Sunday, January 31, 2010

Blood Ninja by Nick Lake (4/5 stars)

I got this book through the Amazon Vine program.  I like vampires and ninjas so I thought it would be an interesting read.  I was a little worried (based on the title and the cover) that this book would be too corny for me or a bit over the top.  It was neither of those.  It was very well-done and, if anything, a bit too devoid of any humor.  It is also not a stand-alone book, which I didn't know.

Taro is a fisherman's son.  At least that is what he is raised to believe.  He is in for a rude surprise when a group of ninjas descend on his house and murder his father.  One of the ninjas, Shusaku, is different though and tries to save Taro.  Shusaku fails as Taro is run-through with a sword.  Suddenly Taro must make a choice as his life ebbs from the wound in his stomach.  Will he let Shusaku turn him into a vampire and "live" or will he die?  He chooses to "live" and suddenly Taro, his best friend Hiro, and Shusaku are off on a journey that will make Taro question everything he knows about the world and himself.

There was a lot I liked about this book.  The amount of Japanese history dwelling within the pages of this story is amazing.  Lake really did his research and gives great detail on various aspects of Japanese history.  It was fascinating to read about ninjas in the context of actual Japanese history.  I am not sure how accurate all the historical details are (it would have been nice for the author to include an afterward addressing this) but they are well thought-out and seem to be well researched.  The other thing I really liked about this book was the moral struggles Taro was forced to face and question.  Taro comes from a world where Lord Oda is god and samurai are the noblest men he knows, ninjas are to be despised as sneaks.  As he journeys  with Shusaku he sees Oda's true personality and, as he meets other ninjas and other samurai, he comes to realize that the world is not as black and white as he thought.  Taro's struggle with his perceptions and own morality were really well done in this book.

Another thing I liked about the book was how ninjas and vampires were melded into one race.  Lake did an excellent job of making this believable and not preposterous or over-the-top at all.  It is all well done and very tasteful.  I also enjoyed all the cool ninja tricks and action scenes.  This is definitely a book for the older young adult.  As is often the case with ninjas, the violence in this book is pretty extreme.

There were a couple things I didn't like about this book.  The plot is very predictable.  After the first couple chapters I was able to predict how the storyline would go.  The characters themselves were also very predictable.  Lake's strong point is not characterization, the character's are a bit 2D and pretty dry.  In fact there is no humor in this book whatsoever and that is another thing I didn't like about this book.  Taro and his friends never have any fun.  The book in general takes itself a bit too seriously.  So if you are looking for something witty or humorous this is not the book for you.

Lastly this is not a stand-alone book.  It pretty much stops right in the middle of the story with a number of things unresolved.  Those who have read my reviews before know that this always irritates me; I think writers should be able to have some sort of ending in between books.  The other thing that irked me is that this is not advertised as a series, yet it is clearly the start of one.  If I had known it was the start of another series I probably wouldn't have read it.  I spent a bit of time looking online and could not find any information about the rest of this series (how many books, next release date, etc.).

In summary I liked this book.  The story is steeped in Japanese history that is interesting.  The ninja vampires are well-done and believable.  I thought the characterization was a bit weak and the story predictable.  I was also disappointed it was so devoid of any humor.   Readers looking for humor and romance should look elsewhere.  Readers interested in Japanese history, ninjas, and politics will find a lot here to like.  Will I read the next book in the series?  I am undecided right now, I really didn't want to get involved in reading yet another series.  We will see.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- The Young Adult Reading Challenge
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge
- 1st in a Series Reading Challenge

Blood Ninja 

Mailbox Monday - 2/1

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.

This week I got two books.  Kind of a slow week, but I need those once in a while to catch up on the billions (okay really only hundreds) of other books I have around the house to read.  The first book I got through the Amazon Vine program is "Wish" by Alexandra Bullen, it looks to be a cute read and will go towards my Debut Author Challenge.

The second book I got was "Bad to the Bone" by Jeri Smith-Ready.  I have the first book in this series "Wicked Game" but have not read it yet.  I found "Bad to the Bone" on clearance at Borders for a mer $ I had to get it.  I figure if I read the first book and hate it...well then I can swap this one for a different book on

So a couple fun books for me this week.  Hope you all got great books and have a fun week of reading :-)

Wish by Alexandra Bullen
WishFirst Sentence: "You must be Olivia."
"For broken-hearted Olivia Larsen, nothing can change the fact that her twin sister, Violet, is gone... until a mysterious, beautiful gown arrives on her doorstep. The dress doesn't just look magical; it is magical. It has the power to grant her one wish, and the only thing Olivia wants is her sister back.

With Violet again by her side, both girls get a second chance at life. And as the sisters soon discover, they have two more dresses-and two more wishes left. But magic can't solve everything, and Olivia is forced to confront her ghosts to learn how to laugh, love, and live again.
In a breathtaking debut from Alexandra Bullen, WISH asks the question: If you could have anything, what would you wish for?"

