Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays to everyone, whichever ones you celebrate. Someone sent me this comic at work, and I just had to share it here!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fury's Kiss by Karen Chance

I'm always pleased when a new book by Karen Chance is published, but when it's a Dorina Basarab book, I admit I'm a teeny bit disappointed that it's not a Cassie Palmer one. This book, however, really won me over to this series, and now I think I'd have a tough time choosing between the two.

Both series are set in the same fictional world, so the fun part is that with either series, some of my favorite characters are there. Both series are definitely best read in order - but you can read one and not the other without missing out on important things. I'd advise reading both, though!

Dory, the heroine of this series, is a dhampir, a cross between a human and a vampire. Normally such beings are killed at birth because they have a tendency toward homicidal insanity. Dory was allowed to survive, and while she does have psychological issues, she manages to control them, for the most part. In this installment of the series, there is a mystery/thriller element (Dory must try to diffuse a supernatural terrorist plot) as well as a more personal one, as elements of Dory's mental issues are explored. There's romance as well, not to mention Chance's sublime sense of humor, which never fails to make me laugh out loud along the way.

Chance knows how to tell a story, and I enjoy myself every step of the way. The action scenes can be a little bit drawn out, and I find myself skimming there a bit, but the characters are a joy to read. Dory is tough, yes, but she's not as tough as she lets on, and she is endearingly honest with herself. She has lived a long time, but she still has a lot to learn, and there was some very interesting and rewarding character development and growth going on here. The mystery was a good one, too, and the ending felt just perfect. I look forward to reading more books by Chance - in either series, or a completely new one. It's all good! Fans of Rardin's Jaz Parks books, Kim Harrison and Patricia Briggs should definitely give Karen Chance a try.

Books in the Dorina Basarab series: 
1. Midnight's Daughter
2. Death's Mistress
3. Fury's Kiss

Fury's Kiss (#3 in the Dorina Basarab series) by Karen Chance (New American Library, 2012)

Also reviewed at:
Fantasy Works"Dory has always accepted her insanity as part of what she is, but in this book, Chance challenged that, and I loved it."
Literal Addiction: "I've thoroughly enjoyed the previous installments of both series of this world, but there was something special about this book. I think because we got to see the OTHER side of Dorina, the more vulnerable side..."
Mad Hatter Reads: "I love the way Ms. Chance mixes action and mystery with humor to create this page-turner. There's also a focus on character development as Dory learns more about her past"

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch

This graphic novel tells the story of a fantasy writer who is invited on a sort of blind date by a couple of his friends while he is in London. His friends aren't crazy about the woman, but they have an obligation to entertain her, and they feel that their friend, the writer, will make things go more smoothly. His date, Miss Finch, turns out to be a rather distant, disapproving biogeologist who is more interested in her work than in socializing.

They end up going to a bizarre underground circus beneath the train tracks near Southwark Cathedral, where they move from room to room, watching bizarre performances depicted in lush colors and fantastical imagery. There is no doubt that something is going to happen to Miss Finch, and when the moment comes, it is fairly clear what is going to happen and why.

This was one of those graphic novels where the artwork outshines the story itself.  The story is mildly interesting, but the characters functioned more as vehicles for making the story happen rather than becoming actual people I came to care about. It works fairly well because the book is very short and can be read in a single sitting, so in the end it feels like a brief sojourn into dark, fantastical dream.

The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Michael Zulli (Dark Horse, 2008)

Also reviewed at:
Book Banter: "The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch is a strange story that makes one question what one is actually seeing, what is supposed reality and what is not."
Jenny's Books: "I wanted The Facts – that title is ridiculously long – I wanted the book to be creepy, and it was dull instead. Bah. Plus, I've read this Gaiman story before, with the theatre show. Several times. Better versions."

Friday, December 7, 2012

Blue Diablo

Why on earth I'm starting yet another series when I'm still working my way through so many, I have no idea. I keep hearing about good ones, and I just can't help it! I always worry a little with the start of a new one (and to tell the truth, I've become pretty picky about which series are actually good enough to bother with continuing). I'm happy to say, though, that this one is a keeper. I enjoyed it the entire way through.

The story is about a woman named Corine, who is an American living in a small town in Mexico because she is in hiding from her former life. She owns a little shop, and she lives a quiet - if lonely - life. But when her past comes walking through the door in the form of the very sexy Chance, her ex-boyfriend, she is alarmed. When he tells her his mother has been kidnapped, and he needs her help to find her, she has no choice but to help. She loves his mother, and she knows that her unusual ability can be of invaluable assistance in locating the old woman. Corine is a handler: she can touch an object and (for a price) receive impressions of the circumstances surrounding that object. She agrees to help, but she is determined not to fall into old mistakes regarding her ex.

This is a tightly written, well-paced novel with characters who have depth and personality. I loved the Mexican/Texas setting, the relationship between her and Chance, and the characters they meet along the way. I particularly enjoyed the way Corine's back story is revealed piece by piece as the story progresses, and each new piece of information informs the narrative, giving it depth as it unfolds. It's a very effective and interesting means of telling a story.  Fans of Jennifer Rardin's Jaz Parks series and Karen Chance's series should find this one very appealing.

Books in the Ann Aguirre series:
1. Blue Diablo
2. Hell Fire
3. Shady Lady
4. Devil's Punch
5. Agave Kiss (2013)

Blue Diablo  (#1 in the Corine Solomon series) by Ann Aguirre (Roc, 2009)

Also reviewed at:
Babbling about Books, and More: "Blue Diablo is so very original and refreshing. I have to give it to Ann to writing a story with a nice balance of fantasy and mystery."
Janicu's Book Blog: "I liked it – an urban fantasy with an international flare. It's an action packed first book, full of flawed but likeable characters and relationships."
My Friend Amy: "I really enjoyed Aguirre's writing...I found it to be crisp and descriptive. I absolutely adored Chance..."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Supernaturalist: The Graphic Novel

14-year-old Cosmo lives in a bleak future world, where orphanages are permitted to work the children to death, and everyone is dependent on the technology that is offered by the satellite (known as Big Brother) that gives the city, Satellite City, its name. The life expectancy of the children at the orphanage where Cosmo lives is only fifteen, so when a unique opportunity for escape presents itself, Cosmo takes it. He nearly dies, and in that moment he sees a strange, glowing being that seems to be sucking the life out of him. He is a rescued by a group of teens who call themselves the Supernaturalists,  a team dedicated to eradicating the world from the blue parasites that are invisible to most people. When they realize Cosmo can see them, too, he is invited to join them.

Their efforts take them to the seamy underside of Satellite City, and into one dangerous situation after another. But soon it becomes apparent that their suppositions about the parasites are not necessarily true, and it isn't long before the situation escalates, and Cosmo has some difficult choices to make.

