Monday, December 22, 2008

Bitten to Death by Jennifer Rardin (4/5 stars)

This is the fourth book in the Jaz Parks series by Jennifer Rardin. It was pretty much on par with the third book of the series as far as quality goes. I am still enjoying these books but I thought that this book was marginally less great than the other books.

In this book Jaz, Vayl and David return to Vayl's old Vampere Trust. They have an agreement with the leader of the Trust that they hope will lead to the assassination of Edward Samos, the Raptor. Unfortunately when they arrive they find that the Trust has changed leadership and is now in the hands of someone who has a deep connection with Vayl. The new leader has different plans for Vayl and the magic of the Trust seems to be pulling the characters apart from each other. Will Jaz, Vayl, and David survive their stay with the Trust? Will they finally eliminate Edward Samos?

This was a pretty good book. It was action packed and introduced a lot of new magical aspects to the series. Were-creatures join the plotline and we learn a lot more about Vayl's past. All in all it was fast-paced and engaging. Although so far I think it was my least favorite book of the series.

I will restate that this was a really good book but there were some things that bothered me about it. In someways the plot seemed to be rehashing the plot of the third book. Jaz runs around trying to save Vayl from himself again; and Jaz and Vayl's relationship seems to be treading water. I suppose this may be a transitional book, but I thought this book was a bit weak on character development. I am starting to get sick of Jaz's whining that she needs space, when the whole time she is acting the opposite way. I am really hoping that the major flaw in Vayl's character has worked itself out and we don't have to hear Vayl obsessing over his dead sons anymore after this. That was an interesting plot element for a couple books but it is wearing thin and getting old. I also missed that there weren't as many nifty gadgets in this book; there were a few, but Bergman was mostly absent. Also the careening from mission to mission is getting a bit tiresome even for me; does anyone else think maybe Jaz needs a vacation? I don't think the woman hardly ever sleeps. I am beginning to think it would be more exciting to hear about what Jaz does when she's not knee deep in scary terrorists.

This was a good book. I think the next book will probably decide whether or not I keep reading the series. The ending of this book left the next book open to some new plot lines and new ideas; hopefully it will follow through.

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip (4/5 stars)

Sybil was raised on Eld mountain by her father. Her only company was the animals that her father called to the mountain. After her father died she maintained the animals and studied magic to become an unparalleled sorceress. She spends days upon days trying to call the one creature that she thinks can give her complete freedom, the creature called the Liralen. One day she is interrupted by someone at her gate; Coren wants her to take in and protect a baby named Tam. When Sybil accepts Tam into her mountain home she is drawn into a deadly conflict between two factions. Sybil struggles to remain separate from the world of men, but instead is drawn deep into it as Tam grows to manhood.

This book is a very deliberately paced book. It is beautifully written, in an older style but with lush description and very literature-like language. This is very much a traditional young adult fantasy. To be honest I had trouble getting through the first chapter which details Sybil's lineage and how she comes to live on the mountain; I kept falling asleep. After I got past the first chapter however I found myself intrigued by what would happen to Sybil and Tam as they were drawn further and further into man's conflicts. For such a simple story this book touches on many deep philosophies. It looks at living in isolation, the relationship to your mother and father, revenge, fear, peace, and love. The characters, especially Sybil, go through a tumultuous emotional growth throughout the story. The animals that Sybil "keeps" are delightful and represent aspects of human personalities; such as wisdom, fierceness, grace, direction.

This was a great read for children and adults alike. Despite some violence, it is definitely appropriate for younger children. I am always impressed with the beauty of McKillip's writing. I will say her books always make you think and always end up wandering into some deeper aspects of human philosophy.

Fire Me Up by Katie MacAlister (3/5 stars)

This is the second book in the Aisling Grey Guardian series by Katie MacAlister. I did not think that this book was as good as the first book. I thought that the first book was cute, sexy, funny and had some original ideas. This book was cute, sometimes sexy, rarely funny and rehashed a lot of what we already learned in the first book. These are definitely way into the romance category and just slightly into the paranormal.

Aisling travels to Budapest, Hungary to go the GODTAM convention where she hopes to meet other people like herself (That is magical type folk) and to find a Guardian to mentor her. Unfortunately she bumps into Drake and finds out that he is still obsessed with her performing her duties as his mate; some of these duties happen to be attending meetings of the Dragons' that just happen to be at the hotel she is at. With Drake hovering and her demon, Jim, making snarky comments Aisling is having one heck of a time getting a mentor lined up.

Okay I pretty much know what I am getting into with these books. They are definitely not to be taken seriously, you need to leave all your notions about romantic relationships at the door, remember things won't necessarily make any sense, and remember Aisling is a bit of an airhead. Even going into reading this book with these things in mind I was a bit miffed at this book.

First the positive stuff: This was a cute, fun read. It was a quick read and the plot moved along nicely. There were lots of tastefully done steamy sex scenes. I think it is awesome that Aisling is trying to get training for her position as a Guardian. It bugs me to death when a character decides they would rather tough it out, than do the logical thing and get a little help from a mentor. I liked the introduction of the Silver Dragon, Tiffany the professional Virgin, and some of the new Guardians.

Okay now for the negative stuff. Aisling whines constantly, about pretty much everything. She can't make up her mind about anything; she hates Drake, she wants him, she hates him, etc. Her and Drake get in arguments over things that are very childish. I mean come on Drake is how old? You don't think he learned any communication skills in all that time? Aisling seems to have major ADD in this book and can't ever decide what to do next. I can understand Jim's frustration with her. Despite the fact that Aisling blunders through most of the book somehow she is uber-powerful and manages to right things (just like in the first book). Maybe this is supposed to be part of the humor?

It was an okay book, it was light-hearted and amused me. Just, please don't think about the plot or Aisling's intentions too hard or you will hurt your brain trying to make sense of it. This is a book to read quickly, take at face value, and then it's on to another book. I have the next two books in the series and I will read them because I have them.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fallen Host by Lyda Morehouse (4/5 stars)

This is the book that follows Archangel Protocol by Lyda Morehouse. This book could easily be a stand alone book; although it refers to characters and events that happened in Archangel Protocol the main characters in this book are different. I actually liked this book quite a bit better than Archangel Protocol.

The story is told from the viewpoints of three characters: Morningstar the Adversary, Page the Intelligence, and Ema the Inquisitor. Each chapter takes turns rotating through each of the characters. As the book progresses the characters are eventually drawn together.

With rumors of a possible second Messiah being born, as told in Archangel Protocol, the Apocalypse creeps closer and closer. Morningstar is under increasing pressure to find his Antichrist; who he will need the support of the win the coming war. Page is feeling remorseful for turning in his Maker the Mouse and when Morningstar suggests to Page that Page may be the Antichrist Page is confused. Ema is assigned a dubious assignment from the Pope. She is supposed to determine if the two AIs that now function independently of their makers (Page and the Dragon) actually have souls.

I liked this book much better than the last one. The switching between viewpoints was done very well; each chapter was written in a very distinct way that represented the character speaking very well. The suspense in the books builds as the three characters get closer and closer to each other. There was more action in this book than the last one, which was nice. The plot moved along pretty well. There were some parts with Page that got a little boring, but these were brief. The world was detailed and intriguing; I think we got a better feel for it in this book than the last. I loved Morningstar as a character and I though Page's dilemmas as an independent AI were interesting.

The storyline is complex, but seemed to follow through better than the last book. Things are tied up well at the end of the book, but there is still room for the over arcing story to continue in the next book. Once again, this is not a comfortable read. It details what happens when a world is run by religion and this is disturbing to me. My biggest complaint would be that the religious parallels could be more subtle; really the religious context of this book to today's religious beliefs is repeatedly brought up and forced on the reader.

All in all a very interesting and creative read. I am glad that I read this book, even though I didn't like the first one all that much. This book is more a sci-fi/cyber punk and it fits that genre well; it doesn't seem as confused about what it is as the first book was. I look forward to reading the next book, the Messiah Node.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Nabi the Prototype by Yeon Joo Kim (5/5 stars)

This was another book that I got because the cover looked cool. This manga contains several short stories revolving around a girl who was born from the sky. Supposedly this is a preview of a manga series that is going to be published with these characters.

The illustrations are top notch and beautiful. The writing itself is very mature for a manga; meaning there is a lot of philosophy, deep thinking, and beautiful writing. The characters are extremely well-developed, especially for a mango. I was amazed at how much you learn about the characters and care about them by the end of the manga. This is more of a drama type of manga, although there are some action scenes, they are limited.

Definitely better than I was expecting. The story is engaging, the illustration beautiful. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for the start of the manga series.