Bad to the Bone (WVMP Radio Station, Book 2) by Jeri Smith-Ready
Bad to the BoneFirst Sentence: "The things I believe in can be counted on one hand-even if that hand were two-fifth occupied with, say, smoking a cigarette, or making a bunny for a shadow puppet show, or forming 'devil horns' at a heavy metal concert."
"If you're just joining us, welcome to radio station WVMP, "The Lifeblood of Rock'n'Roll." Con-artist-turned-station-owner Ciara Griffin manages an on-air staff of off-the-wall DJs -- including her new boyfriend Shane McAllister -- who really sink their teeth into the music of their "Life Time" (the era in which they became vampires). It's Ciara's job to keep the undead rocking, the ratings rolling, and the fan base alive -- without missing a beat.
For Halloween, WVMP is throwing a bash sure to raise the dead. They've got cool tunes, hot costumes, killer cocktails -- what could go wrong? Well, for starters, a religious firebrand ranting against the evils of the occult preempts the station's midnight broadcast. Then, when Ciara tracks down the illegal transmission, the broadcast tower is guarded by what appears to be...a canine vampire? And behind it all is a group of self-righteous radicals who think vampires suck (and are willing to stake their lives on it).
Now Ciara must protect the station while struggling with her own murky relationship issues, her best friend's unlikely romance with a fledgling vampire, and the nature of her mysterious anti-holy powers. To make it to New Year's in one piece, she'll need to learn a few new tricks...."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

News - What is Steampunk?!

I have mentioned steampunk as a genre in books and even used it to tag some of the books I have recently reviewed.
Check out books I have tagged as "Steampunk" here.

A couple of people have asked me "What is Steampunk?" It is kind of tough to explain. But as it is become more prevalent both in literature and fashion I was seeking a way to understand it better. So, I came across a great article that did a brief interview with "Boneshaker's" Cherie Priest. She does a great job explaining the genre in a way we can all relate to...check it out here.

Steampunk is a genre I have really enjoyed. It usually takes some fantasy elements and wraps them together with some good ole' steam-driven engineering science fiction.

If you are interested in checking out some books in the genre; some of my favorites so far have been: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld and Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.

I think we can look forward to a lot of great books in this genre in the coming years :-)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

News - Why I am Light on Book Reviews This Week

So I am a bit light on book reviews this week as well as books read for January overall but there is a reason for this...and, of course, it is book related.

I decided to catalog all my books on Not a small undertaking when you consider there are probably over a thousand books in our house. When you add in my wishlist (at least 200 books) and all the books I've reviewed in the last three years (500+ books) it gets colossal.

I have found out a rather cool thing about LibraryThing though; they allow you to import .txt (or other files) of ISBNs. They will look up the ISBN from the file and add the book to your shelf for you. Even cooler on my Nexus One Android Phone I have a "read barcode" app that reads barcodes and puts it into a text file that you can then upload to LibraryThing. So for most of the books importing them is as easy as scanning barcodes and uploading the file. Unfortunately books older than 1990 seem to use a UPC code for the barcode instead of the ISBN sooo...those have to be entered by hand. The best part is that it is all basically free. If you go over 200 books you have to pay a $25 lifetime membership fee, or you can opt for a $10 yearly fee.

I am really, really impressed with has so much flexibility and it is really really well thought out. You can have multiple collections and everything. So, I have my books from Amazon Vine to review on one "shelf", my books from authors on another "shelf", books I have read on another, books that I own on one, and books that I read but no longer own on another. Then my son's books are in a different collection...etc. Of course books can be in multiple collections so that is cool. They also allow mass tagging and mass book collection IDing. I am sure there is more functionality than I even know, but so far I am impressed.

Sooo...that is mainly what I am doing this week. It is seriously cutting into my reading time. This may be all old news to some people but it is my first time using something beside to organize my books and I am loving it. I am driving my husband a little crazy as I empty bookshelves and scan them in, but it is all worth it :-) I will post my ID on here when I am all done so you can all snope and see what books I have laying around the house.

Another side note. I recently was turned on to They have some serious deals on books with free shipping. They are in England so it takes a bit to get the books (you know customs and all) but there are sweet deals on there. Last month I bought "Kitty's House of Horrors" by Carrie Vaughn for $3.98. This week I got "Steamed: A Steampunk Romance" by Katie MacAlister for $3.98. You can't get those books any cheaper used; even if you were to find unreleased books at half price books! So I thought I would share the wealth :-)

Hope you all have a good week! I promise my usual 4-5 book reviews next week...

Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon (4/5 stars)

This is a cute little graphic novel/book. It is definitely intended for younger children and does a good job of teaching while it tells a fun story. This would probably be a good book for any reluctant readers out there. It is aimed a bit more at boys than girls, but either should enjoy it.

Danny is a dragon who can't breathe fire and who has a bit of trouble getting his homework done. Danny and his pal Wendell, contact Danny's cousin Edward the sea serpent for some help on Danny's paper about the ocean. They then go on a fantastical journey through the sea while managing to still get the homework done on time.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book. It is very funny and the drawings are super cute. The graphic novel and novel parts flowed well as they switch back and forth. The writing it easy to read and kids will be able to easily relate to Danny and his family. My favorite thing about this book is how much science it teaches without being blatant about. Kids really will learn a lot about the ocean and ocean creatures when they read this.

I personally also liked the inclusion of fantasy creatures (dragons, sea monsters) with non-fantasy facts. Although I wondered if this meshing of make-believe and factual information might be a bit confusing for some they may not realize all the info about the ocean is actually real and not made up. I was also a little concerned that Danny got away with being so naughty and not doing his homework himself.

Overall though this was a fun and cute read; full of adventure and humor. I would recommend this to younger children, but even young adults and adults will think it is a quick, fun read. I will definitely be checking out more Dragonbreath books in the future.