I'm not a huge fan of graphic novelizations of regular novels, but I grabbed this one on impulse from my library because the artwork is so beautifully detailed, particularly the landscapes and colorful drawings of the science fictional backgrounds. I thought my 14-year-old daughter might like it, and indeed, she snapped it up and found it a page-turner. She thought I'd enjoy it too, and I did.

I haven't read the novel, but I felt that this graphic novel interpretation was a skillful telling of the story, and I didn't feel I was missing anything as I read. The characterization was fairly elementary, and surprisingly Cosmo turned out to be the least interesting member of the Supernaturalist team.  The villain was a little over the top, gleefully recounting all the motivations and dirty deeds when really that character should have been completing the dastardly plan, rather than allowing the heroes the opportunity to escape.  Still, it's a fun read, and should appeal to fans of Colfer's Artemis Fowl books as well as those who enjoy a good dystopian science-fictional read.

The Supernaturalist: The Graphic Novel by Eoin Colfer and and Andrew Donkin (Hyperion Books, 2012)

Reviews of other books by Colfer:
Artemis Fowl 
Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident
Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code 
Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception 

Also reviewed at:
Chad Likes Movies"The Supernaturalist: The Graphic Novel makes for a nice companion to the original book; as is the case with the Artemis Fowl graphic novels, it is better to read one (the book) or both, but never the graphic novel alone"
Fantasy's Ink: "A lot of times, manga and graphic novels adapted from books end up being too confusing and cramped, but this one turned out just fine. "

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Unraveling Isobel

Isobel's life has turned upside down. Her mother has remarried a man Isobel isn't too thrilled with; they are moving to an island off the coast of Washington to live in a massive old house; she has acquired a broody but good-looking stepbrother, who doesn't seem any happier to have her moving into his home than she is to be there; and to top it all off, it appears that the house is haunted. Or maybe she's just losing her mind. After all, her father did, and they say that schizophrenia can be hereditary.

This is a fun read, a good ghost story, with plenty of suspense, and romance, too.  There is a slight ick factor to the sexual tension between Isobel and her hot stepbrother, which technically is okay but still felt slightly off-putting to me.  Cook throws just about everything into this one - its a problem novel, a mystery, a romance, a ghost story, and a mean-girls-at-school book, all rolled into one. Isobel has an engaging voice, and the story is fast-paced and rolls right along, but there isn't a whole lot of time spent on depth of character.  That shouldn't bother most readers, though, and I think teens will find a lot to enjoy here.

Unraveling Isobel by Eileen cook (Simon Pulse, 2012)

Also reviewed at:
The Allure of Books: "Despite the fact that some of the characterization is lacking, Unraveling Isobel is one awesome read!"
Bookshelves of Doom: "As much as it pains me to say this, I think that this book actually suffers from too much drama...That said, it's still a totally enjoyable zoomer of a read..."
From the TBR Pile: "It dealt with some serious issues like mental illness and the struggles of blended families in a thoughtful manner, but at the same time kept up the humor and snarky teenage sarcasm."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Odd Thomas

I haven't read much by Dean Koontz, because the few things I've read by him have been a little too realistically creepy and have gotten unpleasantly under my skin.  I said as much to a customer at my library, who had come up to the reference desk to ask me when the next book in this series was coming out (2013). He told me that this series is more along the lines of a supernatural mystery series, with a crime-solving protagonist who can see ghosts. Sounded good to me, so I downloaded the audiobook from my library and gave it a listen.

Our hero's name is actually Odd, and he is twenty years old. He has a girlfriend he adores, works as a fry cook at the local diner, and he's great at his job. He also can see ghosts, and unlike many protagonists (who spend a large part of the narrative whining about their ability, seeing it as a curse, wishing it would go away so they could live normal lives), Odd sees his unique ability as a gift, and even though it causes problems in his life, he does his best to help the dead who come to him looking for justice.

Aside from seeing ghosts, Odd can see odd, malevolent creatures that seem to appear when acts of particularly horrific violence are going to occur. When a creepy guy shows up at the diner trailed by more of these creatures than Odd has ever seen, he knows he has to investigate. He discovers a terror plot that, if it succeeds, will be catastrophic to his small town of Pico Mundo.

This was a promising start to a series (in fact, it reads like a standalone novel), and, like the few other novels by Koontz that I've read, it succeeds at ratcheting up the tension to nearly unbearable levels. Odd is an interesting character - while he has a vocabulary that is not what one would expect from a fry cook (he says things like "In fact I am such a nonentity by the standards of our culture that People magazine not only will never feature a piece about me but might also reject my attempts to subscribe to their publication on the grounds that the black-hole gravity of my noncelebrity is powerful enough to suck their entire enterprise into oblivion." Really?) I found that a little jarring and it created a distance between me and the narrative that I doubt the author intended. But as the story unfolded, and I grew to know the characters and the little town of Pico Mundo, I found I didn't mind so much. Readers who enjoy supernatural mysteries should like this one, but be warned that there is a lot of violence, and sensitive readers might want to give it a pass.

Books in the Odd Thomas series:
1. Odd Thomas
2. Forever Odd
3. Brother Odd
4. Odd Hours
5. Odd Apocalypse
6. Deeply Odd (2013)

Odd Thomas (#1 in the Odd Thomas series) by Dean Koontz; narrated by David Aaron Baker (Books on Tape, 2006)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Friday Night Bites

You'd think I'd be sick to death (no pun intended) of all the urban fantasy/vampire series I read, but I guess I just haven't had enough. Not that there aren't series out there that I've tried and given up on (Vampire Academy, the Women of the Otherworld series, and the Queen Betsy series come to mind) - but the ones that work for me, work for me, and this series seems to be turning out to be one of them.

This second book continues the adventures of Merit that began in Some Girls BiteMerit, a grad student, is attacked by a vampire and then changed into one (by a different vampire) in order to save her life. She is not thrilled with this development - she had been perfectly happy with her safe, if rather limited life, and now she finds herself continually in dangerous situations that take her well out of her comfort zone.

But (thank goodness) she is not a character to sit around and whine about her situation, and we see her coming to terms with her life in this second book, not to mention beginning to appreciate the many positive aspects of being a vampire. In this second installment, Merit is needed to help solve a mystery that threatens the security of her vampire house - and in order to do so, she must reform the ties she'd broken off with her wealthy family. As Merit and Ethan, and the handsome, charismatic vampire who is the head of her house, pursue the investigation, it becomes clear that there is more to the situation than meets the eye.

This reads more like a bridging book between the first novel and the rest of the series, but it held my attention and made me quite willing to follow Merit's story wherever it should take her. I enjoyed the interplay between her and Ethan, as well as getting to know Merit's family, particularly her sister and niece. Merit is strong and clever, but she is new to this kind of life and does make mistakes - which actually makes her more likable to this reader. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Books in the Chicagoland Vampire series:
1. Some Girls Bite
2. Friday Night Bites
3. Twice Bitten
4. Hard Bitten
5. Drink Deep
6. Biting Cold
7. House Rules
8. Biting Bad (2013)

Friday Night Bites (#2 in the Chicagoland Vampire series) by Chloe Neill (New American Library, 2009)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Janes in Love

This graphic novel, which is a sequel to Plain Janes, continues the story of Jane and her Jane friends, which is certainly welcome to this reader, because while the first book did have a conclusion, so much was left open ended that I was eager to find out more about what happened next.