Biting the Bullet by Jennifer Rardin (4/5 stars)

This is the 3rd book in the Jaz Parks series by Jennifer Rardin. So far there are 4 books in this series, with the 5th scheduled to come out Jan'09. Overall the latest I read is that there are 8 books planned for the series right now. This was another great book.

Team Jaz finds themselves shipped over to the middle east to help Jaz's twin brother, Dave, take out a terrorist called the Wizard. Dave has identified a mole in his Special Ops team and it is up to Jaz, Cassandra, Bergman, and Vayl to figure out who the mole is and assassinate the Wizard. There is lots of awesome fighting, lots of reavers, and some new badies. Jaz and Vayl go through a lot of character development both individually and as a pair. A very fast-paced book, the setting in the Middle East is timely and gives incite into the culture there (as if we don't already know a lot about the culture there).

This was a great book. For the most part I think it was executed excellently. I love the characters, I love how they all have histories and interesting personalities. There were a couple of minor irritation in this book. One was Vayl's obsessiveness with the search for his boys, the second is the number of things that are happening at once and how they prevent the story from flowing as well as it could have. These are minor quibbles and overall it was an excellent read.

I am excited to read the next book, but reluctant to read it because then it means I have to wait until the next book is published for more Jaz. I am trying to decide if I should put off reading the next Jaz Parks book so that I can prolong my Jaz-fix :-)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison (3/5 stars)

I got this book through the Amazon Vine program; it's an uncorrected proof advance reading copy.

This book is about two sisters Jane and Savannah. When Jane unwittingly steals Savannah's boyfriend well, Savannah gets help from an expected source; her "fair" (not fairy) godmother. Savannah's Godmother didn't do all that well at fairy school, so she is stuck doing an extra credit project; that is granting Savannah three wishes. Except the wishes don't really go how Savannah thinks they are going to.

Let me say loud and clear that if you are a typical, young, teenage girl you will probably love this book. This book is cuter than cute and matches the bubble gum pink hair of the fairy on the front. It's all about boys, popularity, and cloths. Then you throw in some fairy tales and suddenly you have a teeny bopper book with a message.

This is a fun book and a cute book. It is not a surprising book and not a particularly creative book. It was enjoyable to read, but not fantastic. My biggest problem with this book is that I think things got kind of contrived and muddled at the end. I mean all of the sudden Savannah is multiple princesses all at once, even though supposedly her first wishes are done. I thought this was maybe a bit of a stretch and could have been better done by the author.

Other than that, this book delivers exactly what you think it will deliver. Cute, cute, cute, fairy, teenage fun. Personally I wouldn't read another book from this author, but it this is your thing this book is well done.

Another One Bites the Dust by Jennifer Rardin (4/5 stars)

This is the 2nd book in the Jaz Parks series by Jennifer Rardin. This series currently has 4 books with a 5th book due out in Jan '09. Don't let the cheesy title and the saucy cover fool you. These aren't chic lit novels and they aren't romance; these are hardcore supernatural spy novels with great action, lots of violence, and oodles of gore.

In this book Jaz and Vayl get an assignment to deal with a Chinese vampire who thinks his current state is just temporary and he is destined to become a dragon. This vampire is a close-associate of Edward Samos (the Raptor). They aren't sure what Lung is planning but they know they need to get information from him about Samos and bring him down. This time there's a full team on the case with Cassandra and Bergman providing magical and technical backup respectively.

So far I am loving these books. They are fun and witty, fast-paced, filled with neat gadgets. The characters have a lot of depth and I am really enjoying the character development so far. Jaz and Vayl are both developing fascinating powers and learning how to use them. There's a lot of sarcasm in these books and funny comebacks. Some of the analogies that Rardin puts into Jaz's mouth have me roaring with laughter. I think it drives my husband nuts that I sit in bed reading this book and am constantly laughing out loud. That't not to say these are light books; there is a lot of dark humor and a lot of life/world threatening situations.

So, I really loved this book. My only problem with it was that I didn't think it was quite as good as the first one. I think maybe it was the setting at the festival that hurt the plot some for me...or maybe it was the lack of cool fast cars. Either way, overall I am really enjoying these books. I am so excited to read the next one.

Stained by Jennifer Richard Jacobson (3/5 stars)

I picked this book up for $1 at a used book store. It looked and sounded interesting. It was an interesting, if somewhat depressing read.

This story follows Jocelyn, who is in high school, as she struggles to deal with her boyfriend Benny's off and on again attitude toward their relationship. Benny's mom is really sick and a new priest that comes into town convinces Benny to make a deal with god. If Benny gives up all the physical aspects of the relationship with Jocelyn then maybe God will help Benny's mom get better.

Jocelyn is an outcast because her mom is divorced and living by herself, and she has very low self-esteem. Jocelyn struggles with the churches rejection of her and her mother, while dealing with the small town pressure to fit in. Now she has Benny constantly making her feel guilty. To add to the mess of emotions Jocelyn still has feelings for her neighbor Gabe, Gabe is in general pretty mean to Jocelyn. Still Gabe and Jocelyn have a history that she can't let go. The chapters alternate between Jocelyn at present (in high school) and scenes from Joceyln's childhood.

All in all this was a sad story. It was a story about religious fanaticism in small towns and how sometimes it's not about being good to people but about avoiding the rage of God. It's about a small town's prejudice against people like Jocelyn's mom and how that reflects in Jocelyn's life. Jocelyn's mom also blames Jocelyn for her father leaving. As such, it is about how someone who has no self-esteem or respect for herself puts up with people abusing and walking all over her.

There is a lot of eluded-to and flat-out abuse in this book. I think the book ends as happily as it could given what it is. It is fairly well-written. I suppose it gives incite into how bad things can get in a small-town setting and how much effect one person has on the state of things in a small town if he has the power of God behind him. The plot line was not especially engaging and the ending was not surprising.

Overall all this book did for me was make me happy that I don't live in the 1970's, happy my parents are not divorced, and happy that I don't live in a small town. It also made me very sad for anyone who has Jocelyn's type of life. Definitely not a book to read to raise your mood. A good read though if you want some incite into small-town religious fanatic lifestyles.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin (5/5 stars)

This is the first book of the Jaz Parks series by Jennifer Rardin. So far there are 8 books planned for this series. The fifth one comes out Jan '09 and is called "One More Bite". This was a great book.

Describing this book as James Bond meets the supernatural community is definitely accurate. Jaz Parks works for the CIA. 6 months after she starts reporting to her new boss; the group's top assassin, Vayl, requests that Jaz join him as an assistant. What Jaz and Vayl thinks is a typical, kidnap and question the terrorist, kind of gig gets complicated when they find out that the terrorist in question belongs to an underground organization that is aligning itself with the underbelly of the supernatural community in order to unleash a virus deadly to vampire-kind.

Jaz is an amazing character. She is tough, by uses common sense and recognizes her bounds. She accepts the changes in her life and tends not to whine and agonize over them. She is a get-it-done kind of girl, who loves her gadgets, and her hot cars. There is a lot Jaz has to discover about herself; as a Sensitive she doesn't quite know the bounds of her power. She is working on it though and makes leaps and bounds in discovering what she can do in this book.

Vayl is also awesome. He is tough and has some crazy cool vampiric abilities (he is a wraith for goodness sack!); yet he does make mistakes, and he does have that vulnerable side that a good male character needs. We find out some of Vayl's past in this book, but there is a lot more there to uncover.

The writing is very solid. I like the writing style a lot. It is fast-paced, full of awesome action scenes, and cool ideas. The gadgets that Jaz gets to work with are really neat, her gun Grief, is lots of deadly fun, and I just couldn't put this book down.

I bought books 2-4 used before I had read book 1. Now I am glad that I did. I am excited to read the next couple books. So far I think this is going to be an incredible series. I wanted to give it more like 4.5 stars because I think the second book will tell if this is an outstanding series or just another good series in the long line of good paranormal series that are out there.

In summary, I love Jaz, I love Vayl, I love the writing and I am so excited to read more of it! There wasn't a single thing about this book that I didn't love.

Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve (4/5 stars)

I got this book as an uncorrected proof through the Amazon Vine program. This was a really good book. It is a very unique take on the tale of Arthur and his "knights".

This book focuses around the life of Gwyna. When her village is burned down by Arthur and his warband she is pulled aside by Myrddin and asked to aid him in a ruse as the Lady of the Lake after Myrddin sees Gwyna swimming down the river from her village. Myrddin decides to keep Gwyna around after the ruse is accomplished and from there on Gwyna undergoes many transformations first to a boy and then to a handmaiden under her apprenticeship with Myrddin.

This was a very well-written book and a very unqiue retelling of the Arthur tale. I have to say that this is probably the most realistic and believable story of Arthur that I have ever read. I really could see Arthur's life and legend forming as it is described in this book; much more than I could actually believe the ancient tales themselves. Gwyna is a great character with a frankness, honesty, and intelligence that serves her well thoughout her tale.