This book goes towards:
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge
- 1st in a Series Reading Challenge


Waiting on Wednesday - 1/27

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

This week my WoW book is "Voices of Dragons" by Carrie Vaughn.  Carrie Vaughn is the author of the Kitty Norville series and "Voices of Dragons" is her Young Adult debut.  I really love the Kitty Norville series so I am excited to read this book.  The cover art and synopsis are shown below.  Vaughn has actually posted the first chapter to the book on her website and you can read it here.   I read it and I liked it!

Voices of Dragons

Voice of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn
Pages: 320 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: March 16th, 2010

Synopsis (from
"On one side of the border lies the modern world: the internet, homecoming dances, cell phones. On the other side dwell the ancient monsters who spark humanity's deepest fears: dragons. Seventeen-year-old Kay Wyatt knows she's breaking the law by rock climbing near the border, but she'd rather have an adventure than follow the rules. When the dragon Artegal unexpectedly saves her life, a secret friendship grows between them--even though the fragile truce that has maintained peace between their two species is unraveling around them. As tensions mount and battles begin, Kay and Artegal are caught in the middle. Can their friendship change the course of a war?"

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Teaser Tuesday - 1/26

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!

This week my teaser is from "Numbers" by Rachel Ward


Here it is: "Syllables stinging like angry wasps, her venom fizzing all around me.  And all the time, as we sat there eye-to-eye, her number was there, stamped on the inside of my skull: 10102001" Pg. 4

Monday, January 25, 2010

Numbers by Rachel Ward (3.5/5 stars)

I got this book as an advanced reading copy (ARC) through the Amazon Vine program. The premise sounded interesting and overall it was an entertaining book if a bit flawed at parts.

Jem is a fifteen year old girl who has a special skill...she can see a person's date of death when she looks them in the eye. She befriends a guy named Spider and through a series of coincidences her and Spider are outside the Eye of London when it explodes. Jem saw that everyone standing in line at the Eye was going to die; she panicked and ran off pulling Spider along with her. Now the two of them (both having been in previous trouble with the law) are on the run from the authorities; apparently they were seen fleeing the Eye before it blew up and are now wanted as terrorists.

This book starts out pretty good. Ward brings up a lot of interesting issues about how it would affect your everyday life if you knew when people were going to die. For example, if you knew the person sitting next to you was going to die next week, would you even waste the time getting to know them? Unfortunately the whole premise of Jem seeing numbers never really goes anywhere and is never really used to drive the plot all that much.

Jem and Spider are interesting characters. They are the only characters in the book that are really fleshed-out well. They do a lot of stupid teenage things, but this endures them somewhat to the reader. Jem's hard attitude are snarky manner are well-portrayed, as is Spider's boundless energy.

The best parts of the book are the beginning and the middle when Jem and Spider are on the run. These parts of the book just fly by and make the book very difficult to put down. The action scenes are well done, as are Jem and Spider's struggles to survive in the English wilderness. As the book continues though it doesn't seem to know where it wants to go. Towards the end of Jem and Spider's run, the plot became perfectly predictable and boring. I was disappointed that this whole buildup of Jem seeing numbers didn't really go anywhere much.

There was another huge thing that bothered me that I have seen this in a number of books recently. What is it about female authors not understanding the stages of pregnancy? I mean come on! One female character (I won't say who to prevent spoilers) has sex and then the next day is nauseous because she is pregnant. Is there anyone out there who has morning sickness the second day of their pregnancy? That is just ridiculous. Okay, sorry, I had to vent about that. I have just seen a couple books that are weird about this lately and it is not something that is hard to research and get right.

So overall I liked it okay. It was a quick, adrenaline packed read for the first part of the book. The end of the book was a bit predictable and odd. I liked Ward's characterizations and fast-paced writing style; but the plot left a bit to be desired. I can't really say this book made me really excited to read more books by Ward, but I found it entertaining enough. An additional note on content, there is a ton of swearing, some sex, drugs, and a lot of delinquent behavior in this book; definitely only for older young adult readers or adults.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- The Debut Author Challenge
- The Young Adult Reading Challenge
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mailbox Monday - 1/25

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 4 books this week.  Both "Palace Beautiful" and "Goblin War" were obtained through  "Palace Beautiful" I got to read for the Debut Author Reading Challenge I am participating in.  "Goblin War" is the third and final book in the Jig the Goblin series and I am excited to start reading it.

The third book is "The Peculiar Superpowers of Eleanor Armstrong" by K. A. Schloegel which I got directly from the author.  He leaves in MN and is a research scientist just like me!  Anyway, this book will also go to the Debut Author Reading Challenge and I am excited to read it :-)

The fourth book, "The Hungry Scientist Handbook" is on loan for me from my dad.  We share a love of quirky science books, and this one should be a good read.  More info on the books mentioned is given below!  Hope you all have a great week and Happy Reading :-)

"Palace Beautiful" by Sarah deFord Williams
Palace Beautiful
First Sentence: "My sister Zozo says no one can remember the day they were born, but I do."
"When sisters Sadie and Zuzu Brooks move to Salt Lake City, they discover a secret room in the attic of their new house, with a sign that reads “Palace Beautiful” and containing an old journal. Along with their neighbor, dramatic Belladonna Desolation (real name: Kristin Smith), they take turns reading the story of a girl named Helen living during the flu epidemic of 1918. The journal ends with a tragedy that has a scary parallel to Sadie and Zuzu’s lives, and the girls become obsessed with finding out what happened to Helen after the journal ends. Did she survive the flu? Is she still alive somewhere? Or could her ghost be lurking in the nearby graveyard?
Sarah DeFord Williams has created a gripping read that covers two time periods, many fantastic characters, and a can’t-put-it-down ending, all with delightful, extraordinary prose."