In the first book, Jane's parents moved them from the city to the country, following a terrorist attack that left Jane injured. Jane is distressed about the move, but eventually makes friends with a bunch of girls who all have "Jane" in their names, as together they form an art initiative called P.L.A.I.N.: People Loving Art in Neighborhoods.

This book follows various plot strands, including the love lives of the friends, Jane's mother's nervous breakdown following the terrorist attack, and the Jane's attempt to get an art grant to legitimize the activities of P.L.A.I.N., which is viewed as little more than vandalism by many of the town's residents, including the police.

This is another great read in the Minx line of graphic novels, featuring characters that teen readers are sure to identify with. The book did have so many plot lines that at times I felt the focus was a little too scattered, but each facet of the story was interesting enough that I didn't mind  very much.  I look forward to continuing my read through the rest of the Minx comics.

Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci (Minx, 2008)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Dead is a State of Mind

In this second book of the "Dead Is" series, our heroine, Daisy Giordano, has begun to come to terms with her psychic powers that manifested in the first book. She feels a little put out when a very handsome new boy, Duke Sherrad, arrives at school, a guy who claims to be a fortune teller.  She thinks it's just because there's something kind of odd about him, but she has to admit that maybe she doesn't like the way he's stealing the spotlight.  But no, she's sure he must be a fake - but then a prediction he's made comes true, and a teacher ends up dying.

Duke makes it clear that he is attracted to Daisy, but she doesn't care because she has a boyfriend already.  But Ryan has been so distant lately, and everyone seems to have a date to the upcoming dance except Daisy.  She thinks Ryan still likes her - but he keeps leaving her in the lurch.

I read the first book in this series just long enough ago that the events were a bit foggy in my mind.  Most of it came back to me as I read, though, and I was soon caught up in Daisy's latest drama.  I can see that this series would have a lot of appeal to teens who enjoy supernatural mysteries with a bit of teen angst and romance. My main complaint is that a large part of the plot of this particular novel hinges on characters keeping vital information (for no really good reason) from Daisy. I hate when that is used as a plot device - particularly when it was so clear to me what was going on, yet Daisy was entirely clueless.  Still it is a fun read, and I know I'll be recommending the series to teens at my library.

Books in the Dead Is series:
1. Dead Is the New Black
2. Dead Is a State of Mind
3. Dead Is So Last Year
4. Dead Is Just a Rumor
5. Dead Is Not an Option
6. Dead Is a Killer Time

Dead is a State of Mind (#2 in the Dead Is series) by Marlene Perez (Graphia, 2009)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Storm Front

I first read this book back in 2000, when it first came out, and by the time I realized the second book had been published, I couldn't really remember the first one very well.  And since then, so many have been published that it seemed like such a huge undertaking to get into yet another series.  But then as I recommended favorite writers to customers at my library (writers such as Patricia Briggs, Karen Chance, Kim Harrison), those same customers kept recommending Jim Butcher back to me.  I kept meaning to get around to them, but I never did - until the day someone told be who the reader of the audio books is: James Marsters.  As in Spike from Buffy! That sold me, and I immediately checked out the downloadable audiobook for this first book in the series.

And it was a lot better than I remembered it - which may have had something to do with the excellent narration Marsters provides - the perfect hard-boiled tone to Harry Dresden's narration of this, one his cases he takes as a wizard detective who lives in Chicago.  A woman shows up at his office, asking him to track down her missing husband.  At the same time there is a double murder, a horrifically violent and heinous crime, and Harry is called in as a consultant for the Chicago Police Department because of the supernatural nature of the homicide. Harry is relieved to have the income from both cases, because the rent is due and times are hard, but the more he investigates, the more twisted and disturbing the cases become.

This was a solid mystery story, a tale with a hard-boiled feel but plenty of fantastical details. Harry is such a likable narrator, and even though he tends to make mistakes along with way, he does so with the best of intentions.  There is a lot of humor here; the mystery is an intriguing one, and there's also plenty of action and adventure.  The audio recording was simply fantastic, and I can already tell that as long as Marsters is doing the reading, I'll be listening to this series. I'm on the waiting list for the second book, and I'll be looking forward to the further adventures of the redoubtable Harry Dresden.

Books in the Dresden Files:
1. Storm Front
2. Fool Moon
3. Grave Peril
4. Summer Knight
5. Death Masks
6. Blood Rites
7. Dead Beat
8. Proven Guilty
9. White Night
10. Small Favor
11. Turn Coat
12. Changes
13. Ghost Story
14. Cold Days
Backup (A novella)
Side Jobs (a short story collection)
Love Hurts (an e-book short story)

Storm Front (#1 in The Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher; narrated by James Marsters (Buzzy Multimedia, 2009)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Kitty Goes to War

Kitty is a breath of fresh air when it comes to the usual kick-ass urban fantasy heroines - you know, the ones who are drop-dead gorgeous, skilled in martial arts and weaponry, intelligent, powerful and witty. She is smart and attractive, yes, but she has come a long way in the powerful department. She was originally turned into a werewolf against her will, and has experienced quite a struggle to become who she is now - and it's a believable struggle, one that leaves me rooting for her and willing to go along for the ride on all of her adventures.

Because of the way the characters and their relationships progress throughout this series, it's best to read it in order, so to avoid spoilers, stop reading here and check out my review of the first book, Kitty and the Midnight Hour.

Kitty is the voice behind the late-night talk show The Midnight Hour, where she deals with all things supernatural. One of her shows happens to focus on strange happenings at a chain of convenience stores - just rumors and bizarre stories, nothing substantial. But when the company takes legal action against the radio station, Kitty knows she's stumbled onto something interesting, and of course she has to investigate. She uncovers a hornet's nest, but it's hard to focus on that mystery when she also becomes involved in trying to help what's left of a secret all-werewolf military group that has recently come back from a disastrous mission overseas.

I continue to enjoy this series, its characters, the setting, and the fictional world that Vaughn has built.  Fans of Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs and Laurell Hamilton ought to find a lot to love here, as well as those who simply enjoy mysteries wrapped up in fascinating supernatural goodness.

