Thursday, December 31, 2009

December in Review

A great reading month for me. I ended up reading 24 books. I started some new series and caught up on some series I am currently reading. Got some great books for Christmas too! See the summary of what I read below.

I got caught up in the following series:
- Skinjacker Trilogy by Neal Shusterman: "Everwild", Book 2
- Meredith Gentry by Laurell Hamilton: "Divine Misdemeanors", Book 8
- Quantum Gravity by Justina Robson: "Selling Out", Book 2
- Generation Dead by Daniel Waters: "Kiss of Life", Book 2
- The Good Neighbors by Holly Black: "Kith", Book 2

I started the following series:
- Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter
- Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld
- Vineart War series by Laura Anne Gilman
- Teen Alien Huntress by Gena Showalter
- Malice by Chris Wooding

The best books of the month were:
- "Skinwalker" (Jane Yellowrock, Book 1) by Faith Hunter. Great heroine and world. Tons of action and an intriguing mystery.
- "Genesis" by Bernard Beckett. An interesting read about a utopia with a completely awesome ending.
- "Breathers: A Zombie's Lament" by S.G. Browne. A zombie novel with shotguns, gore, and a lot of heart.
- "The Tale of Despereaux" by Kate DiCamillo. Excellent fairy-tale like story.
- "Santa Olivia" by Jacqueline Carey. A surprisingly unique and heart-warming urban fantasy by Carey.
- "Odd and the Frost Giants" by Neil Gaiman. Another excellent children's book by Gaiman.

There was really only one book that totally disappointed me this month:
- "The Storyteller's Daughter" by Cameron Dokey. Boring, stilted retelling of "Arabian Nights".

The full list of books I read this month is listed below.
1. "Bang Goes a Troll" (An Awfully Beastly Business, book 3) by Matthew Morgan, David Sinden, and Guy Macdonald (3/5 star)
2. "Skinwalker" (Jane Yellowrock, Book 1) by Faith Hunter (5/5 stars)
3. "Leviathan" (Leviathan, Book 1) By Scott Westerfeld (4/5 stars)
4. "e2: A Novel" by Matt Beaumont (3/5 stars)
5. "Frommer's London 2010" (4/5 stars)
6. "Everwild" (Skinjacker Trilogy, Book 2) by Neal Shusterman (4/5 stars)
7. "Going Bovine" by Libba Bray (4/5 stars)
8. "Flesh and Fire" (Vineart War, Book 1) by Laura Anne Gilman (3/5 stars)
9. "Genesis" by Bernard Beckett (4.5/5 stars)
10. "Divine Misdemeanors" (Meredith Gentry, Book 8) by Laurell K. Hamilton (3/5 stars)
11. "Selling Out" (Quantum Gravity, Book 2) by Justina Robson (3/5 stars)
12. "Tantalize" by Cynthia Leitich Smith (3/5 stars)
13. "Breathers: A Zombie's Lament" by S.G. Browne (4.5/5 stars)
14. "The Tale of Despereaux" by Kate DiCamillo (5/5 stars)
15. "Kiss of Life" (Generation Dead, Book 2) by Daniel Waters (4/5 stars)
16. "Wicked Plants" by Amy Stewart (4/5 stars)
17. "The Storyteller's Daughter" by Cameron Dokey (2/5 stars)
18. "Santa Olivia" by Jacqueline Carey (4.5/5 stars)
19. "Odd and the Frost Giants" by Neil Gaiman (5/5 stars)
20. "Black Orchid" by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean (4/5 stars)
21. "Kith" (The Good Neighbors, Book 2) by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh (3.5/5 stars)
22. "Malice" by Chris Wooding (4/5 stars)
23. "Red Handed" (Teen Alien Huntress, Book 1) by Gena Showalter (4/5 stars)
24. "Blacklisted" (Teen Alien Huntress, Book 2) by Gena Showalter (3/5 stars)

Blacklisted (Teen Alien Huntress, Book 2) by Gena Showalter (3/5 stars)

This was the second book in the Teen Alien Huntress series by Gena Showalter. As far as I could find there are not anymore young adult books planned in the Alien Huntress series at this time. I didn't like this book nearly as much as the first one, Redhanded, but it was okay.

Camille Robins and her girlfriend go to a nightclub chasing after some boys from high school. Camille is interested in Erik (who was in Redhanded) and is ecstatic when he passes her a note in the club. When she finds out the note is only a blank napkin it pisses her off, so she follows him into a back section of the club. There she is attacked and drawn into Erik's illegal activities. Erik and Camille end up fleeing for their lives trying to outrun AIR agents.

I didn't like this book nearly as much as "Redhanded". My biggest problem was Camille. She is cowardly (which she admits to herself), somewhat whiny, and I found her to be annoying. Erik is, in general, kind of a jerk. Like with many other of Showalter's books Erik ends up being better in the end, but I still didn't like him much. The relationship between him and Camille felt forced and unrealistic.

I also didn't like that the main premise of this book was that Camille wanted Erik. At least in "Redhanded" Pheonix was trying to beat her addiction and make it through A.I.R. training; in "Redhanded" her relationship with Ryan was part of the story not the whole story. Don't get me wrong there is some plot outside of Camille and Erik, but it is pretty thin.

Additionally I thought the book was wrapped up really quick and a little too conveniently. It was unreal how all these strange coincidences happened all at once so that the story could be end quickly, almost as if Showalter had to hurry and get this book done. In general it made for an unsatisfying story.

The positive points were that Showalter has created an interesting world here, the actions scenes were well done (although much fewer than in "Redhanded"), and the book was a quick, easy read. In the end it was an okay read, definitely nothing to write home about, but a quick diversion. I would definitely read "Redhanded" first since that is, by far, the better of the two books.