Overall this is a great book. The only complaint I have about it is that it is listed as a children's book. Realistically this is not the first book on Arthurian legend that I would like to expose a child to. I think this is an excellent read if you are framiliar with the legend and the awe behind it. But, to put it bluntly, this story rips out any of the fantasy or awe of the legend of Arthur. It takes everything magical away from those tales and exposes it as the harsh reality that it more likely was. I personally would not want this to be my son's first experience with the tale of Arthur. I want him to believe in wizards, knights, princesses, and noble heros while he can. When he is older, if he wants to hear another version of this tale, then this would be appropriate. But why steal away the magic of the tale of King Arthur? I mean truthfully, although I liked this story and I know it is fictional, reading it made something magical fade for me. It was just too likely that this was the true story and personally I like to pretend that King Arthur really was the figure pictured in legend.

An excellent book! Definitely makes me want to check out more books by Reeve!

The Faerie Path by Frewin Jones (2/5 stars)

This is the first book in a (so-far) trilogy about Anita, who doesn't know that she is actually a Faerie Princess named Tania. This was an easy and boring read.

Anita gets in a boat accident the day before her sixteenth birthday; when she is at the hospital recovering she grows wings, loses her wings, and then is pulled into the fairy realm.

The best thing this book had going for it was that it was a really quick read. It's a little over 300 pages long, but the print is so big that it would suit a children's book (okay maybe a slight exaggeration). It literally took me 2-3 hours to read. Unfortunately I wish that I hadn't even spent that time on it. I picked this up because it had a pretty cover (shame on me again, for judging a book by its cover) that and I love books about Faerie realms. This was a horrible book.

The character Anita (whose name as a Faerie is cleverly Tania, wow look if you rearrange Anita what do you get!) is supposed to sixteen; unfortunately she has the mentality of a nine year old. She is dumb as a brick and extremely gullible. Right from the beginning I could have told you what was going to happen in this book. There are no surprises, the plot is extremely transparent. I seriously think I wrote better stuff in junior high and so did my classmates. None of the characters have any depth or passion; they seem to be wandering around the book in a daze. Nothing really happens in the book either. Anita/Tania spends most of her time whining about how she wants to back to the Mortal Realm and, when she's not doing that, she is constantly reminding the other characters in the book that she can't remember her past as a Faerie Princess. The scary thing is that the other supporting characters need help remembering that Tania wasn't there for the last 500 years and even when she reminds them, they forget by the next paragraph.

The book is boring, boring, boring. The writing is simplistic and child-like. I am very surprised that this is dubbed a "young adult" book because really it would be more appropriate as a children's book. I know I am ranting here, but I am honestly surprised sometimes at the books that make it through to publication. I am doubly irritated because by buying this book new, I supported this!

Okay I am trying to think of some positive things to say here... The cover is very pretty. The sentence structures in the book were proper, if not really all that flowing. It was readable and there weren't any typos that I saw. You definitely won't strain your vocabulary here. Those are the only thing that pull this book up from one star. I know I am being harsh, but I feel a bit misled here.

Needless to say I will note being reading more books from this author.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

You Slay Me by Katie MacAlister (4/5 stars)

This is the first book in the Aisling Grey, Guardian series by Katie MacAlister. This is the first book I have read by MacAlister. The book ended up being exactly what I though it would be. It is a cute, funny and sexy little book that was a quick read.

Aisling is on a job as a courier delivering a golden dragon statue to someone in Paris. Only thing is when she shows up to make the delivery the recipient is deceased. To make matters more complicated someone else is on the scene with Aisling, his name is Drake and he is convinced that Aisling is a Guardian.

This book is fun little romp. It is more of a romance than most of the paranormals that I read, but it was a quirky little book that I found myself enjoying as I read it. There is some sex in the book but I thought it was tastefully done and not too drawn out. Aisling isn't the normal type of heroine I am drawn to; she is a self admittedly dense and a little bit flighty. Drake is an overpowering male, with about as much sensitivity as a slab of concrete. Still I found these books to be amusing. I also liked the way the magical community was set up in Paris. I find the structure of the dragon culture and the inclusion of dragons as an immortal race to be interesting. The position of Guardian is also interesting and I hope in the next book we find out more about exactly what a Guardian does.

If I had to compare this book to other series I have read I would say that it has a bit more substance and a less flighty heroine than the Queen Betsy series by Davidson but it is more flighty and less substantial than the Sookie Stackhouse series by Harris. Hopefully that will give you an idea of what type of book this is.

I think this series is a bit of a jealous pleasure, it is pure candy, but it hooked me and I enjoyed it all the same. I am excited to read the next book!

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (5/5 stars)

When I heard that Gaiman was releasing another book I was very excited and I am happy to say that this book met all of my expectations. Gaiman is such an excellent storyteller.

This book expands on one of the short stories in "M is for Magic" by Neil Gaiman. In that story we meet Bod, a boy who lives in a graveyard. This book tells about how Bod got there and of the adventures he had there. You learn more about the mysterious Jack too! In fact I believe chapter 4 or 5 of The Graveyard Book, is actually an exact reprint of this story.

The story starts with a creepy killer named Jack who kills Bod's whole family (trust me no spoilers here, this happens in the first page); Bod as a small, curious toddler escapes to the graveyard. The book is interesting in that for the first two-thirds of the book each chapter is more of a short-story about Nobody Owens (Bod). Initially there is a large time span between each chapter and in each chapter (short-story) we learn about one of Bod's adventures in the Graveyard. As you get towards the end of the book things happen closer together and the chapters turn into more of what you would consider a standard chapter.

It is fascinating to hear about a boy who is raised in a graveyard by ghosts. Bod develops into and strong and very interesting character, that you can't help but love. Silas, the guardian of the graveyard, is also fascinating. Gaiman, as usual, adds an ironic touch to the story by showing how similar Bod's issues when growing up are with any other childs.

As for being a kids' book; for the most part the book would be okay to read to a young child. The first chapter, where Jack murders Bod's family, I found the be extremely creepy; so I would shy away at reading this chapter to a young child. Many of the other chapters are also scary. If a child under 10 was going to read this book, I would say a parent should read through it first and then you can read it together and skip any inappropriate parts. This book, naturally, deals a ton with death and what it means to be dead.

I absolutely loved this book. I thought the age level was a bit higher than Gaiman's Coraline. People who complain about Gaiman being too morbid, haven't read enough Gaiman. He is like the young adult, fairy tale version of Stepan King...many of his stories are crafted to make you think and feel slightly uncomfortable. This was absolutely a wonderfully crafted story, it's one I am keeping to add to my book collection.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Elliot Finnley's Jus' Plain Ole Daisy by Pamela M. Herbert (3/5 stars)

This book is definitely a kid's book. It tells the story of Elliot; who doesn't fit in at school. When Elliot's mother goes missing Elliot is even more an outcast at school. Then Elliot's teacher gives her a special drawing pad and suddenly Elliot finds her self able to travel to another world.

Overall this is a tale with a lesson; everyone is good at something, have confidence in yourself. It is a well-written tale, but nothing spectacular. It is a story that has been told in different variations before.

I think kids would enjoy this story because of it's fantastical nature. It is nice that it is a good fantasy story paired with a positive message. Although the message is pretty darn apparent; there is nothing subtle about its delivery.

I probably won't read anymore of these book if future books are released about Elliot Finnely; but I could see how younger children might really enjoy these types of books.

Archangel Protocol by Lyda Morehouse (3/5 stars)

This is the first book in a series that currently contains 4 books. The books are set in a sort of post apocalyptic United States of America, where everyone has the LINK and America is now a theocracy.

In this book Deidre is an ex-cop who has been excommunicated from her religion because of a crime her cop partner committed. Since government and religion go hand in hand, when she is excommunicated from her religion she has her LINK deactivated and is thrust out of standard human society. The LINK provides access to everything; money, jobs, etc. As someone who is un-LINKed she is forced to eke out a living as an investigator to other unLinked individuals. Another cop Michael saunters into her office and asks her to help show that the miraculous LINK-angles are not actual miracles but a hoax; despite the risk Deidre, is tempted to take the case since Michael offers the one thing for payment that Deidre would give anything to have, he offers to reactivate her LINK. Deidre gets much more than she bargained for.

This book is an interesting blend of post-apocalyptic sci-fi, cyber punk, and paranormal genres. Unforunately for me, although it was an interesting blend, it fell short of fulfilling any of those genres. The world that Morehouse creates, is semi-believable, but feels somewhat contrived. As a more personal paranormal novel; the main character falls short of being believable and comes off as a bit stiff.

