Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cast in Fury by Michelle Sagara (4/5 stars)

This is the fourth book in the Cast series by Michelle Sagara. Last I read there are going to be five books in this series. This was a great book and really added to the series.

In this book Kaylin finds out that Hawk's Seargent, Marcus, has been accused of murder. On top of this after stopping the tidal wave from destroying the city; people fear the Tha'alani more than ever. Kaylin and Severn are assigned to work at the palace with the Imperial playwright to help him write a play that will help the populace to understand the Tha'alani better. Kaylin is again run ragged as she tries to help Marcus and help protect the Tha'alani.

This was a good book for this series. Maybe not my favorite of the series, but you find out more about Kaylin's potential. Severn was steadfast in his support of Kaylin and Sanabalis continues to be a favorite character of mine. You learn a ton about the Leotine race in this book; I really enjoy that race and was happy to learn more about it. I was a bit disappointed that more time wasn't spend with Nightshade as he is another one of my favorite characters. Kaylin actually matures some in this book and grows as a character so that was nice to see.

Overall this was a well-written, fast-paced fantasy-adventure. It was heavy on intrigue and magic. I enjoyed it a lot and look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sara's Face by Melvin Burgess (4/5 stars)

This is one odd book. I wasn't exactly sure what I was getting into with this book but it was an interesting premise and an interesting book. I can't even remember why I ordered this book; I think the idea of it intrigued me.

This book has a very slight sci-fi bent to it but mostly it is about what would you give for fame and fortune. Sara is a pretty girl who believes that she is going to be extraordinary one day. She sees beauty as art and is determined to make herself art. She is a disturbed girl who is constantly pretending that she is different people, she also loves hiding her beautiful face behind hideous masks. She often thinks of herself as ugly and feels like when she looks in the mirror that is not her face; it is someone elses. Sara also has bizarre accidents that many of her friends/family think are self-inflicted. It is while she is in the hospital recovering from one of these accidents that she meets Jonathan Heat. Jonathan Heat is a superstar; he had so much work done on his face that his face collapsed and he now wears a mask. In Sara, Jonathan sees a kindred spirit. He offers to take her under his wing to teach her everything he knows, and (the biggest thing to Sara) to pay for cosmetic surgery for Sara's whole body. Of course there will be a price, but could Sara ever guess the cost?

The story is done in an interesting way. The author is acting as a journalist who is trying to recreate the events that lead to the final stages of Heat's and Sarah's working relationship. Some of the chapters dictate a video journal that Sarah kept. Other chapters are interviews with the people surrounding Sarah. Some of the chapters are just chapters reporting the facts that the author has found.

It was an engaging read, and also very disturbing. The story was set up in such a way that you really wondered what was going to happen in the end. You both feel sorry for and despise the tragic figures of Jonathan Heat and Sara. There are a number of side characters that are both very caring, good people and very selfish, evil people. All in all I enjoyed the story and how it was put together. This book made me interested in reading more of Burgess's work.

The story is a mystery that is all about the price you put on being perfect. It is also about people who feel detached from their own bodies and how damaged they can be. There is a bit of sci-fi twist to some of the cosmetic procedures performed and there is a bit of supernatural twist to the story as Sara chases a faceless ghost throughout Heat's mansion. It was an intriguing story and I am glad I read it.

Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn (3/5 stars)

This is the first book I have read by Carrie Vaughn and also the first book in the ongoing Kitty Norville series. The writing style and story remind me a lot of Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson series. This is more of a paranormal action/drama type of book than a paranormal romance (for those of us who are picky with the type of paranormal book we read).

Kitty Norville is a DJ. She was attacked and turned into a werewolf previously and has been trying to live normally while partaking in pack life. She has been increasingly drawn to being awake night hours and subbing in for the overnight shift at the radio station she works at suites this perfectly. One night she takes some calls about paranormal activity and this really makes her program take off. Suddenly her program Kitty and the Midnight Hour, is being syndicated country-wide. Only this is making certain people very unhappy (mainly leaders in the supernatural community). Kitty is struggling to keep her place in her werewolf pack, as well as keep her radio show running, amoungst this all there are rumors about there being a cure for both werewolves and vampirism so she is trying to figure that out too.

This was a quick read. It is well-written. It is very very similar to Patricia Briggs writing style; in fact I think I might have trouble distinguishing between them. While this was an entertaining read on the plane; I didn't find it that exciting. The action scenes are mediocre, nothing that exciting happens, and the world (thus far) is something we have seen a million times before. Vampires and werewolves don't like each other, werewolf packs are male dominent, the paranormal community is on the edge of coming out, maybe.

