Monday, March 30, 2009

Red is for Remembrance by Laurie Faria Stolarz (3/5 stars)

The final book in the Blue is for Nightmares series by Laurie Faria Stolarz. This book was a good read and good conclusion to the series. I didn't think it was as good as the previous books though. This book didn't have nearly the suspense elements of the previous books.

In this book Stacey is at college and rooming with Amber. After Jacob's death she is fighting to not succumb completely to depression, when she starts having nightmares again. The president of the university contacts her and wants her to help his daughter Porscha, who also has strange dreams about death that are driving her crazy. Stacey's dream are hinting that maybe if she can help Porscha than she can save another boy's life; why does Stacey get the feeling this all has something to do with Jacob?

This was an easy read, a well-written book, and a nice conclusion to the series. That being said I was a little disappointed with the book in general. This book never had the creepiness of the previous books. In fact there weren't really many horror elements at all. There was a little mystery but not nearly to the degree of the previous books. As for the chapters alternating between Stacey and the mysterious Shell; I figured out the part that Shell would play in the story right in the beginning and was disappointed to find out I was right. I kind of felt like Stolarz was sick of writing this series and just wanted to wrap it up in the quickest way possible; and in a way that would leave her readers happy and not disgruntled.

This was a fine conclusion to the series but I really felt like Stolarz didn't put much into the story; she is extraordinary at writing creepy horror scenes but she kind of skipped out on that for this book. I was just so disappointed. Should you read the book? Well you kind of have to given how "Silver is for Secrets" left us all completely hanging mid-scene. Will I read more books by Stolarz after reading this series? Probably not. Although it would be interesting for her to do a couple books about Porscha.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (5/5 stars)

I picked up this book quite a while ago and am just now getting to reading it. The book starts out a bit dry but ends up as a wonderful classic retelling of some of my favorite fairytales.

As so many of these books about children wandering into unknown lands start; this book starts with David who is in a bit of a slump. With his mother dead, his dad re-married, a new baby brother, and England at war; David is depressed and hateful of his position in the world. That is until the books start talking to him and he starts having fits of unconsciousness. In these fits he finds himself in a different world of castles and kings. After fleeing a warplane crashing into his house, David finds himself in the other world for good this time; and it is a darker place than the darkest of his fears.

David's tale is cleverly told as he weaves his way in and out of the classic fairytales we all know and love. Except that in this book, the darkness and goriness of the fairy tales David encounters make the Brothers' Grimm look positively sunny. The book is well-written and told at a deliberate pace; the writing style stays true to a classic fairy-tale style of writing. I love fairy tale retellings and re-imaginings and this book was an excellent and beautifully crafted fairy tale. As with all fairy tales the book teaches a lesson that both makes the reader hope and despair. The characters are colorful and twisted versions of the fairy tale characters we know and love. The enemies pull at your deepest, darkest fears.

As for this being a childrens' book. That, it is not. I found this book to be delightfully creepy but I can't imagine what kind of nightmares some of the gorier scenes would give a child. I could definitely see this being a good young adult horror book. It teaches a good lesson and is a delight to read. I loved it and couldn't put it down. Now I can't bear to part with the book and know I will read it again some time in the future. As soon as I finished it I started looking up other books that John Connolly has written; hopefully he will write some additional novels that fall into the dark fantasy category because he did a great job with this one.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (5/5 stars)

This is the first book in the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. This was a great book; it's wildly creative and very interesting to read with excellent characters.

Thursday Next is a Literatec; in a world where literature is more important than ever. She comes to the rescue when books are illegally copied or original copies are stolen. Literature is king in a world where Shakespeare vending machines are on every street corner. The world gets a bit more complicated when you consider that Time Travel is also possible. Thursday's father is a rebel ChronoGuard. The ChronoGuard helps to keep time right. One funny part in the book is where one of the Guard is talking about how he is 28 years old, has clocked 190 years of work hours, and has a wife in her 80's; he thought the benefits of the job would make up for all of that. Despite all the efforts of the Special Operatives (LiteraTec and ChronoGuard alike) their nemesis Acheron Hades has found a way to kidnap characters out of literature; making books change forever and stories cease to is Thursday's job to stop Hades.

