. With other people searching for her blood with sinister intentions, Opal may find that the old gypsy saying is true: "Be careful what you wish for- you just might get it."

If the Study series was focused more about magic & action, the Glass series is focused more about romantic entanglements & tenacity.While Opal did spend a good chunk of Sea Glass feeling sorry for herself, Spy Glass finds her attempting to find a cure for her magic-less condition. There's also a strong focus on the love triangle between Devlen, Opal, & Kade in this book, which would have been a little more interesting if Kade had been more prevalent in the book.

Overall, the number one thing about Snyder is that she always seems to have a way of making her books into addicting reads. Even though Spy Glass might not be my favorite of her books (Poison Study will always take that spot), I couldn't help but keep turning back to the book in order to find out what happened next. Other readers will find themselves equally as hypnotised by this book, unable to turn away until they reach that final page. A warning though- keep an open mind during this book. I'd thought that I'd had everything figured out in the middle of the book, only to discover that my assumptions were wrong about almost everything. Let's just say that some people might get a little surprised about the villain's identity & who Opal's knight in shining armor will be.

The final verdict? Long time fans of the series will like this book while those who weren't Opal fans might find themselves yearning for more of Yelena. Rest assurred though, there's enough to like in this read & I'm curious to discover what will happen next in Snyder's world. As always, Snyder writes an addicting read.

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Book Review: Rooms by James L. Rubart

Title: Rooms
Author: James L. Rubart
Publisher: B&H Books
Release Date: 04/01/2010
ISBN: 0805448888

Some reviewers have been comparing this to The Shack, a book that is also religiously oriented & set around a mysterious domicile. Since I've not yet read The Shack, I can't really say whether or not the two are similar. However, the descriptions seem to be different enough that people should go into this read with an open mind.

Micah seems to have it all: a successful business, a beautiful girlfriend/business partner, & a keen mind. When he learns that he's inherited a beach house from an eccentric uncle he barely knew, Micah's first instinct is to sell the beach house & move on with his life. After all, he never really knew his uncle & his memories of that beach are all terrible. All of those plans seem to fade away when Micah sets his eyes on the beautiful beach house despite all of the strange things that seem to be happening to him. Rooms that weren't there before suddenly appear. Business contacts claim to never have spoke to him even though Micah knows the talk took place. As the days pass, Micah finds himself becoming more & more involved with this mysterious house & more intrigued by the intriguing inhabitants of the surrounding town. But can Micah figure out what is going on? Is it possible for eternal salvation to be found through a beach house?

There are two warnings people should heed about this book, one of which would seem to be obvious. The first is that this book is very slow to start. The second is that this book is very heavy on the religious themes. While some might read the synopsis on the book jacket & know that it is religious in tone, some have been surprised at how much of the book is religious. Pretty much everything that happens in the book has a religious sense to it. This might alienate some readers who like their religious reads a little lighter.

Rooms does start off incredibly slowly, to the point where some might lose heart within the first 100 pages or so. Those readers should keep reading because even though the book does start off incredibly slow, eventually the pace does pick up & becomes an interesting enough read. The writing is a little green, but overall it is a fine first novel. The character of Micah is a suitable enough "Everyman", but the book truly shines when the secondary characters (mechanic Rick & uncle Archie) come into play. These characters are intriguing to read about & the reader might find themselves wishing for a book about these two characters & their interactions with each other.

Overall this book was an entertaining read, although it might find itself in stiff competition with some of the other religious themed books on the market. There's enough in Rooms to like though & there seems to be an fanbase growing for this book, so hopefully Rubart will be recognized in the future.

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Book Review: The Happy Baker by Erin Bolger

Title: The Happy Baker
Author: Erin Bolger
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: 10/01/2010
ISBN: 9780373892419

Dating rule #2: Do not show me the engine of your car, no matter how cool you think it is. Unless you are storing a box of chocolates under the hood, I just don't care.