I will admit the novel has an interesting premise; although towards the end the mixture of religion and cyber-punk got a bit strange and forced. Also the idea of "the leader of the freeworld" falling into a theocracy is eerily believable and creepy. For the most part this idea of religion taking over everyone's live and religion stunting free-will (woman must where regulation length dresses, birth control is a huge no-no, etc.) makes for an uncomfortable and distrubing read. Sadly though this is a sci-fi topic that has been overdone and has been seen in numerous plots before.

Although I did like the warmer more personal approach to sci-fi that this author took, I still struggled through this book. The book never really grabbed me and pulled me forward; I had to push through it. I would find myself rereading paragraphs just because I lost interest in what I was reading.

Despite all the above cons I have to applaud the author for trying to create a new niche in the sci-fi genre. The world created is also very creative. The main heroine is pretty believable. I own the next two books in the series, so I will probably read them. I hope, though, that they are better than this book. I do think this could turn out to be a great series. Sometimes the initial book has to spend too much time explaining a new world, so maybe that is part of what made this book a bit boring for me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Last Apprentice: Attack of the Fiend by Joseph Delaney (5/5 stars)

This is the 4th book in the Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney. Wow was this an excellent book!

After hearing over and over about how bad things are in Pindle; Tom and the Spook are finally going to go there to deal with the witch problem for good. Alice is along to help them, using all her witchy knowledge for good. Nothing goes as planned though when the witches strike first at the place Tom is most vulnerable. Will they be able to root out all the witches? Will the witches raise the devil himself? What is in the trunks Mam left Tom? Exactly who is Mam? All of these questions are answered to some extent.

This was a wonderfully written book; as usual. It may be one of the best books in this series yet. It is very suspenseful and spooky, there is lots of action (more than usual). Alice's character is being developed nicely and Tom really comes into his own in this book. We get to meet more of Tom's brothers; and the future looks bleaker than ever. This is the first book where the greater outside world really starts to have an influence on what is happening to Tom. Usually the books are pretty isolated to a small area, but not this one, things are more dire than ever.

It was just a great book. I was disappointed when I was finished. These are so fun to read and so well written. I love them and cannot wait to get my hands on the next one!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mona Lisa Craving by Sunny (3/5 stars)

This is the third book in the Children of the Moon series by Sunny. It was okay, nothing special. In fact I think I liked the second book a bit more.

In this book Mona Lisa continues the mindless wandering of the second book. She ends up kidnapped and this circumstance winds up leading to a number of interesting consequences. That is really all I can say without giving away some major plot points of the book.

Initially it appears that Halcyon is going to feature prominently in this book, which made me very excited. Unfortunately he is quickly dropped to the background. Amber is also scarce in this book. The man who dominates this book is called Dante, he is a rogue whom Mona Lisa meets when she is kidnapped. Having the characters past lives affect their actions was interesting. Unfortunately given the path of events in this book I am not really sure what the point of this book was. I thought things were being set up for some very interesting events to occur in future books, then all of that setup was dashed to bits at the end of the book.

There was a lot of sex again, although I do feel that this book had more action than some of the previous books. Normally I would like the additional action scenes, but for some reason they didn't add much to the story. I didn't really like any of the new character additions either. I did like the inclusion of demon nature into Mona Lisa's character. Hopefully that will be expanded on in the next book. As I said, this wasn't a horrible book, just not great. Once again it was a very quick read, only took me a few hours to read it. Hopefully the next book will have a more cohesive plot and delve into some more interesting things about Mona Lisa's demon part.

The Touch of Twilight (Third Sign of the Zodiac) by Vicki Pettersson (4/5 stars)

This is the third book in the Sign of the Zodiac series by Vicki Pettersson. This book was a strong addition to the series, a lot happens, and many things from the last book are resolved.

In this book Joanna Archer is struggling with a number of things; one of the Shadow Agents (under cover as Rose) has her sights set on Joanna's childhood sweetheart Ben, Joanna is being hunted by a mysterious doppleganger, something has happened to the changeling that protects Joanna, the Tulpa is still trying to woe Joanna to the "darkside", and on top of all this the third sign of the Zodiac is imminent. Of course there is also the issue of Joanna's daughter, Joanna's lack of a relationship with Hunter, and Joanna's missing mother. When you take it all in, there is a lot going on in this book.

For the most part it was a very good book and I enjoyed it. I loved the addition of the doppleganger. I loved that more depth was added to Zane, the comic book store owner. I also liked that Joanna is learning more about her powers and finally taking a bit more responsibility for her actions. It was a very interesting book. I also liked that Pettersson is trying to take this a bit beyond most paranormals by adding a deep Mythos behind her characters and adding interesting theories of vibrational frequencies behind the power of the super heros.

There were a few things I didn't like though. For a lot of the book I feel like Joanna is confused and just has two much going on. It is almost like Joanna has horrible ADD and can't focus long enough to complete anything. It makes me wonder if maybe Pettersson is having some trouble focusing on what the point of the story is; maybe she's thrown too much at Joanna for this character to get things done in some symblance of order. Joanna's fixation with Ben and blindness towards him is irritating, as is her reluctance to accept her new life. Joanna's lack of training and knowledge is also irritating, usually in this type of story you would have at least a small period where the hero learns what their capabilities are and Joanna doesn't do that; she just stumbles through the story. Also, even though I liked the inclusion of scientific theory behind the special super hero powers, I felt like the vibrational theory explanation was a bit contrived. It felt like Pettersson was making up these theories on the fly and hadn't really thought them though.

Even though this wasn't the tightest most well put together story that I have ever read, and the main character seemed unfocused and scattered at times, it was still a very good book. Joanna has a lot of depth as a character and the story is wildly creative and interesting. Joanna does redeem herself at the end, showing that she is growing as a character and making progress in accepting who she is. This isn't quite the book I had hoped it would be, but I have high hopes for the next novel. These books are just a hair away from being something really extraordinary.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Giant Problem (Beyond The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 2) by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black (4/5 stars)

This is the second book in the follow-up to the Spiderwick Chronicles; Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles. I liked it better than the first book. I began to emphathize with the characters a bit more. It was much more interesting than the first book. Unlike the first book, this book left the story in a decent place. The main point of the book is wrapped up, yet there is a little catch at the end that leads you to the third book. The book is well-written and the drawings are again excellent. Still it is a very short book. I am not sure why these are split up into such short stories, maybe it's to make them more approacable to children?

In this book Nick and Laurie try to tackle the Giant problem in the area. With the help of Noseeum Jack can they rid the area of the giant problem before the whole area goes up in flames?

A pretty good book. I am looking forward to the last book in the trilogy. The way things are coming together that should be the best of the series.

The Nixie's Song (Beyond The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 1) by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black (3/5 stars)

This is the first book in the follow-up to the Spiderwick Chronicles; Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles. It is well-written and an okay read. I didn't like the main characters all that much. The story is very short, as with the Spiderwick Chronicles. The drawings are great.

Nick and Laurie are two step-siblings recently forced together through the marriage of their parents. Laurie believes in fairies and when Nick picks up a 4 leaf clover and spies a Nixie in the backyard, the two of them get sucked into a fairy adventure that neither of them expected.

I personally didn't like this book as much as any of the books in the Spiderwick Chronicles; for some reason it just doesn't seem as classically magical. It could be because the whole story takes place in a suburban housing development. There also wasn't any sort of wrap up to the story. You are left waiting to read the next book to see what happens. Luckily I had the next book. These books only take me 30 minutes to read; so I will definitely read the next one. Still I didn't think these were as impressive as the original books.

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead (5/5 stars)

This is book three in the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. This was a great book; I am so happy that this series has been consistently wonderful.

In this book Rose is dealing with a lot of stuff. The guardians are starting their field training, Rose is seeing things, and Rose has been out of control angry lately. On top of all that Lissa's personal life keeps leeking into Rose's head while Rose is trying to get some rest. Of course there is the deal with Dimitri; will they ever end up together? There is also a rumor that the Strigoi are on the move.

This book moved quickly. Rose's character had some very interesting developments. I liked that her and Christopher start spending more time getting to know each other, I also thought Eddie was a strong character in this book. Lissa using magic again was also a nice touch. The ending of the book caught me by surprise and made me really excited for the next book.

I love these books. The characters are very interesting and strong, the plot line moves along nicely, and Mead packs in some nice surprises. Sometimes there is a little too much teenage angst going on, but well it's set in a high school so what can you expect? I think that Rose is maturing nicely as a character, she is starting to become a true heroine and take her job as a guardian seriously. Oh, yeah and did I mention she really kicks butt in the fighting department?

Mead is a great writer and I look forward to reading more of her books.

Holidays are Hell edited by Kim Harrison (5/5 stars)

This was a compilation of four novellas edited by Kim Harrison. Overall I thought it was a great set of stories. I zipped through this book so fast. My favorite story was the Kim Harrison one; my least favorite Six by Liu.