"Goblin War" by Jim C. Hines
Goblin War (Goblin Series) 
First Sentence: "Satlight sparkled in the silver mortaras Tymalous Autumnstar ran his fingers over the wall of his temple."
"If you think it-s hard being a hobgoblin or a human, try living a goblin-s life for a while. In fact, try imagining what it-s like to be the runtiest goblin in the caves, the lone worshiper of a god who's been forgotten for a good reason, and the target everyone points to at the first hint of trouble. Try picturing yourself as Jig Dragonslayer, and see how you like it-Despite impossible odds, Jig was still alive. He'd survived an adventurer's quest against a dragon and a necromancer, a pixie invasion that had ogres and trolls dropping like flies, and, most frightening of all, the threat of being made chief of the goblins. He wasn't sure how much more he could stand. Naturally, he was about to find out. War was brewing in the world outside the Mountain, and when the goblin's lair was invaded by human warriors in search of the Rod of Creation, Jig knew it was just the start of another really bad day."

"The Peculiar Superpowers of Eleanor Armstrong" by K. A. Schloegel
The Peculiar Superpowers of Eleanor Armstrong: A Zombie Love Story 
First Sentence: "I didn't wear anything over my ears that Monday morning."
From "Teenage writer Eleanor Armstrong tells the story of her life as a collection of Facebook-esque entries interspersed with the chapters of the novel she is writing. She starts out writing a nice, quiet high school romance, depicting the love triangle between ultra-hip and smart Sarah – who is really just Eleanor with great hair, her geeky pal Marky – who is Eleanor’s pal in real life too, and popular jock Brandon – a character based on a boy who once spoke to Eleanor. But to her dismay, the novel turns to horror after zombies attack the school and kill Brandon. You know, just the usual “Boy meets girl. Boy turns into zombie. Zombie-boy loses girl. Zombie-boy gets girl.” Huh? Write what you know, Eleanor’s teacher tells her. And what she knows is a high school teeming with bored kids who will prey upon each other, can be kind, cruel, fall in love, or anything in between just to relieve the tedium of their existence. In other words, a school full of zombies. So Eleanor goes with it. Zombie attacks abound, both in her novel and her real life as an overlooked teenager with peculiar superpowers."

"The Hungry Scientist Handbook" by Patrick Buckley and Lily Binns
The Hungry Scientist Handbook: Electric Birthday Cakes, Edible Origami, and Other DIY Projects for Techies, Tinkerers, and Foodies 
First Sentence: "This is a handbook for extreme comestible creativity."

From "The Hungry Scientist Handbook brings DIY technology into the kitchen and onto the plate. It compiles the most mouthwatering projects created by mechanical engineer Patrick Buckley and his band of intrepid techie friends, whose collaboration on contraptions started at a memorable 2005 Bay Area dinner party and resulted in the formation of the Hungry Scientist Society—a loose confederation of creative minds dedicated to the pursuit of projects possessing varying degrees of whimsy and utility.
Featuring twenty projects ranging from edible origami to glowing lollipops, cryogenic martinis to Tupperware boom boxes, the book draws from the expertise of programmers, professors, and garden-variety geeks and offers something to delight DIYers of all skill levels."

The Ruby Key (Sun and Moon, Book 1) by Holly Lisle (5/5 stars)

This is the first book in Lisle's Sun and Moon trilogy. I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I had read a couple of Lisle's older books back when I was in high school and remember liking them. Well I am glad I picked this up because it was a great book!

Gennadara and Daneth live in a small village called Hillrush and along with the other villagers struggling to maintain peace with the Nightlings, a race that can only emerge at night that is ruled by the evil and immortal Letrin. When Gennadara and Dan find there mother has caught a wasting illness, they seek to make a bargain with Letrin to save their mother's live. Little do they know that bargain they make will take them on a great adventure and force them into an age old struggle beyond their imagining.

This was a really well done book. All of the characters are engaging and interesting. Gennadara is especially intriguing; she is a somewhat timid girl with a core of strength and determination that is admirable. The world Lisle creates is interesting and immense; just the surface of this world is touched in this book with hints showing the larger struggle humanity faces against the Nightlings. Lisle does an excellent job describing the surroundings in a way that really conveys the dark and dank mood of the settings. In general the book is very well-written and Lisle shows great skill in creating a readable and intelligent writing style with excellent plot weaving.

There aren't a ton of action scenes, the majority of this book focuses on adventuring, but both the adventuring and action scenes are very well done. The whole time you are left wondering if Gennadara and Dan will make it in time to save their mother and this really propels the story forward making it hard to put down. You never know what fantastical creature will appear around which corner or what a character will do next. Lisle also adds a thread of humor into both Gennadara's and the Cat's personality that keeps the story from taking itself too seriously.

