Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Review: A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison

Title: A Perfect Blood (Hollows #10)
Author: Kim Harrison
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: 02/21/2012
ISBN: 0061957895

It's coming down to the wire now, folks. After this book there's only 2 more books left to the series, with the potential of a bonus book afterwards. I ended up getting this through eBay and I have to say, it was money well spent. Harrison is worth spending money on.

Ritually murdered corpses are appearing across Cincinnati, terrifying amalgams of human and other. Pulled in to help investigate by the FIB, former witch turned day-walking demon Rachel Morgan soon realizes a horrifying truth — a would-be creator is determined to make his (or her) own demons. But it can’t be done without Rachel’s blood.

As a bounty hunter, Rachel has battled vampires, witches, werewolves, demons, and more. But humanity itself might be her toughest challenge.

Things are heating up in this book and I mean that in multiple ways. First off, the tensions between the Inderlanders and certain factions of humanity are heating up. There's always been a portion of humanity that hated the Inderlanders and wanted them wiped off the face of the earth, so it's no surprise that Harrison would eventually revisit this idea. What's being done in this book is actually pretty chilling, and HAPA (Humans Against Paranormals Association) is a pretty lethal force here. I've never wanted to reach through a book and slug someone as much as I did in this book.

Secondly, things are heating up between Trent and Rachel. I know that none of us forgot the kiss from Pale Demon, and neither has Rachel. Her hormones are kicking in big time, but I'll warn you: there's not a lot of progress on this front in either direction, but then any progress is good progress. I have a feeling that whatever might ultimately come out of this relationship, it'll probably happen in book 12 and not a page sooner. There is some friendship brewing here, which is good since Rach needs someone who can keep up with her and understand where she's coming from. But regardless of whether or not they end up in a relationship, the tension between the two is so palpable that I'm beginning to think that they'll have to end up in bed together just to relieve it and get it over with. However, there's also the introduction of another potential interest in this book, although I'm not sure what chances he'll have against the Rachel/Trent combo. (Then again, I'm a fangirl of Rachel and Trent, so I tend to think this way about any other guy that comes into her life.)

There's a definite feel of loose ends beginning to get tied up and it's a good feeling. Harrison might have had a bit of a slump mid-series, but this is the Hollows that I fell in love with early on in the series and couldn't get enough of. It's good enough to make me want to re-read the series and is a worthy successor to Pale Demon. Oh, and the minor characters in this book rock. Hard. We finally see Rachel get her pack tattoo (a mild spoiler, but one we all knew was coming) and her tattoo artist is interesting enough to get a spinoff book of her own. (A tattoo artist that works on Inderlanders and humans? There's some material for you right there!)

And before anyone asks, yes Al is in this book. And of course he's awesome. Al is always awesome, even when you want to punt kick him across the room. His interactions with Rachel- and especially his last actions of the book- make me wonder where Harrison is going to go with his character next. There's a lot of potential here for him to be bad in the future, all with incredibly interesting results. I honestly can't wait for the next book to come out so I can see what'll happen next.

If you loved the last book, you'll really love this one. It's a fun ride and I had a blast reading this book.

5 out of 5 stars

Sony Reader WiFi: Want!

I've been trying to postpone my e-reader's inevitable demise, mostly because I'm a Sony fangirl but also because I'm not really head over heels for any of the other competition out there. Either it doesn't have a memory slot (something that probably isn't necessary but a feature I enjoy), it's backlit (hurts my eyes), and/or it's so expensive that I just can't bring myself to really get it (looking at you, iPad).

So in any case, I just discovered the newest Sony reader: the Sony Reader WiFi.

As you can see in the picture, it's a touch screen. I'm not entirely fond of touch screens (mostly because of fingerprints), but it is a pretty nice looking device. It also has a micro SD slot and you don't even have to rip off the back of the unit to insert it like you do in the Nook readers! It's also WiFi, which means that I'd be able to download books from the Sony storefront AND go through their library service, which seems like it'd make it way easier to get books from the library. (It looks to be a storefront for libraries, for lack of a better definition.) It seems like right now Sony has the easiest way to get library books, so if you know that you'll be doing a lot of e-reading through libraries, this is definitely an e-reader to check out.

Engadget has a really great and in-depth review (click here to see it) that has a ton of pictures, and it looks like the size of this unit is comparable to both the Kobos reader as well as to one of the Kindles. That's where I read about the library feature as well as a feature where you can draw/scribble/write/doodle in your e-reader.

What's really great about this is that I noticed that the price point is only $99. This makes it more expensive than the Kindle with ads, but close enough to where the leap up wouldn't be that much of a hardship- ESPECIALLY with the easy library option. I know that people have said that the ads aren't that intrusive on the Kindle, but I have a pretty big problem with spending $80+ on an e-reader that contains ads (there's more than one model with this feature). If I'm going to have ads popping up for as long as I own the product, shouldn't the selling price be lower? After all, Amazon is going to be making some major moolah from selling the ad space to various companies, especially when considering that even after they make $80 from your sale they'll be continuously getting new offers from companies interested in advertising on your reader. (A multi-million dollar advertising feature at the very least should make the most basic reader $50 to make it really worthwhile.)

I have to say, I'm leaning towards staying with Sony after reading about this. I was a bit worried that Sony was being too much of a stick in the mud about e-readers and not being competitive enough, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Charlaine Harris shows her grace while Entertainment Weekly shows poor taste

I'll admit that I don't really read Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series anymore. It's one of those series that I've drifted away from somewhere along the line and just didn't have the time or desire to pick back up again, although there is still an interest.

I remember hearing some disappointment over Charlaine Harris' latest book in the Sookie series, Dead Reckoning, but there was still enough buzz to where the book was relatively well received by a decent amount of fans and critics.

Recently Entertainment Weekly listed Dead Reckoning as one of the worst books of 2011, which to be honest I found in poor taste. Even Harris herself admits that the book wasn't her best, but she says that she had read worse this year.

I just found EW's post to be in poor taste because if they'd done any sort of research, they'd realize that Harris suffered a great loss during the writing of this book. Her mother had been suffering from a long illness and had passed away while Harris was working on the book, which had to have taken a huge toll on her. While this doesn't completely excuse the book (since it was published, after all), I would have thought that EW would have looked into Harris enough to see that there were external influences on her life beyond her control and quietly chose another author to lambast as the "worst of". It might not have made DR any better, but I think that it deserved better than this.

One of the Sookie/True Blood fansites has a picture of the EW article, which lists Harris' book among people such as the Kardashians and Snooki. I just have to say that most of the justification behind this nomination seems to be that people were disappointed with the book and underwhelmed, not that it was exceptionally bad. I've read the Snooki book and I can't imagine Harris writing anything as bad as A Shore Thing.

In true Southern grace, Harris took to her own blog to write about her opinions about the matter. She does admit frustration, but vows that she will work harder to put out better quality work. This is pretty much the epitome of a trooper in my opinion and makes me respect her that much more.

All I can say for Entertainment Weekly is that with so many other famous authors releasing books that have been sub-par (where's Laurell K Hamilton's vote for "worst of" for any of her previous or current books?), it's pretty poor form to choose a book that was written during the death of a loved one. Shame on you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Book Review: Mesmerize by Artist Arthur

Title: Mesmerize (Mystyx #4)
Author: Artist Arthur
Publisher: Kimani Tru (Harlequin)
ISBN: 0373534647
Release Date: 01/24/2012

Things come to a head in this book for our little Mystyx gang, but I'll warn you: there is still more to come in this series. I'll try to keep the spoilers in this review to a minimum, but some of the stuff that happens here is pretty big.