Books in the Kitty Norville series:
1. Kitty and the Midnight Hour
2. Kitty Goes to Washington 
3. Kitty Takes a Holiday
4. Kitty and the Silver Bullet
5. Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand
6. Kitty Raises Hell
 Kitty's House of Horrors
8. Kitty Goes to War
9. Kitty's Big Trouble
10. Kitty's Greatest Hits (short story collection)
11. Kitty Steals the Show
12. Kitty Rocks the House

Kitty Goes to War (#8 in the Kitty Norville series) by Carrie Vaughn (Tor, 2010)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Art of Mindful Living

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, a Zen meditation master, scholar, poet, and peace activist.  He has has written many books that are very popular at my library, so when I saw this one offered through my library's digital media catalog as an audiobook, I thought I'd download it and see what all the fuss was about. I didn't realize that the book is actually a collection of recordings that were made at a meditation retreat, and feature the author's own voice.

This was such a treat! Hanh takes the teachings from his Vietnamese tradition and does his best to apply them to those of us who have hectic lives but would like to make sure we are actually present as we live them.  He is often funny, never condescending, and is of course respectful of the various religious and cultural traditions of his audience.

There is a lot to reflect on here, and I have the feeling that this is a recording I'll be returning to from time to time to help me maintain my focus on the things that are the most important to me.  It's easy to get sidetracked by the many demands in one's life, and Hanh's teachings made a whole lot of sense to me, for the most part.

Too often I find myself rushing to get something taken care of around the house, for example, only to realize that my husband or one of my kids has been talking to me, and I'm barely aware of what they've been saying. It doesn't take long to take a few deep breaths and focus on the situation at hand - and to enjoy and appreciate what is going on.  It makes no sense to be so intent on the deadlines that are coming up that we are barely aware of what we are doing now. One thing he says that particularly resonated with me was something like:  "My actions are my only belongings. My actions are the ground on which I stand. I must live with the consequences of my actions." That one made for an interesting conversation with my children.

This is a great recording that is sure to make listeners pause and reflect - and to come away with a few useful things to help them stay calm, focused and present in their lives.  Good stuff.

The Art of Mindful Living: How to Bring Love, Compassion and Inner Peace into Your Daily Life by Thich Nhat Hanh (Sounds True, 2005)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thorn Queen

I've been enjoying Richelle Mead's Succubus Blues series this year, and it occurred to me that I'd inadvertently let her Dark Swan series fall by the wayside.  The first one hadn't knocked my socks off, but it had been a promising start, so I checked this second one out from my library.

Unavoidable series spoilers ahead - so you may want to stop reading here and read my review of the first book, Storm Borninstead.

The end of the first book left our heroine, shaman Eugenie, discovering that because she'd killed the bad guy, she is now the queen of her very own land in Faerie.  She isn't happy about this, however, and spends just about the entire book whining about it, lying about it, refusing to take responsibility, and definitely hiding her head in the sand as far as learning more about her powers and what she can do to protect the people that she doesn't want to take the responsibility for.

I felt very impatient with her throughout the course of the book, and I kept waiting for her to get a clue, but she mostly didn't. I didn't like the cavalier way she treated people, particularly her own sister. She basically reacted to events of the book, rather than being strong and proactive, and by the end she'd totally lost my sympathy. This is the last book of this series I'll be reading - there are too many ones I love and don't have enough time to get to.

Thorn Queen (#2 in the Dark Swan series) by Richelle Mead (Zebra, 2009)

Books in the Dark Swan series:

1. Storm Born
2. Thorn Queen
3. Iron Crowned
4. Shadow Heir

Monday, November 26, 2012

Flora's Fury

The Flora Segunda series is one of my favorite series ever, YA or otherwise, and each book is dense and delightful, full of humor, amazing world-building, memorable characters, exquisite writing, and lots of surprises.  Flora is a funny, endearing, and at times exasperating character, and I'd follow her to the ends of the earth.

Much has happened since the events of the first book, and the revelation in the second book has led Flora to a decision to locate the one woman she believes is capable of saving her country from the invasion of the "Birdie" overlords. As Flora heads off in her headstrong way, she learns bits and pieces about the truth that's been kept from her all her life, but at that point she's already in over her head, and the adventures are underway.

I hesitate to say too much, because the best way to experience this series is to open up the first book.  You won't be able to stop reading. This third one definitely lived up to my expectations, and it is the sort of book that will appeal to smart teens looking for something different, and to adult readers, too. If you are sick to death of the same old cliched teen vampire, witch, werewolf and faerie stories, I urge you to give this series a try.  It is quirky and original, masterfully written, and is tons and tons of fun.  Very highly recommended!

Flora's Fury Isabeau Wilce (Harcourt, 2012)

Books in the Flora Segunda series:
1. Flora Segunda
2. Flora's Dare

3. Flora's Fury

Sunday, November 25, 2012


The thing I love most about Raina Telgemeier's graphic novels isn't the lively artwork or the compelling stories. It's not the characters that I come to care about almost immediately. And it's not the way they make me laugh out loud as I read them.  I do love all these things, but what  I love the very most is their immense appeal to kids. I've never seen anything like it!

When I brought home Smile from the library, first one daughter whisked it off and read it, and before I could get my hands on it, my other daughter grabbed it and carried it off.  I nearly lost it to one of their friends, who came over to the house when I was in the middle of reading it, and when I finished, it was loaned out to several other girls before I was able to take it back to the library.

The same thing happened with this one!  They both read it (and loved it) before I could even take a look at it. I loved hearing them laugh as they read it, particularly my 13-year-old, who was immensely tickled by the humor and giggled the whole way through, sometimes stopping and covering her face with her hands. It has been loaned out to at least seven other girls who begged to borrow it when they saw one of my daughters reading it at school. As a librarian (and a parent), I adore an author who can get kids that excited about a book.

So anyway, this one is a fictional story set in middle school, about a girl named Callie who does set design at her school, and is now working on the school production of Moon over Mississippi.  She has big ideas and not much money to work with, but she has the support of her friends (most of the time, anyway), and her enthusiasm to help carry her through.  The "drama" in the title refers to the stage production, of course, but also to all the drama that is going on in the students' lives: jealously competition, romance, disappointment - all these things and more play out in the bright pages of this delightful graphic novel. Highly recommended.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier (Graphix, 2012)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gunmetal Magic

This novel is a spin-off set in the unique world of Kate Daniels, but featuring her best friend Andrea as the main character. Usually I'm resistant to narrator changes, because I feel attached to the one I've come to care about, but I've always really liked Andrea, and since Kate is in a pretty good place right now, I was quite happy to follow along with Andrea's adventures.

Andrea is called in to work on a case in which several workers at a construction site are mysteriously killed.  The workers happen to belong to the shapeshifting clan that her ex belongs to, which drags him into the case as well, to Andrea's acute discomfort.  They are still clearly attracted to each other, but there are some pretty big issues between them that cannot be addressed as the search for the killer progresses and becomes increasing tricky and dangerous.

This is a tightly-paced mystery that features a likable heroine and and an intriguing mystery, as well as romance and a healthy dash of humor.  There are laugh-out-loud moments, and it was the kind of book that left me itching to get back to it when I had to put it down. There is an excellent novella that's included at the back of the book, too. So what's not to like?  I suppose just the wait till the next one comes out.