Two Ghosts for Sister Rachel is by Kim Harrison
This was a great prequel to the Rachel Morgan series by Kim Harrison. It was a lovely stand alone story, but had more impact if you have read that series. It was fun to read about a younger Rachel who is still struggling to recover from Rosewood syndrome and trying to decide if she should join the IS or not. It was nice to read about a time in her life that helped get her to where she is at the start of the series. Great quality of writing, excellent, just like all of Kim Harrison's stories.

Run, Run Rudolph by Lynsay Sands
This story was a surprise for me. It was funny, light-hearted, and I really liked it. I have never read anything by Lynsay Sands before. I liked her light writing style. There is nothing heavy or cotemplative here, but it was a fun read all the same. I might check out more of her writing based on this story. Basically it tells about a woman who gets zapped by a molecular experimental machine and can change shape. She ends up being hunted from someone from her brother's past and what ensues is pretty funny.

Six by Marjorie M. Liu
This was my least favorite story. I have never read anything by Liu before. This story was about a Chinese agent, your basic trained from birth assasin, and how she ends up getting involved in the paranormal community. Liu did a good job of switching writing style when she switched character perspective. Still, I didn't care for the writing style and I though the heroine was a bit boring.

The Harvest by Vicki Pettersson
This was a prequel to the Signs of the Zodiac by Vicki Pettersson. The story is told from Zoe Archer's (Joann's mom) point of view. It tells us more about what happened to Joann's daughter and give interesting insight into both Zoe's relationship with the Tulpa and her relationship with Warren (the leader of the Light Zodiac). I am not sure how good of a stand-alone story this is; but if you have read some of Pettersson's books you will absolutely love this story. It explains so much about why Zoe did what she did and sheds a lot of Light on why Warren and Joann interact the way they do.

All in all a great combination of stories. I plan on ordering some of the other Hell compilations that have been edited by Harrison. Hopefully those will be as high of quality as this book was.

The Taste of Night by Vicki Pettersson (4/5 stars)

This was the second book of the Signs of the Zodiac series by Vicki Pettersson. I didn't think book was quite as good as the first one, but it was still a fast-paced and fun adventure to read.

With the second sign of the Zodiac looming imminent over the city of Las Vegas, Joanna Archer is desperate to figure out what the Shadows next move is. Unfortunately the rest of Light team is happy that things are in balance and are content to let things stand as they are. Will Joanna act on her own and foresake her other Light members? Will she finally get her revenge against the Shadow who raped her? Is she still able to pull off being Olivia without any mishaps? All of these questions and more are answered in this book.

This was a great book. Things happened quickly and a lot happened. The whole story was wrapped up nicely and nothing seemed forced, the pacing was great. It was hard to put the book down and I was holding my breath the whole time wondering what would happen next.

There was a lot I liked about this book. I liked the progression of the story in general. I liked Hunter, I liked JoAnna, I even think that the Tulpa makes a great bad guy. I love that the idea of events being reported in comic books was expanded. I loved the inclusion of more philisophy around believing things into existance. I think this is a great series.

The only thing I didn't like about this book was that Joanna really made a horrible heroine. She made mistake after mistake, and sometimes I wanted to smack her and talk some sense into her. Luckily though, by the end of the book, it seemed like Joanna was maturing and coming into her own as a heroine. I hope that this trend continues throughout the next book. That is one thing I don't like about the Anna Strong Chronicles, I am four books into that series and Anna is still making the same mistakes she made in the first couple books. Characters need to change and mature.

I conclusion, I love this series. I have the third book and am very excited to read it!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris by R. L. LaFevers (4/5 stars)

This is apparently the 2nd book in the Theodosia series. I got this through Amazon vine. It was a good book. I enjoyed it, definitely more of a young adult series, which is what it is listed as. I guess I would call this series Artemis Fowl meets ancient Egypt.

I did not read the first book in this series. This did not cause me any confusion in this book really, there were some references to people and places that occurred in the first book. These references didn't detract any from the story presented in this book. Theodosia is a very intelligent young lady who has become involved with some Secret Societies that are either looking to cause chaos or prevent it. In this book Theo finds the Staff of Osiris in the basement of the museum her father owns. When she accidentally activates it things start spiraling out of control.

It was a quick, fun read. Theodosia is a great character. It would have been nice to have some of the other characters be more developed, but the story doesn't center on them so I guess that is that. The book brought to mind the Artemis Fowl series, I don't think it is comparable, even a little bit, to Harry Potter; it is a completely different type of story. The book also brought to mind The Mummy movies.

I am not sure I need to put another young adult series on my plate of things to read, but I might consider it since this was such a well-done and fun book.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Mona Lisa Blossoming by Sunny (4/5 stars)

This is the second book in the Monere: Children of Moon series by Sunny. I didn't think the first book was all that great, it seemed to be echoing the Meredith Gentry series too much. But I borrowed this book from a friend so I thought why not give it a read. Luckily I actually liked it.

Mona Lisa is going to lay claim and move into her new territory. She has to deal with her enemy from the first book, who is now her neighbor and the existing Monere in her territory. If the premise sounds straight forward it is. This is a very quick, easy, yet fun read.

The characters are what make this book. More specifically Halcyon; without him this book would not be nearly was good. The Lord of Hell was also an interesting character. There is a lot of sex. The only thing I can say about that is that I think that the sex is more creative and more psychologically motivated than the sex in the Meredith Gentry series. Although I did get a bit sick of the different synonyms used to describe male parts.

So I guess if you know what you are getting into, liked the first book, and want more of that this is the book for you. It's a quick, fun read. There's lots of time spent on character development and sex. So if you aren't interested in that then don't read it. This is more of a romance than a fantasy or typical paranormal book.

Dreaming Again edited by Jack Dann

Dreaming Again

The stories in this collection are all over the place; some are horror, many are sci-fi, and many just explore other alternate realities. As a whole the collection was an enjoyable read. There is a lot here so it was not the quickest read for me; I also had a little bit of trouble reading the stories consecutively because their subject matter was so varied and disjointed. I have found that with very different short stories I sometimes need a break between them so that I can think about and process what I have read before jumping into something completely new.

All in all it was a decent collections of stories; there were only a couple stories I disliked.

For me some of the highlight stories were:
- Nightship by Kim Westwood
Ship boy escapes the dismal confines of the fogged out island area. This was a dismal and dark story, but had a very interesting world and culture. The imagery was great too!

- Neverland Blues by Adam Browne
In future earth Michael Jackson is a spaceship and he needs a friend to travel with. Okay I thought the storyline was a bit hokey, but I really liked this guy's writing style. He used great imagery, with many fast-paced observations. Writing style reminded me a little of the Nightside series by Simon Green.

- The Forest by Kim Wilkins
This is retelling of Hansel and Gretel in near future earth. I love retelling of classic fairytales and I thought this was a great story. I really want to check out more of her writings.

- The Lost Property Room by Trudi Caravan
Cute story about a lady who retrieves an item from the train property room that's not hers and ends up paying a steep price for it. I liked this story.

- The Lanes of Camberhill by Cecilia Dart-Thornton
This was about a woman and a man seeking secret ways in the Lanes of Camberhill. It was a beautiful story with lush description and interesting thoughts on the philosophy behind geography, I really liked it!

- Purgatory by Rowena Cory Daniells
A virus has infected all of humanity and it invokes religious fanaticism. The main character finds a cure and administers it but at a great cost. This was a very creative and very interesting story. I love the idea of fanaticism being a disease.

- Perchance to Dream by Isobelle Carmody
About a girl who is stuck in a dream trying to figure out what went wrong with her life. I really liked this story; it reminded me a little of some of the Charles deLint stories I have read.

I was debating if adding a list of the stories would make the review too long. Since I already have it written, figure I might as well include it. So...

Below is a list of the stories with a short synopsis and thoughts.

Old Friends by Garth Nix
Old tree warrior fights long time enemy to the death. Very short and sad, yet hopeful, good imagery.

A Guided Tour in the Kingdom of the Dead by Richard Harland
Eager tourist tells a PhD of his journey through the kingdom of the dead. Interesting topic and idea, done with a little humor.

This is my Blood by Ben Francisco and Chris Lynch
Tells of missionary Mother Rena on plant Stark dealing with the Duvari. Engaging story, I think about it a lot, done in a diary-type style. Very science fiction.

Nightship by Kim Westwood
Ship boy escapes the dismal confines of the fogged out island area (maybe future Japan?). Dismal and dark story, interesting world and culture.

The Fooly by Terry Dowling
A ghost is haunted by a ghost. Well-written, unexpected ending. Paranormal genre.