Red Handed (Teen Alien Huntress, Book 1) by Gena Showalter (4/5 stars)

I liked the first couple books in Showalter's Alien Huntress series, but didn't like the last few. So, I had mixed feelings about reading the Teen Alien Huntress series. Luckily this was a pretty darn good book. It is not high literature, but is fun to read and full of action.

Phoenix has been through rehab twice already and is trying to kick her addiction to Onadyn for good. Still she needs to see her friends sometimes, so she sneaks out to a party to meet up with them. There she meets the super hot Ryan who warns her to leave because some Outers are coming to attack the party. Phoenix doesn't listen (she has a real attitude problem) and instead hangs around. When the party is attacked by Sybilins (water sucking aliens, that will literally suck you dry) Phoenix stays and fights instead of leaving like she was told. Afterwards Ryan knocks her out and returns her home. Phoenix's mom thinks she's been using again and this time it is the last straw. Phoenix's mom signs her up to go to a new "hard-love" rehab school. Only the school isn't what it seems to be and Phoenix is learning about *way* more than how to kick her habit.

This was a fun read and action packed. The characters aren't the greatest ever created, but they are somewhat interesting and engaging. The world Showalter has created with multiple human races isn't gone into in any great depth, but promises to be interesting. For those who have read the adult Alien Huntress series (definitely not appropriate for younger readers because of being so heavy on the sex) you will recognize many of the teachers at the school; Mia is there as well as Le'Ace. I actually liked this book a lot better than the Adult Alien Huntress series, maybe because more page space is given to action and plot.

While Phoenix is definitely not a role-model for young adults, she does grow throughout the book and starts to become someone readers can admire as the plot progresses. The action scenes are well-written. For those who have read Vampire Academy and are intrigued by the teacher-student relationship between Rose and Dimitri, you will find something similar in this book. Ryan and Phoenix really hit it off, but as Ryan is one of Phoenix's teachers their relationship is (of course) forbidden. This adds some nice tension to the story.

Much of the story is spent with Phoenix learning her new skills and learning about Otherworlders. The story is engaging and a fast, fun read. I am looking forward to reading "Blacklisted" the second Teen Alien Huntress book.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Malice by Chris Wooding (4/5 stars)

When I saw that Wooding had released a book that was part graphic novel and part book I was very excited. Not to mention the cool premise of the book. So when I was offered this book through the Amazon Vine program I was ecstatic. It ended up being a great book; I didn't realize that it is the first book in a duology. The second book "Havoc" is supposed to be released some time in 2010. Overall it is an interesting read and a pretty cool idea, it has some issues but for the most part those are out-weighed by the creative storyline.

Luke and Heather sit down to read a comic called Malice. Malice is full of incomplete stories of teens fleeing horrible things in the dark. Luke decides to try and summon Tall Jack, the bad guy from Malice, doing a ritual that kids are talking about. When the lights go out, eventually Luke finds out that the ritual worked. Seth is Luke's best friend and after Luke's disappearance he decides to check out Malice for himself. When he sees Luke's grisly death in the next issue of Malice he decides that he needs to stop Tall Jack. He willingly enters Malice and there runs into another boy that helps Seth learn the ropes. From there the boys descend into the hellish city of Malice.

This is an interesting book and it is very creepy. Most of the book is written as a novel. Specific fight scenes are then done as scenes from a graphic novel. So you have mostly book and a little graphic novel. Does this work for the story? Kind of. I am a big fan of graphic novels and books, so I was looking forward to this. Unfortunately the graphic novel scenes are done in a very sparse and non-detailed style. This ends up making it hard to tell what is going on in the graphic novel scenes, the scenes are actually drawn in a kind of immature way. I found myself wishing that Wooding had gotten the artist from one of the mangas I read (like Hellsing or Berserk) to draw the monster scenes, because they were just lacking.

As for the novel itself it was fascinating. Wooding does a good job of depicting a horror filled world that is interesting, very detailed, and full of wonder. The characters are so-so. They are kind of stereotypical and at times talk like they are in a cheesy action films, but I didn't really mind that fit with the story. The strong point through is definitely the super creative world that Wooding has created. Also the idea behind how the kids get to Malice is fascinating.

Another warning, the book ends mid-plot...which always irritates me. The remainder of the story will be picked up in "Havoc". Overall I enjoyed the book, even though it wasn't perfect. I have previously read "Poison" and "Storm Thief" by Wooding and in both cases it was the ending that absolutely blew me away. So I will have to see how the next book plays out before I can fully judge this first one.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday - 12/30

Okay "Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine.

This week my WoW book is "Magic Bleeds" (Kate Daniels, Book 4) by Ilona Andrews. This has been a wonderful series. Kate Daniels is my top pick for paranormal series this year...I love it! So I am really looking forward to the next book :-)  No Synopsis yet, but the cover art is below!

"Magic Bleeds" (Kate Daniels, Book 4) by Ilona Andrews
Pages: 432 pages
Publisher: Ace
Release Date: May 25th, 2010

Kith (The Good Neighbors, Book 2) by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh (3.5/5 stars)

This is the second book in the Good Neighbors series of graphic novels written by Holly Black and illustrated by Ted Naifeh. It was a good follow-up to the first book, Kin. Last I heard this is going to be a three book series.

In this book Rue goes in search of her fairy mother. When she finds her mother all is not what it seems to be. Rue's friends are becoming more and more endangered as fairy becomes a bigger part of their lives and Rue finds out that her grandfather has plans to pull the city into fairy and make it his own.

The storyline in this graphic novel is good and moves quickly. There are a lot of things happening at once so sometimes it is a little hard to keep track of what is going on. Still it is an interesting storyline and, for the most part, the graphics represent the story well. My only complaint would be that at times it is hard to tell who is who based on the drawings; I wish this was clarified a little bit better.