You can’t move forward until you deal with the past…

Starting over is nothing new to diplomat’s daughter Lindsey Yi. She’s grown up changing schools the way other girls change clothes. Still, moving to Lincoln, Connecticut, is different. Although she’s still reeling from the loss of her parents in an accident, Lindsey is finally in a place that feels like home. Because here, Lindsey’s ability to read other people’s thoughts doesn’t make her weird. It makes her one of the Mystyx.

When Dylan Murphy—hot, popular and a senior—starts to notice her, things get serious, fast. But even as she’s figuring out how she really feels, the Mystyx realize that they’re not the only supernaturals in town. There are other gifted teens who have different motives. And they are hoping to get close enough to the Mystyx to convert them—and the world—to Darkness…

First off, I'll warn people that you might be surprised at some of the events in this book. We do get to see a whole new side of Lindsey, but it comes at a very serious cost for our main characters. I have to admit that I was pretty sad to see certain things in the book happen, but all things considered it made sense that things like this would potentially happen- especially considering all of the pain and loss that everyone has had to go through earlier in the series.

There's a big confrontation in this book and initially I thought that this might have been the end of the series, although there is still another book and enough here is left open to where the series can go into an entirely new direction. I'm kind of digging the way it ended, to be honest. I think it'd be more interesting to see how these new story lines develop.

The only big problem I had with this book is that at times the action scenes felt like they went by a little too quickly. This does help give me the feeling that things are happening fast and furious, but I just wanted a little more detail and explanation in a few places. It just needed a little more time spent on these elements.

Overall this was a good read and one I'd recommend to fans of the series thus far. It's good to get a deeper glimpse into Lindsay's life, although I wish the actions scenes were a little more drawn out. (Especially the final battle of the book.) It's not my absolute favorite of the series, but the last few paragraphs has got me pretty excited for what might happen in the next entry.

3.5 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)


Just to let you guys know, you still have plenty of time to win a copy of this book through the contest I'm hosting! This is something that I would recommend as a read, especially a signed copy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Book Excerpt: Mesmerize by Artist Arthur

Hi everyone! I'm excited to be able to let you have a sneak peek at the next book in the awesome Mystyx series by Artist Author! I'm in the process of reading it inbetween study sessions for finals and let me just tell you, it's pretty cool. I've always been curious about Lindsey and have been waiting for her book for a good long time. I'd say more about the book but I don't want to spoil it for you, so on with the excerpt!

Oh, and by the way... there's an extra bit of awesomeness going on here. Not only do you get to have a sneak peek at the book, but you also get a chance to win a signed copy of the book! Is this an excellent Christmas gift or what?

This contest will run until December the 30th!

© Artist Arthur, 2011

The last time I was out here the moon was huge and it was blue or it had a bluish tint. There was something in the air that night, something I’d never felt before. Until now.

There’s no breeze but the air around chills all of a sudden, so much so that when I breathe out my mouth frost smoke billows in front of me. My arms instantly prickle with chill bumps and I lift my hands to rub them. I keep walking with no real destination in mind. Actually, there is a destination—towards this feeling.

It’s a deep longing, like something inside me reaching out for whatever is out there. Through the taller grass and patch sand/dirt mixture I keep walking. The feeling’s stronger now, my breath pants with the effort of containing it because I’m not walking fast at all. My gaze stays in front of me even though it’s really hard to see anything it’s so dark out here. Dank air filters through my nostrils as I press against memories that threaten to distract me.

The wind stirs and whips my hair around my face. Usually this would bother me, the many wisps itching my fair skin. Tonight, I don’t mind. Nothing can break my stride, nothing can stop this longing ache that seems to be headed towards its sweet relief. My chest rises and falls, up, down, up, down, steady breaths producing a steady heartbeat that grows louder and louder as I get closer.

Above the tall branches of trees bend and whine in protest to the wind’s powerful pull. I step right into the forest without a care what may be beyond the perimeter. It’s even darker here and something scratches my cheeks, bare arms and stabs into my feet. But I keep going.
I can’t stop. It’s calling me, pulling me, needing me.

A great gust of wind howls in my ears just before knocking me flat on my face. Twigs dig into my face and the palms of my hand as I scramble to get up. It’s relentless, this wind that’s whipping so strong around me until I feel like I’m inside a funnel cloud. The only difference is I’m not being sucked up, but pressed further into the earth. I cough out a breath trying to breathe. It feels like something’s standing on my back, pressing me down, down, down. My nails dig into the round snapping twigs, scraping against hardened dirt and I open my mouth to yell but no sound comes out.

Now I think I should be afraid, I should be ready to get up and run as fast as I can from whatever is going on deep in this forest. But the longing’s still there, the feeling that something wants me here, that I belong here is even stronger, like a huge lump in my throat pressing its way down. Trees are breaking, falling to the ground with a loud rumble. The ground shakes with an angry burp and I struggle once again to stand. It’s a futile effort, I’m just not strong enough to fight against this wind. At least I think if I could just stand, to actually hold my head up and see what’s going on, maybe I could get away. All I can manage is to turn my head but that motion earns the stark pain of something cutting across my face. Tears burn my eyes as helplessness takes over and tiny edges of panic outline my mind. I’m going to die here in the middle of the forest, wearing only my NY Yankees night shirt.

Want to know what happens to Lindsey next? Reply to this post and be registered to win a signed copy of Mesmerize.

If you haven't read it already, make sure to check out Mutiny, a novella set between books 2 and 3 of the series. It's set from Franklin's POV, so definitely make sure to check it out. It's definitely worth reading and best of all... it's free! Just download a copy via Amazon ,Barnes & Nobles, or from the Harlequin ebook store!

For more information about Artist Arthur or any of the books in the Mystyx series, check out the official website!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Book Review: The Lost Goddess by Tom Knox

Title: The Lost Goddess
Author: Tom Knox
Publisher: Penguin USA
Release Date: 01/19/2012
ISBN: 0670023183

If you're looking at this book and expecting a read along the lines of Dan Brown or James Rollins, look elsewhere. While Knox does try to expand on the wildly popular idea of the anthropological thriller, he fails to deliver the compulsive read his fellow authors have managed to bring to the table.

In the silent caves beneath France, young archaeologist Julia Kerrigan unearths an ancient skull-with a hole bored through the forehead. After she reveals her discovery, her mentor is brutally murdered. Deep in the jungles of Southeast Asia, photographer Jake Thurby is offered a mysterious assignment by a beautiful Cambodian lawyer who is investigating finds at the two-thousand-year-old Plain of Jars-finds that shadowy forces want kept secret.

From the temples of Angkor Wat and the wild streets of Bangkok to the prehistoric caves in Western Europe, what links Jake's and Julia's discoveries is a strange, demonic woman whose unquenchable thirst for vengeance-and the horrors she seeks to avenge- are truly shocking.

Now I do have to give credit where it's due. Rather than attempt to bring out the same ideas that have already been well trod, Knox manages to find a historical mystery that nobody seems to have written about yet: the Hands of Gargas and the Plain of Jars, two fascinating anthropological and social finds that are woefully underused in the world of fiction. In this aspect, Knox did a good job since these are things that would make for a good anthropological/sociological thriller.