Books in the  Kate Daniels series:
1. Magic Bites
2. Magic Burns
3. Magic Strikes

4. Magic Bleeds 
5. Magic Slays
6, Gunmetal Magic (spin-off featuring Andrea)

Gunmetal Magic (series spin-off set in world of Kate Daniels) by Ilona Andrews (Ace Books, 2012)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

I downloaded this book from my public library's digital media catalog without knowing much about it aside from the fact that it  is on YALSA's list of best fiction for young adults, and that it's been nominated for an Audie Award. That was enough for me.

Our heroine is Karou, a teen with blue hair, a mysterious background, and a lot of secrets, who is going to art school in Prague. She is an incredibly talented artist who fills her sketchbook with bizarre, otherworldly images that she tells detailed stories about, as if they are all entirely true (because they are, but of course no one believes her). She runs errands for these creatures, going through magical doorways into a shop like nothing ever seen on Earth, and ending up in remote areas around the world. She often returns injured and exhausted, and she is adept at evading unwelcome questions.

The most compelling question of all: who she actually is, and how she fits into this space between two different worlds, is one that she doesn't know the answer to. But when she comes face to face in Marrakesh with the most terrifying, gorgeous being she's ever seen - and he tries to kill her - it appears that she will soon discover some answers.

This was a fascinating story, and Karou is a strong, likable heroine. The audio narration is fantastic, and the book unfolds like a complex, twisting, turning fairy tale. It was the kind of story that I couldn't wait to get back to, where each question that is answered raises entirely new questions and possibilities, and the suspense and tension just kept increasing. But then, about two-thirds of the way through the book, everything came screeching to a halt. Some questions were answered, but the story backtracked over events that had already been relayed, as had the ultimate outcome. The tension vanished, the plot meandered, and I felt annoyed and impatient to continue the story in the current timeline. It was so tedious that I actually put the book down for a while and listened to something else.

Eventually, curiosity drew me back to it, and I managed to sit through the rest of the back story. Once the narration came back to the current events of the story, the momentum picked up, and it was just as engaging as before. Taylor creates a memorable world with fascinating characters, one that is full of lush sensory images and surprising revelations.  There were enough positive things about the novel that, despite its awkward structure, I am looking forward to reading the sequel.  This is the first part of a story, not a standalone novel, and while it doesn't end on an absolute cliff-hanger, it's still just the beginning of a much longer tale. The good news is that the second book has already been published, readers won't have to wait.

Books in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series:
1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone
2. Days of Blood and Starlight

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (#1 in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series) by Laini Taylor; narrated by Khristine Hvam (Hachette Audio, 2011)

Also reviewed at:
Bewitched Bookworms:  "I loved the phrasing, the humor that infused even the sadder moments, and the way Ms. Taylor used words like paint, drawing the reader in to the complete picture of her world."
Fantasy Cafe: "A lot of the fun in reading this book was in seeing these mysteries set up and then slowly learning more about the answers over the course of the novel. "
Love Vampires: "It has some beautiful storytelling that carries the story’s appeal far beyond just a teenaged audience."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Plain Janes

I continue to enjoy my journey through all the Minx graphic novels, an imprint from DC Comics that was sadly discontinued, but was meant to appeal particularly to female teens.  This is one of my favorites.  It is about Jane, a teenager who is injured in a random terrorist attack, whose family moves to a small town in order to recover and to feel safe again.  Her mother is particularly affected by the incident, and becomes increasingly fearful and worried, even though they have moved.

Jane is not at all happy about the move, having to leave her school, friends, and all the places she loves behind. She is a city girl at heart, and most of all she regrets having to leave "John Doe," a young man who was also injured in the attack, and who has been in a coma at the hospital.  Jane had been sitting by his side, speaking to him, hoping she'd be there when he awoke. She has no idea who he is, but she feels a connection to him, having survived a horrific experience, and she is inspired by a journal that John Doe had with him, on which is written "Art saves."

Jane makes friends with some other Janes at the school, a disparate group of girls on the fringes of the school's social groups, and together they form an art initiative that soon has the town divided and the authorities furious.

I enjoyed this one very much, although I did find the artwork to be a bit stiff and wooden, not conveying the characters' emotions as much as I would have liked. There is a lot more depth here than might be expected in a simple story told through the graphic novel format, definitely a lot of food for thought.  Readers who enjoyed the art themes in Page by Paige will be sure to love this one, too.  I was pleased to learn there is a sequel to Plain Janes called Janes in Love.  

Also by Cecil Castellucci: Boy Proof

Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci; illustrated by Jim Rugg (Minx, 2007)

Also reviewed at:

Beyond Books: "Fresh, though slightly slow at times for my hyperactive brain, I think this is one book I shall forever cherish sitting on my shelf."
One Literature Nut: "an interesting read, with what felt like a heartier theme than I've felt from other graphic novels I've read in awhile."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Body at the Tower

This second book of The Agency, a YA mystery series set in Victorian England, continues the adventures of Mary Quinn, a half-Chinese orphan who is now working as part of a covert group of all-female detectives who operate out of Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls.

The first book of the series, A Spy in the House, tells of Mary's first experiences at the school, as well as her first case. Now Mary is a trusted member of the detective team, and she is sent to work on a new case.  The clock tower of the new Houses of Parliament is under construction, and it has been plagued by bad luck from the start. Now a man has fallen from the tower, and Mary, dressed as a boy, takes a job at the construction site in order to find out what is going on.

She expects the case to be a tough one, and it is - but not for the reasons she anticipated.  Dressing as a poor street urchin brings back difficult memories of her own days on the streets, which is a dangerous distraction from the matters at hand.  Equally distracting is the surprising presence of a man she'd never thought to see again...

This is an action-packed mystery, something that teens who enjoy historical novels and mysteries will find compelling.  While I find Mary's sensibilities a little too modern to be fully believable, the author does bring the Victorian London setting to vivid life.  Mary is a strong female protagonist, one that readers will be able to identify with and will definitely root for.  I look forward to following her further adventures.

 Books in The Agency series:
1. A Spy in the House
2. The Body at the Tower
3. The Traitor and the Tunnel

The Body at the Tower (#2 in The Agency series) by Y. S. Lee (Candlewick Press, 2010)

Also reviewed at:
Beyond Books:  "I honestly loved Mary Quinn.  She was smart and witty and didn't act like a damsel in distress."
Erin Reads"So far, the Mary Quinn books have great characters, convoluted plots, and quick dialogue. Each of the first two have ended in a way that’s left me satisfied but waiting for more."
Steph Su Reads: "Well-written, eye-opening, and entertaining, you will dive in and be immersed immediately."

Friday, November 2, 2012

Seven Up

I've read all the books in the Stephanie Plum series so far, and while some are better than others, they are just the ticket for when I'm in the mood for some silly adventurous fun. I downloaded the audio book for Seven Up to listen to when my mother and I were taking a long car trip together.  She has also read the series, but it's been a while since either of us have read the earlier books, so I grabbed this one.