Overall it was okay. The plot is a bit too broken up for us to get really engaged with any of the characters, but I liked the story. I am eager to read the next book and see how things pan out for our heroine Rue.

Teaser Tuesday - 12/29

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week is from "Malice" by Chris Wooding.

Here it is: "There was a faint skittering noise from the landing, the sound of tiny clicking claws, like rats.  He looked up in alarm, in time to see something small dart across the gap at the top of the stairs" Pg. 13

Monday, December 28, 2009

Best of 2009 - Middle Grade Fiction

This is the best of middle grade fiction that I read in 2009.  They are not quite young adult but more than children's books.

Top 10 Middle Grade Fiction Novels
1. Posion by Chris Wooding

2. Mothstorm (Larklight, Book 3) by Philip Reeve

3. The Skellig by David Almond

4. Gregor and the Code of Claw (Underland Chronicles, Book 5) by Suzanne Collins

5. Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary (Fablehaven, Book 4) by Brandon Mull

6. Clash of the Demons (The Last Apprentice, Book 6) by Joseph Delauney

7. The Last Olympian (Percy and the Olympians, Book 5) by Rick Riorden

8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

9. The Neddiad by Daniel Pinkwater

10. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelley

Best of 2009 - Fantasy, Children's Books, and Graphic Novels

Here are the Top 5 Fantasy, Top 5 Young Children's Books, and Top 5 Graphic Novels I read this year.

Top 5 Fantasy Books:

1. Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

2. The Fool by Christopher Moore

3. The Child Thief by Brom

4. Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente

5. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Top 5 Young Children's Books

1. Crazy Hair by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean

2. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

3. Tale of Despareaux by Kate DiCamillo

4. The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

5. Once Upon a Twice by Denise Doyen

Top 5 Graphic Novels:

1. The Eternals by Neil Gaiman

2. The Arrival by Shaun Tan

3. Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale

4. Flotsam by David Wiesner

5. A Game of You (Sandman, Vol. 5) by Neil Gaiman

Best of 2009 - Paranormal/Urban Fantasy

Below are the best paranormal/urban fantasy books I read this year.

Top Ten Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
1. The Eyre Affair by JasperFforde

2. Turn Coat (Dresden Files, Book 11) by Jim Butcher

3. Just Another Judgement Day (Nightside, Book 9) by Simon Green

4. Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

5. Succubus Heat (Georgina Kincaid, Book 4) by Richelle Mead

6. Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels, Book 3) by Ilona Andrews

7. On the Edge (The Edge Chronicles, Book 1) by Ilona Andrews

8. Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

9. Breathers by S.G. Browne

10. Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate, Book 1) by Gail Carriger

Best of 2009 - Young Adult

This was an unbelievable year for books. I read 213 (+ Dec) books this year. Most of them were pretty good ones. It is always hard to pick your favorites, so I decided I would pick my favorite books in six categories: Young Adult, Paranormal/Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Middle Grade Fiction, Children's Books, and Graphic Novels. The young adult picks are listed below in no particular order.

Top 10 Young Adult Books
1. Paper Towns by John Green

2. Ash by Melinda Lo

3. Beastly by Alex Flinn

4. Catching Fire (Hunger Games, Book 2) by Suzanne Collins

5. Demon Princess: Reign or Shine by Michelle Rowen

6. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

7. The Van Alen Legacy (Blue Bloods, Book 4) by Melissa De La Cruz

8. Genesis by Bernard Beckett

9. The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King

10. Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

"Black Orchid" by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean (4/5 stars)

One of the few Gaiman/McKean works that I haven't read; I was eager to read this graphic novel. It was a pretty good read. It is an unusual comic book and deals with some more serious issues than the basic good vs. evil.

This comic takes place in Gotham City and in the first few scenes we get to watch as the super-hero Black Orchid is captured and killed. The rest of the story follows her flower sisters as they deal with the fall-out from Black Orchid's action and try to find a place for themselves in the world.

It is an interesting story in that the main character for the most part is a passive flower-lady that is trying to gain back her memories and figure out how to protect her flower sisters.

There are cameo appearances by Batman, Poison Ivy, Lex Luther, and others. We get to visit Arkham Asylum and spend time with the dirty underground of Gotham.

The majority of the comic deals with the idea of violence and what happens when you make a choice either to be peaceful or take violent action. It also shows that sometimes making the right choice doesn't always mean things will turn out the right way.

An interesting graphic novel and somewhat thought provoking. I can see why they said this graphic novel helped break the way for more non-traditional graphic novels. The artwork by McKean is the usual mixture of beautiful, creepy, and slightly goes very well with the story.

There are only a couple things that weren't ideal. One was that the character's aren't as engaging as I am used to for Gaiman and (since this was released in the 80's) the other is that the graphics are pretty dated...there are a lot of 80's hairstyles walking through this graphic novel and at times that made me laugh.

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman (5/5 stars)

I was really looking forward reading Gaiman's next children's book. It was a great read and a wonderful story.

Odd is a bit different from the rest of the Norse community he lives in. One night he wanders off to his deceased father's cabin to carve some wood and runs into a bear, an eagle, and a fox...and they can talk. Ends up that they are actually the Norse gods Thor, Odin, and Loki trapped in animal shape by a Frost Giant who stole Thor's hammer (with some unintended aid from Loki). Odd, not having much else to do, decides to help them get back to Asgard and get their fortress back from the Frost Giant.

This is a great story and it is told like a fairy tale or a fable, in typical Gaiman style. At times the story is quite funny and it is an inspiring tale about a boy just being who he is to help others. I really enjoyed it. This is a great story for all ages. Kids will enjoy the Nordic gods and their sardonic sense of humor; they will enjoy Odd and how a little boy helps change the world just by being himself. The Norse mythology is interesting and the way things are resolved without violence refreshing and ironic.