However, where Knox flounders is in his penchant for overstating to the point of tedium. We're given themes, histories, and info dumps, which I admit are unavoidable in any book, but we're browbeaten by these elements until we're rolling our eyes at the occasionally overly dramatic and unnecessary prose. A good example would be how Knox uses the horrific atrocities that the Khmer Rouge made against the people of Cambodia. These elements are stated time and time again, occasionally at the expense of character development. We're told how communism is bad and how horrible the Khmer Rouge was, meanwhile the main characters seem to be little more than a platform for these views. While these viewpoints are valid, they just kept me from getting as invested in the characters as I'd wanted to be. That the plot jumps between different groups of characters doesn't help out either.

Then there's the ending. I won't elaborate, but I'll just say that the message in the end will be controversial to some readers. If it wasn't as subtle as Gallagher smashing a watermelon, Knox could have gotten away with it to where I don't believe anyone would have complained. Sometimes less is more and a briefer revelation with less exclamation would have driven the point in more than pages of exposition. It just diluted everything and made it more overzealous and annoying than thought provoking, making the ending (and the book in general) more of a chore to read than a joy.

Now, it isn't all bad. There are some good scenes in here and the general idea of the book is pretty darn intriguing. If Knox could have gone back and eased up on the overstating of ideas and focused more on the character development, this would have been an amazing read. It could have had at least 40-60 pages shaved off to make a tighter narrative. It's just that the book failed to deliver on its promise and while it might make for an OK library read, Knox still has a long way to go before he gets to Douglass and Preston levels.

1.7 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Book Review: Honey Badger Don't Care by Randall

Title: Honey Badger Don't Care
Author: Randall
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Release Date: 01/24/2012
ISBN: 1449419658

Honey badger might not care that it's become an internet sensation and now a must-read book, but you absolutely will! I had pretty high hopes for this book and I have to say, it didn't disappoint. If you aren't aware of the youtube video "Nastyass Honey Badger", then I'm going to include the video for your viewing pleasure. Be aware, there is adult language in this video.

If you've seen the video, you know what to expect. If not, then I'll clue you into the awesomeness that this book contains. While you probably won't hear Randall narrating his own show on Animal Planet anytime soon (although we can hope), this book is full of wonderful humor and great insights on animal life. Frankly put, this is a book about animals that's written for those of us who aren't into the long Latin names or dry paragraphs about animal habits. Randall condenses all of these facts into a few pages per animal and it's incredibly fun. If I wasn't won over by the honey badger entry at the beginning of the book, I was won over by the hilarity in the following ones.

I do have to warn parents that they'll probably want to read through this to go over the language and some of the phrases in the book. (One entry suggests that Don Knotts had erm, illicit relations with a bat, but in a non-malicious way.) It's all in good fun and none of it is malicious, but this won't be appropriate for some younger readers.

This was just awesome to read and would make for an excellent late-late Christmas gift. (Or a late Boxing Day gift. Or a Valentine's gift.)

5 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Book Review: The Pumpkin Man by John Everson

Title: The Pumpkin Man
Author: John Everson
Publisher: DP
Release Date: 09/15/2011
ISBN: 1428512128

If you're familiar with the pulp horror books of the 80s and 90s, you'll be well prepared for this book. If you're not, then the best I can equate them to are the equally campy-yet-fun movies of that era. (Think 976-EVIL style camp.)

After her father’s gruesome murder, Jenn needed a place to get away from it all with some friends, to take her mind off her grief. The empty seaside cottage she inherited seemed perfect. Jenn didn’t know that the cottage held arcane secrets, mysteries long hidden and best left alone. She didn’t realize until it was too late that the old books and Ouija board she found there really do hold great power. And it was only after her friend’s headless body was discovered that she knew the legend of the local bogeyman was no mere legend at all. An evil has been unleashed, a terrifying figure previously only spoken of in whispers. But now the whispers will become screams. Beware…THE PUMPKIN MAN

As someone who cut her horror lit teeth on various pulps carried by the local libraries, I was pretty excited to dive into this book. The premise of this takes me back to an era where horror didn't have to be slick and put huge new spins on everything, it just had to entertain. Everson manages to capture the feeling and general intent of these books for the most part.

The story's beginning was pretty strong and managed to keep my interest. I'll admit that the characters are woefully underdeveloped but I wasn't really expecting a lot of depth here, so that's OK. There's a lot of great shock and titillation scenes that made up for this.

Where the book stumbled was in the last half of the book where things just seem to fall apart. Everson tries to shift the plot somewhat and as a result it just loses some of the momentum that made the earlier part of the book so much fun. We're given revelations and introductions that just seem a little out of left field. I can't help but think that if we were introduced to these specific characters earlier, the plot twists they brought about would have been a little more gasp-worthy and held the plot together better.

Overall this isn't a bad read and I'd heavily recommend it to fans of camp horror. It's the book equivalent of watching a horror movie along the lines of Night of the Demons, so it's perfect for the Halloween season. As long as you don't expect too much from it you'll enjoy the ride. I just wish that it'd been a little more polished than it ended up being. Either way, I'm going to check out some of Everson's other works.

3.5 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Comic Preview: House of Night #1

Title: House of Night #1
Author: P.C. Cast
Artist: Joƫlle Jones,Karl Kerschl
Publisher: Dark Horse

Release Date: 11/9/2011

(Note: This review only covers a 6 page preview of the comic.)

Until recently, Zoey Redbird was an average high-school student worrying about grades, boys, and breakouts. But priorities have a way of changing when you are marked as a
vampyre, enroll in the vampyre academy House of Night, and have to figure out a whole new social hierarchy, affinities for elementa

l magic, and physiological changes that make you crave blood.
I wish I could recommend this higher, but I have to say that this preview left me lukewarm. The entire comic just seemed to be a jumbled mess and I can't quite say if this is because I only got a brief preview of the book or if it's because the comic itself is just lacking the addictive quality that the series holds.

First off, I'm highly disappointed with the artwork. When I first looked this series up via Netgalley there was this absolutely gorgeous cover artwork that had me drooling over the prospect of reading this preview. It didn't hurt that the other covers I found were equally awesome. With covers like these, the artwork inside has got to be pretty cool, right? Unfortunately that assumption was sort of wrong. The artwork as a whole is nice but occasionally there's things that just looked really off putting, such as the bodily proportions of some of the characters. As an example I've included the picture of Zoey and Aphrodite. Zoey has this weird popsicle stick body and this huge head that looks like it's threatening to fall right off her shoulders. It really draws you out of the story, putting it mildly. This is just really jarring to see when the artwork is otherwise nicely done.

Story-wise it's ok. Not great, but not awful either. I'll admit that it's been a while since I've picked up the books but I remember most of what went on and this just sort of confused me since I thought it was supposed to be the start of the series. I got the impression (since none of this was in the books) that this is supposed to be a side-story, but it's going to be a little hard for newbies to pick up and read without having previous read the books.

If you're curious, Dark Horse has a 10 page preview up on their website (click here) to peruse. I'm not going to completely dismiss this comic since it has the starts of something good, but some fans will probably want to wait for the inevitable volume collection to hit their library or bookstore shelves.

2.5 out of 5 stars

(Preview provided by Netgalley)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Review: The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares by Joyce Carol Oates

Title: The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic Inc
Release Date: 0802126022
ISBN: 0802126022

I'll admit outright that I'm not overly a fan of Oates' writing style, but dangit... she knows how to write. Even as I asked myself why I'm reading the stories since I wasn't really digging them, I couldn't help but admire how well she managed to keep me turning the pages despite that.