Neverland Blues by Adam Browne
In future earth Michael Jackson is a spaceship and he needs a friend to travel with. Great imagery, fast-paced observations like Nightside.

The Jacaranda Wife by Angela Slatter
Folktale about a woman that is a tree. Written in a very historian/literature type of style.

The Constant Past by Sean McMullen
Time traveling serial killer foisted by a librarian. Was okay.

The Forest by Kim Wilkins
Retelling of Hansil and Gretel in near future earth. I really liked this one.

Robots & Zombies, Inc. by Lucy Sussex
Fragmented interview with a robot in power. Apparently all power figures are robots and controlling the world. I didn't like the fragmented way the tale was told. So far the weakest story in the book.

This Way to the Exit by Sara Douglass
People start disappearing from an underground railway in London. Good story - kind of Neil Gaimenish

Grimmes and the Gaijin Daimgo by A. Bertran Chandler
Skipped this one, couldn't get through it.

Lure by Paul Collins
Virus is killing avatars in a virtual universe. Good writing, cute story, straightforward.

Empire by Simon Brown
Alternate history where two boys help to sing away a Martian invasion. Okay story, wasn't my favorite.

Lakeside by Christopher Green
Girl plays with a dead/alive baby by the lake. Vague story I wasn't exactly sure what was going on here. More of a horror story than anything.

Trolls' Night Out by Jenny Blackwell?
Wolf woman with twins comes up with a cure for Troll metamorphism. Cute, fast reading story. Throws you a couple interesting twists. Introduces what could be a very interesting world if expanded on.

The Rest is Silence by Aaron Stevens
Man is attacked by ghosts of people in his past and literally fights them off. This is horror story and was very gory and candid, it was okay but not my favorite

Smoking, Waiting for the Dawn by Hason Nahrung
Vampire hunter is forced to decide if he will Turn to protect a vampire friend's kids and wife. Kind of done in an old western style/alternate reality genre. It was okay.

The Lanes of Camberhill by Cecilia Dart-Thornton
About a woman and a man seeking secret ways in the Lanes of Camberhill. Beautiful story, lush description, lots of philosophy behind geography, I really liked it!

Lost Arts by Stephen Dedman
Van Gogh's Starry Night painting goes missing in a utopian society and the governor Tao works to recover it. Futuristic utopia, sci-fi. Good story, I liked it.

Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh by Jason Fischer
Classic bad horror zombie flick in story form. Aussie camels turned zombie and eating people! Fun and gross :-)

Europa by Cecily Scott
About Yanni trying to cross the sea. Written in a vague way I didn't like it very much.

Riding on the Q-ball by Rosaleen Love
Quick paced tongue-in-cheek story. Very Tom Holt like, sci-fi.

In From the Snow by Lee Battersby
Story about a family surviving in the snow. Written in a brutal, no-frills style. It was okay, not a pretty enough story for me.

The Lost Property Room by Trudi Caravan
Cute story about a lady who retrieves an item from the train property room that's not hers and ends up paying a steep price for it. I liked this story.

Heere Be Monsters by John Birmingham
As a British exploration fleet approaches Australia they realize the whole place has been taken over by zombies. It was okay, not my favorite

Purgatory by Rowena Cory Daniells
A virus has infected all of humanity and it invokes religious fanaticism. The main character finds a cure and administers it but at a great cost. This was a great story.

Manannan's Children by Russell Blackford
A young warrior learns that he is an immortal. A young woman immortal helps him to learn what that means. Very good story, great imagery, and interesting philosophy.

The Fifth Star in the Southern Cross by Margo Lanagan
Futuristic world where being able to birth a good child can provide your lifetime income. Interesting concept, okay story.

Twilight in Caeli-Amur by Rjurik Davidson
This was about a scientist that goes to retrieve an old man's notebook on plants from his wife. It was okay and had a nice twist to it at the end.

Paradise Design'd by Janeen Webb
This was a retelling of Adam and Eve with dinosaurs.

The New Deal by Trent Jamieson
About a world where your deals with gods constantly remake you. I didn't like it that much.

Conquist by Dirk Strasser
Spanish explorers stumble into a new world of elves and dwarves. This was a pretty good story!

The Last Great House of Isla Tortuga by Peter M. Ball
About some pirates who stop off for a break with some dead..ummm...ladies of the night. It was an okay story.

Perchance to Dream by Isobelle Carmody
About a girl who is stuck in a dream trying to figure out what went wrong with her life. I really liked this story.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris (4/5 stars)

This is the 8th book in the Southern Vampire Series by Charlaine Harris featuring Sookie Stackhouse. This was a good book, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was the first time I had listened to one of these books on audio book. The audio book was very well done. The only thing about the audio book that annoyed me was that they lady who read it made Sookie have a heavy southern twang; this was realistic to Sookie's character but made me talk in a southern twang to everyone I meet after listening to it. I was finding myself working very hard not to talk in a southern belle like manner :-)

This book was great fun. Some interesting things are revealed about Sookie's family. Things heat up and are resolved on both the vampire and werewolf fronts. A lot happens and most of it is neatly wrapped up. I was a little irked that Bill Compton is trying to force his way back into the story, I've frankly has enough of him. I was also irked that there wasn't more resolution between Sookie and Eric Northman. I am not sure there's a lot more I can say without giving things away. It was a fun read, never boring. A bit of a transitional novel as everyone struggles to recover from hurricane Katrina. A lot of things were wrapped up but there was still quite a bit that was left open too. I am antsy for the next novel.

I think part of what makes these novels so good is Sookie's character. She is such a real character. She needs to go to work to make ends meet, she is a sweet woman who tries hard to be good even though it irritates her sometimes, she is feminine, yet such has a hard center that allows her to stand up for what she thinks is right. A lot of this book was about Sookie trying to live her normal life despite everything she keeps getting wrapped up in. Because of that I think this book ended up being quite a bit better than the last one. I am very excited for the next book.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Peter and the Secret of Rundoon by Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson (4/5 stars)

This is the final book in the Starcatchers trilogy by Berry and Pearson. It was a satisfying and very complete conclusion. It was also a fast-paced, fun read.

Peter is back on Mollusk island and trying to get settled in after his adventures in London. Unfortunately he doesn't have long before things start to go awry. The Mollusks are attacked by a vicious band of tribesmen called the Scorpions. Back in London, the Aster family is having their own issues. The mysterious contact that used to tip off the Starcatchers of imminent Starstuff falls has gone missing and the Starcatchers need to figure out why the Others are making it to the starstuff falls before they do. As Lord Aster leaves to meet with the other Starcatchers, Molly and George find out some interesting facts about Peter's past.

This book was very well written, a fun read, fast-paced and creative. I would have rated it higher, but despite it's perfection the characters never really drew me in. Towards the end of the book I was finding myself wanting it to wrap up and be done. It did wrap up nicely leaving everything just the way you would expect from the classic Peter Pan story. Maybe that was part of the issue; I already knew where the characters would end up at the beginning of the story. While the journey to the ending was interesting, sometimes the story was written with maybe a little too much perfection. It was a very Disney-like story, not surprising since this trilogy was backed by Disney.

Still, it was an enjoyable read. I am glad the trilogy is wrapped up though. I am not sure we need a whole bunch more books about Peter Pan; this trilogy was perfect in setting up his past. It was a fun creative ride and I am happy to have read the series. I will enjoy reading it to my son when he is a few years older (only 20 months right now). A very good book for kids.

Legacy by Jeanne C. Stein (2/5 stars)

This is the fourth book in the Anna Strong Chronicles by Stein. I think the best thing this book has going for it is that it is a quick read.

Anna finds herself in the middle of a soap opera in this book. David's girlfriend Gloria has contacted Anna for help. Gloria's business relationship with the co-owner of her restaurant has gone south and Gloria wants Anna to help we sort it out. Shortly after this things really get out of hand for Gloria. Other than that there is a pack of werewolves in town that has an interest in Anna. Anna is still struggling with maintaining her human ties.

I mean seriously, Anna is caught in the crossfire of Gloria and David's relationship, Daniel Frey's new relationship with his girlfriend, troubles with a werewolf pack, and trouble with continuing the facade that she is human with her family. Events are mish-mashed together and so many things are thrown at you so rapidly that at times it makes you sigh and think "Okay one more personal issue for Anna to deal with." I felt like I was watching a bad paranormal soap opera. There doesn't seem to be an overlying story here. Anna, to be quite honest, is a bitch through this whole book. Anna has a lot of excuses to explain her bad interactions with people; it comes down to the fact that as a character she is not changing, she stays stubbornly the same.