I loved this story and will keep it on my shelf to re-read and read to my son when he gets a bit older (he is only 3 right now). Another great Gaiman book. Great illustrations and a quick read. Everyone should give this book a read through.

Super Comments Awards

Thanks to vvb32 Reads for the "Super Comments Award!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mailbox Monday - 12/28

Mailbox Monday can be found at: The Printed Page

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

I got a lot of books this week. I am excited about them all. "Malice", "Blood Ninja" and "Numbers" were all from the Amazon Vine program. The rest were gifts for Christmas. Lots more to read and a ton of good books. See the details for them below.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and is looking forward to a Happy New Year's! Happy reading :-)

"Malice" by Chris Wooding

First Sentence: "I have to show you something."
"Three kids get trapped in the world of a deadly comic book in this middle-grade thriller from Chris Wooding."

"Blood Ninja" by Nick Lake

First Sentence: "This was not a good place to be out at night, all alone."
"In the course of a day, Taro's entire life changes: His father is murdered before his eyes, and Taro is taken by a mysterious ninja on a perilous journey toward safety. Someone wants Taro dead, but who -- and why? With his best friend, Hiro, and their ninja guide Shusaku, Taro gets caught in the crossfire of a bitter conflict between rival lords for control of imperial Japan. As Taro trains to become a ninja himself, he's less and less sure that he wants to be one. But when his real identity is revealed, it becomes impossible for Taro to turn his back on his fate."

"Odd and the Frost Giants" by Neil Gaiman

First Sentence: "There was a boy called Odd, and there was nothing strange or unusual about that, not in that time or place."
"In this inventive, short, yet perfectly formed novel inspired by traditional Norse mythology, Neil Gaiman takes readers on a wild and magical trip to the land of giants and gods and back.

In a village in ancient Norway lives a boy named Odd, and he's had some very bad luck: His father perished in a Viking expedition; a tree fell on and shattered his leg; the endless freezing winter is making villagers dangerously grumpy.

Out in the forest Odd encounters a bear, a fox, and an eagle—three creatures with a strange story to tell.

Now Odd is forced on a stranger journey than he had imagined—a journey to save Asgard, city of the gods, from the Frost Giants who have invaded it.

It's going to take a very special kind of twelve-year-old boy to outwit the Frost Giants, restore peace to the city of gods, and end the long winter.

Someone cheerful and infuriating and clever . . .

Someone just like Odd ."

"Black Orchid" by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean

First Sentence: "One thing is certain, winter is coming."
"From one of the most highly recognised and award winning comic writers on the scene today, Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Death, Violent Cases), and his sometime collaborator, innovative artist Dave McKean (Arkham Asylum, Cages, Violent Cases) comes a haunting and stylish exploration of birth, death and renewal. Both human and flower the heroine, Black Orchid, undertakes a hazardous journey to uncover her true origins, providing a moving ecological parable for our times. This work by Gaiman and Mckean is an early showcase for the talent we know today."

"Numbers" by Rachel Ward

First Sentence: "There are places where kids like me go."
"Ever since she was child, Jem has kept a secret: Whenever she meets someone new, no matter who, as soon as she looks into their eyes, a number pops into her head. That number is a date: the date they will die. Burdened with such awful awareness, Jem avoids relationships. Until she meets Spider, another outsider, and takes a chance. The two plan a trip to the city. But while waiting to ride the Eye ferris wheel, Jem is terrified to see that all the other tourists in line flash the same number. Today's number. Today's date. Terrorists are going to attack London. Jem's world is about to explode!"

"The Werewolf's Guide to Life" by Ritch Duncan and Bob Powers

First Sentence: "Welcome to The Werewolf's Guide to Life, the definitive manual for the recently bitten lycanthrope."
"Have you been attacked by a wolf-like creature in the last 30 days? Was it after the sun had set and under a full moon? If you answered, “yes” to both these questions, there’s a very good chance that you were bitten by a werewolf. You now have less than a month before the full moon returns and with it your first transformation into a savage, bloodthirsty beast.
Survival is an option, but first, know this:
* Werewolves are real.
* The majority of lycanthropes who do not have access to this book die during or shortly after their first transformations, generally due to heart failure, gunshot wounds, exposure, drowning or suicide.
* Hollywood horror movies are NOT to be used as guides to living as a werewolf. Their goal is not to educate, but to entertain. As a result, they are largely ignorant of the realities of the condition.
* Ignorance creates monsters; lycanthropy does not.
* You are not a monster.
The Werewolf's Guide to Life cuts through the fiction and guides you through your first transformation and beyond, offering indispensable advice on how to tell if you’re really a werewolf, post-attack etiquette, breaking the news to your spouse, avoiding government abduction, and how to not just survive, but thrive. You cannot afford to not read this book. Your very life depends on it."

"First Lord's Fury" (The Codex Alera, Book 6) by Jim Butcher

First Sentence: "The steadholt was located several miles south of the ruined wasteland that had once been Alera Imperia, and it was an old one."
"For years he has endured the endless trials and triumphs of a man whose skill and power could not be restrained. Battling ancient enemies, forging new alliances, and confronting the corruption within his own land, Gaius Octavian became a legendary man of war-and the rightful First Lord of Alera.

But now, the savage Vord are on the march, and Gaius must lead his legions to the Calderon Valley to stand against them-using all of his intelligence, ingenuity, and furycraft to save their world from eternal darkness."

"Kith" (The Good Neighbors, Book 2) by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh

First Sentence: "Once you know things, you can't unknow them."
"Rue Silver's life is not what it appears to be. Her mother is a faerie, and has been taken back to the faerie realm. As Rue goes to bring her back, she must travel deep into an inhuman world. At the same time, the faerie realm is venturing into our world too, and taking its toll on those Rue loves. When her grandfather's plans threaten Rue's city, she realizes that she's the only one who can stop him. But is Rue a human or a faerie? Where does she fit? How does she know the difference between love and enchantment?"

Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey (4.5/5 stars)

I loved Carey's Kushiel series and I also read a lot of urban fantasy, so I was excited to see that Carey had tried her hand at an urban fantasy novel. This novel wasn't at all what I expected but I liked it quite a bit all the same.

Santa Olivia is a small area that is acting as a buffer zone between plague ridden Mexico and the United States. No one knows the town exists outside of the Army. The citizens of the town struggle to make it. This story tells a tale of two half-siblings; Tom and Loup. After their mother dies, Tom goes to live at the gym and train for the boxing matches that could be his ticket out of Santa Olivia. Loup is sent to live at the church with other orphans there. Loup is not quite human because of her genetically modified father and ensues on a series of semi-vigilante actions with the other orphans of the church.

This was a great story. The characters are interesting and engaging. The story compelling because you are constantly hoping that the characters will win the boxing matches and get their ticket out of this secret, rundown town. Loup is the most intriguing character because she does not fear (because of being not quite human). Carey does an excellent job of realistically dealing with the problems that come with being fearless when it comes into blending into society. All of the characters in (and out) out of the church are very well done and have interesting pasts.

I was also impressed that Carey did a great job at making such an isolated society realistic and reasonable. She does an excellent job showing how things are kept in check.

The story wasn't what I expected though. It was just different from most urban fantasy, much less action driven and more character driven. This ended up being okay and interesting...just unexpected. I also thought that Carey's writing style was a bit odd for this type of story. The profanity used by some of the characters came off as sounding a bit odd when paired with some of the more detailed descriptions or sensual scenes. It wasn't bad, it was just different. I think people who think this is some sort of super-hero like paranormal novel may be disappointed or at least taken by surprise...this book was just different from anything out there.

Overall I really liked the story and the characters. I hope that Carey does some additional stand-alone novels. The biggest problem with this book is that it may not appeal to the fans of her epic fantasy Kushiel series and it may be too different for the paranormal crowd...but if you are into both urban fantasy and Carey's previous works I would definitely give it a read.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Storyteller's Daughter by Cameron Dokey (2/5 stars)

Previously I have read "Beauty Sleep" by Cameron Dokey, and I liked the story. So, I was excited to read another fairy tale retelling by Dokey. Unfortunately I found this retelling of "Arabian Nights" hard to get through and pretty boring.

Shahrazad is the daughter of a great storyteller. When the King is betrayed by his wife, his heart turns to stone and he vows to marry a young woman each new moon and kill her the next morning. That is unless a young woman comes forward voluntarily knowing she will die the next day. Shahrarad decides it is her destiny to step forward and every morning her life is sparred as she tells a story that has no end.

I had a lot of trouble getting through this book, even though it is relatively short. The language is stilted and somewhat difficult to read. Shahrazad is an uninspiring heroine that, despite talking about how women are always wiser, ends up showing herself to be a weaker character. None of the surrounding characters are any more inspiring. They are all un-emotional and two dimensional.

The stories that Shahrazad tells all have a very transparent moral to them and I didn't find them to be very interesting, engaging, or surprising. I has hoped that either the story itself or the story Shahrazad tells would engage me, but I struggled to get through them despite the fact that the book is very short. The writing seemed, as I said, a bit stilted and immature. I had trouble telling that this book was written by the same author that had written "Beauty Sleep". There is no description of the world, and little description of what the characters are feeling.

All in all this book was a disappointment to me. I am still planning on reading a couple other of Dokey's fairy tale retellings since I did enjoy "Beauty Sleep." Overall if you are looking for an interesting retelling of "Arabian Nights" to read, I would look elsewhere.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart (4/5 stars)

I saw this book and just thought it would be an interesting read. Besides who can resist the title "Wicked Plants"?

Basically the book goes through many different types of plants that are "Wicked". This means they are either deadly, illegal, destructive, painful, intoxicating, or get the idea. There are two types of entries in the book. The first are pages dedicated to a single plant. These have an etching of the plant on one page and then a description of why the plant is "wicked" and some history about notable events that the plant has caused. Up in the top corner of the page it tells you a one word "why" of the plant's wickedness ("Destructive", "Deadly"). I liked these entries the best.

The second type of entry is a section on a certain general types of plant. For example there is a section on deadly houseplants. These sections have small sub-sections of different types of plants that they go through; no pictures. I have to mention the print is pretty small in these general sections, might be hard to read for some people. The two types of entries alternate.

The information is amusing and interesting, the etchings of the plants are beautiful; it is too bad they were not in color. I kind of wished that there were more interesting stories about individual plants. I really liked the entries on individual plants the best. I found myself skimming through the second type of entry (general entries briefly describing a ton of plants). These general sections didn't have any nice illustrations and shad very mall print and weren't nearly as interesting as the ones that focused on individual plants. I also thought the illustrations (not the etchings) left a bit to be desired; they were very amateurish and didn't add much to the book.

The book itself is a work of art. The pages are all on off-white paper that looks like vellum, and there is a pretty silk ribbon in the binding for you to mark your spot in the book with.

All in all I enjoyed the book. Not something you would read everyday but it would make a good coffee table book and it is interesting to read through the whole thing once. I am glad I read it.

Waiting on Wednesday - 12/23

Okay "Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine.

This week my WoW book is "Keys to the Demon Prison" (Fablehaven, Book 5) by Brandon Mull. The whole Fablehaven series has been absolutely fantastic. If you haven't read it you should. This is the final book in the series and I have been dying to read it. No synopsis yet, but the cover art was released last week.

"Keys to the Demon Prison" (Fablehaven, Book 5) by Brandon Mull
Pages: 544 pages
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Release Date: March 23rd, 2010

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kiss of Life (Generation Dead, Book 2) by Daniel Waters (4/5 stars)

This is the second book in the Generation Dead series by Daniel Waters. The 3rd book "Passing Strange" is due out in June of 2010. This was a great follow-up book to the first book in the series.