There are a number of great characters in this book; all of them have great dimension and creative personalities. The world itself is wildly creative and takes a little bit getting used to at first; but once it gets going it is an amazing place to read about. The book is action packed, dryly comical, and very creative. It is the first book I have read the incorporates a military state, time travel, fantasy-bleeding into reality, mystery, action, high-brow literary discussion, werewolves, and vampires all into one book. If it sounds a bit packed, it is. This is a dense book and you need to keep your wits about you while you read it. While Thursday may not be the most charismatic character ever, you will find yourself loving her by the end anyway.

I am so glad I picked up this book. I just loved it. I love it when I get to read a book that is really different and stands out on it's own. I look forward to the rest of this series.

The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening and the Struggle by L. J. Smith (3.5/4 stars)

This book caught my eye at the bookstore and I finally decided to get it and give it a try. It was a pretty good book. Nothing really outstanding but an enjoyable read. These books were originally written something like 15 years ago and were re-released as this omnibus which contains the first two of the four original books in the series.

Elena, the most popular girl in school, is intrigued by the new boy in town named Stefan. He is mysterious and will never answer any questions about his past. Elena is determined to make him notice her. Stefan finds Elena disturbing in that she reminds him of someone in his past. Things get tense when killings and attacks start happening in the area and people begin to suspect that Stefan is more than he appears to be.

A lot of people are comparing this to Twilight, and while the theme is kind of similar, the writing style is much different and the topic of vampirism is handled in a more traditional way than it is in Twilight. Personally, I shy away from comparing this series to Twilight because it is just a very different type of story.

This was a well-written and engaging story. It is again a story of star-crossed lovers in a way, as Stefan and Elena struggle to make a relationship work between a human and a vampire. It is also a story of revenge as Stefan's brother, Damon, tries to tear Stefan and Elena apart. This is a book for teens or young adults; it takes place during high school and there is a lot of angsting over who loves who, and who should go to what parties, etc. There is some mystery as they try to solve who is causing the attacks. There are a couple good action scenes but I wouldn't call this an action novel at all. The story itself is more of your classic Romeo and Juliet beginning with a paranormal bent to it.

The ideas behind vampirism are pretty typical and traditional in this book; there wasn't a ton of creativity from that aspect. That book also didn't take place is a very creative world; so not much world-building just the world you and I live in.

If you liked Twlight, the House of Night series, or the Vampire Academy series than you will probably like this book. As far as writing quality I think the Vampire Academy series is more well written than this series and the House of Night series is less well written than this series. It was good enough that I will read the next omnibus that contains the final two books of this series. I am not sure if I will read any additional series by L. J. Smith or not.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Crows and Cards by Joseph Helgerson (3/5 stars)

I got this book as an Advanced Reading Copy through Amazon Vine. I was excited to read it because it is written by a local MN author and I had heard good things about it from other Vine members. It was a clever little book but I had a lot of trouble getting into it.

Zeb gets sent off by his parents to apprentice with a tanner. Only thing is, Zeb meets up with a gentleman on his way to St. Louis named Chilly. Chilly accepts the money for Zeb's tanner apprenticeship and agrees to take Zeb on as a apprentice riverboat gambler. Zeb, isn't sure if he holds with the cheating aspect of what Chilly is up to and when he crosses paths with an old Indian chief and his daughter Zeb really starts to wonder if he's made the right choice to serve as a gambling apprentice.

I really wanted to love this book. It is reminiscent of something written by Mark Twain. You can tell a lot of research went into getting the quirks of language and the surroundings as right as you can without living them. There is even a dictionary in the back of the book that will help you familiarize yourself with all slang of the times if you're having trouble following.

Zeb is an interesting character that has enduring phobias of everything from chickens, to splinters, to the river. As an outsider looking in, you sometimes want to smack Zeb for his naivete but I suppose that is part of his charm. The Indian Chief and the Indian Princess are intriguing characters that really add some mystery to the story.