"The Corn Maiden" is the gut-wrenching story of Marissa, a beautiful and sweet, but somewhat slow, eleven-year-old girl with hair the color of corn silk. Her single mother comes home one night to find her missing and panics, frantically knocking on the doors of her neighbors. She finally calls the police, who want to know why she left her young daughter alone until 8:00 o’clock.

Suspicion falls on a computer teacher at her school with no alibi for the time of the abduction. Obvious clues—perhaps too obvious—point directly to him. Unsuspected is Judah (born Judith), an older girl from the same school who has told two friends in her thrall of the Indian legend of the Corn Maiden, a girl sacrificed to ensure a good crop.

The trusting Marissa happily went to a secluded basement with the older girls, pleased to be included, and is convinced that the world has ended and that they are the last survivors. Remaining an unaware hostage for days, she grows weaker on a sparse diet as Judah prepares her for sacrifice.

The seemingly inevitable fate of Marissa becomes ever more terrifying as Judah relishes her power, leading to unbearable tension with a shocking conclusion.

“Helping Hands,” published here for the first time, begins with an apparently optimistic line: “He came into her life when it had seemed to her that her life was finished.”

A lonely woman meets a man in the unlikely clutter of a dingy charity shop and extends friendliness, which soon turns to quiet and unacknowledged desire. With the mind-set of a victim, struggling to overcome her shyness and fears, she has no idea what kinds of doors she may be opening.

The powerful stories in this extraordinary collection further enhance Joyce Carol Oates’s standing as one of the world’s greatest writers of suspense.

First off, I just have to repeat the statement that Joyce Carol Oates knows how to keep someone reading. I really didn't like the writing style that the first story was written in but I just had to keep reading purely because I had to, no needed to know how it all ended. The titular story (Corn Maiden) is just one of many stories in this book, all of which delivered that same "gotta know how it ends" tension and suspense.

Out of all of the stories, I have to say that Helping Hands grabbed me the most. Some of the stories, such as Beersheba, piqued my curiousity and kept me thinking, but it was Helping Hands that really made me keep reading. All of the stories here deal with a very human and realistic evil, but HH was the far more realistic of all of them, which I liked. The "evil" in this story was all the more heartbreaking for the situations all of the characters were in.

While I do have to give JCO props for drawing me in, some of the stories seemed a little too much at times. Either they were drawn out a little longer than they should have been or they just didn't grab me like their counterparts did. I know that there are some here that I'll want to re-read but there's just as many that I don't really care to pick up again.

This was a good Halloween read and one that JCO's fans will want to grab as soon as the books hit the shelves, but for the rest of us I recommend it as a library read. This is one of the books I would recommend reading regardless of your personal tastes, but it might be a good idea to check it out at the library instead. In the end it's JCO's ability to keep me reading that makes me give it as many stars as I have.

4 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I love Rich Koslowski!

(sighs) I'm currently in the process of moving to a new location, so that means that I've been having to pack up my huge bookshelf. It's bad since I'm going to have to decide which of my comics and books go into storage and I hate the idea of not having any of them within arm's reach, but good since I've been able to go through and re-discover some of my most favorite series and authors, one of which is The 3 Geeks series by Rich Koslowski. (Click on his smiling face to go to his website!)

While I've so far only read Koslowski's 3 Geeks series, I have to say that he's one of my favorite indie comic artists out there. Not only does he write one heck of an entertaining series, but Koslowski does a great job of depicting many of the comic book fans that are out there. I can easily see parts of myself in both Keith and Allen (some of my die-hard fangirl notions are more similar to Allen's nature than I'd like to admit sometimes). It's also pretty easy to look at some of my fellow comic fans and see how they compare to their inky counterparts. I've seen the general good natured "Keith" types of fans who love to share (and sometimes over-share) their love for comic books, the nerdy and socially inept "Allen" types that can occasionally blur the lines between fantasy and reality, as well as the Jim types who love to proclaim their love for all things drawn and violent. My point for mentioning this is that even if you only occasionally flirt with the comics world, odds are you've seen or experienced much of the actions that go on in this series.

Even if you haven't you would still enjoy this series. In between the biggest and most epic points of a comic book fan's life such as going to your first big comic convention or trying to draw your own comic book, there's tons of average adventures as well. I think that most of us can all remember the first time we realized that we had to get a job to afford whatever it was that we wanted (mine was washing dishes in order to afford my huge library fines). Many of us can also remember trying to figure out the opposite gender and trying to decide what it was that they wanted of us and how to attract their attention. All of that is here and hilariously captured for our amusement, so there's tons of appeal here for a wide audience.

The series is pretty easy to pick up regardless of which volume you decide to get, although I will say that the first volume is Going to the Con. You can still get all of the series at Koslowski's website as well as picking up the final volume of the series, The Geeksville Years. (Although there was a three part series put out a few years ago that takes place before the events in TGY.) Not only will you be able to get your comics directly from the man himself, but he'll also sign your stuff for you.

I think I can safely say that none of his stuff will be going into storage. 'Nuff said.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Book Review: Obsessed by Fiona Dodwell

Title: Obsessed
Author: Fiona Dodwell
Publisher: Damnation Books LLC
Release Date: 08/31/2011

I have to admit that I held off on reading this book for a while because I wanted it to be the first horror book I read in October. Fiona Dodwell has a deliciously twisted writing style that is chock full of chills and thrills, so what could start off the Halloween season better than a book like this?

Sometimes the past just won't stay dead and buried…

James Barker is a happily married man. He thinks he has it all–until one morning when he witnesses a gruesome suicide. Haunted by the death, James embarks on a journey. Who was this man? Why did he kill himself?

Now haunted by visions of the dead man in his home and in his nightmares, James begins to wonder if he is losing his mind. Surely the dead can't return?

As James uncovers the terrifying truth of the stranger who died at his own hands, he realizes his own life is in danger–and the lives of those he loves.

Obsessed is Dodwell's second book and it's awesome. While her first book (The Banishing) showed us that she definitely has the skills to deliver a spine chilling tale, this book shows us that she's definitely improving and gearing up to bring us even more than that. This is a wonderfully creepy story that kept me turning the pages and wondering what would happen next. What I really liked about this book was that the title so aptly described our main characters in the book. Jeff Jones (the seemingly dead guy) is obsessed with tormenting James. James is obsessed with Jeff's death and the reasons behind Jeff's actions.

I do have to say that I felt that the book was a little too short- I couldn't help but wonder what happened next and more about our characters. (I suppose that if you're going to get criticism, reading that the reader wanted more is one of the best ones to receive.) I love novellas, but if Dodwell wanted she could easily expand this world. (And I'd be right there standing in line to read it!)

I know this all sounds like a fangirl gush, but I have to say that I'm unashamedly claiming my fan status. Just like so many of her peers at Damnation Books, Fiona Dodwell is one of the undiscovered jewels of the indie lit crowd. This should definitely be on your "to read" lists this Halloween.

5 out of 5 stars

(Reader copy provided by author)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Comic Review: Orchid #1

Title: Orchid #1
Author: Tom Morello
Artist: Scott Hepburn
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: 10/12/2011

(Note: This review only covers the first 4 pages of the comic.)

From the mind of musician Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, The Nightwatchman) with art by Scott Hepburn (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic), Orchid is the tale of a teenage prostitute who learns that she is more than the role society has imposed upon her. When the seas rose, genetic codes were smashed. Human settlements are ringed by a dense wilderness from which ferocious new animal species prey on the helpless. The high ground belongs to the rich and powerful that overlook swampland shantytowns from their fortress-like cities. Iron-fisted rule ensures order and allows the wealthy to harvest the poor as slaves. Welcome to the world of Orchid.

