Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Unearthly

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
21. 
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."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

User Unfriendly

When I read the wonderful Heir Apparent a few years ago, I had no idea that it was actually the second book in a series. I hate when that happens! Because then when I find the first book I already know what happened, and there are all kinds of spoilers, and the tension is just gone. It is interesting that these books were published with about 10 years between each one - that is certainly rare with series books these days.

I'm happy to say that the first book in this series actually had very little to do with the second, so despite my whining and carrying on, reading the books out of order made very little difference.  The one thing that connects the two books is the virtual reality fantasy video game angle.  A minor character in the first book is the heroine of the second book - but she's featured so little in the first book that I would never have even recognized her as the same person.

Arvin and a bunch of friends (and Arivn's mother, too) join to play a virtual reality video game, in which characters are transported into a fantasy role-playing environment, into the virtual bodies of the characters they've chosen to play.  All the usual D&D favorites are here: the elf, the cleric, the dwarf, the thief, etc., and they encounter riddles, trolls, giant rats and such.  There is a problem, though - one of the boys actually pirated the game, and it's not working exactly the way that it should.  Eventually it becomes clear that there is something physically wrong with Arvin's mother, but because the pirated version of the game isn't working correctly, they can't pause the game to see if she is okay.  Instead they must carry on with their adventure, dealing with the crazy stuff the computer is doing as well as supernatural foes, and they must do it quickly, before Arvin's mother fades away altogether.

This was a cute, fast-paced read, but I have to say that Heir Apparent stands head and shoulders above this one. While I didn't dislike this one, I think it's my least favorite of Vande Velde's books that I've read so far. I enjoyed the story, and the setting, and the fun magical twists to the story, but there was zero character development - to the point where I had difficulty telling the characters apart from each other. One of the fun aspects of the novel is that the characters don't know which fantasy role the others have chosen to play for their adventure - so Arvin isn't entirely sure who, for example, is the dwarf, or who is playing Robin Hood and Maid Marian. It would have been more fun had I actually been familiar with these characters before their adventure started - I had no idea who they were to begin with, so guessing which characters they were playing didn't have much payoff.

Kids who enjoy fantasy role-playing games should have a whole lot of fun with this one, though, especially if they read this one and then Heir Apparent, because they'll like the first one and then love the second.  My 13-year-old just finished the third one, Deadly Pink. She hasn't read the first one yet, but I asked her which of the others was her favorite. She said she likes them both equally, for different reasons. So that's a good sign. I'd say to interested readers: read them in order, be forgiving with the first, but raise your expectations for the second. And the books really do all seem to be fairly standalone in nature, so skipping the first one won't matter so much. And I hardly ever say that when it comes to series!

Books in the User Unfriendly series:
1. User Unfriendly
2. Heir Apparent
3. Deadly Pink

User Unfriendly (#1 in the User Unfriendly series) by Vivian Vande Velde (Magic Carpet Books, 1991)

Other reviews of books by Vande Velde:
Cloaked in Red
A Hidden Magic
Three Good Deeds

Also reviewed at:
Blogcritics: "There is action and mysteries and puzzles all the way through. I was just as caught up in events as my son, thinking I’d read just one more chapter."
Small Review: "The whole concept of this book grabbed me from the start. I'm not really into video games, but this is close enough to the idea of getting sucked into a book that I'm all over it."
365 Days of Books: "The story didn't grab my attention and I didn't find myself trying to figure out what was happening; perhaps because it wasn't clear what was wrong."

Monday, October 15, 2012

Darkest Hour


I've been enjoying this YA supernatural mystery series so much that I've been dragging it out as long as I possibly can. I finally caved and read this one when I was traveling (I knew it would hold my attention despite possible airline delays and uncomfortable seats), and it did not disappoint.

This series is best read in order, so to avoid any potential spoilers (I do try my best to avoid them), I'd advise anyone interested in a fast-paced paranormal mystery with a touch of romance to check out the first volume, Shadowland. Also, readers should be aware that this series was originally published under the pseudonym Jenny Carroll, and the books also (to utterly confuse matters) had completely different titles (see below).