The best thing about this book is that it reminds me a lot of a good old classic fairy tale or folktale, with a bit more added. At first the story seems contained, but then it is broadened to deal with all of humanity. I just really, really, enjoyed it and couldn't find a single thing about it I didn't like. My biggest complaint is that now I want to read the next book in the series RIGHT NOW! It was a great book, suited for younger children as well as young adults and adults.

This book goes towards the following challenges:
- The Young Adult Reading Challenge
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge
- Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge
- 1st in a Series Reading Challenge

The Ruby Key (Moon and Sun)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (4/5 stars)

I have been wanting to read this sci-fi classic for a while so I finally brought it on the plane with me. This is a very good book. I can't say it was the most enjoyable read, but it is an exquisite read...kind of like a work of fine art. In general it was hard to decide if this was a 4 or 5 star book. It wasn't personally my favorite book, but it was a very well put together book and a book that asks a lot of very deep questions.

Genly Ai is an ambassador to the planet Winter. Winter is a planet that has the unique distinction of being the only planet where the humans are both genders at once or have no gender at all depending on the moon cycle. Genly's goal is to bring Winter in contact and into trade agreements with the rest of galactic civilization. He starts his quest in the somewhat uncivilized nation of Karhide; where he is eventually driven to the countryside. Next he seeks to win over the more civilized and lawful nation of Orgoreyn. But which nation is really the more civilized of the two? Estraven, who starts the story as the chief adviser to the King of Karhide, ends up being Genly's companion for much of his journey...and at points the story is told from Estraven's viewpoint.

The story starts out a little slow and it has a lot of throwing around of terms that are unknown to the reader (as many sci-fi books do). Maybe a third of the way through the book the story really picks up and starts to get interesting. This is not the easiest book to read. The detail is meticulous and the reader must concentrate and really pay attention to what they are reading. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I wouldn't pick this book up for a fun/quick read.

The plot is well-woven and the worlds Le Guin build's are amazing. She has extensively developed language, culture, policy, and structure of the societies on Winter. The detail she took with this world building is just fantastic. The other amazing thing is that in this well woven story she manages to touch on a multitude of issues humanity faces now and will always face. Much of the issues she delves into are of a political nature, but many of them are also of a personal nature. Probably the most interesting issue she deals with throughout the book is how society would be changed if everyone was both genders or did not have a gender.

All in all it is an interesting read and the book is well done. Given how long ago the book was written it has aged pretty well. Some of the writing style is a little archaic, and as I had mentioned it is definitely not an easy or particularly fun read. Still, it is a good book for everyone to read because the ideas presented in it are intriguing and it is just such a classic work of sci-fi. Did this book make me want to run out and read everything by Le Guin? Not really, but if I am in the mood for a heavier sci-fi read I might consider it.

This book went towards the following reading challenges:
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge
- GLBT Reading Challenge

The Left Hand of Darkness

Friday, January 22, 2010

Inklings: A Memoir by Jeffrey Koterba (3/5 stars)

I got this book as an advanced reading copy through the Amazon Vine program. I have heard of Koterba before but wasn't very familiar with his work. I thought that a Memoir of a cartoonist would be fun to read and it was an okay read, but not fun.

Koterba tells his story of growing up in a poor and dysfunctional family with Tourettes syndrome. He finds refuge in music and drawing; and is constantly seeking approval from a father who never gives it. He shows us his path to become a full-time cartoonist.

There were some things I liked about the book and other things I didn't. Koterba does a good job of telling the story from the point of view he would have had at that age. For example when he talks about what happened when he was six, he does it from a six year old's perspective. The strange things his dad does are all he knows; so the story doesn't seek pity from the reader rather it tells the story in an unbiased way. This changes as he gets older and starts to compare his family to other families. Some of the looks into his life at various times are fascinating, and at points, this memoir is more a nostalgic journey back into the seventies than anything else.

The above being said I had a lot of trouble getting into this book. It starts out slowly. A lot of time is given to his childhood and then as he gets older the story becomes less detailed and more disjointed. To be honest some of the childhood stuff is interesting, but some of it really drags on. I was also a little disturbed that early on he spends a ton of time talking about his family, but then when he has a family of his own they are mentioned infrequently as if they are only an afterthought to the story of his career. This was confusing because you would think his children and wife would shape his life just as much as his own mother and father did. He spends so much time talking about all the clubs he played at and cartooning jobs he took, that as a reader I felt like his own family (wife and children) really didn't matter all that much. This made me kind of sad, because I had hoped he would learn something from his own experiences growing up in a dysfunctional house.

All in all this book doesn't really teach anything. The author doesn't really come to any deep realization about his life, he just states the facts and lets you draw your own conclusions. The story itself pretty much just ends in the middle of things. All in all I found it kind of a depressing read. Maybe I would be more excited about it if I was a Koterba fan or knew more about him. I was also very disappointed that despite this book being about his life as a cartoonist, none of his cartoons are in here. It would have been nice to have at least a few of his cartoons in here for people unfamiliar with his work. Especially since most of the end of the book revolves around different pieces of work that he did for magazines/newspapers.

Overall it was an okay read. Some of it is interesting, but the disjointed way the memoir is presented makes it difficult to get into at times. I was also disappointed by the lack of any of his cartoons in the book itself, this was the main reason I wanted to review the book. I probably won't be checking out any more works by Koterba.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kitty's House of Horrors (Kitty Norville, Book 7) by Carrie Vaughn (5/5 stars)

This is the seventh book in the Kitty Norville series by Carrier Vaughn and it was a great addition to the series.