I have to say that for only four pages of material where I didn't even get to meet our title character, I was pretty engrossed from the start. The artwork here is really nice and the writing/art team does a great job of setting the scene.

I love comics that are set in a post-apocalyptic world, so this comic is really up my alley. (It speaks to the girl in me who would read Battlefield Earth at least once a year during middle school.) The artwork is really cool and I liked the causes of some of the devastation. See that underwater city? It was swallowed up by a huge trash vortex, which definitely isn't something you've really seen in comics before. What makes it that much more interesting is that trash vortexes are a very real thing and can actually be pretty dangerous. (See this link for more information. If you're curious as to what a trash vortex looks like, click here.)

The only thing I'm a little leery of is that the underwater city in this picture is Japan, which might be a little too soon for some readers. Japan was hit earlier this year by a huge tsunami that crippled the nation, so some will be a little sensitive at seeing Japan underwater. If you're one of these people, you might want to hold off on Orchid for a little while. The preview is pretty cool and it's likely that this comic was in production long before the tsunami hit, but I know that for some of you this will just be too soon.

Other than that, I really enjoyed this preview and I'm fairly certain that anyone who loves a good apocalyptic comic will absolutely love this comic and want to pick it up.

Want to see this comic for yourself? Luckily for you Dark Horse has a preview set up on their website where you can get a glimpse of the action for yourself. (Click here for the link.)

(Preview provided through Netgalley)

Hush, Hush Backgrounds!

I had to share this with everyone. Becca Fitzpatrick and SeaLion Books have some pretty awesome wallpapers that are Hush, Hush themed.

All I know is that they're gorgeous and I know what's going on my computer as soon as I get home.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Comic Review: Doctor Who: A Fairytale Life

Title: Doctor Who:A Fairytale Life
Author: Matthew Sturges
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Release Date: 11/22/2011
ISBN: 1613770227

(Note: This review only covers the first issue of the entire volume.)

I've only really watched the first season of Doctor Who and almost all of Torchwood, so all things considered I'm pretty much a newbie. However, one of the great things about the show is that as long as you know the very basics of the show, you can pick up the series just about anywhere and this comic is no exception.

What's better: an ugly reality or beautiful fantasy? This is the question the Doctor is forced to confront in a medieval fantasy world where Amy Pond finds herself reluctantly cast as a damsel in distress. Matthew Sturges, Eisner Award-nominated writer of Jack of Fables, spins this yarn, featuring covers by Mark Buckingham of Miracleman and Fables fame.

The story idea for this is pretty interesting, with Doctor Who and Amy traveling to a world where it's every Ren Faire addict's greatest fantasy. It's a world designed to resemble the idealized Middle Ages, complete with magic and fantasy. When you figure that we've got several of the geniuses behind Fables writing and illustrating the story, you would think that this would be an explosion of awesomeness. It's cool, just not as much as I was hoping it would be.

I loved that I could jump right into this without having to know any major details about the series so far, which will undoubtedly help bring in new audiences who (like me) are only really familiar with the basic premise of Doctor Who. However the story just seemed a little underdeveloped so far. It's intriguing enough to where I would want to keep reading, but not enough to where I'd run out and buy the volume straight away. I can only hope that the story improves later on in the volume.

As far as the artwork goes, I liked it. The artwork is nice and playful, which suits the initial feeling of the comic. Yates did an excellent job, although I don't know how well it would fit if the tone of the volume gets darker. I also adored the covers- Buckingham is a great artist and it makes sense to have him contribute to this in some form. I can only hope that later in the volume they had him do a little of the issues' artwork as well.

Overall this was entertaining but I just can't help but think that it's not quite the best that the world of Doctor Who has to offer as far as graphic novels go. Fans of the series will probably want to read this and keep their collection up to date and for newbies this will be a good jumping in point, although they'd probably be better off getting it as a library read.

3 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Do Want: Kindle Fire

I've occasionally been tempted to get a kindle, but never really had anything that would truly draw me to the unit. Not until now, anyway.

I could tell you about how you can watch videos on it or the internet browser, but what really intrigues me is that Amazon has finally created a kindle that is capable of reading different book formats. Previously you could email the books to your kindle, but that was pretty time consuming because you had to wait for the email to send and get received. This isn't including the irritation that came from sending a document and then discovering that the text is sort of skewed from the formatting. (My coworkers consider me an ebook guru for some reason, so I've been asked to help email everything from books they got elsewhere to homework to their kindles.)

I'm going to assume that you can either side load these books and/or have them emailed to the Kindle Fire without it having to be changed into kindle format. Either way, I'm glad that Amazon finally gave in and allowed different formats to be read on their units. I know I'm not the only one who held out because of this reason. Now if Amazon would only put a memory slot in this unit, I'd be in heaven. I know that there's a ton of memory on this thing and the Fire will also have usage of the Cloud network, but I'm fond of my memory cards.

I have to admit, I'm pretty tempted to queue up like everyone else and preorder one.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Book Review: Love & Capes Volume 3 by Thom Zahler

Title: Love and Capes: Wake up Where You Are (Volume 3)
Author: Thom Zahler
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Release Date: 08/04/2011
ISBN: 1613770499

Note: I only got to read the first issue of this volume. (Sad face)

I've been a fan of Love and Capes ever since I came across it in webcomic format and it's swiftly become one of my favorite superhero comic books. I was already planning on purchasing volume 3 when it came out, so getting a little sneak preview was a bonus. Before I was merely looking forward to this volume. Now I can't wait.

Mark and Abby are home from their honeymoon and ready to settle in for some domestic bliss. But settling in doesn't mean things will settle down. Mark's best friend, Darkblade, is now dating his ex-girlfriend, Amazonia. Abby's landlord is trying to drive her and her bookstore out. And Charlotte is about to graduate from college. Plus, it's time to tell Abby's parents about Mark's super-secret, but will that mean telling Abby's brother, too? "Ever after" is where things get really interesting!

I was pretty interested in seeing what Zahler could do now that Mark and Abby are married. They were a close couple but there was a lot that they hadn't really been through just yet. Would they quickly settle down into a routine? Would the new pressures that come with (super) married life emerge? So far I was pretty impressed by how Zahler approached the idea of a superhero marrying. Abby does see a few things that only the spouse of the Crusader would experience, but overall her newlywed life is pretty mundane. This was pretty nice to read since part of why this comic appeals to me is because it doesn't go for the melodramatics that the more mainstream comics do. (Not that melodrama can't be fun, but that's not really the point of this strip.)

I also enjoyed seeing Amazonia pair up with Darkblade, the new couple in the book. It wasn't really all that surprising and the two seem to match up well so far. It'll be interesting to see how that relationship will fare, given what ultimately caused the Amazonia/Crusader breakup.

The artwork in this volume was fun and playful. Zahler has a great style that fits this universe and its characters well and he continues to deliver quality artwork here. I would love to have posted a few of my favorite bits here, but I couldn't quite get any of it to save without sacrificing picture quality. You'll have to trust me that there's some great parts in here, notably the "My Precious..." strip.

I'll try to elaborate more on volume 3 when I get my copy (preordered through Amazon, yay!), but all you really need to know is that Zahler still has it and doesn't appear to be in any danger of losing it. Love and Capes is an incredibly entertaining series that belongs on any comic book lover's bookshelf!