Kitty herself is not a very inspiring character. Maybe she will become more in a few books. None of the side characters were all that interesting either. I thought this book was okay, but mostly boring. I happen to have the next three books in the series, so I will definitely read at least the next book. Just be warned that this is one of those books that sets you up for a long series, in and of itself it is not that interesting of a book. I actually thought the Mercy Thompson series was better and I wasn't really that big on that series either. Personally I have really enjoyed Jaz Parks and the Signs of the Zodiac series a lot more.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Silver is for Secrets by Laurie Faria Stolarz (3/5 stars)

I seem to be stuck in a mediocre book rut. This is the third book I have read that falls into the "It was just okay" category. I read the first two books in this series and really liked them. So far I think this was the weakest of the three.

In this book Stacey and her friends are celebrating graduation by spending the summer at a beach house. When they meet one of their neighbors, Clara, Stacey starts having premonitions that she believes are of Clara's death. As with the first couple books Stacey is racing against the clock to solve the mystery behind Clara before Stacey's dreams come true.

This book wasn't nearly as suspenseful or creepy as the first two. It was still engaging but didn't have the drive the first two books did. The vast majority of this book is focused on the characters not trusting each other and the girls being pissed because they think their guys are cheating on them. Of course, god forbid the characters talk to each other instead of whine. The whole keeping of secrets between Jacob and Stacey is bizarre and went against their characters completely.

I won't put any spoilers in but this book is not at all wrapped up like the first two. It definitely leaves you hanging in the middle of the story. I disliked the change in pattern from the first couple books and thought it was annoying. I mean really was Stolarz worried about the last book selling?

If you are really into the series I would read this book but just know that it is the weakest of the set so far...

Persistence of Memory By Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (3/5 stars)

I got this book as an Advanced Readers Edition through the Amazon Vine program. The premise sounded interesting.

Basically Erin has finally enrolled in public schooling. For the first 16 years of her life she has been institutionalized because of schizophrenia. Sometimes her violent alter-ego Shevaun takes over. Finally Erin's life is looking up, Shevaun is under control and Erin can look forward to a normal life. That is until she joins fencing club. Shevaun once again takes control and Erin flees the club only to see one of her new friends turn into a tiger in front of her. Convinced that she is again going crazy Erin heavily doses herself and wakes up to find that maybe Shevaun is more real than she ever expected.

This was an easy book to read. The characters are engaging. The idea of paranormal powers being treated as mental illness was explored in more depth than it has been in any other paranormal book I've read. An intriguing world was hinted at but never really fully developed. The book itself was very short. It almost seemed like more of an intro to a new series than a full book in itself.

I liked the world and the characters. I just thought that they were all under-developed. I also liked the discussion around paranormal abilities as mental illness. In fact I really like most of this book. The ending kind of ruined it all for me. It was such a rushed ending. Not a ton happens in the beginning then suddenly all this stuff is thrown at you in the last couple chapters and it's all over. It read like Atwater-Rhodes suddenly had a deadline sneak up on her.

If this book is the beginning of a series it could turn into an interesting series. As a stand alone book it feels incomplete. The concepts are interesting, but rushed. If you are interested in the topic of paranormal behavior being perceived as mental illness than this would be an interesting read for you.

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville (3/5 stars)

I got this book through Amazon Vine and was really excited to read it. I have been read some of China Mieville's books before (King Rat and Perido Street Station) and liked them. I thought that Mieville's first young adult book would be a wonderful read.

Zanna has been seeing strange things. And when a broken umbrella leads Zanna and her friend Deeba into a boiler room things get really crazy. Zanna and Deeba find themselves in Un Lun Dun; a world more different and dangerous than the London they are familiar with.

This book started out as something exciting and special. After the first chapter I turned to my husband and said "this is going to be an awesome book!" Then somehow the book got less gripping and interesting. Really the first third of this book was not all that exciting. The plot seemed to have a purpose and then wandered off. Zanna ended up being a truly uninspiring character. Her inclusion in the book didn't even make sense with the rest of the story.

About a third of the way into the book things start to pick up. A plot actually develops and the characters have purpose again. Despite the increase in action and direction I still had to push myself through the rest of the book. It never grabbed me and never kept me in suspense. The characters themselves, although creative, came across as two-dimensional. I was sorely disappointed in a book that I was super excited to like. The chapters in the book are very short, a couple pages each in most cases, and were kind of distracting. They would end abruptly with no reason, just to pick up in the next chapter. Maybe this was part of what made it hard for me to get through this book.

The other thing that bothered me was the feeling that this story had been done before. Many aspects to this story are very similar to Clive Barker's Abarat books. Although the tone of this book was a bit darker; and more secluded to the single location of Un Lun Dun. In writing style and setting this book reminded me a lot of Gaiman's Neverwhere. Throw a little bit of Alice in Wonderland into the book and that was the story. The whole time I read this book I kept feeling like I had read this all somewhere before.