I'd listened to one other Evanovich audio recording, a between-the-numbers book, and it was pretty fun. Little did I know that the reader for this one was different, and did goofy, inconsistent accents for the characters, particularly Stephanie, that made it hard to get into. We listened to it, but I wish I'd chosen something else.

The story itself was the usual slapstick silliness.  Stephanie, a bounty hunter, is having difficulty catching an older man who didn't show up in court. She finds a dead body in his wood shed, and manages to get caught up in a family situation that lends a whole new meaning to the term "dysfunctional."  It's a lot of fun, but there is a serious component to this mystery, and I'd forgotten that darker side to this one.  I do enjoy this series, but I will avoid this audio book reader in future, because her narration didn't work for either of us.

Books in the Stephanie Plum series
1. One for the Money
2. Two for the Dough
3. Three to Get Deadly
4. Four to Score
5. High Five
6. Hot Six
7. Seven Up
8. Hard Eight
9. To the Nines
10. Ten Big Ones
11. Eleven on Top
12. Twelve Sharp
13. Lean Mean Thirteen
14. Fearless Fourteen
Finger Lickin' Fifteen
16. Sizzling Sixteen

17. Smokin' Seventeen
18. Explosive Eighteen
19. Notorious Nineteen

Seven Up  (#7 in the Stephanie Plum series) by Janet Evanovich; narrated by Tanya Eby (Brilliance Audio, 2004)

Thursday, November 1, 2012


In this fifth book of Meg Cabot's Mediator series, the many different plot elements that have been developing in previous books come together and give Suze major problems to deal with on just about every front of her life.

Suze is a Mediator - someone who helps the dead transition to the other side when, for some reason, they cannot (or do not wish to) move on. Since moving to California to be with her new step-family after her mother remarried a man with three boys, Suze has met another Mediator (the priest who runs her school) and has somehow managed to fall in love with the ghost of Jesse, the incredibly handsome guy who has been haunting her bedroom. In the previous book she met Paul, a guy her own age who is a Mediator, too - but who knows a lot more about their abilities than she does. For instance, he knows how to send Jesse away for good. But his motives are unclear, as is the truth of what he is telling Suze.

I enjoyed the way this book weaves together the many plot strands that have been developing through the course of the series in preparation for the sixth book, which I expect will be the grand finale. It explores Suze's developing relationships with her step-brothers, moves things forward with Jesse, reveals more tantalizing facts about her abilities, and pushes her toward the point where she is going to have be make some important choices. I liked that the climax of the book involved a supernatural issue but was all mixed up with regular, everyday teen issues, which made it funny and relevant. I'm looking forward (with slightly mixed feelings) to the final book of this series.

Books in the Mediator series:
1. Shadowland  (Love You to Death)
2. Ninth Key  (High Stakes)
3. Reunion  (Mean Spirits)
4. Darkest Hour  (Young Blood)
5. Haunted  (Grave Doubts)
6. Twilight  (Heaven Sent)

Haunted (#6 in the Mediator series) by Meg Cabot (aka Jenny Carroll) Harper Collins, 2003

Also reviewed at:
Book Binge: "This series is filled to the brim with fabulous characters that reach right into your insides and squeeze your heart with loads of laughter and just all around good characteristics."
What to Read after Twilight: "We get a lot of excitement here. I’m going to give it 9 out of 10. Just because my favorite book in the series is up next, Twilight/Darkest Hour!"

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I'm not sure why, but I'm not a huge fan of fantasy stories dealing with angels. I guess I just don't find them as compelling or interesting as other fantastical beings - maybe because their existence then begs the question of the religious issues surrounding their presence in the story, and that sort of conjecture just isn't terribly interesting to me. I'm not even sure how this ended up in my book pile, whether it was from a review I read or a recommendation from someone, but I don't think I even knew it had anything to do with angels, or I probably wouldn't have picked it up in the first place.

The story is about teenager Clara Gardner, who has recently learned that she is part angel, and because of this she has a purpose, a reason she was put on earth, something very important she has to do that will have an enormous impact on the world in some way.  This purpose is not clear to her - it comes to her in a series of visions that are confusing but convenient to the plot and the tension in the story.  Because of these visions, Clara, her mother and her younger brother move to Wyoming, because that appears to be the place where Clara's purpose is taking her. There she finally finds the incredibly hot guy it appears to be her destiny to save, but also falls for another incredibly hot guy (insert obligatory love triangle here) and becomes good friends with a classmate who is, coincidentally, also part angel.

This is a sweet story, and I think it would have a ton of appeal to teens who enjoy supernatural romance novels. The pacing is slow throughout most of the book, but Clara narrates the story in an engaging way that makes things interesting, even though not a whole lot is happening.  I found Clara a little too perfect to really connect with, though - by virtue of being a quarter angel, she is stunningly gorgeous, incredibly intelligent, unbelievably athletic, etc.  I liked her relationship with her mother, though, and the fact that the mother is not a typical mother-figure construct that waits in the wings until needed.  Even though there is a love triangle (which I am so weary of), it's handled in a fairly satisfying way.  While I'm not sure I feel the need to continue with this series myself, I'm sure it will be a popular one at my library, and I'll be recommending it to teens who enjoy contemporary romance with a dash of the supernatural.

Books in the Unearthly series:
1. Unearthly
2. Hallowed
3. Boundless

Unearthly  (#1 in the Unearthly series) by Cynthia Hand (HarperTeen, 2011)

Also reviewed at:
Book Sp(l)ot Reviews: "Hand created two characters I was rooting for from the beginning all the way through to the end. I loved both of them and I loved them together."
Ivy Book Bindings: "Yes, that’s right. 35/435 Pages of this novel were action. What were the other 400 Pages devoted to? High School. Prom. Romance. Flying. Teen Angst. Jerks. Just your usual, run-of-the-mill, dramatic teenage novel. "
Small Review: "This is also one of those books where all of the characters commanded my attention, not just the main characters. They all felt real to me with fully developed personalities."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cast in Silence

I continue to enjoy this series, and while I'd heard mixed things about this installment, I thought it was a strong, well-written book. The books are set in a world called Elantra, in which several races of creatures live, more or less peacefully. Each species, from the telepathic Tha'alani and the winged Aerians to the shape-changing dragons, has its own history, language and culture, and each book delves further into the mysteries surrounding these peoples, not to mention the more personal mysteries surrounding our heroine, a Hawk called Kaylin. Hawks are law enforcers, but they only patrol certain parts of the city.  Other parts, known as the fiefs, are relatively lawless - and that is where Kaylin grew up.

Readers who have come this far in the series are aware of some parts of Kaylin's past, but it was fun to get to know more of the story as it is revealed in this installment. A very dangerous person from Kaylin's childhood shows up unexpectedly, and Kaylin is soon drawn into a perilous situation, trying to unravel a mystery but also having to come to terms with a past she's not terribly proud of.