In this installment, our fearless teen ghostbuster Suze wakes up in her bedroom with a knife at her throat to an angry, threatening ghost  - and she quickly realizes the furious woman is the ghost of the infamous Maria de Silva.  Maria is the fiancee of Jesse, the handsome nineteenth-century ghost whose been haunting Suze's bedroom ever since she moved in.  Her feelings about Jesse are, well, complicated - he is dead, after all, but there's no denying that he is handsome and kind, and he's been steadily creeping his way into her heart.

This fourth book in the series explores an area that I, for one, have been very interested to learn more about: Jesse's life and the events surrounding his death.  But the more Suze learns about Jesse's past as she tries to unravel the mystery, the more it seems that discovering the truth might mean losing him for good.

This was a great installment in the series, full of the usual action-packed mystery solving and derring-do, but also it explored Suze's feelings and her relationship with her step-brothers in a very engaging way.  She is no longer the stubborn girl, determined to manage everything on her own, her own way, on her own terms, that she was when she first arrived in California. She is putting down roots, and she is able to ask for help and advice when she needs it - although in the end, the most important decision will be up to her. The book ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, so I am anxious to see the direction events will take from here.  This is a solid series, one I recommend often to teen readers at my library, and it is very well received.

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)

Darkest Hour (#4 in the Mediator series) by Meg Cabot (Avon Books, 2001)

Also reviewed at:
A Girl, Books, and Other Things: "I think this book is one of my favorites because here we finally learn more about Jesse and his past and how he died, and about the infamous Maria de Silva..."
Marjolein Book Blog"The plot is so stunning and fun! wow! It really surprised me how fabulous it was!"

Friday, October 12, 2012

Kiss the Dead

It doesn't seem like all that long ago when I stumbled across the first Anita Blake mystery, but here I am, finishing up the 21st book in the series!  The style and focus of the books have changed substantially during the course of the series, moving from mystery novels with supernatural elements to mystery dramas with a lot of romance (read:  long and very detailed sex scenes).

I think I would have dropped out quite a few books ago if Hamilton weren't so adept at maintaining the focus on Anita and the psychological impact of the events in her life.  This one started out more in the vein of the earlier books, setting up the main confict: a fifteen-year-old girl has been kidnapped by vampires, and it's up to Anita to get her back safely.  That plot, however, falls by the wayside as Anita has to deal with events in her personal life, which wouldn't have been such a bad thing if not for the constant recapping of her relationship with each of the many lovers in her life.

I imagine it's difficult to move things forward when there are so many issues from previous installments that impact the current book in the series.  It's nice to have a refresher, but I found that the recaps bogged down the story and left me feeling impatient to get on with things.  I did enjoy the book - and after following the characters for so long, I feel I am in for the long haul. I love Anita's narration, and the fact that she cares so much about doing the right thing, even when there is no clear right thing to do. She does her best to live with the consequences of her actions, and she is always willing to take risks for the people she loves.  She and many of the other characters are ones I've come to care about over the years, as they solve mysteries and face their own demons.  This series is definitely best read in order.

Books in the Anita Blake series:
1. Guilty Pleasures 
2. The Laughing Corpse
 
3. Circus of the Damned

4. The Lunatic Cafe 
5. Bloody Bones
 
6. The Killing Dance
 
7. Burnt Offerings
 
8. Blue Moon
 
9. Obsidian Butterfly
 
10. Narcissus in Chains

11. Cerulean Sins 
12. Incubus Dreams

13. Micah 
14. Danse Macabre
 
15. 
The Harlequin 
16. Blood Noir
 
17. Skin Trade
18. Flirt
19. Bullet
21. Kiss the Dead

Kiss the Dead (#21 in the Anita Blake series) by Laurell K. Hamilton (Berkley, 2012)

Also reviewed at:
Anastacia Knits:  "I did like the book, I did finish it in only a few days, & I did like it enough that I’ll read the next one, but I am left wondering once again why I am still bothering."
Curious Book Fans: "The book had a certain appeal for the part of me that enjoyed Buffy and Angel back in the day – indeed, it read that an 18 certificate version of these shows crossed with your choice of gritty American cop show."
Geranium Cat's Bookshelf:  "... I wasn't bored by the action part of the story, even if I did skim over all those slippery bodies. And it's a hell of a lot better written than that nonsense which is doing the rounds at the moment..."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Clubbing


Teenage Lottie Brook gets busted for using a fake ID in an attempt to get into a popular London night club. Her punishment: to spend the entire summer at her grandparents' ultra-boring golf resort in England's Lake District - working at the pro shop. She is not happy to be there, although she is fond of her grandparents, particularly her grandfather, whom she compares to "a character from and Evelyn Waugh novel, but he's a sweetheart really - like Indiana Jones with sciatica and a walrus mustache."