This book takes up shortly after Book 1 left off. Adam has re-animated as one of the biotically different (zombie). Unfortunately it is taking Adam a long time to regain any functionality. As a result Phoebe is spending a ton of time looking after him and has cut off any of her relations with Tommy. Meanwhile the edgy zombie "Smiley" has created a group called the Sons of Romero that play pranks on breathers to keep the Zombies in the spotlight. Unfortunately someone is doing pranks that aren't funny at all and they are making it look like the Zombies are responsible; which is starting to unite society against the differently biotic. Thrown into all this mystery is the Hunter Corporation. The Hunter Corporation is supposed to be helping with Zombie rights, but all is not what it seems to be.

There is a ton going on in this book. It is actually a fairly complicated plot. The plot is engaging and the characters are interesting and full of depth. It was a quick read and touches on a lot of political issues of human and undead rights. For the most part I really enjoyed this book. Although as things start to go more and more wrong, I found myself cringing. At the end of this book you can't help but feel that things are going to get really, really bad for all of the characters in the third book.

The most irritating part of this book was the beginning, way too much time was spent on Adam and Phoebe. Especially on listening to Phoebe moan about how Adam saved her, how she feels guilty, and how he needs her. I thought Waters went over this a bit too much and spent too much time driving this predicament into the ground. If this part had been shortened up it would have been a wonderful book indeed.

I also have to mention the horribly chick-lit cover. The cover has nothing to do with the story. The cover also lends the impression that this is some tween bubble gum read, and that it is not. The book is very serious and deals with a lot of serious issues. I am not too big on the book covers picked out for this series, I wish they reflected the material inside a little better.

The above being said, this was a good read. As both the world, the characters, and the plot become more and more complicated I am starting to wonder where this story will lead us. I know last I heard the plan was possibly 5 books for this series. I am wondering with the plot pace and complications, if it will actually be wrapped up that quickly. A good read. If you liked the first book you will like this one too.

Teaser Tuesday - 12/22

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week is from "Kiss of Life" (Generation Dead, Book 2) by Daniel Waters.

Here it is: "George stared back at him, and Tak thought there may have been the briefest flicker of emotion on his gray, puttylike face as he chewed, but probably not. George was the least expressive zombie that Tak had ever seen." Pg. 62

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mailbox Monday - 12/21

Mailbox Monday can be found at: The Printed Page

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

I got two books this week.  Another light week for books, which is good since I already have so many to read.

The first was Viscous Circle (Felix Castor, Book 2) by Mike Carey; acquired through I have heard wonderful things about the Felix Castor series and really look forward to reading it.

The second was "Explorer X-Alpha" by LM Preston; this one I got direct from the author to review.

Check out both books below. Hope you all have a great week! Happy Holidays to you all :-)

"Vicious Circle" (Felix Castor, Book 2) by Mike Carey

First Sentence: "The incense stick burned with an orange flame and smelled of Cannabis sativa."
From "Felix Castor has reluctantly returned to exorcism after a successful case convinces him that he really can do some good with his abilities---"good," of course, being a relative term when dealing with the undead. His friend Rafi is still possessed, the succubus Ajulutsikael (Juliet to her friends) still technically has a contract on him, and he's still dirt poor.
Doing some consulting for the local cops helps pay the bills, but Castor needs a big private job to really fill the hole in his bank account. That's what he needs. What he gets is a seemingly insignificant "missing ghost" case that inexorably drags him and his loved ones into the middle of a horrific plot to raise one of hell's fiercest demons.
When satanists, stolen spirits, sacrifice farms, and haunted churches all appear on the same police report, the name Felix Castor can't be too far behind..."

"Explorer X-Alpha" by LM Preston

First Sentence: "He ran his tongue against his teeth as the inside of hid lip burned and tingled with the sensation of pain."
From "For most kids, a trip to space camp is the trip of a lifetime for Aadi it was life altering. After receiving a camp immunization needed for travel to Mars, Aadi finds that the immunization is the catalyst of an insidious experiment. He realizes what is happening too late for a change of fate. The full experiment is set in motion when he and his co-pilot, Eirena, crash in a distant galaxy called Shrenas, where they change and realize the full extent of their power. This turn of events forces him to grow up quickly, accept his change, and to decide to save a world, or to do what he was trained to do dominate it. His power is coveted by the warring leaders of Shrenas, and he is forced to choose sides a decision that may prove just how much humanity he has left. "

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo (5/5 stars)

I have read a number of DiCamillo books and loved most of them.  I decided to read this book because my son got the movie and I was interested in reading the book before I saw it.  It was a wonderful book!

This book tells the tale of three "people".  Despereaux, a mouse that is too different to be accepted, whose path leads him to fall in love with a human princess.   Despereaux is cast to darkness for his differences.  The second person is Chiaroscuro, a rat who yearns for the light but makes his home in the dungeon.  Then there is Miggery Sow (Mig), a girl whose leads a miserable life and will do anything to become a princess.  All of their fates are intertwined.

This was a great story.  DiCamillo, as usual, does a wonderful job of making the story come alive.  She is just a great story-teller in the most classical sense.  All of the characters are interesting and engaging.  There are a number of morals reinforced through the story.  It is a quick read for an adult, but well worth it.  I really didn't find anything to complain about in this book.

Unlike "The Elephant's Magician" I think younger children could really get into this story.  In fact I started reading it to my three year old son and he didn't want me to stop.  I am pretty sure he doesn't understand all the different messages the story is delivering, but he can get into the story of a young mouse fighting for his Princess. 