In this book Kitty gets invited to participate in a reality TV show. Her and a bunch of other paranormal celebrities are supposed to spend a week at a house out in the middle of nowhere. With them will be a skeptic; they are supposed to convince the skeptic that paranormal creatures exist. Of course things start going terribly wrong when people start turning up dead. It is up to Kitty and her housemates to figure out what is going on before everyone is killed!

I was worried that this story line would be a bit cheesy for Kitty, but it really worked. I loved learning more about a lot of the paranormal celebrities that Kitty has interviewed on her radio show or talked about, but never really got to know. Then of course Odysseus Grant shows up and he is a whole lot of mysterious and interesting. The subtext that goes on between Odysseus and Anastatia (a very old vampire) is intriguing and leads this book to a whole new level and potentially a whole new story arc.

The book was fast-paced and super easy to read. Vaughn's writing style is just so readable and personable; reading the book is such a fun pleasure. There were some very well done action scenes but not until later in the story. It takes a while to set up the story but Vaughn does a good job of making the setup suspenseful. The really strong feature of this novel is the characterization, there are some awesome characters in this book. Kitty especially has grown even more comfortable in her role as a leader and really steps it up in certain scenes of this book...knowing where Kitty started, it makes me proud of her :-)

Given the horror house theme of this book I was happy that it wasn't too scary. It is definitely suspenseful and creepy just not crazy scary (I am too much of a wimp to read really scary books). The story arc that is developing longer term, that deals with the vampires' "long game", is fascinating. I was so happy that we got to spend more time with Grant...he is just super intriguing to me and my favorite character. Grant gets a chance to show his human side in this book as well as demonstrate some somewhat disturbing magician's skills.

The only bad thing about this book was that it was over too soon. I can't wait to read the next book! I am also looking forward to checking out Vaughn's new young adult book "Voice of Dragons".

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- Thiller and Suspense Challenge
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge

Kitty's House of Horrors (Kitty Norville, Book 7)

The Kestral (Westmark Trilogy, Book 2) by Lloyd Alexander (4/5 stars)

This is the second book in the Westmark Trilogy and starts up a short time after the last book left off. It was a solid young adult fantasy; I didn't like it quite as much as the first book but it was still a very well put together fantasy.

Theo is assigned with going exploring around the kingdom and reporting the findings back to the Queen and King. While he is out news comes to him from Florian that one of the kingdom's main generals may be a traitor; right after Theo gets this news he receives news that the king has Mickle is Queen of the realm. Theo sets off to find Mickle but instead gets embroiled in fighting and it is fighting that brings out the more violent side of his nature. Mickle, meanwhile, has other ideas of what a Queen should be doing and takes off to find Theo.

This book switches perspective a lot more than the first book. We hear things from Theo's view, Mickle's view, Kellner's view, the Chief Magistrate's view, Prince Connie's view, and the water-rats' view. All that switching around breaks up the story a little, but for the most part things flow very well.

As in the first book, the plot is very engaging as are the characters. This book is a bit of a tougher read because you have to read carefully to follow the plot and all the people; in that it is typical of most epic fantasies. The style of the writing is very similar to the first book.

There were a couple this about this book that were a bit "off" for me. The first was that there was so much discussion of politics; I personally prefer reading about adventuring versus politics...the politics are well done but there are a lot of them. The second thing was Mickle's character. It bothered me how she spent most of her childhood as a beggar and then she is Queen and suddenly she understands military strategy and is super strong and proficient. I think if I were a younger reader this wouldn't bug me as much; but as an adult I want to know where she learned all these military tactics...I know she is smart, but still.

Outside of the above mentioned quibbles, this was a very well done novel. You definitely need to read the first book first. I would recommend this for young adults and older, it is not that content is inappropriate for younger is just that I don't think younger children will be all into the politics going on here. I am eager to read the third (and final) book in the trilogy "The Beggar Queen".

This book went towards the following reading challenges:
- The Young Adult Reading Challenge
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge

Waiting on Wednesday - 1/20

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

This week my WoW book is "Game of Cages" (Twenty Palaces, Book 2) by Harry Connelly.  The first book in this series was great.  If you love the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher I would definitely check it out.  I am eager to read the next one!  I couldn't find a synopsis, but the cover art and release info is below.

Game of Cages: A Twenty Palaces Novel

Game of Cages: A Twenty Palaces Novel by Harry Connolly
Pages: 400 pages
Publisher: Del Ray
Release Date: August 31st, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Teaser Tuesday - 1/19

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!

This week my teaser is from "Westmark" by Lloyd Alexander


Here it is: "The girl had never stirred.  Through all her weeping, she had been fast asleep." Pg. 56

Monday, January 18, 2010

Westmark (Westmark Trilogy, Book 1) by Lloyd Alexander (4.5/5 stars)

This is the first book in Alexander's Westmark Trilogy. I read Alexander's "Chronicles of Prydain" when I was in middle school and really liked it. When I realized that I had never read this series I had to grab it up. It is a wonderful young adult series and the fact that it still reads well (over twenty years after being written) is a testament to Alexander's exceptional style of fantasy writing.