If you have ever dated, you've had a broken heart or two. If you haven't then you'll still laugh at what is quite possibly the most unique cookbook I've ever read. The dating life is never easy & just about everyone's had that one horrible breakup that caused them to blow that diet or buy so many cookies that they could own stock in Nabisco.

One part diary & one part cookbook, Bolger isn't afraid to air all of the skeletons in her dating closet, regaling us with dating flubs such as "Green Eyes" & near misses such as "The Big One". Each chapter is filled to the brim not only with dating stories that just about all of us can relate to, but hand-drawn pictures as well as an endless display of mouth wateringly delicious looking recipes.

Each recipe is accompanied with a cute title such as 'My Mother Didn't Like You Anyway' cupcakes as well as a beautifully shot photography. Also included in the book are several wonderful pictures that while not displaying a yummy treat listed in the book, are absolutely gorgeous to behold. (My personal favorite was a elaborately laid out cracked chocolate heart surrounded with various colored sugars.)

And for those of us who aren't so talented in the kitchen, no worries. This cookbook is incredibly friendly to us kitchen klutzes, most having very simplistic instructions & easy to find ingredients. No blankly staring at the cookbook wondering where the chef expects us to find ingredients for this reviewer!

The cookbook ends on a hopeful note with Bolger wrapping up with an upbeat vacation romance story & several equally upbeat & delicious recipes. Girls, guys, whomever... this cookbook is a "must have" for anyone who loves baking delicious treats for happy or not so happy occasions!

(ARC provided by NetGalley)

Book Review: The Immortals by J.T. Ellison

Title: The Immortals (A Taylor Jackson Novel)
Author: J.T. Ellison
Publishing House: Mira
ISBN: 0778327639
Release Date: 10/1/2010

July seems to be a month of discovery for me. Not only have I discovered the wonderful murder mystery styles of Kyra Davis (another Mira author), but now I've discovered the wonderful J.T. Ellison. My book buying budget will never be the same. I'll warn people- this book is #5 in the Taylor Jackson series so there will be some things that you might not catch or entirely understand if you are a newbie to the series like myself. No worries though- this book was very capable of standing alone.

Taylor Jackson wasn't even reinstated long enough to celebrate before she's called to a horrific murder scene. Once there she discovers that the victim was a teenage boy... and that he's not the only victim. Before the night is over seven more victims are found, each with a pentacle carved onto their bodies by someone who is taking the magic of Samhain (Halloween) all too seriously. With the knowledge that one or more killers are running around her city, Taylor knows that she has to solve this one & fast. Meanwhile her fiancee Baldwin is facing troubles of his own when he's called to D.C. for a hearing concerning not only a serial killer from years ago but also a co-worker he'd gotten far too close to...

With a storyline that is new reader friendly & a wonderfully macabre murder investigation, this book kept me reading at such a fast pace that I finished it within a day. Ellison does a wonderful job of not only making Taylor tough, but feminine at the same time. There are far too many "I'm too gritty to be feminine" characters out there, so it is refreshing to see someone create a character that isn't a "gritty female cop" cliche.

The occult based plot was also interesting, with Ellison obviously having done some research not only into the goth & witchcraft scenes, but also into those who misinterpret & abuse them. While at times the Samhain murders seemed to drag a little, Baldwin's 2004 serial murder crime investigations did a fine job of keeping the momentum going. I'm honestly curious to see where this series goes next.

It really is a joy to discover an author that is capable of making her series books into mostly standalone novels. With the current series trends running to multiple ongoing plot arc stretching over multiple books, there are far too many series out there where the reader will more than likely feel hopelessly lost picking up a book too far into the series. Never fear- the Taylor Jackson series is more akin to an episode of Law & Order (in its standalone capabilities) than the stretched out plot arcs of some of the other series out there.

Overall this should make for a great read when it releases in October- the perfect month for a series of occult themed murders. Old & new fans should be able to pick up this read & revel in the intriguing investigations into a spooky crime, although some might get a wee bit frustrated that the book isn't as action laden as others out there.

(ARC provided by Netgalley)