We really don't find out a whole lot more about the supernatural community either. Maybe a little about werewolves but that's it. There is no more about the Watchers; Max is gone again from the plot. He makes a brief appearance in the beginning to add to Anna's angst (as if she doens't have enough emotional crap to deal with) and then is visibly absent for the rest of the book. What is with Max anyway? Out of all the significant others I've read about, he has got to be the one with the least ever amount of page space ever. I thought that the whole deal with the witch introduced in the last book could have served for some very interesting material in this book, guess I was wrong there was almost no mention of it in this book.

I am beginning to wonder if Stein plans out her series at all or just free-flow writes whatever pops into her mind. The positive for this series is that it is fast-moving, engaging, and a super quick read. I think it took me, at tops, three hours to read this book. Stein continues to keep her sex scenes tasteful and brief, which is a relief.

I also was also disappointed that there weren't many fight scenes, I mean where's the action and adventure here? I don't know if I will keep reading this series. I have been borrowing the books from a if I can keep reading them for free I might. I would never invest money in them though...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Plucker by Brom (4/5 stars)

This is an illustrated novel by Brom. Brom both tells the story and illustrates it. His artwork is both extremely creepy and hauntingly beautiful.

This is the story of Jack, a Jack in the Box toy who belongs to Thomas. Jack is a forgotten toy and has been dwelling in the Underbed. When Thomas's father brings the boy a new toy, Thomas's soul as well as all of the toys are in grave danger. It is left to Jack and Thomas's nanny Mirabel to defeat the evil being and save Thomas.

This book pulls no punches where visciousness and gore comes in. The Plucker is evil incarnate, granted he is torturing toys, but the torture scenes are no less disturbing for the lack of blood. It is a well-written story; a morbid twist on the timeless tale of what happens to the toys when they are forgotten. Think Toy Story meets Stephen King. The artwork is beautiful.

I really enjoyed the book. I was going to sit down and read it with my son but decided to read it on my own first. I am glad I did. While there is no blood, so to speak, there is a lot of torture and toy disembermant. The Plucker has a fowl mouth and swears something awful; we're talking real swearing here. This is a scary book, I am 30 and I thought it was scary. I can't imagine what my boy would have thought. I disagree with the editorial review that says this is Grade 5 and up for reading level; I agree more with the review that says Grade 9 and up. This is some pretty adult stuff and one of the pictures, while artistic, does have some disturbing toy nudity :-) Definitely not a children's fairy tale; this story emits darkness that is more typical of your original Grimm Brothers fairy tales.

The book sends a good message and ends in a very hopeful way. As I mentioned I was impressed with both the artwork and the story; I am excited to see and read more work by Brom.

Breath and Bone by Carol Berg (5/5 stars)

This is the second book in the Lighthouse Duet by Carol Berg. As I mentioned in my review for the first book, Flesh and Spirit, the end of the first book left me needing to read the second book immediately. Unlike the first book I thought this was an amazing book. It continues right where the last book left off; except this time the fast pace of the end of the first book continues throughout the second book.

Valen has been contracted to serve The Bastard, Price Osriel. In service of the Bastard, Valen will come to find out many things about his heritage and about how all of the mysteries of the Brotherhood and the princes of the realm are tied together. He will also discover the truth of what is wrong with the land of Navronne and how it can be healed.

This book was much more like what I expect from a Carol Berg book. The characters are complex, the themes dealt with in the book bring up greater questions of life, of heaven and of hell. Valen really comes into his own in this book. In his effort to keep his vows he takes both a physical and mental journey that is at times heartbreaking and at other times very joyful. The transformation of Valen's character really is amazing. That is not to say that the other characters lack at all; Prince Osriel is intriguing, Valen's brother Max is also interesting, Price Osreil's healer is a delight, and Elene also has great character. The only character complaint I have is that Valen's sister seems to have fallen of the face of the earth in this book; I had hoped to spend more time learning about her.

Although Valen's journey is vast and very busy; at times the book was paced a bit slow. In this book that worked for me because those periods of slow pacing were filled with beautiful writing describing the trials that Valen undertook. I really loved this book. The beauty of the writing reminded me of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series. The book ended well; although I was a bit sad when it was over. It makes me wonder if we will see more of this world. There are so many characters in this book, outside of Valen, that have interesting stories to tell. Where the first book was as dark a story as I have ever read, this book was full of light and hope and happiness.

Very good book, definitely redeemed the first book. I still think if some of Valen's time at the monestery had been cut from the first book that this duet could have made a wonderful single book.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Brisinger by Christopher Paolini (2/5 stars)

This is the third book in the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. It was originally the Inheritance Trilogy. I was a bit disappointed when I heard there was going to be yet another book. I haven't been really ecstatic about this series and I can't understand the allure it has for people. Still, I figure I should probably finish what I started. I listened to this on audio book. The audio book was excellent in quality.

The book starts with Roran and Eragon storming Hellgrind to save Katrina. From there Eragon is stuck trying to please the Varden, finish his training with the elves, and consorting with the dwarves on their new choice for king.

Positive Things:
- This book is, in some ways, a work of art. It is very deliberately crafted, Paolini created his own languages for goodness sake.
- The politics in the novel are detailed and well (too well) thought out.
- The fight scenes are also fairly well written.
- Sephira; she is the best character and without her prescence I would have never finished the first book of the series.
- Paolini is trying to make a masterpiece; unfortunately sometimes a masterpiece isn't all that much fun to read.

Negative Things:
- The language. Where does he get his adjectives from? I felt like Paolini was deliberately trying to use the longest words possible to describe everything.
- The politics were boring, boring, boring. There is a huge reason why a lot of fantasy cuts the politics is boring.
- Eragon as a character. Eragon either does what he wants or whines about what people tell him to do. Then after this immaturity, Eragon suddenly goes off for a chapter on the philosophy of good and evil. It is inconsistent.
- The whole epic scene with Sloan. This scene is silly and ridiculous. It only teaches us more about what we already know about Eragon; he is a pompous whiny hero.
- Inappropriate descriptions during fast-paced scenes. There is one scene where Roran is in the midst of a dire battle. Roran notices and thinks about a beautiful moth flying through the battle; while in battle. This is unrealistic and not the only case where something like this is done.

On a side note the audio book had a bonus interview with Paolini. In this interview he tried to explain the Sloan scene and also explain why all the politics were included. Apparently he thought them necessary. I guess I disagree, but it is his book after all.

If Paolini had shortened the Sloan thing and cut out the unnecessary politics he could have easily finished this "Cycle" in 3 books. Eragon was bored for large portions of the book, and guess what, so was I. I am bitter that I have to slog through, most likely, another 900 pages to finish this series. I am bitter that Paolini will be making money off of me doing that. Given all that I am not sure if I will read the last book. We will see.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Superior Saturday by Garth Nix (4/5 stars)

This is the 6th book in the Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix. This was a good book but the ending left me puzzled. I listened to this on audio book and the quality of the audio book was excellent.

Arthur and Suzy venture into Superior Saturday's realm to try and retrieve the 6th part of the Will. Arthur is finding it harder and harder to stay human, and is really starting to struggle with the part of himself that is turning into something else. The lower house is being destroyed by Nothing and things are looking bleak on all sides.

This was a well written book. I like how Arthur is having to fight with himself as he begins to become something more than (or less than) human. Suzy is by far what makes this book; she has been my favorite character throughout the series. Saturday's part of the house is very interesting and creative. The book is very fast-paced and up until the end I was thoroughly enjoying this book.

All of the sudden the book ends. It ends seriously in the middle of a fight scene with a number of horrible things in the middle of happening. I though that maybe the audio book was broken into two parts and I missed downloading the other part. I went to and checked. Nope I had the whole book. I was convinced that I had lost part of the audio book somewhere, that's how open the ending was. I finally checked people's reviews on Amazon and found that many other people were also dismayed at the ending.

If you haven't read this book yet, I would strongly suggest you wait until the next book comes out and read the two books together. This really is almost only half a book!

Besides the ending, it was wonderful!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg (3/5 stars)

Flesh and Spirit is the first book in the LIghthouse Duet by Carol Berg. Previous to this book I had read Rai-Kirah series by Carol Berg. I liked that series initially, although I wasn't completely pleased with the final book in the series. Still when I saw this new series I was intrigued. The art-work on the front of the book helped too, it is beautifully done :-)

This book starts with Valen being robbed by his traveling companion and left to die in the road in the freezing cold. Valen drags himself towards a monastery where he is sighted by a monk that serves as the monastery's lookout. The monks nurse Valen back to health and wish for him to take vows to become an initiate there. As time progresses Valen begins to wonder if more is taking place at this monastery than simple worship and charity. During his recovery the land of Navronne continues to be torn apart as the three sons of the dead king who fight for ruler-ship. Valen has his own secrets though, and as the monks place more and more trust in him, his secrets come back for a visit dragging him into even more dire circumstances.