Theo is an apprentice to a printer in a time where the monarchy is becoming increasingly stringent about printed materials. During an inspection Theo and his master run afoul of the Royal inspectors and in a fit of rage Theo smashes one of the inspectors with a part of the printing press. Theo's master is killed and Theo becomes a criminal on the run. Shortly after fleeing town he meet up with Dr. Absalom, who is not as much of a doctor as he says and much more a rogue, and a midget named Musket. There crazy adventures eventually have them grouping up with Mickle, a girl thief who is much more than she first seems. Theo partakes in some wild adventures and struggles with the morals of the livelihood he is making as a rogue, he eventually tries to make a honest living, but that only ends up with him deeply embroiled in politics that could make or break the country.

This book was a wonderful classic young adult fantasy. You have Cabbarus, the evil chief minister, who is a wonderful villain. You have an ailing king, who puts the lineage of the throne at risk. Theo is a young boy who struggles with his solid morals, as actions that should be honorable end up not being right. The characters are well-woven and make for interesting reading. In fact the characters show an admirable level of maturity and reasoning throughout the book. The plot moves a little slow, but everything that happens in this book happens for a reason so it is a very tightly woven story. The writing is excellent and fits the mode of the story perfectly.

There are some excellent actions scenes, lots of intrigue, and plots woven within plots. This is a book that makes you think in order to follow all the threads of plot that are happening. There is a lot of delving into morals and violence and what is wrong and right. I was amazed at how complex the story was for such a short book. Definitely an excellent read. It would be appropriate for all ages, but younger readers might not be able to follow all the intrigue and ethics discussion that goes on.

I look forward to reading the next book in this series "The Kestrel". "Westmark" is a must read for young adult fantasy lovers. The plot may drag a bit at parts, but the story is intricate and interesting. I did like "The Chronicles of Prydain" better; those books were an easier and more engaging read, but "Westmark" is close in quality and definitely a classic.

This book went towards the following reading challenges:
- The Young Adult Reading Challenge
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge
- First in a Series Reading Challenge


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow (4/5 stars)

I like the Magic Kingdom in Florida, having visited there a number of times in my life. When I saw this Science Fiction novel centering around Disney World, and even more specifically the Haunted Mansion, I had to give it a read. It was a good book with some interesting ideas. Definitely an adult read.

Jules is your typical citizen, he lives in a world that is not run by money but by Whuffie. Whuffie is a currency based on what people around you think about you and how much joy you bring them. If you have lots of Whuffie lots of people love you and you get lots of perks. In this future everyone can survive and gets the basics of food and shelter, but only Whuffie allows you to live in style. This is also an age where people back themselves up on computer, this is awesome because if something happens to your body then you can just upload yourself into a new clone whenever you least as long as your backup is up to date. Well, Jules is at a point in time where him and his girlfriend Lil are helping to keep the Hall of Presidents running in Liberty Square in Disney World. Suddenly Jules is murdered, not a huge deal, but when a top-notch computer ride designer uses the opportunity of his death to step in and redo the Hall of Presidents, Jules is out for blood. More specifically he has decided that he will protect the Haunted Mansion from this designer's clutches no matter what it takes and sets out to redesign the Haunted Mansion himself in a way that lets it stay true to its original form.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book. Doctorow has come up with an interesting society and a very creative way at looking at human aging. Things like the ability of humans to deadhead for a few centuries and then be reinserted into a new clone when the world becomes more interesting to them, are very creative and really bring this society alive for the reader. The whole Whuffie system is in itself also very creative and a pleasure to immerse oneself in. The fixation that Jules had with the Haunted Mansion was interesting and Doctorow's description of the ride dead-on. The twist the story takes at the end was fascinating and made for a good read. The story and writing style were easily readable.

As far as things I didn't like about the book there were a few. I didn't really like Jules as a character too much, neither did I like Lil. They were almost too human; neither of them really showed any heroic qualities. Also things like suicide and deadheading were taken in stride, which might bother some people, but makes sense in a society where people are centuries old. The novel is plagued by a lot of throwing scientific terms around that the reader doesn't understand in the beginning; this is resolved as the novel continues but is a bit frustrating at first. Also sometimes Jules takes diversions in the story that don't seem necessary (for instance in the part where he goes off talking about a marriage he had to this crazy lady with fur, it had some impact on the story but not enough to go on as long as it did). Lastly the problem of overpopulation of Earth (in a society where people are born but never die) was mentioned briefly in the beginning, but then was never dealt with as the story progressed.

While this novel isn't necessarily a fun read, it is an interesting read. I would recommend it if you are interested in the downfalls of a Utopian society, or if you are crazy about the Haunted Mansion, or if you just like reading about various future versions of Earth. A good book. I will definitely check out more of Doctorow's books in the future.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge
- Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Mailbox Monday - 1/18

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 four books this week.  I bought Kitty's House of Horrors when I found it on the for really cheap.  I am excited to read the latest installment in this series.  The last three were books I acquired through  Lots of good reads for me. 

Hope you all have a great week!  And Happy Reading :-)

"Kitty's House of Horrors" (Kitty Norville, Book 7) by Carrie Vaughn
Kitty's House of Horrors (Kitty Norville, Book 7)
First Sentence: "I knew if I stayed in this business long enough, I'd get an offer like this sooner or later."
"Talk radio host and werewolf Kitty Norville has agreed to appear on TV's first all-supernatural reality show. She's expecting cheesy competitions and manufactured drama starring shapeshifters, vampires, and psychics. But what begins as a publicity stunt will turn into a fight for her life.