5 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Book Review: The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Iron Knight (Iron Fey #4)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Release Date: 10/25/2011
ISBN: 0373210361

It's hard not to approach another Iron Fey book with a little excitement & anticipation. The last book in the series left us with a lot of odds & ends tied up, but with just enough unresolved plot to make another book a natural progression in the series. (BTW, there's going to be another series set after this book following Meghan's younger brother Ethan!) How could we not be interested in a book following Ash as he tries to find a way to be with Meghan?

Ash, former prince of the Winter Court, gave up everything. His title, his home, even his vow of loyalty. All for a girl… and all for nothing.

Unless he can earn a soul.

To cold, emotionless faery prince Ash, love was a weakness for mortals and fools. His own love had died a horrible death, killing any gentler feelings the Winter prince might have had. Or so he thought.

Then Meghan Chase—a half human, half fey slip of a girl— smashed through his barricades, binding him to her irrevocably with his oath to be her knight. And when all of Faery nearly fell to the Iron fey, she severed their bond to save his life. Meghan is now the Iron Queen, ruler of a realm where no Winter or Summer fey can survive.

With the (unwelcome) company of his archrival, Summer Court prankster Puck, and the infuriating cait sith Grimalkin, Ash begins a journey he is bound to see through to its end— a quest to find a way to honor his solemn vow to stand by Meghan’s side.

To survive in the Iron realm, Ash must have a soul and a mortal body. But the tests he must face to earn these things are impossible. At least, no one has ever passed to tell the tale.

And then Ash learns something that changes everything. A truth that turns reality upside down, challenges his darkest beliefs and shows him that, sometimes, it takes more than courage to make the ultimate sacrifice.

I'll admit that the change in narrative voices was a little hard to get used to, even though I knew to expect it. It's just not the same, seeing about the fae world through the eyes of a native & part of what I enjoyed about Meghan's narrative is that everything was so new to her. Luckily for me the book's plot would involve Ash going to places that are new & relatively unheard of even to Ash, so this never really interfered with my enjoyment of the book. It made it a little slow to get into, but this was still a very readable & enjoyable book.

It's just I just couldn't relate to Ash as a character like I could Meghan. I could read the book & be entertained, but I just didn't get as good of a "book high" with this read as I wanted to. I was able to get used to Ash's voice but I still couldn't get as excited as I wanted to be. I can't help but feel that there will probably be a few people who will read this book & be disappointed that this just doesn't have the "snap bang!" that the previous books did. There will be those who will devour this book whole & love it as much as the previous books, but I can't help but think that this book just felt a little pale in comparison to the rest of the series.

There is, however, enough interesting material brought up in this book to where readers will still be waiting for when Kagawa starts in on Ethan's story. The ideas brought up in this book as well as the possibilities of a few of the characters introduced were intriguing & despite a few reservations with Iron Knight, I still feel pretty invested in the series enough to want to pick up the next book Kagawa puts out in this universe.

3 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Manga Review: Sailor Moon and Sailor V, volumes 1

Sailor Moon, Sailor V Volumes 1
Author: Naoko Takeuchi
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: 09/13/2011
ISBN: 1935429744
ISBN: 1935429779

If you're a manga fan like me, you've been eagerly awaiting these releases for years. Not days or months, but years. Ever since the now defunct Tokyopop lost their licence to Sailor Moon, this manga has been something that you could only find via eBay or scanned onto the internet. Sailor V never got an official release, so you could really only hope to find an untranslated copy or hope that a scanlated copy got released from someone. Now you don't have to wait anymore. Kodansha has released Takeuchi's most famous work to the English speaking audience.

Art-wise, these books are absolutely gorgeous. One look at the covers should show you that you're in for a treat. I don't have any scans of the new translations, but the artwork has been cleaned up for this reprint. It's been a while since I've seen the Tokyopop translation, so at some point I'm going to have to find a copy to compare it to. (Or look for pictures that people have posted on the net.)

Story-wise, the Sailor Moon volume was stronger than the Sailor V manga was. I'm sort of chalking this up to the Sailor V manga being more of a sporadic release than the Sailor Moon story was. One thing that's absolutely cool about reading the Sailor V manga was seeing how Takeuchi began to brainstorm characters and designs for Sailor Moon as well as to see the gradual change in how the series was presented. Over time the Sailor V manga started changing to show it as a prequel to Sailor Moon. (Sailor V started before Sailor Moon started being made, but continued to be sporadically released while Sailor Moon was running.) It's a glimpse into Takeuchi's thought processes and it's incredibly fun to see which designs made it into Sailor Moon and which ones didn't.

Translation-wise this is much more faithful than the Tokyopop/Mixx translations and fans who have poured over the TP releases will instantly notice a few translation differences. One thing that I couldn't help but notice was that while the translation was more faithful, it's just a little clunky. I loved that there were honorifics in here, but I'd be lying if I said that the honorifics occasionally hurt more than they helped. One such instance is the usage of "Princess-Sama", which just seemed a little redundant and clunky. I have to admit that I'd almost prefer that the honorifics were dropped entirely for flow reasons, although at times they do help to show some character interactions a little better.

This is something that I'd absolutely recommend for any Sailor Moon or Takeuchi fan as well as any fan of shoujo manga. It's worth looking at for the nostalgia value as well as to get a gander at the series that introduced a lot of the American and English speaking audience to anime and manga as a whole. (Sailor Moon was the first television series I watched where I knew that I was watching anime.)

4 out of 5 stars for both volumes

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Yay for contests: Hush, Hush and Sea Lion Books!

Hi everyone! My posts have been a little erratic due to school and a little someone called Irene playing havoc with my electronics, but I'm happy to give you some info on a comic that I think is going to be a "must own" for me.

Like Hush, Hush? Well, I know that I do and I'm pretty excited to see that it's getting the graphic novel treatment. I'm also pretty excited to hear that Sea Lion Books is doing a contest so awesome that I'm just going to post what they wrote word for word since I don't think I could do it without giving a huge fangirl squee.

Did you miss out on the signed graphic novel and 2011 books that bite
purse? Well don't be sad for we are doing it AGAIN and this time it's
BIGGGGGGEEERRRRRR and BEEETTTTTTTEEERRRR. In celebration of the upcoming
release! We thought a graphic novel this epic deserved something extra

On our store tab ( ) you can purchase the
limited edition Hush Hush graphic novel prologue for $10.00. WE WILL ONLY
So not only is this an important piece to the contest puzzle but you will
be one of a thousand people to own this piece of Becca Fitzpatrick's
history!!! Keep in mind since there are only 1,000 copies of the prologue
being made we need to limit the number of copies you can purchase. It is
limited to 2 copies per person.

Now here is the fun part! Once you receive the book, take a picture of
yourself with it and email the picture to us along with a paragraph as to
why you should be the next to make a cameo in the next volume of Hush Hush!
In this cameo you will even interact with Patch and Nora. NOW REMEMBER I
WHY! The winner will not only get to interact with Patch and Nora in the
next Hush Hush Graphic Novel, BUT the illustrator for the graphic novel
will also IMMORTALIZE you from head to toe in Patch's arms! Your image
will be held lovingly safe in his arms! How awesome is that!!!


1. 1,000 limited edition prologues will be available for sale on Limit 2 please!

2. Once you receive the Hush Hush prologues you must take a picture of
yourself with it and post the picture on our FB page with a paragraph in
the comments under the picture as to why they should be the next to make a
cameo in the next volume of Hush Hush!