There were some very good things about this book. The characters are creative, if a bit flat. Many of the side characters and environments in the book are very tongue in cheek and ironic. There were places that I found myself giggling at the absurdity of the characters. For example the dust bin ninjas (binjas) were a favorite of mine. The craziness of Un Lun Dun is thrown at the reader rapidly with many bizarre sights being described in a non-stop parade of strangeness; these parts of the book also appealed to me.

I think that this book will appeal to a wide range of ages. In fact it would be a good book to read to children. They will enjoy the bizarre characters and their parents will enjoy the tongue in cheek humor that might be lost on younger kids.

Part of the lower review for this book is just the fact that I had trouble enjoying and getting through this book. I also couldn't get past the fact that this book felt a bit like Abarat and Neverwhere had been cobbled together into one read. It's still a good book and if you liked the mentioned books you will probably get some enjoyment from this one. It just didn't hit the mark for me.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Playing with Fire by Gena Showalter (4/5 stars)

I've been wanting to read the Alien Huntress series by Gena Showalter forever. I picked this book up instead to get a flavor for her writing style without getting involved in another ongoing series. This was a cute book. If you like the Aisling Grey Guardian series or other similar funny paranormal romance books you would probably get a kick out of this one.

This book is about Belle. Belle is a girl who has a hard time getting and keeping jobs. She needs the money to help pay for care for her ailing dad. Then one day on break some guy in a mad scientist get-up runs out of an abandoned building into the coffee shop Belle is currently working at. Later she finds out he slipped something in her mocha latte. Suddenly Belle is like a Wonder Woman of the four elements and she can do things only super heroes can do. Fortunately this helps her meet up with another super hottie who has cool powers of his own. Unfortunately the bad guys want Belle for their own nefarious purposes.

This was a cute light read. There is a lot of imagining about sex and groping and a lot of talking about sex. So if that bothers you I would look the other way; I would say the sex talk is about the same level as the Aisling Grey books...maybe a bit lighter. There was a lot of action and suspense too and that really kept the book moving. The male lead Rome is sensitive, animalistic, and sexy. This book has a little of that alpha male thing going on but not that much.

Belle's powers were really cool; very X-men. I only wish that we had seen more of them. As with all of these paranormal romances I wish they had spent more time kicking butt and less time groping each other. But, what can you do? I knew what I was getting into.

All in all this book was fast-paced, a quick and light read, lots of fun, and just right for lifting your mood. I zoomed right through it. The story line wasn't the most original; and the characters somewhat stereotypical. This is another one of those books that if you know what you are getting into you'll have fun. If you abhor romance though, I would choose something different...maybe the Jaz Parks series would be more your style.

I am kind of glad this is a one book thing. It would be interesting to see Belle in a few more missions but I think the characters would get old in a few books.

Moonrise (Warriors: The New Prophecy, Book 2) by Erin Hunter (3.5 stars)

This is the second book in the second Warriors series called The New Prophecy. There are 6 books total in the series. This book followed the style of the first book but wasn't as good. Not as much happened; the plot line seemed a bit stuck.

This book begins right where the last book left off. Brambleclaw and crew are trying to make their way home from the ocean. Leafpaw and the Thunderclaw are trying to figure out why the Twolegs have started destroying their forest. That is basically the whole story right there.

The book was well-written and engaging. In fact so far these books have written in a very precise way. They alternate between two viewpoints and when they leave a viewpoint they leave it hanging at a critical point. This style does propel the reader through the book effectively; although it makes it hard to put the books down.

I was disappointed that the story didn't make more progress. This book was basically a slow and torturous story about how bad things are getting for the Clans. I found it a depressing read; but tried to remember that a lot of series need to hit their low point in the middle.

The most irritating thing was that the book ended with nothing resolved; not even minor story points. Personally I find this irritating. I kind of feel like some parts of the story should progress and be resolved in a book, even if the main story isn't. Anyway that's my biggest beef with this book. It ends mid-everything. I suppose this will make the reader run out and buy the next book to find out what happens (regardless of whether or not they actually thought it was well-written). Personally if I didn't already have the next book and had to wait a year for the next book to come out I would probably have stopped reading this series out of sheer irritation.

It is a good series though. And since I have the next book I can continue the story. So far I feel like this should have been one book and not 6. I suppose if all of these story-parts were put in one volume the sheer size of it would intimidate the bravest of souls. If you've read the first book chances are you will read this one just cause you don't want to die of suspense and you will also read the next book and the next one...

Midnight (Warriors: The New Prophecy, Book 1) by Erin Hunter (4/5 stars)

Having constantly seen these books in the book store and hearing how good they were I really wanted to read some of them. That being said when I got the first book in the series I didn't realize I was getting the first book in the second series. So I never read the first 6 book in the Warriors series and my first Erin Hunter book is actually the second series about the Warrior Clans. Strangely enough I did read that Erin Hunter is not an actual person but is the pen-name for a group of 3-4 women who all write for this series; I just thought that was interesting. Anyway, on to the book review.