As I said, I was excited to read and love this book. I had a lot of trouble starting it out though. Although Zeb and Chilly are interesting characters the story didn't hold a lot of suspense for me; it didn't really pull me through. I also did not find any of the characters to be especially likable; I had a lot of trouble caring about where the story was going. I really had to push myself to get through this book. Even when Zeb was facing the driest of consequences I wasn't really all that engaged in the story.

All in all, it was an okay book. It's a pretty common-type coming of age story set in the river-boat era of the Mississippi. Young boys would probably enjoy it, young girls would be disappointed that there isn't a place for them in that era. The writing was good and you could tell the book was well researched. I wish though that more work had gone into writing a really engaging and detailed story. I'd recommend this book to young boys or fans of Mark Twain. Will I read more of Helgerson's books? Probably not, the writing style and story line didn't really mesmerize me.  I can imagine though that a lot of people will really like this book given the rarity of young adult books written in the setting of this book and the solid coming of age lessons included in it.

A Lick of Frost by Laurell Hamilton (3/5 stars)

Ah, the next book in the Meredith Gentry series (book #6 if you want to keep track). This is a series that I read because I like reading about the Seelie and Unseelie courts. I am not sure why else I read it. The plot is complex and interwoven and the characters interesting. Meredith herself is an interesting contrast of personality traits. Like most of Laurell Hamilton's books I think I can best review this by breaking it down into the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This series makes no secret about devoting itself to sex. Strangely this book was lacking in the proliferate number of pages devoted to sex scenes. There were a measly two sex scenes; no sex until around 200 pages into the book...I mean wow! That's got to be a record. There is a lot of talking about sex. So onto the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good
- The plot moves...seriously the plot actually advances in this book (notice I didn't say quickly). A good portion of the 300+ pages are devoted to plot!
- We get to hear about Frost's past; I love Frost and I loved hearing about his past.
- Amazing fairy things continue to happen and amazing creatures are introduced
- The book focuses on 4-5 of Merry's "men" instead of having her sleep with a plethora of them
- The Red Cap goblins are back; I love them.

The Bad
- Continuous rants about how every kind of sex is acceptable take up loads of page space. We get it, S&M can be a good thing, multiple partners can be let's move on.
- Merry humoring her thousand year old boyfriends' need for constant emotional support; geez if I had to try and not to hurt the feelings of 20 guys at once I guess it would take time...but does it have to take up soooo much page space???

The Ugly
- Merry's guards seem to never be around to guard her when something extremely bad happens...what it up with that!
- This whole book, like the last two, spans a time frame of maybe a day.
- Rumors are that Swallowing Darkness is not the end, we will continue to be tortured by this incredibly strung out story.
- Much of the book is taken up preparing with you for a sex scene between Merry and the goblins but it doesn't lead much of anywhere.

Okay so, in general this book had more plot and less sex than I was actually expecting so that is a good thing. It focused more on characters I like and less at throwing in a billion new men for Merry to have at it with. All-in-all I wasn't disappointed. I read a ton of paranormal genre books and these books are still very creative and reasonably well-written compared to most of them. I know it's easy to gripe about the lack of plot, etc. etc. I am guilty of that too; still Hamilton is a good writer. I mean how many other people have made erotica hit the New York Times bestseller list?

I'll read the next book because I am a sucker for the characters. I am hoping the series doesn't drag on for too much longer though. Seems to me the overall story could come to an end soon.

The Dream Thief by Shana Abe (4/5 stars)

This is book two in the Drakon Series by Shana Abe' that started with "The Smoke Thief". I actually liked this book quite a bit better than the first one. It helped that I knew to expect a story that was more of a romance than a fantasy.

This book follow's Rue's daughter, Lia, and Rue's ex-assistant thief, Zane. In this book Rue hires Zane to go and retrieve the Draumr, a dangerous diamond that can control drakon. Little does Rue know her daughter Lia has been hearing Draumr's

I liked this book much better than the first one. Zane is a much more like-able lead man; he has that "I am tough" thing going on with a good dash of vulnerability. He is not so overly alpha like a lot of the romance leads are. Lia is also an interesting character; she has interesting magical abilities and a toughness that comes and goes.