One of the things I most enjoy about this series is that it is an unabashed fantasy series, but there are no vampires, werewolves, or any of the usual elements that have been dominating the genre these past few years.  The series is not high fantasy, though - its tone and flavor have more in common with urban fantasy, and the setting and situations are unusual and wonderfully creative. The world-building is phenomenal, and the characters and their relationships are further developed with each book, which is something I look for in a series. Kaylin is an admirable character that I've truly come to enjoy spending time with. I look forward to continuing with the next book in the series, and I hope there will be many more to come.

Books in the Chronicles of Elantra series:
1. Cast in Shadow 
2. Cast in Courtlight 
3. Cast in Secret 
4. Cast in Fury 
5. Cast in Silence 
6. Cast in Chaos 

7. Cast in Ruin
8. Cast in Peril

Cast in Silence (#5 in the Chronicles of Elantra series) by Michelle Sagara (Luna, 2009)

Also reviewed at:
Beyond Books: "Funny thing about this book.  I hated it and my husband loved it. I thought it was the worst book in the series and my husband thought it was the best. Go figure."
Drey's Library: "This fifth book in the Chronicles of Elantra series is just as engrossing as the previous ones. I may be biased, here, because I love Kaylin, but I don't normally love books just because of a character..."
Janicu's Book Blog"I will keep reading to find out how things play out for Kaylin, however, with the repeated problems in understanding the dialogue and with how Kaylin’s character is treated, my enthusiasm for this series is dropping."

Monday, October 29, 2012

My other obsession

Anyone who reads my blog will know that I am obsessed with books - no real surprise there.  Anyone who knows me in "real" life is doubtless tired of hearing me talk about tennis - my other obsession - because I can go on and on about it the same way I do about books!  In fact, my tennis buddy - who took this amazing photo of the beautiful court we're lucky enough to play on several times a week - and I have pretty much distilled the elements of tennis into a very useful metaphor for just about everything that matters in life.

When days go by without a post on my blog, this is where I am - not just working on my strokes and that elusive, frustrating serve that always seems just out of reach - but talking about books and movies, science and philosophy. And of course whacking the heck out of the tennis ball. My version of meditation and clearing my mind of clutter.  Nothing better!  Meanwhile foxes trot by the fence, groundhogs putter about in the nearby field, and bald eagles soar overhead. We even got to see the space shuttle go by one morning, piggy-bagged on an airplane on its way out to the Smithsonian.  How cool is that?

So as I sit here, warm and dry inside, waiting for the winds to rise and the predicted monster storm to hit the East Coast, I'm feeling pretty darned lucky. No tennis today, sadly, but that's okay. I have a whole stack of books right here.  Life is pretty sweet.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dearly, Departed

I didn't know too much about this book before I picked it up, and I think that fact made me enjoy it all the more - particularly when I was nearly finished and finally read the snippet from the back cover - it was a total spoiler!  So I will not say too much about this, other than to mention the few things that I knew about it when I put it on hold at my library: Zombies. Steampunk. Alternate future.

Let me add a few other things that I enjoyed about the novel:  strong, feisty heroine, romance, dialogue that is laugh-out-loud funny.  I wouldn't actually characterize this as steampunk, because it is set in the future, rather than the past, but it does have a Victorian, steampunkish feel to it.  And did I mention there are zombies?

Habel puts an interesting twist on the zombie rules.  Depending on how long it takes the victims to "regenerate" following infection, the person may be a thinking, feeling, rational zombie or a violent, slavering, mindless brain-craver.  Interesting...

The book is told in the first person from several different points of view, which mostly worked for me. The POV shifts did occasionally sabotage the momentum of the story, and sometimes I felt as though the same thing was being told twice, which again adversely affected the pacing of the story, but overall I enjoyed it very much. While the story is wrapped up fairly well at the end, there is a last-minute revelation which leaves no doubt but that the adventures will continue in the second book, Dearly, Beloved, which was published just last month.

Books in the Dearly, Departed series:
1. Dearly, Departed
2. Dearly, Beloved

Dearly, Departed (#1 in the Dearly, Departed series) by Lia Habel (Ballantine Books, 2011)

Also reviewed at:
Dark Faerie Tales: "Although the switching between character perspectives for each chapter took away from the main story, it kept me reading, wanting to know how they all connected in the end."
Fiction Vixen: "There are too many storylines being explored and too many different factions, which was a shame because on their own I found most all of them interesting."
Steph Su Reads: "If one overlooks some inconsistencies in worldbuilding, supporting character development, and plot, then Lia Habel’s paranormal/steampunk debut is a charming read that’s sweet and funny."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Zombies Calling

I first discovered the wonderful graphic novels of Faith Erin Hicks when I read The War at Ellsmere.  I loved that one so much that I immediately picked up Friends with Boys - another excellent read.  So I was especially looking forward to this one, Zombies Calling, because, you know, zombies rock!  And I was definitely not disappointed.

Our heroine is Joss, a college student who is perpetually worried about her student loans, not to mention her grades, her exams, and her future in general.  Her favorite escape from these concerns is watching zombie movies.  Zombie movies have clear-cut rules, at least - unlike life.  When her university is suddenly beset by zombie hordes, no one believes her at first.  But soon it becomes clear to her that her unique knowledge of zombie movies - especially the rules - is the clear-cut answer to getting her and her friends out of their dorm alive.

This was such a delightful read!  Anyone who is a fan of zombie movies has got to read this book.  It is funny, suspenseful, never takes itself too seriously - but at the same time it gives you fun and interesting characters to care about and root for.  It's clever and sweet - and did I mention it is laugh-out-loud funny?

When the zombie apocalypse comes, I sure would love to have Joss on my side.  She knows just what to do:
"They're zombies, and we have to fight.  We're the survivors.  The survivors fight the zombies.  That's a rule."
 Are we clear?

Zombies Calling by Faith Erin Hicks (SLG Publishing, 2009)

Monday, October 22, 2012

What's a Ghoul to Do?

M.J. Holliday is a medium who, with her best friend Gilley, works as a paranormal investigator (think ghostbuster). She takes a case for a very handsome client, Dr. Sable, who is convinced his grandfather's death was not a suicide.  M.J., Gilley and Dr. Sable travel to his family lodge out in the countryside to investigate. It quickly becomes clear that there is something very odd about the old man's death.

This book is light on the mystery (it's fairly obvious what's going on right from the start) and heavy on the romance (with the typical I hate you, wait, no, I love you kind of element that is sadly such a common situation in so many books).  It was light and fast-paced, but I found myself unable to connect with the characters or really care much about the mystery - it all seemed to be happening right on the surface.