The writing of this book itself is well done. The pacing of the book is horrible. One review on the book states that "Berg describes the difficult dirty work of ordinary live as beatifully as she conveys...." This is very true. The first 200-250 pages of the book go through Valen's day to day life at the monastery in slow, mind-numbing detail. Interesting facts about Valen and the monastery itself are very very slowly revealed. At times I felt like I was having to painstackingly pull facts of interest from this book, akin to pulling teeth. I had a hard time getting through the first part of this book. I told myself that, since I already owned the 2nd book in this duet, I would read at least the first 150 pages before giving up. Luckily there were enough interesting mysteries to pique my curiousity and hold me for another 50 pages or so.

Around page 300 in the book, the pacing picks up dramatically. Things happen crazily and rapidly, non-stop action from page to page. After the deliberate beginning, the rapid descent into darkness that the remainder of the book takes is almost shocking. As the book draws to a close, you realize that suddenly the book is over and nothing is resolved. Making this a very poor stand alone book. The book literally ends in the middle of things; leaving you hanging with no satisfaction gained from struggling through it.

In summary I thought the pacing was poor, the beginning grueling the get through, and the ending unsatisfying. This is not a nice book, the book is dark in detail and had a thick sense of hopelessness about it. Definitely not a book to lift your spirits. Still the mystery involved and Valen as a character are enough to make me want to read the 2nd book.

If you decide to read this book, buy the 2nd one at the same time because this is not a self-contained book.

The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Petterson (4/5 stars)

The Scent of Shadows is the First Sign of the Zodiac; the first book in Petterson’s Zodiac series. This book exceeded my expectations. I was braced for yet another paranormal series featuring an angsty heroine; but what I got was so much more than that. This book is something both men and women would greatly enjoy; it is much more of a super hero story than a paranormal romance.

Joanna Archer is an heiress. Her father Xavier Archer is a Las Vegas tycoon who owns a number of casinos in Las Vegas. Joanna’s sister, Olivia, is more your typical playboy bunny type of heiress, while Joanna is kind of the black sheep in the family. In her early teens Joanna suffered a devastating attack that left her different, more brooding than her fun loving sister Olivia. Joanna turned to photography; taking pictures of the dark side of Las Vegas. Then the day before her 25th birthday she was attacked on a blind date, only to be rescued by her childhood sweetheart Ben – now a cop. What Joanna didn’t know was that the streets of Las Vegas were not what they seemed to be, and on her 25th birthday she would undergo a change that she had never imaged.

This is a well-written, fast-paced book. What I really liked though is the complexity and creativity of the Zodiac troop and their alternate realities. This book left behind many typical paranormal series subjects and took me somewhat unexpectedly into the realm of comic book heroes. With the Zodiac troop zipping in and out of alternate realities there was a little sci-fi in here too. The Zodiac fighters of both the Light and Dark troops are intriguing; their powers very superhero-like and also very varied. The comic books that serve as their newspapers are creative, comical, and intriguing. The epic struggle of Light and Dark in a city constantly balanced on the edge of sin is compelling. Joanna is a complicated character, as are many of the characters presented to us in the Zodiac troop.

The major story arc is nicely resolved; but a large number of side stories are left unresolved, leaving me yearning for the next book.

I did have a couple issues with this book. The first is that it *is* complicated. The set-up is a bit confusing, although to Petterson’s credit the idea behind the Zodiac troop is complicated, creative, and something very new to her readers. So, I expected the set-up to take a bit of time for me to be comfortable with; I am happy to say by the end of the book I did understand it and ceased to feel slightly confused. My other complaint with the book would be that the characters superhero powers are not well defined. I am still not quite sure I understand what Joanna’s power is, I am not quite sure I understand what the other characters powers are either. Maybe Petterson wants the unveiling of their powers to be deliberate and purposeful, or maybe she just did a poor job of conveying them in the story…time will tell which it is.

That being said I think this book is much better than the Anna Strong Chronicles or the Mercy Thompson series. It is not quite as good as Kim Harrion’s series. It is more on par with the Dante Valentine books. I hope that the future books can continue to elaborate on this story; I also hope that Joanna doesn’t fall into the pit of darkness that Dante Valentine did and continues to show the Light in her character.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Unnatural Inquirer by Simon Green (3/5 stars)

This is the 8th book in the Nightside series by Simon Green. It followed much in the pattern of the last book. Which is to say, it was okay.

In this book someone has promised the Unnatural Inquirer (a Nightside tabloid) exclusive rights to a DVD recording from the Afterlife. The Unnatural Inquirer hires John Taylor to find it when it goes missing. They send Betty Divine along with him to document his findings along the way.

This book was just okay. The series seems to have lost some of it's interest and urgency with the completion of the over-arcing story in "Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth". I am still confused why the series didn't end with that book. The only thing that is left mysteriously unanswered is where Walker's power is coming from now that the Authorities are dead.

This seemed like another transition book. Really I would only think you'd need one of those to wrap up the first main story. Somehow all the characters in this book seem tired and bored. Betty Divine was a pitiful sidekick. She was clingy and unhelpful and painfully uninteresting. Many of the quips that were so amusing up to this point are starting to seem overused. The creativity that amuses me so much was there, but not to the degree it normally is.

Overall this book was a quick, well-written, and fun read...but it was also a bit disappointing as we wait for something big and interesting to start happening again. Hopefully the next book will be better.

Kushiel's Mercy by Jacqueline Carey (5/5 stars)

This book concludes the second Kushiel trilogy by Jacqueline Carey which features Imriel as the lead character. This book was a perfect conclusion to this trilogy. It's a long book, very long. Imriel's journey in this book is just as immense as in the last book. This book felt like it encompassed more than one story, it could have (again) been more than one book. Unlike the last book, I feel that that worked for this book. This book wasn't a struggle to get through. It flowed beautifully, was action packed, and had you holding your breath until the very end.

Imriel and Sidonie confront Ysandre about their relationship; which threatens to tear the realm apart. Sidonie stands to inherit the throne and her relationship with Imriel is less than appreciated considering his mother was a traitor to the crown. When confronted Ysandre says only one thing will sway her into allowing their relationship; Imriel must find his traitorous mother and bring her back to Terre d'Ange for execution. As Imriel starts this difficult task, there is an unexpected entourage from Carthage. The visit from Carthage sets events into motion that no one could have imagined.

I really enjoyed this book. I was sad that the characters were put through so much torment. There is no one in this book who is left unscathed in the end. As usual Imriel and Sidonie take the brunt of it. One again Carey does an excellent job of character development. We really see Imriel and Sidonie grow into adults and it is wonderful to watch them become comfortable with who they are.

The writing is beautiful and perfect, as with the rest of this series. I thought that the pacing of this book was much better than the last book. The action stays consistent throughout. The only point at which I found myself wanting something to happen was when Leander and Sidonie were spending time in Carthage together. I think this was done for a purpose though and did a good job in conveying the helplessness of their situation there.

Some wonderful new characters were introduced in the way of Leander and Kratos. I am always amazed at Carey's skill in making even minor characters have depth and history.

I have to mention this because the skill with which it was executed amazed me! When Imriel took on Leander's self, the style of writing totally changed to reflect Leander's thoughts and actions. Then as Imriel's love begins to break down the spell that makes him Leander, you slowly see Imriel's personality revert back to Imriel's. I thought it was very cool that Carey could make this personality change so subtle and realistic.
SPOILER ENDED************

I really did love this book. Even though it was lengthy, I was a bit sad when it was over. Then ending was perfect and beautiful as it the rest of the book. I am beginning to wonder if we will see a trilogy focused around Sidonie's sister Alais next. Carey seemed to be hinting that Alais is going to go through some struggles in the future. Hopefully the two catch phrases in that book "Love as thou wilt" and "All knowledge is worth having" will carry on to any future work she does.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Servants by Michael Marshall (2/5 stars)

I got this book through the amazon vine program. It sounded like an interesting premise to a story. Thought the story was well-written, the plot was slow moving, boring, and somewhat anti-climatic.

Mark is forced to move out of London to the vacation town of Brighton with his mother and new step-father. Mark sees his step-father as controlling and doesn't understand his mother's constant illness. This takes a stranger turn when Mark is shown the servant's quarters underneath their new house by an old woman who lives on the bottom floor. When Mark visits this area alone strange things happen; could these events somehow be connected to his mother's illness?

This is a very quick read and a very short book. That being said somehow the story is still very drawn out and somewhat vague. Although the writing style is great, I found myself getting as bored as Mark was. Maybe that was the point. Even as events unfolded under the house I found myself bored. I figured out the link between the house and Mark's mother almost immediately; so I didn't even have that surprise to look forward too.

Overall I found this book to be dull; this book probably could have been cut down to novella size and made a great story. To me this was more of a short-story than a book. I don't think I will be keeping track of this author in the future.