This book is more of an adventure, a quest, than "The Smoke Thief" was. There is less intrigue and more drudging through the wilderness; which I actually enjoyed. The intrigue is still there, the romance is definitely still there. Overall this is a fantasy romance. The characters spend of a lot of time thinking about each other and dreaming about one another. There is some explicit sex, but it is tastefully done.

Overall this was a sweet story and a pleasant read. I thought both the plot and the characters were more enjoyable than the last book. If there is one thing Abe' does well it is sensual writing. Everything in her books is sensual from the description of a room, to the description of a fight, to the sensual love scenes. Everything is saturated in silky golden colors, or dripping in diamonds, the wind caresses, and Lia's hair tumbles in gentle waves of gold. Abe's writing is a bit over the top in sensuality but it is still a pleasure to read. It's a bit like a cupcake with heaping loads of frosting, sprinkles, sugar, and a cherry on top. It is something I read once in a while and enjoy but I don't think I would like to read it all the time. Abe' is very creative in her descriptions and really makes the surroundings in her stories come alive to all of your senses.

I liked that this was more of a fantasy than the first book. So far it looks like there are two more books coming up for this series "The Dragon Queen" and "Treasure Keeper". I will probably read them both...eventually.

Larklight by Philip Reeve (5/5 stars)

I have previously read "Here Lies Arthur" by Philip Reeve and was impressed by both his writing and story creativity. I decided to check out some of his other books starting with this one. All I can say is "wow" this book was a joy to read.

I have always been fascinated by the HG Wells era of sci-fi. When spaceships were all brassy ships with huge sails; when space was pictured as an ocean. Imagine if Great Briton had succeeded at space travel in the 1800's. Well that is the setting this book takes place in.

Art and his sister, Myrtle, live in the house of Larklight. A house that floats out around earth. When their house is attacked by giant spiders they are forced to use the escape pod and they end up on the Moon. Here they encounter more dangerous creatures and end up being rescued by Jack, a famous space-pirate who is much younger than anyone thought.

The story moves fast, is wonderfully creative without feeling forced or contrived, and really captures your imagination. Jack was my favorite character with his jaded past and determination. But all of the characters are well-developed and interesting. The book is written as a memoir with crazy footnotes and little drawings inside. It is mostly from Art's point of view, but there are sides to Myrtle's diary. It is done in a very light and tongue-in-cheek style; with much of the overdone and grandiose thinking of that era.

I have a small complaint about this book and that's that I think all the girls were sold a bit short; I suppose it is a reflection of the era. For the most part they are all simpering and needy; although Myrtle comes into her own by the end. This is definitely more of a boy's book; but I still enjoyed it thoroughly.

This book is going on my shelf as a keeper and I am excited to read the next two book in the series (Starcross and Mothstorm).

The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause (4/5 stars)

I got this book because it was written by the author who wrote "Blood and Chocolate" (which I haven't read yet). I was interested to read a vampire novel by her. It was an excellent book but it was not what I was expecting.

In this book Zoe is in a tough situation. Her mother is dying of cancer, her father is pulling away from her as he spends more and more time at the hospital with her mother. The doctor has told them that Zoe shouldn't spend much time at the hospital because it might stress her mother and that Zoe should try to keep her life as normal as she can. How can you keep your life normal when you are left at home by yourself, constantly waiting for the phone to ring to tell you that your mother is finally gone? If this isn't bad enough some bizarre murders are taking place in the area and then Zoe finds out that her best friend is having to move out of town. Zoe begins to hang out at the park at night just to be out somewhere; there she meets Simon. Simon seems to know about death and he might even know something about the murders happening.

This is not really your typical vampire book. It is beautifully written. A lot of time is taken on the contemplation of the character's feelings, and the description of the surroundings is beautiful. This is a book about death. It is about facing death and dealing with death and trying to move past death. As such, it is pretty much a downer of a book and a bittersweet story. In general this book makes you want to cry for death, for beauty lost, for everything we have to deal with as humans. Somehow with all of this darkness; this book comes off as a sweet little story about the lessons life teaches. You can't help but sympathize and love every single character in this book; and given that it is such a short story it takes some wonderful writing to accomplish that.