It really bugged me that Dr. Sable, not a native English speaker, has a sophisticated grasp of very tricky English grammar and vocabulary, but then makes blunders with idioms that are clearly designed simply for humor but make no linguistic sense at all.  Plus he's a native Spanish speaker, yet has no idea what certain obvious words mean - like "cryptic" (it's nearly identical in Spanish).  This probably won't bother most readers, but language is one of those things that really fascinates me, so I personally find this kind of thing annoying.  Don't make a character be from another country if you can't be bothered to find out about that language.  This issue made him feel like a construct rather than a character, further distancing me from any sort of emotional element in the book.

For readers looking for a light read, heavy on the romance, easy on the mystery, this should appeal.  I think I will pass on the rest of the series, though.

Books in the Ghost Hunter mystery series:
1. What's a Ghoul to Do?
2. Demons Are a Ghoul's Best Friend
3. Ghouls Just Want to Have Fun
4. Ghouls Gone Wild
5. Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls
6. Ghoul Interrupted
7. What a Ghoul Wants

Also reviewed:
Abby Cooper: Psychic Eye

What's a Ghoul to Do? (#1 in the Ghost Hunter mystery series) by Victoria Laurie (Signet, 2007)

Also reviewed at:
Aneca's World: "... it's a fun and light mystery, with a chick littlish feel, really fast paced and entertaining to spend a few hours with. It was just a bit too light for me."
Confessions of a Book Addict: "This was a fun, light read nothing too intense here and MJ was a great character..."
Skunk Cat Book Reviews"The ending was the worst ending in any mystery I've ever read. Seriously, it was so bad I couldn't believe the editor okayed it. It's doesn't even make sense."

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Confessions of a Blabbermouth

I've been enjoying the Minx graphic novel titles that I've read so far, and this one is no exception.  It is too bad that the line has been discontinued - I only discovered them after the fact, and my teen/preteen daughters pick them up and read them as soon as the books come into the house, and they've been a pretty big hit.

This one was an interesting one - it starts out fairly comedic with an exaggerated, artistic style to match the mood. Our heroine is British high-school blogger Tasha, whose mother has a new boyfriend.  Tasha is sick and tired of her mother's boyfriends, and this new one, Jed, is the worst.  Not only does he come with a stuck-up daughter who is now attending Tasha's school, but soon he is criticizing, scolding and lecturing her as if he were actually her father.  Which he most certainly is not. Before she knows what's happened, the two families are taking a trip together to the U.S., and as Tasha comes to know her mother's boyfriend's daughter better, and maybe to even actually like her, she begins to suspect that Jed harbors a pretty nasty secret.

The playful tone of this one veers into some pretty serious, dark territory, but in the end things work out fairly well, and Tasha certainly isn't the same person she was in he beginning of the book (this seems to be a fairly common situation among these Minx titles, and it's certainly not a bad one, in my opinion).  This one isn't my favorite of the ones I've read so far (I think that would have to be Re-Gifters  and Plain Janes, which I haven't reviewed yet), but it's definitely worth reading.

Here are the other Minx books I've reviewed so far:

Clubbing by Andi Watson
Kimmie66 by Aaron Alexovich
Re-Gifters by Mike Carey

Confessions of a Blabbermouth by Mike & Louise Carey; illustrated by Aaron Alexovich (Minx, 2007)

Also reviewed at:
Boston Bibliophile: "I liked Tasha but the plot was a muddle- there's the yearbook, the blog, the bullies, the boyfriend, the secret- too much going on in too short a space."
Girl Detective: "Tasha is funny and likable  The art is manga-influenced, and suits the frenetic pace and mood of the book."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Strangers in Death

This is one of those series where each book is so predictably solid and gripping that I wait as long as I possibly can before reading the next one. I used to save them for traveling, because they are the prefect reads for airport layovers and long flights. Then I tried the audio versions, which are so perfectly read by Susan Erickson, who does such a fantastic job, particularly with the dialogue and everyone's accents. Now I listen to them exclusively, and I think they're even better that way.

As I combed the Internet for other book review links, I was struck by the fact that just about every one I came across marveled at the fact that the series is still so strong after so many books. Part of that is the fact that the mysteries are intricate and well developed, and you come to know enough about the characters involved and their personal situations that it is not just an intellectual exercise; because Robb (aka Nora Roberts) makes you care about these people, you care about how and why the murder happened.

The other reason the series remains strong is that the recurring characters are so well developed, and the events of their lives - as well as their own personal changes - are worked into a longer plot arc that runs through all the books.  I've been reading this series since 1996, so I've known these people for a long time!  When I start a new book, it feels like I'm catching up on old friends, as well as going along for an action-packed ride as Dallas chases down another killer.

This mystery involves a man being murdered in such a way that the main suspect, his wife, is completely in the clear with a rock-solid alibi. Lieutenant Dallas has very good instincts, but despite the fact that there are so many things that point to the wife, it just seems impossible that she could have pulled it off. I'm a huge Hitchcock fan, so I was quickly able to figure out what was going on (the title is a dead giveaway, pardon the pun), but it was fun to watch how it all unfolded. This was another great installment in the series, and I look forward to the next one. We'll see how long I manage to hold out before taking the plunge...

Books in the Eve Dallas series:
1. Naked in Death 
2. Glory in Death 
3. Immortal in Death 
4. Rapture in Death 
5. Ceremony In Death 
6. Vengeance in Death 
7. Holiday in Death
"Midnight in Death" (in Silent Night)
8. Conspiracy in Death 
9. Loyalty in Death 
10. Witness in Death
11. Judgment in Death 
12. Betrayal in Death 
"Interlude in Death" (in Out of This World)
13. Seduction in Death 
14. Reunion In Death 
15. Purity in Death 
16. Portrait in Death 
17. Imitation in Death 
Remember When (spin-off book with section featuring Eve)
18. Divided in Death
19. Visions in Death
20. Survivor 
in Death
Origin in Death 
22. Memory in Death "Haunted in Death" (in Bump in the Night)
23. Born in Death 
24. Innocent in Death
"Eternity in Death" (in Dead of Night)
25. Creation in Death 
26. Strangers in Death
"Ritual in Death" (in Suite 606)
27. Salvation In Death 
28. Promises in Death 
29. Kindred in Death 
"Missing in Death" (in The Lost)
30. Fantasy in Death 

31. Indulgence in Death
32. Treachery in Death
33. New York to Dallas
34. Celebrity in Death
35. Delusion in Death
36. Calculated in Death (2013)

Strangers in Death (#26 in the Eve Dallas series) by J. D. Robb; narrated by Susan Erickson (Brilliance Audio, 2008)

Also reviewed at:
Ace and Hoser Blook: "I am amazed at how after 25 books in the series Robb can write a book that is so riveting."
Beyond Books: "I don't know what Nora Roberts has that authors like Patricia Cornwell and Iris Johansen don't seem to, but after 26 books I am still wanting more."
Booked on a Feeling: "What I liked about this book is that the entire time I was reading it I had a suspect in mind but I couldn't figure out how he or she had committed the crime. It kept me guessing the entire time that I was reading which always makes for a fast read."