I think this is my favorite of all the DiCamillo books that I have read.  People of all walks of life and ages should read this book.  It is a wonderful story.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Breathers: A Zombie's Lament by S.G. Browne (4.5/5 stars)

So being a fan of zombie books and movies I just couldn't pass up this book. It was a pretty darn good book and I really enjoyed it. It has some heart, a somewhat sweet love story, zombies dismembering people, and rotting body parts...all in all a pretty complete zombie experience.

Andy Warner wakes up in the funeral home just recently embalmed. He is one of the undead. He is not taking it very well; his wife died in the car accident that took his life and his daughter has been sent to live with relatives. His parents pick him up at the zombie pound and for months he is kept in their basement watching TV and drinking their expensive wine on the sly. That is until he goes to an Undead Anonymous meeting and meets Rita, a sexy suicide victim, and Jerry, a car crash victim that likes to let people touch his exposed brain. Rita especially helps Andy see the positive in his undead existence. When another zombie introduces the group to the joys of..err...venison, things start to change and full-out zombie mayhem ensues.

This was actually a very well done book. It is darkly humorous but touches on issues of racism (or is it species-ism?) and what it means to be alive. There are a number of human elements such as Andy dealing with the loss of his family, his parents' rejection of his condition, and society's cruelty to zombies. That's not to say that it's all serious. Browne doesn't shy away from pieces of brain flying out of noses, cigarettes being put out in empty eye sockets, or any of that gory goodness.

To those who think the book starts out a little tame (with Andy picketing for zombie rights), just hold on eventually the book gets to a point of total flame-throwing zombie mayhem. What fun it is when it does!

I really enjoyed this book. All zombie lovers should give it a go. I think this would be a great book for everyone to read (except for the younger age set) it really helps to brooch the topic of what would happen if zombies entered human society. Oddly enough the next book on my list to read is "Kiss of Life" the next book in the zombie series "Generation Dead" by Daniel onto more zombie reads for me.

I will be watching out for future books by Browne, I liked his writing style and the way everything flowed in this book...definitely a writer to keep an eye in the future.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith (3/5 stars)

This book is about food and vampires, so I thought it sounded interesting. I mean the two things don't usually go together all that well. Overall it was a mediocre read, nothing fantastic but okay.

Quincie's parents are dead and she and her uncle run a restaurant that was previously owned by her parents. Only thing is the restaurant isn't doing well, so Quincie and her uncle decide to redo the restaurant into a kitschy Italian Vampire restaurant name Sanguino's. Unfortunately a few week before opening the lead chef is murdered in the kitchen and it looks like it was done by an animal. The police are all over Quncie's best friend, a werewolf name Kieren, but he swear he wasn't involved. Then a new chef turns up and Quincie is stuck juggling school, work, and the task of turning the new chef into a passable vampire chef. While all this is happening the police are still struggling to figure out who murdered the original chef and are getting increased reports of disappearances.

Everything about this book was mediocre. The characters are kind of halfway characterized but not very engaging; there weren't any character in this book that sparked my curiosity or made me want to know more about them. The plot was very predictable. The writing was straight-forward but didn't deliver any of the sensual description for food or otherwise that I expected given the title. The development of a vampire menu was a main point in the book, yet the food was treated in a very cursory way. The world itself (and the inclusion of vampires and were-animals) was never really developed and was very limited in scope, basically we rarely see outside the restaurant.

That being said, the book was nothing special but was somewhat amusing. It is a very quick read, so I didn't feel like the book was a waste of just wasn't anything all that interesting or special.

I probably won't read any more books by Smith. There was just nothing in this book that felt at all creative, inspired, or even engaging. The book didn't offend me either and was an okay read, but just kind of blah.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Selling Out (Quantum Gravity, Book 2) by Justina Robson (3/5 stars)

This is the second book in the Quantum Gravity series by Justina Robson. I liked the first book really well, but I wasn't as impressed with this book. The plot was too hacked up, and the storylines that the different characters followed seemed unrelated. Despite that, the world is still really intriguing and the characters re-joined at the end of the book making me want to read more about them. I listened to this on audio book, and while the audio book was okay, it wasn't the greatest reading I've ever heard. The reader had trouble doing male voices without making them sound annoying.

Lila Black is sent to Demonia on a mission to find how Zal became part demon. Meanwhile Zal gets stuck in the elemental realm (after having words about Lila with Malichi over an odd game of cards) and spends time there trying to get out. Malichi journeys to the Interstitial realm to learn more about ghosts. Eventually they all end up back together, but how all this is related to the problem of the cracks in the six different worlds is all a mystery to me.

I had some trouble understanding what this book was getting at. Lila didn't do much in Demonia besides get into trouble and meet an imp; okay so she gets into *a lot* of trouble. Meanwhile Zal (who is on his way to meet her) ends up in the Elemental Realm and spends a lot of time there trying to get back out without dying. Zal's part was kind of boring and dreamy and really only had one important reason for happening as far as I could tell. Totally unrelated to all of this Malichi ends up in the in-between Interstitial space learning about ghosts. If all of this stuff sounds unrelated, well, it pretty much was. I am fairly certain that everything that happened will play a major part in later books, but for this book it was mainly just disconnected and random.

The way Robson switched between Lila, Zal, and Malichi was hard to follow. She stopped at odd places in one character's story and then switched to another character. I just found the switches to be unnatural and, at points, it made the story hard to follow. I also got kind of sick of Lila's constant whining. It was crazy how she followed what the Agency told her blindly; although this is finally explained late in the book. Zal and Lila barely see each other the whole book and that was also disappointing. Another odd thing was that the game between Zal and Lila (which took up a good portion of Book 1) was rarely mentioned in this book.