It is a very short book and a very quick read. I thought it was an excellent read; just know that this is not an uplifting book. The descriptions of the characters' feelings as they deal with death are heartfelt and accurate. This book could be a help to someone dealing with loosing a loved one.

Overall, very good story. I am definitely looking forward to reading "Blood and Chocolate".

One More Bite (Jaz Parks, Book 5) by Jennifer Rardin (4/5 stars)

This is the fifth book in the Jaz Parks series by Jennifer Rardin. I thought it was a good edition to the series and I really enjoyed reading it.

In this book Jaz and Vayl are sent to a Ghost Convention to stop the assassination of one of the heads of a coven in the area. Jaz's dad ends up tagging along on the mission and Cole is also part of the party. Jaz gets dragged into some interesting situations with the local demons, ghosts, and witch coven. You learn a lot more about Jaz's history.

This was a great book. It is well-written and fast paced. It was nice to have Jaz and Vayl finally make some progress in their relationship. I do love that these books manage to have some sexy scenes but no explicit sex; it's nice to have the element there and it's even nicer that it doesn't take up all of the plot. Bergman and Cassandra were noticeable for their absence; although there were plenty of interesting characters at the Ghost Convention to keep the reader occupied. There weren't as many nifty gadgets as usual but the story didn't suffer from that either. I still think Vayl is my favorite character; he has the coolest vampire powers ever. Jaz is continuing to develop interesting strengths of her own with her use of fire.

I continue to really enjoy this series. It is in the top five for paranormal series that I really love. I love that these books continue more focused on action and adventure, than on romance. There os a bit of something for everyone in this series; action, adventure, guns, gadgets, ghosts, demons, vampires.

I look forward to the next book "Bite Marks" which is scheduled for an October 2009 release.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Genie in the Bottle by Dr. Joe Schwarcz (4/5 stars)

This is a fun little book that is exactly what the sub-heading on the book says it is: 67 commentaries on the fascinating chemistry of everyday life. I work as a chemist and I did enjoy reading this book.

The book is broken up into 5 main sections. There is a section on Health Matters, Food Matters, Chemistry Everywhere, learning from the past, and Silly stories. The Health Matters and Food Matters are the most organized sections of the book. The mini-stories in the these two sections deal exclusively with health or food. Each section had a collection of short anecdotes. The anecdotes average at 3-4 pages per length with some being shorter and a few being significantly longer.

This book is definitely geared more toward the average joe than to a chemist. That being said, there is enough chemistry addressed to interest your everyday chemist too. I was a bit disappointed that I had heard a lot of these stories before; they are things I've read about in headlines or just have general knowledge of. But for everything I had heard of there were two things I hadn't heard about.

There is a lot of fun miscellaneous information in this book. Depending on how much of that you want to retain this book could be a quick or a slow read. I personally had trouble reading large portions of it at once because it was just so much information to assimilate. Especially in the later sections the anecdotes tend to jump around willy, nilly. You may be reading about how Hydrogen was discovered then, in the next anecdote, you are reading about Silly Putty. I found that I enjoyed the book (and remembered all the fun facts) the best when I read a few anecdotes a day.

The writing style is done very well. There is a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor and there are a lot of cleverly worded passages. This is a chemistry book that will amuse and interest everyone. I personally applaud it for bringing chemistry to the masses. Chemistry is awesome and interesting; and it is wonderful that Schwarcz can make it interesting for everyone. I plan on checking out his additional collections of chemistry anecdotes in the future.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (2/5 stars)

I thought this book looked and sounded interesting. I read a lot of paranormal young adult books and was excited to see if this was a good series. I listened to this on audio book. The quality of the audio book was okay. The lady who read it had kind of a teenage know-it-all twang to her reading that tainted all of the voices for the characters; this may have contributed a little to how little I enjoyed this book.