She meets a cute boy that she kind of likes and kind of doesn't, and stumbles across a mystery that leads her in some very unexpected directions.


There were things I really enjoyed about this graphic novel: the artwork, for one.  It's appealing and quirky, just like the characters, and while I didn't always care for Lottie's attitude, she is a strong female who knows her own mind.  She isn't out to make herself happy by finding her one true love; she's going to make herself happy, and that's refreshing.  I had a little trouble, though, with the over-the-top ending that turned the story into a strange Scooby-Doo-ish kind of tale, to the point where all the characterization from the beginning of the story got thrown out the window.  It was still kind of fun, but in the end I found I couldn't take any of it very seriously.  Still, I'd say the book has great appeal for teens, and with its strong heroine and bizarre storyline, it certainly stays interesting.

Clubbing by Andi Watson; illustrated by Josh Howard (Minx, 2007)

Also reviewed at:
Readaraptor:  "I loved the characters, they were, well, fun. It took me about 45 minutes from start to finish but it was lacking in the storyline department."
Reading Nook: "This was certainly an interesting read. Not what I was expecting at all. The ending was a bit over-the-top outrageous!"
Wandering Librarians: "I think what I love most about this book is the fact it's not about some girl trying to fit in, discover herself, or find love. It's about someone who likes to stand out, staying exactly who she is, and doesn't end up with anyone. Excellent."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Anna Dressed in Blood

I admit it: I picked this book up based on the intriguing title and the stunning cover. Both suit the book perfectly: my expectations were fulfilled in a most satisfying way.

Our hero is teenage Cas.  He is a ghost hunter, just like his father before him.  He and his mother move around a lot, as Cas tracks down ghosts and dispatches them with his father's athame, a dagger with mysterious powers.  Things have been fairly cut and dry for him up to this point: stay detached, hunt down ghosts, kill them, move on.

Then he hears about a ghost known as Anna Dressed in Blood, and they move to Canada. There Cas finds himself facing a ghost unlike any he's ever known, and this time, he is going to need backup. He's held himself apart for so long that it is a strange sensation to find that he actually has acquired some friends willing to stand up with him, but even with their help, the situation quickly spins out of his control...

This is the perfect Halloween read, with atmospheric creepiness galore, along with an action-packed plot with twists and turns, sympathetic characters, a touch of romance, and even a little humor. My eighth grader picked it up this week and has had her nose in it ever since, barely able to put it down to do her homework or join us at the dinner table. I like that in a book! The novel stands well on its own and ends with a fairly satisfying conclusion, but there is, of course, a sequel. I found Cas to have his faults, but he is a charming and tough protagonist - and Anna?  I won't say a word - you'll have to find out for yourself! So I'm definitely on board to see what happens next. This may be a little gory for sensitive readers, but for those looking for a story to get under their skin, particularly for Halloween, this one will fit the bill.

Books in the Anna series:
1. Anna Dressed in Blood
2. Girl of Nightmares

Anna Dressed in Blood (#1 in the Anna series) by Kendare Blake (Tor Teen, 2011)

Also reviewed at:
Anna Reads: "Horror is really not my thing — in books or in movies — but this was a pretty solid read."
Beyond Books: "Anna Dressed in Blood is a thriller-mystery with relationships, friendships, some wit and a lot of atmosphere.  It's one of the better books I've read this year."
Book Twirps: "Anna Dressed in Blood is a great mix of horror, comedy, action and romance. Kendare Blake doesn’t waste any time, or words, in this novel. Each scene has a purpose and drives the novel forward at a satisfying pace."