3. The winner gets an interacting cameo with Patch and Nora in Hush Hush
volume 2, and they get a unique one-of-a-kind poster with Patch holding the
winner in his arms.

4. The limited edition prologues will ship the first week of October.

I'm so excited over this that I could scream. I loved the heck out of Hush, Hush and the possibility of getting a picture drawn of Patch (let alone one of me with him) is pretty freaking cool. (OK, so I'm no longer a teenager, but Patch is far older than I am. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

Click on the beautiful graphic novel cover above for a direct link to the sale page!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Review: No One to Trust by Julie Moffett

Title: No One To Trust (Lexi Carmichael #2)
Author: Julie Moffett
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: 06/13/2011

After having read Moffett's previous book in the LC series, I was pretty excited to give the second entry a try. There was just something addicting about Lexi's adventures that keept drawing me back in and I'm glad to say that entry #2 is no exception.

SWFG: Single, White, Female, Geek.

That’s me, Lexi Carmichael, a reformed hacker who was gainfully employed by the National Security Agency. But a series of extraordinary events led me to leave government life behind for a fresh start with a brand-new company and an incredibly sexy boss, Finn Shaughnessy. It may not be kosher to have the hots for your boss, but he seems to have the hots for me, too. If only things didn’t get so complicated…

Darren Greening, a genius researcher from Flow Technologies (our first client!) is missing, and his bosses think I’m involved. And they aren’t the only ones—the man who nearly snapped my neck in the parking garage thinks so, too.

Now I’m caught in the middle of a complex and dangerous case. I’ll have to use all my geek skills and a little help from my friends to solve the mystery of Darren’s disappearance before Neck-Snapping-Man makes a return visit…

I don't know much about the hacking world, but I do know that I enjoyed this book greatly. I love Lexi and I love the situations she gets herself into. She's a feisty heroine and we finally get to see her hands get a little dirtier than they did in the previous novel, which I enjoyed. One of my gripes with the first novel was that Lexi did little of her own hacking work, which isn't the case in this book. Lexi does just as much as the next person in this mystery.

The love interests are pretty sexy as well and are developing pretty well at this stage. I have my own personal favorites as far as who Lexi should end up with (Team Zimmerman!), but Lexi's reasoning for who she likes and what she is or isn't going to do is pretty realistic. There's also a decent amount of competition and/or other barriers keeping her from each guy, giving good reason to draw out the tension for just a little bit longer. (As long as it doesn't get as ridiculously drawn out as the Stephanie Plum love triangle has, I'm good with this.)

I will say that the mystery does move quickly and at times the plot seemed to move a little too quickly, not giving me as much time as I'd have wanted on some issues. I can't elaborate without getting spoilerish, but let's just say that there were some issues I wanted to linger on a little longer as far as the missing researcher goes. You get a good sense of what is what and I didn't end the book feeling unsatisfied, but it all seemed to get wrapped up a little too quickly for me. This isn't really a gripe, just more of an observation since it didn't really get in the way of my reading experience that much.

Overall this book was awesome to read and I can't wait to get my hot little hands on the next book in the series. It's honestly a shame that these are only in ebook format at this point in time since I think they'd sell well in paperback format.

5 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Book Review: If This is Paradise Then I Want My Money Back by Claudia Carroll

Title: If This is Paradise Then I Want My Money Back
Author: Claudia Carroll
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: 10/18/2011
ISBN: 0062045156

Chick lit has always been one of my guilty pleasures. It's pure potato chip pleasure for me and I've been known to completely cut myself off from civilization whenever Sophie Kinsella or Meg Cabot put out a new book. Paradise gives off roughly the same feel of guilty pleasure, but fails to deliver on exactly all that it promised.

What if you got the opportunity to come back to life…as a guardian angel to your evil ex-boyfriend? That’s the hilarious premise of If This is Paradise I Want My Money Back, a wonderfully clever and charming tale of heavenly revenge from Claudia Carroll, the bestselling author of I Never Fancied Him Anyway and Remind Me Again Why I Need a Man. Fans of smart, contemporary women’s fiction like the bestselling novels of Meg Cabot and Marion Keyes will adore this delightful romp, as Charlotte Grey makes her way back to Earth for a second chance…at retribution!

I'm a little torn at how to describe this book. Carroll puts out an entertaining read to where I'm definitely going to track down her other books, but this was a bit of a chore to read at times. The book's general premise sounded like it'd be incredibly fun because after all, being able to get even with an awful ex is something most of us would love to do. In this aspect yes, the book was fun. I read the scenes of Charlotte tormenting her ex with a bit of sadistic glee. These were some of the better written scenes. Charlotte made for an interesting main character in that she was enough of an every-woman to be relatable to, something that is invaluable in any sort of read. She made me want to keep reading about her even as I wanted to throttle her for being so dense.

Where the "but I'm torn" part comes in is with the book's predictability. You can see every big revelation and plot twist coming miles away. This wouldn't be so bad considering that chick lit books tend to be a little formulaic by nature, but when you add in the parts of the book where the plot got a little dull, it became a chore to read at times. The amount of times where Charlotte visits her family members really could have been reduced greatly because most of what she does ends up being the same as the last time she saw them. I'd express more irritation over how completely devoid Charlotte is of common sense (she wouldn't know it's raining even if her head was soaked), but as this is something that was brought up in the book as a plot element I figured that I'd give it a pass. If anything, Charlotte's moronic nature was something of a "how much more simple minded can you get" form of entertainment where I eagerly turned the pages like a crack addicted chipmunk to see exactly what she'd do next.

Even with all of the irritation I would occasionally feel throughout the book, I was somehow unable to put it down. This might not live up to the high standards put out by Kinsella's fare, but Paradise was still an addicting read and I know I'll be tracking down the author's other works. Carroll still has a way to go but I have a feeling I will end up staying with her for the long haul. My recommendation? For anyone who loves chick lit, this is something you'll probably want to read, but you might want to flip through it first or check it out at the library.

3 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Review: First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

Title: First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson #1)
Author: Darynda Jones
Publisher: St Martins Press
Release Date: 02/01/2011
ISBN: 0312662750

A smashing, award-winning debut novel that introduces Charley Davidson: part-time private investigator and full-time Grim Reaper

Charley sees dead people. That’s right, she sees dead people. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (i.e. murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an Entity who has been following her all her life...and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely.

This is a thrilling debut novel from an exciting newcomer to the world of paranormal romantic suspense.

I procrastinated a little bit on this book, but the cover kept calling to me saying "Read me- I won't be like all of the others here on the shelf". Wouldn't you know that the cover was right? This isn't like any of the other books out there.

This is a very smart and slick story that grabs you from the very first page and doesn't let you go. I know that sounds like a cheesy blurb line but it's the truth. I loved that Charley Davidson both broke and embodied the idea of the gritty supernatural heroine. She's not afraid to get hurt and she's not afraid to go after whatever it is that she's currently set her mind on. I loved that she wasn't really all that stupid either.

Story-wise this was a pretty decent read. I loved the one liners and I liked the slow buildup in the story. It does occasionally suffer from first-book-itis, but this is an exemplary first book from a new author.