In this book Clary sees some people luring a young man into a storage closet; when she follows them in there she sees that the three youngsters are attacking the young man. Her friend Simon runs for help but when the police show up; Clary is the only one who can see the group of attackers and the victim. As if this isn't weird enough Clary's mom suddenly wants them to move out of the city and out to the countryside. Clary and her mom argue and Clary leaves angry. When she returns her mom is gone and horrible creatures are in wait for her. Clary finds out that she can see the true world; which is composed not only of humans but also Downworlders and Shadowhunters. She ends up in a house full of Shadowhunters and tries to help them find the Mortal Cup in an effort to find her mother.

This book was just awkward. It's kind of done in third person but everyone talks in first person and everything is from Clary's point of view. It was a weird way to write it; it would have been a more pleasant read had it been written in first person from Clary's point of view. If this was the only problem of the book then I could live with that. Unfortunately it gets worse.

Most of the characters are pretty stereotypical. The banter between the characters, especially Jace and Clary, is meant to be witty and funny but comes off as unnatural and overly contrived. Clary's character is very inconsistent; at times she shows incredibly keen insight and at times she is incredibly dense. Most of all though Clary stumbles around causing trouble and relies on someone to come and save her. She is not the type of lead character I enjoy reading about.

The unseen magic world is very stereotypical. The relationships between werewolves and vampires are similar to everything else you've read. The plot was slow moving and predictable. I mean I figured out who Clary's father was pretty much right away. I figured out who Jace's father was mid book; and I was disappointed to find out that I was right. I don't like it when authors assume their readers are stupid and throw out some many clues that nothings ends up being a surprise.

The book ends at an odd spot. Her and Jace leave to take a ride somewhere to do something important ; then the book ends mid-ride. That was also irritating. Overall I thought the book was poorly written, paranormal drivel. The book tries, oh so very hard to be Gothic. The Gothic clothing and piercings and hair styles are described with such detail it's like the book is trying to force itself to be creepy and Gothic; the effort makes the book feel fake.

I usually try to point out some good things about a book too. I guess the Shadowhunter culture is kind of interesting and the use of tattoos as magic is interesting (although done before). Strangely enough I thought the plot was similar in a lot of ways to The Signs of the Zodiac by Vicki Pettersson; The Signs of the Zodiac is not a young adult series but many aspects of the plot of the Signs of the Zodiac series are seen here.

I won't be reading anymore of this series. I just can't stomach more of this. I never understand how some of these books sell so well; they are so many really good young adult urban fantasy books out there. Check out Holly Black's Modern Fairy Tale series for some truly high quality young adult urban fantasy.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Paper Towns by John Green (5/5 stars)

I got this book through the amazon Vine program and all I can say is "WOW!" I really enjoyed this book. I want to go and order all of the other books this author has written and read those too.

Q is your typical kind of nerdy, hangs with the band kids, straight A student kind of guy. Things would stay that way for him if it wasn't for his neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman. She is just cool and awesome in every way. Then she shows up in his bedroom in the middle of the night...dressed as a ninja. She takes him on a tour of the town that will change who he is forever. He is so stoked about spending time with her; then the next morning she is gone. Is she really gone though? She has a history of leaving clues when she leaves home. So Q and his buddies try to unravel the mystery of Margo.

This book is so many things at once. It is about the sameness of the world, about what people want, about people who can't fit in to society's rigid structure, about how we label each other, it's a coming of age story, a mystery, and an adventure.

I was awed at how I read this book straight through without even realizing I had started reading it. I was amazed at how funny and serious it is; how it made me laugh out loud and cry too. I think there is something for everyone to relate to in this book it doesn't matter your age. We've all been in school, dealt with parents, and friends so we can all relate.

Green captures so many things with great insight. The craziness of prom, the sadness and emptiness of those last days of high school, the frustration of people who want something different, and the guilt of people who are happy with being just plain ole vanilla.

The above are at the heart of the story, but the plot itself is a well crafted mystery. Full of suspense and an intriguing trail of clues the book was impossible to put down. I read it in 3 hours. I also laughed my head off at Q's crazy friends and felt Q's frustration. The characters in this book were so real. The story itself is an absolute riot to read; it's crazy fun.

In a nutshell I loved it. I still cannot believe that a book that touches on such deep issues was so much fun to read. I think everyone should read it. I am keeping it as part of my permanent collection and I hope someday my son will read it and love it too.