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

R.I.P. VII



It doesn't feel like autumn to me without curling up for another spooky R.I.P. (Readers Imbibing Peril) event, hosted by the redoubtable Carl V. of Stainless Steel Droppings.  For more information on this fun Halloween reading event, check out his post here as well as the review site.

Every year it seems I join this reading "event" a little later, mainly because it seems to be taking me longer and longer to get a handle on the school year as my kids get older.  I like that Carl has stopped calling it a challenge, because this has never been a personal challenge as far as I'm concerned (to read x many books by x deadline, e.g.) - it's been a time to indulge in one of my favorite genres and to share it with others.  I always end up with a bunch of new books on my reading list after this challenge, and the ones I add are never disappointing.  I'm not going to sign up for a specific "peril" - I'm going to see how things go  I always have the intention of doing some short stories, but rarely do I manage it.  I do have a couple of short story collections on my list, so who knows?

Although it's taken me a while to get around to signing up for the challenge, I've already started my reading.  This year the books I'm hoping to get to include:

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
The Darkest Hour by Meg Cabot
On the Day I Died by Candace Fleming
Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
What's a Ghoul to Do? by Victoria Laurie
Friday Night Bites by Chloe Neill
Tales of Terror from the Black Ship by Chris Priestley
The Whispering House by Rebecca Wade

Monday, October 1, 2012

Divergent


Imagine a society completely torn apart by war.  In the aftermath, trying to rebuild, the survivors are determined that such a thing never happen again. They decide to form a society that is divided into five factions, each faction based on a virtue that will benefit the group as a whole. These factions are Candor, Amity, Abnegation, Dauntless and Erudite. Children are born into these families and are are taught to embrace their faction's unique qualities, but when they turn sixteen, they can choose which faction they wish to belong to.  Such a choice isn't a light matter: if they choose a different faction from their family, from that day on they belong to a new family, and while they can see their family members occasionally, they no longer live together.

The book opens just as Tris is about to take the test, the one that says which faction she is the most suited to - although in the end, she is the one to choose where she will belong.  She and her family belong to Abnegation, a faction that is dedicated to putting the needs of others before the needs of oneself.  This is the faction that runs the government, for it is the least corruptible.

Tris isn't sure which faction she is going to choose.  She feels ill-suited to Abnegation.  She finds that she is impatient and selfish, and that the selfless behavior of her parents and brother appears to come so much more naturally to them than it does to her.  She is nervous going into her test, but what she discovers there is that she has characteristics that would make her suited to several different factions, unlike most of the population.  This fact, she is told, must be kept secret - and soon she discovers that if it becomes known that her test revealed her as "divergent," she would be at great risk. She has an important choice to make, and when she finally decides, she can't begin to imagine the consequences that result.

This was a very gripping read.  The world-building wasn't as detailed and believable as I would have liked, but my reservations fell by the wayside as I became caught up in Tris's action-packed tale.  She is a thoroughly likable character that readers will be sure to root for, and the story's twists and turns made it difficult for me to set the book down.  While as a rule I don't care much for novels written in the present tense (it makes them feel contrived and somehow less believable to me), it didn't take me too long to forget about that and concentrate on the story.  I enjoyed this book very much, but I did have a few problems with points in the plot that seemed to sacrifice believable motivation to make the story go in a certain direction. One of these moments had to do with Tris behaving in an unbelievably heartless way when there seemed to be an alternative that she could have taken, and the other involved the villain, who could have easily done away with the opposition instead of having the diabolical plan that gave the victims convenient escape opportunities.  Still, I found the premise to be compelling, and I am very much looking forward to the sequel.

Books in the Insurgent trilogy:
1. Divergent
2. Insurgent

Divergent (#1 in the Insurgent trilogy) by Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegen Books, 2011)

Also reviewed at:
Beyond Books: "I was completely immersed in the story and I just couldn't stop because every page was a new discovery!"
Bloody Bookaholic "I loved it for most of the book, and then I hated it. But then I sort of looked back towards the first pages and loved it again, and I think that it still has hope for the future."
Presenting Lenore"It’s a high-stakes, clever, compelling novel and I can’t wait to continue Tris’ journey in book two."