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)