Did I mention I also want to read all of Green's other books now? I really do.

Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor (3/5 stars)

This is the second book (out of three) in the Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. I really wanted to love this series. Somehow I found this book even more boring than the first one. These books just focus too much on strategic war than on what makes Wonderland awesome; imagination.

In this book King Arch is plotting to overthrow Wonderland but his plans are interrupted when Redd returns and, once again, causes issues for new Queen of Wonderland, Alyss Heart.

This story was okay. I am a little irked that Alyss only seems to use her Imagination as a weapon, and that she uses it in such limited way. Redd actually seems quite a bit more creative with her Black Imagination. I loved that Beddor tried to expand and give more dimension to the character of the Hatter. Unfortunately it fell short for me; I thought the Hatter's character was actually weakened by the fact that he wandered somewhat aimlessly through his own personal issues.

I guess, just like the first book, the characters seemed more like outlines than actual characters to me. I had trouble reading this book. At points I found it outright boring and skimmed through sections. When the goal of reading a book becomes solely to finish it; I start to say that the book wasn't all that great.

The story was okay, the characters have potential, but the book didn't excite me and I only marginally enjoyed reading it. I am beginning to think that me and Beddor's writing style just don't get along.

This book is not as contained as the first kind of stops in the middle of things. So, I will most likely read the third and final installment, Everqueen, but after that no more Beddor for me.

Kitty and the Silver Bullet by Carrie Vaughn (4/5 stars)

This is the fourth book in the Kitty Norville series and it is officially my favorite. The third book was my favorite until I read this one. This book had so much more character development and suspense than the last one did; I really zoomed right through it and enjoyed it.

Kitty is contacted by Rick (second in command to the city of Denver's master vamp). Rick thinks Arturo is loosing control of the city's vamps, he wants Kitty to side with him in a war against Arturo. Kitty doesn't want anything to do with it. Her new book just came out and is getting rave reviews, her radio show is doing awesome, and her and Ben have a pack all of their own.

Then the unthinkable happens and Kitty's mom comes down with breast cancer, now Kitty has to return to Denver. When she finds out that her old pack has sided with Arturo she wonders is she will be forced to takes sides and to confront her old pack alphas, Carl and Meg.

This book really cranked up the action a few notches, which I enjoyed a lot. It spent more time on vamp politics which were way more interesting that the werewolf pack politics dealt with up to this point. A lot of the characters were forced to face fears and develop in ways that were intriguing. I thought the pacing of the book was good, it pulled me right through the book. It was a fun and quick read. Overall my favorite in the series so far.

These books won't change your life, but they are fun reads and I am really looking forward to the next one.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor (4/5 stars)

I have been wanting to read this book for a long time. I was waiting to read it until I got the second book in the series. I am a long time fan of Alice and Wonderland and wondered how a re-write of it would go. All-in-all this is a very good book.

Alyss Heart is the princess of Wonderland, she is exiled when her Aunt Redd takes over the throne killing Alyss's mother and father. It takes many years for Alyss to find her way back to Wonderland but eventually she does and it is torn by war and desolation.

There were some things I really liked in this book. What if the real world was the made-up place and Wonderland was Alyss's reality? I love the creativity of the world of Wonderland. I love the characters Beddor has made out of General Doppleganger and the Hatter. This was an entertaining read and a very creative idea.

The book itself is easy to read and is well-written. It is very griping and engaging and full of non-stop action. I have two complaints about it. The first is that the character's (though interesting in a creative way) seem bereft of any emotion. They all seem a bit 2D to me. I don't think that was intended but none of the characters really came alive for me. The second thing would be how Wonderland is portrayed. The original book Alice in Wonderland is mostly about Alice wandering through a fantastic landscape where nothing is what it seems. This book puts aside a lot of that creativity and spends more time discussing wars and rebel factions. I would have liked it if a bit more of the neat aspects and features of Wonderland were detailed and less time had been spent on Alyss as Alice in London and on war strategy and planning.

Despite these complaints this was a great book and I look forward to reading the next one. Anyone heard when the final book of the trilogy will be released?