4.5 out of 5 stars

(I received this for free via the Goodreads ARC contest. )

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Book Review: The Dark Glamour by Gabriella Pierce

Title: The Dark Glamour
Author: Gabriella Pierce
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: 09/06/2011

When I read the first book I was a little confused as to how to classify this book. It isn't what I'd classify as chick-lit but it isn't exactly an urban fantasy or a paranormal romance. After I finished the second book I'm only slightly less clueless as to which genre I'd shelve this in, but the most important reaction is still the same: this is a very fun series to read.

Jane Boyle married her prince charming and moved into his upper east side castle—but she didn’t get her fairy-tale ending

It’s hard to live happily ever after when you discover your demanding and controlling mother-in-law is literally a witch, determined to steal the magical powers you didn’t even know you had. Jane narrowly avoided Lynne Doran’s clutches when she escaped on her wedding day, and has been hiding out in New York City. But she can’t hide forever.

When Jane learns of the one thing Lynne wants most, she sets out to provide it, hoping her good turn will persuade her mother-in-law to stop hunting her. Unfortunately, Jane’s daring plan will send her right back into the witches’ den—the Doran clan’s multistory town house on Park Avenue. But thanks to a tricky spell, blond architect Jane will be transformed into Ella, a dark beauty with a whole new look . . . and all of Jane’s budding powers. Though the stakes are life or death, nobody said “Ella” couldn’t have a little fun along the way, too.

This isn't exactly a dark and gritty read, but neither is it as light and fluffy as I was expecting it to be. We have the wonderfully luxurious wish fulfillment of being able to live vicariously through Jane but then we also have moments where Jane takes on her new persona with reckless abandon. I was a bit surprised to see the lengths she goes to (and the people she takes up with) in order to get back into the house of Doran. While Jane isn't exactly doing anything absolutely horrible, it is a little bit out of the norm for books in the chick-lit or general paranormal romance genre. It does make sense though- she's fighting for her life. Jane can't afford to be prudish.

Pierce has found a decent rhythm in her second book. She's beginning to shake off the "new author" awkwardness and is becoming more confident and familiar with her style. While parts of the book are disappointingly predictable (I was able to see the big surprises coming a mile away), there are a lot of good interactions between the characters and I absolutely loved how Pierce portrayed Jane's reaction to having a completely different form. The descriptions here are very well done, helping to set each scene nicely.

This book improved on the last one but those who weren't able to get overly into the last one will probably want to stick to getting this from the library. For those who loved the first book, this will be an absolute "must buy". It's fluffy fare, but darnit... it's good fluffy fare, the type you curl up with on the beach or on a rainy day.

3.5 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Manga Review: Gate 7 by CLAMP

Title: Gate 7
Artist/Author: CLAMP
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: 10/25/2011
ISBN: 1595828060

Before I go any further with this review I have to state that I've only read the first chapter of Gate 7, the oneshot that started everything with this series. CLAMP works tend to have plots that reach far beyond one chapter, so I want to stress that all I can do is give my impressions of what I have.

Get ready for another exciting new series from best-selling manga creators, CLAMP (Chobits, Clover, Cardcaptor Sakura)! Chikahito Takamoto has always read about the beauty and mystique of Japan's ancient capital city, Kyoto. Now, two years into high school, he's finally visiting there for real. But wandering the grounds of Kyoto's legendary Shinto shrine of Kita no Tenmangu, he chances upon a mystery that his guidebooks didn't prepare him for - two handsome men and an attractive woman, all strangely-garbed, wielding powers...and fighting monsters! The two men treat poor Chikahito with suspicion - but the girl seems to like him. They aren't worried about what Chikahito's just seen, because they have the power to erase his memory...except for some reason, that power doesn't work! And why does the girl kiss him before sending him away? One thing's for sure: Chikahito is going to be seeing a lot more of these three strangers...

You can't read any CLAMP manga without admiring the gorgeous style that is their trademark. It might change as members come and go, but it's always beautiful and worth looking at on its own merit. This doesn't really change in Gate 7. I absolutely loved looking at the art in this story. It might not be their strongest work (their earliest works will always be my favorite), but this is beautiful. I can't say enough about it.

Story-wise, I can see where this will draw in a lot of readers. It's not entirely my style, but there's a decent base here to expand upon. It's a little on the vague side, but since this was just the first chapter I don't feel right giving any final judgement on the storyline of this series. (Supposedly what I read was just a oneshot but it looks like it was definitely intended to be a promo for a series.) I've done a little snooping on the internet for information and it looks like this series will get pretty interesting as the volume progresses. It just doesn't seem to be my cup of tea, but that's OK. I'll just wait for Dark Horse to release the inevitable artbook. (Hopefully they'll re-release some of the out of print artbooks TokyoPop used to carry.)

I have to say, this will definitely find an easy audience here in the states. CLAMP can rarely go wrong in my opinion and they're giving us more of what they do best. Gate 7 will definitely appeal to those who loved X and xxxHolic.

3.5 out of 5 stars

(Reader copy provided by Netgalley)

JManga: First opinions

Hi everyone! I just discovered a new site a little bit ago called JManga where (to put it bluntly) you can read e-manga online.

I have to admit, I've got mixed emotions about this. Offhand I'm going to say that I'm really irritated that you can't download any of the manga you purchase. You can only view it via the website, which takes away the whole convenience factor. Even if they release an app there's still the whole inconvenience of knowing that you're reliant on the website being up and being in an area where you can access the app/website.

The cool factor lies in the titles the site has to offer. JManga brings in some titles that have never been officially released in the US as well as titles by defunct publishers such as CMX. Some of the bigger titles are limited to 1-2 chapters, possibly because many of the bigger publishers are offering their titles via similar storefronts. I was more excited to see how many different series they have and the variety.There's a lot of selection, although I was slightly disappointed to see that there's listings for manga that aren't available on the site. (My pulse quickened to see a Higurashi manga listed, only to get let down when there wasn't even so much as a preview available.)

Here's something that might put a damper on some of the excitement, though: while the site does list industry heavyweights such as Naruto and Haruhi Suzumiya, most of these pages only have preview chapters available... if they have anything listed at all. This might be due to many of these publishers moving towards similar business models as JManga and preferring to keep their manga on their personal sites. It's just a little frustrating to see so many of these series come up and end up being previews only. The previews are all free, but it's still frustrating nonetheless.

The translation is a little on the wonky side. It works and won't leave you wondering what they were trying to get across, but it just doesn't flow like some of the other translations out there. I don't see this being a big problem and I figure that as the company's translators get more comfortable with translations it'll become a little more smooth. Right now though, the translations come across as a little too overly literal at times or like the translator isn't entirely comfortable with the English language jut yet.

JManga's final point worth mentioning is that you pay via "points" rather than a set price point, which seems a little unnecessary to me. For $10 you get 1000 points so I can't help but wonder why they don't just list it at its dollar equivalent. I doubt that this will really irk people as much as that there's no way to just purchase points when you choose. To purchase manga you have to submit a credit card and have a monthly subscription. You can cancel anytime you choose, but it just seems a little overly complicated to have to constantly have to sign up and cancel if you're the type that doesn't really want to make purchases each month. The points last for about a year after they're applied to the account and you do get bonus points (these only last for 3 months), but I'd rather have the option of applying points without having to go the subscription route. On a plus side, if you're a subscriber who plans on reading a lot of manga there is the option of buying more points per month.

Overall I'm just a little underwhelmed by this site. I love that you can preview things for free but so far there's not a huge amount of wow factor to this site and not being able to buy points without a subscription is incredibly irritating. It's worth keeping an eye on since I like the idea of a company that brings over titles that might not otherwise have been picked up.