There was also a lot that was done well in this book. The descriptions of Demon culture were very interesting. Where "Keeping it Real' focused on the Elven world, the majority of this book is about Demonia. Also you get to learn a lot more about both Zal's and Lila's past. It was great to finally meet some people from their past and learn more about what shaped their backgrounds and drives them. Teesil was an awesome addition to the story, as the lead assassin of Demonia, and I look forward to him being a bigger part of the next book.

The ending of the story was absolutely fantastic; I was impressed with how Robson brought the characters together and set things up for a great book 3. Really the ending was the most exciting part of this book and is the only thing making me interested in reading the next book of the series.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this book. Some things were awesome, some things not so much. I will read the third book because this book seemed to be setting things up for a great story in the third book.

Waiting on Wednesday - 12/16

Okay "Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine.

This week my WoW book is "White Cat" (The Curse Workers, Book 1) by Holly Black. I absolutely loved Holly Black's Modern Fairy Tale series. This is the first book in her next series called "The Curse Workers". I am really, really looking forward to this book :-) It sounds like an awesome series!

"White Cat" (The Curse Workers, Book 1) by Holly Black
Pages: 320 pages
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Release Date: May 4th, 2010

Synopsis: "Cassel comes from a family of curse workers—people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they’re all criminals. Many become mobsters and con artists. But not Cassel. He hasn’t got magic, so he’s an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail—he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.

Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he finds himself sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He’s noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to out-con the con men.

Holly Black has created a gripping tale of mobsters and dark magic where a single touch can bring love—or death–and your dreams might be more real than your memories."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Divine Misdemeanors (Meredith Gentry, Book 8) by Laurell K. Hamilton (3/5 stars)

This is book 8 in the Meredith Gentry series by Laurell Hamilton. It was an okay book, about par for the course in this series. It was entertaining, but had some plot problems and some pacing problems.

This book takes up where the last book left off. Merry and crew have chosen to move back to LA. After choosing to save Frost instead of become the King and Queen of the Unseelie court, Merry and Doyle (along with Merry's male harem) are in exile from fairy. They are working on setting up a place for themselves when Merry's contact at the LA police department, Lucy, calls and asks Merry to investigate a crime scene with multiple fey dead. The scene of the crime leads both Merry and Lucy to believe that a serial killer is loose. Can Merry and her guys figure out what is going on before more fey are killed?

Like many of the previous book this book has a loose plot interrupted with numerous mediocre sex scenes, as Merry tries to keep all six fathers of her unborn twins (and a few other new guys) happy. The murder plot goes on pretty well for the first 100 pages and then for the last fifty-or-so pages. In between that is a lot of sex, and a lot of Merry trying to get her overemotional man harem in check. Merry uses her normal combination of sex, pleading, humor, over-the-top proclamation, and prayers to the Goddess to do this.

I liked the murder investigation overall, despite the fact that it took backseat to the management of Merry's household for parts of the book. Reading about how Merry keeps her household running and how she deals with all these emotionally scarred guards from the Queen of Darkness, was somewhat interesting. Although, like previous books, too much time is spent on this and too many new characters are added in. It is like Hamilton has just added so many players to this story that it just takes up way too much time to juggle them all and there is no way she can give each character good page space.

I did like that there was less of Merry praying to the Goddess to solve all her problems, Merry actually had to work some of the issues out herself. I did like that some of her male leads (Frost, Doyle, Rheas) have overcome their insecurities and are actual acting like stable, supportive people.

I wasn't sure if I would keep reading this series of not. I thought "Swallowing Darkness" would have been a great stopping point for this series. This book is very much a transitional one; it deals with all the characters adjusting to their new lifestyles. There really isn't much of an over-arcing storyline that makes you interested in the next makes me wonder what future books hold in store for Merry. I enjoyed the book some, I liked some of the characters. So, I will probably read the next book in the series just because these are a quick read and somewhat entertaining.

Teaser Tuesday - 12/15

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week is from "Divine Misdemeanors" (Meredith Gentry, Book 8) by Laurell Hamilton.

Here it is: "The spicy smell of Eucalyptus could almost hide the scent of blood. If it had been this many adult human-sized bodies the Eucalyptus wouldn't have had a chance, but they weren't adult-sized." Pg. 1

Monday, December 14, 2009

Genesis by Bernard Beckett (4.5/5 stars)

I had heard that this was a really interesting book and looked forward to reading it. It took a few pages to really get into it, but it ended up being a very interesting and engaging read. The ending totally threw me for a loop and made me want to go back and re-read it.

The whole book occurs as a young historian, Anax, takes a four hour examination in front of the Academy in hope that she will pass and be admitted to the Academy. Her four hour dissertation is on a prominent historical figure, Adam Forde. The book is literally a dialogue of what the Academy asks her and what she answers.

The above may sound a bit strange; I mean to write a book solely about one exam is a bit weird. When I started reading the book it took me a bit to get engaged in the story. As Anax delves deeper into the history of Adam Forde the story becomes more engaging and then you are on the edge of your set trying to figure out what happened and is going to happen.

Much of the dialogue delves into debate on what it means to be human versus AI. Adam Forde spends time in seclusion with an AI that is self-teaching. Many of the discussions between Adam and the AI are what Anax spends time debating and disclosing. Almost the whole of the book centers on what turns a society governed by fear can take, what it means to be human, and how to protect humanity from itself. Some of the discussions get a bit drawn out and some of the same points are made over and over again; but I found the majority of the discussion to be very interesting.

I can't say a ton more about the book without giving things away. Needless to say the ending was awesome; it was very unexpected and caught me by surprise. After you read the ending you will definitely have to rethink the whole book, and most likely will want to read through it again.

This book was written in a very creative way, delves into the philosophy of human versus AI (which for me is a topic that never gets old), was very engaging, and had an ending that you will either love or hate. It takes a bit to get into the story so be patient. The book is very short and is a quick read. I would recommend that everyone pick up this book; it gets you thinking and will surprise you in the end.