This was an engaging, suspenseful, and fun to read book. It is about the four Warrior Clans of cats (introduced in the Warriors series). The story focuses on Brambleclaw who has a dream about salt water accompanied by a warning about a horrible storm that will come to the home of the Clans. When Brambleclaw finds that Warriors in the other Clans are also having similar dreams, he groups up with them and they go off on a quest to find the salt water in hopes that this will reveal the storm that is supposed to overtake their home.

The book is well written; not anything spectacular but it is good reading. The cat's personalities are somewhat stereotyped but still well developed. This book reminded me very strongly of Tailchaser's Song by Tad Williams. If you like this series I would definitely recommend you read Tailchaser's Song; it is a wonderful book if a bit darker than these books. There is quite a bit of action in this story; it is definitely a fantasy adventure type of story. The book kept me interested and pulled me right through the story. I am starting the second book as we speak because (although the main objective of the book is concluded) the events surrounding the main goal of the cats in this book are not concluded and you are kind of left hanging.

My biggest complaint with this book is that in the first few chapters you have a billion names thrown at you and they are all similar so it is very hard to keep everyone straight. I think maybe I would have had an easier time with this if I had read the 6 books in the first series. Hunter does try to help you out by throwing an index in the front of the book with all of the Clans and all of the cats in the Clans; unfortunately that information didn't mean squat to me until I had struggled through the first few chapters. I decided to relax and just go with it; hoping that it would be easier to keep everyone straight when the cats took off on their quest. Ends up I was right, when the cats took off on their quest things got much better and I was much less confused. I still get the feeling though that Hunter didn't really need to introduce all those different Warrior cats in the first few chapters. Most of them don't play any role in the story; at least not yet. If not for the first few chapters I would have given this book more like 4.5 stars.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block (3/5 stars)

This is the collection of the Weezie Bat Books all into one book. I picked this up because it sounded like an interesting urban fantasy; that wasn't really what it was.

This book follows Weezie Bat's family. Each book is done from a different character's point of view. More than anything the books are about facing the difficulties of growing up and how a person's personality can affect that. For the most part the book takes place in LA. There are odd bits of magic thrown in at rare points; a genie shows up to grant wishes, Baby Witch tours New York city with her dead grandfather. These fantastical happenings are rarities in the stories though; they are written in a way that leaves you wondering if the character really did run into something magical or are they just hallucinating?

What makes this book different and special is the way it is written. Block throws in so many crazy ways of describing things that it will leave your mind reeling. She tries to explain the taste of a picture, the sound of a smell, the texture of a sight. The novels are decadent purely because of the descriptions...there is so much glitter, so many feathers, petals falling, raindrops touching. With her descriptions Block turns LA into a fantasy world where one doesn't really exist. She uses this over-describing to give her characters personality. Weezie Bat is full of sunshine and everything she touches seems to turn to gold. Baby Witch is dark and chaotic and when she tells the story it is in shades of grey.

Overall I thought these were unique and interesting stories. They weren't what I expected. The characters didn't have a goal or a plot to follow, outside of obtaining their own happiness. Unfortunately like a really rich dessert, the decadent descriptions and frivolous characters started to be too much. By the end of the book, I just wanted to be done with it. The lack of a plot, the characters inability to make anything other than rash emotional decisions, and the amount of time it takes for Block to describe anything started to bug me. I know that these characters are supposed to be teaching life lessons, but they just seemed very immature. And though I enjoyed the novelty of Block's writing in the beginning, by the last story I was sick of it. I would imagine Block's books are something best taken in small doses.

Will I read another book by Block? Probably not, unless I am in the mood for something over the top, decadent, and wandering.

White is for Magic by Laurie Faria Stolarz (4/5 stars)

This is the second book in the Blue is for Nightmares series by Stolarz. I thought that this book was a bit better than the first book. This book does follow in the same vein as the first book in that is weaves creepy story that keeps you on the edge of your seat and keeps you guessing.

It is the start of the new school year and Stacey is having nightmares again. Only for reason these nightmares are about people who have died in her past. Stacey figures out that this time it is her life on the line and a creepy stalker is out to get her.

This is once again a skillfully woven story. It is full of suspense and is very creepy. There is some magic woven in in the form of Stacey's visions and her practicing magic. There were some things that I thought were improved over the first book. While the Wiccan rituals are still very much a part of the book, I didn't think they distracted from the story this time. I also thought the inclusion of Jacob was wonderful; he is a great character and keeps the story interesting.

The story was still kind of over-creepy for me; very teen horror movie without all of the gore.

This book could be read as a stand alone book; although I think it would make more sense to you if you read the first book in the series (Blue is for Nightmares).

Good book; I look forward to reading the next book Silver is for Secrets.