The cast members, including Kitty, arrive at the remote mountain lodge where the show is set. As soon as filming starts, violence erupts and Kitty suspects that the show is a cover for a nefarious plot. Then the cameras stop rolling, cast members start dying, and Kitty realizes she and her monster housemates are ironically the ultimate prize in a very different game. Stranded with no power, no phones, and no way to know who can be trusted, she must find a way to defeat the evil closing in . . . before it kills them all."

"Got Fangs?" by Katie Maxwell
Got Fangs? 
First Sentence: What do you want to do first-have your aura photographed, or see the witch and have her cast a spell?" a girl asked.
"I used to think all I wanted was to have a normal life. You know, where I could be one of the crowd and blend in, so no one would know just how different I am. But now I'm stuck in the middle of Hungary with my mom, working for a traveling fair with psychics, magicians, and other really weird people, and somehow, blending in with this crowd doesn't look so good.

Fortunately, there's Benedikt. Yeah, he may be a vampire, but he has a motorcycle, he likes the mysterious horse I suddenly acquired, and best of all, he doesn't think I'm the least bit freaky. So I'm supposed to redeem his soul - if his kisses are anything to go by, my new life may not be quite as bad as I imagined."

"Taboo" by Jess Michaels
First Sentence: "The Earl of Blackhearth, Nathan Manning, had once considered the heat of a summer's day in India to be stifiling."
"Cassandra Willows has made a name for herself as one of London's most sought-after seamstresses—and as the creator of intimate "toys" much beloved in the bed chambers of elite ladies and lords. But her success cannot soothe her guilt and pain over a most devastating betrayal.
Nathan Manning, Earl of Blackhearth, will never forgive the exquisite Cassandra for abandoning him without a word on the day they were to elope. Now he is back in London and hungry for revenge. Armed with scandalous, provocative memories, the handsome, vengeful nobleman blackmails his former lover into a most illicit affair...and reignites the raging fire that once consumed them both.
But by losing themselves in the throes of erotic ecstasy reborn, Nathan and Cassandra are courting gravest danger—vulnerable to a past that threatens to destroy their lives and passion still; at risk from dark, unspoken secrets that are shockingly, perilously...taboo."

"Dreams of the Dead" by Thomas Randall
The Waking: Dreams of the Dead
First Sentence: "Akane Murakami died for a boy she did not love."
"Sixteen-year-old Kara Foster is an outsider in Japan, but is doing her best to fit at the private school where her father is teaching English for the year. Fortunately she’s befriended by Sakura, a fellow outsider struggling to make sense of her sister’s unsolved murder some months ago. No one seems to care about the beautiful girl who was so brutally murdered, and the other students go on as if nothing has happened. Unfortunately, the calm doesn’t last for long. Kara begins to have nightmares, and soon other students in the school turn up dead, viciously attacked by someone . . . or something. Is Sakura getting back at those she thinks are responsible for her sister’s death? Or has her dead sister come back to take revenge for herself? This first book in a frightening new trilogy will have teens glued the page and scared to go to sleep."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Darklight (Wondrous Strange, Book 2) by Lesley Livingston (3/5 stars)

This is the second book in the Wondrous Strange series. There are supposed to be three books total in this series. I liked this book a bit better than the first one; but it still wasn't anything extraordinary. You definitely need to read the first book, Wondrous Strange, to follow what happens in this book.

Kelley is trying to get on with her life as an actress in New York. Sonny is off in fairyland eliminating the Hunt one by one. They miss each other horribly. Kelley feels a need to take a walk through Central Park and is mugged by a man there. Ends up the man is a Leprechaun and he is after Kelley with a vengeance. In an attempt to save herself and Fennrys (one of the Janus guard) from a brutal attack, Kelley pulls them into fairyland. Once in Fairyland she faces a hoard of fairy politics and other fairy problems; one of which is Sonny himself.

There were some good things about this book. You get to learn more about the fairy world and meet a few more crazy fairy creatures. There is a lot of action and also a lot of romance between Kelley and Sonny. The story holds a couple interesting surprises for the readers and is relatively well put together. It is a quick read and an easy read.

There were also a lot of things that bothered me about the story. Sonny is kind of a jerk to Kelley, and she is kind of a jerk back. Still they are forever in love, and I still haven't figured out why. The strongest character in this book was Fennrys, then halfway through the story he disappears, only to reappear at the end. Most of the side characters are a far sight more interesting than Kelley and Sonny, and it is kind of a bummer that the story focuses on them. There are a lot of fight scenes but, as in the first book, they are missing something. None of the fight scenes seem to have the sense of urgency or action to them that you would expect. In general the story itself doesn't have much urgency. In fact I was hard-pressed to figure out why these evil Leprechauns were taking center stage in this story to begin with.

Overall, I got through the book and it was okay. It just left a lot to be desired in the areas of characterization, plot development, and action scenes. I was hoping this series would get better after the first book, but it hasn't. So, I guess, if you liked the first book a lot then you will like this one because they are similar in style. I will probably read the last book in the trilogy for some closure, but after that I don't think I will be picking up anymore of Livingston's books. If you are interested in book with a similar subject but stellar character development I would check out Holly Black's Modern Fairy Tale.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- The Young Adult Reading Challenge
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge

Darklight (Wondrous Strange)