Kitty Takes a Holiday by Carrie Vaughn (4/5 stars)

This is the third book in the Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn. I think this was the best book in the series so far. It is the only book in the series that has actually grabbed me and yanked me right through the book. I didn't find any part of this book boring or forced.

In this book Kitty is taking a break from her radio show "The Midnight Hour" to go off into the wilderness to write a book about her experiences as a werewolf. She is having a rough time getting going on the writing. Things get even rougher when Kitty's bounty hunter friend Cormac shows up with Kitty's lawyer Ben who has been infected by a werewolf. Kitty is trying to help Ben cope with his change but she has problems of her own when the locals start harassing her and they find out that something dark has followed Cormac back from where Ben got infected.

This book was more suspenseful than previous books and had quite a bit of action in it. Since Ben and Cormac are my favorite side characters I really liked that the book focused on them and let the reader learn more about them. I kind of missed Kitty doing her radio show; hopefully there will be more of that in the next book.

Like the other two books in the series this book is well-written and makes for a quick and easy read. I think if you like the first two books, this one won't disappoint. The only thing that bothered me was that a lot of interesting characters from the second book were completely absent. What happened to Luis the were-jaguar? I guess I can understand not having the Vampire Mistress of Washington DC involved, but I kind of missed her too. The addition of Tony as the witch doctor expert filled some of this gap; but I still felt like some of the other characters got cut adrift.

I already have the next book in this series so I will definitely be reading that one. After that we will see if I read the next two.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (4/5 stars)

I got this book in a clearance bundle of books that I bought to get a different book. I was trying to decide if I should read it or swap it and after seeing it was a Newberry Medal book I decided to read it. This was a very entertaining book.

In this book a number of people are offered the chance to move into an exclusive condo building. Shortly thereafter they receive notice that they have been listed in the will of the founder of Westing Paper Company. Only it is a bizarre will and rather than being straightforward it requires the potential heirs to engage themselves in a game to find out who murdered Mr. Westing. Thus the Westing Game begins.

This was a clever little book. It is not necessarily a quick read, since the reader must pay attention to all the little details in the book. Nonetheless I found myself enjoying this book immensely. It is a very classic mystery type of book and reads a bit like I would imagine a game of Clue would (if you could read a game).

There are many twists and many interesting characters. It was fun to try to figure out how all of the characters are tied to Mr. Westing. This was the type of book that you could either read and let it give you the answers or you could exercise your brain along the way and try to guess the answers before the book gives them to you.

Well written and very clever I thought this was a very interesting and entertaining book. It makes me want to check out more of Ellen Raskin's books.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Kitty Goes to Washington by Carrie Vaughn (3.5/4 stars)

This is the second book in the Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn. I thought the first book was okay; this book is a little bit better than okay but I didn't think it was anything extraordinary.

In this book Kitty is called to testify in front of a government committee about being a werewolf and the affect of supernaturals on society. A lot of the book is spent at the committee hearing and reading about how nervous Kitty is to testify. The pieces of the plot that were hinted at in the first book are filled out and somewhat resolved in this book; what is Flemming working on and what is the reverend that says he can cure vampires and werewolves really doing?

I felt like the author did a better job of developing Kitty's character in this book. I also enjoyed some of the side characters; mainly her lawyer and the bounty hunter. In parts this book was more interesting than the first book because you learn more about the supernatural community. I thought the pacing in this book could have used some help though. I thought the middle of the book was really drawn out and went on forever; then the last portion of the book was non-stop action.

This was a quick read. If you liked the first book you would like this book. Personally I still think that this series is too much like other series I have read. So far this book deals with similar issues to those brought up in Anita Blake (early on), Rachel Morgan series, and even the Mercy Thompson series. I also think that this series doesn't have as good of a storyline or character development as the Rachel Morgan series does or as good as the Sookie Stackhouse series.

Overall this book was okay, nothing special. If you are out of paranormal stuff to read you would probably find this book to be a quick and mildly entertaining read. I already have the next two books in the series so I will read those. After that, well I'll re-evaluate and see if I want to keep reading this series.