Monday, December 31, 2012

REVIEW: Keeper of Light and Dust by Natasha Mostert

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

A supernatural thriller with a twist, The Keeper of Light and Dust blends martial arts with science and magic to create a story that is unique and different, intriguing and compelling.

Mia Lockhart is a Keeper who uses special protection tattoos of her own making combined with out-of-body experiences to protect the fighters in her keep. Nick Duffy is a long time friend of Mia's and fellow martial artist who has returned to London to start fighting again, and has high hopes of finally starting up a romantic relationship with Mia. But not if Adrian Ashton has anything to do with it!

Adrian is an oddly brilliant scientist recently arrived in London as well who's very interested in the martial arts and other Chinese medicine and practices. With the help of several ancient texts combined with his own studies, he's discovered a way to cheat death by draining the chi life energy from his victims without their even knowing it. He's particularly drawn to boxers and other martial artists because of the strength of the life force they carry within them, especially during a fight. But with Adrian in town, things may not turn out too good for Nick and Mia.

Most of the concepts used in this book are indeed based on actual practices in use today, particularly in Eastern civilizations, but the author is able to seamlessly bring it all to the next level to give the story it's otherworldly and supernatural slant. Though it was immediately apparent from the beginning who "the bad guy" was, along with his motives, it's the how and why behind those motives that drive the story forward. Overall, a very good read and I look forward to reading more from this author.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

REVIEW: The Paladin Prophecy by Mark Frost

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Will West has lived his life under the radar, doing all he can not to call attention to himself at his parent's request. Having moved around all his life, he's used to being the new kid at school so this has worked out well for him so far, until one day...

Now Will's on the run from who-knows-what from the Never-Was, and seeks solace at a very secretive, very private school in Wisconsin called the Center for Integrated Learning. But why are these monsters after Will and his parents in the first place? And just how much does the school really know about it all? Will can only hope that with the help of his new friends, they have what it takes to defeat them and escape with their lives.

Will's story is intriguing and moves along at a good pace. The author uses lots of description and imagery to bring everything to life, though I never found it excessive or slowing the story down. That's good because at 560 pages, it took me nearly the entire three weeks of my library's eBook rental term to finish it.

Yes, there are some things you don't quite understand for much of the first half of the book, but I didn't find that the least bit frustrating, instead it piqued my interest and kept me reading well into the night. Once the main story line is wrapped up at the end, the author leaves you with a little bit of a cliffhanger which will have you looking forward to the next book in the series.

This is Mark Frost's first foray into the young adult fantasy genre. Though I haven't read any of his other books yet, I have The List of Seven on my TBR which I acquired in a swap or book box over at BookObsessed some time ago, so now I'm looking forward to reading that while I wait for the release of Alliance: The Paladin Prophecy Book 2. Mr. Frost was also involved in two successful television series: Hill Street Blues and Twin Peaks.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

REVIEW: A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

All Sookie Stackhouse short stories in a single volume. If you want to read all the short stories the author has written about Sookie, but don't want to hunt down all the various anthologies they're found in, then this book is for you. Nearly every Sookie short story is contained in this single volume. (The only short stories not here are the ones that involve secondary characters who don't really play a major role part in Sookie's world.)

I did read most of these myself several years ago as part of other anthologies, but since I collect this series, I had to have this book for my Personal Collection for it to be complete. :) Some of these stories are better than others, and though not required reading for the series, they give you just a little bit extra of Sookie, or Eric, and expand on an event that took place between the books, usually insignificant or otherwise alluded to in the series but without much detail.

Below is the list of stories and what other places you can find them (plus my notes on when I read them). You can also find a more complete list which includes the secondary characters I mentioned above in this Wikipedia article.

"Fairy Dust" between books 4 and 5, Dead to the World and Dead as a Doornail.
read 11/30/05 as part of Powers of Detection anthology. Reread 10/4/12.

"Dracula Night" between books 4 and 5, Dead to the World and Dead as a Doornail.
read Sep 2011 from Many Bloody Returns anthology. Reread 10/4/12.

"One Word Answer" between books 5 and 6, Dead as a Doornail and Definitely Dead.
read 5/16/05 as part of Bite anthology. Reread 10/4/12.

"Lucky" between books 7 and 8, All Together Dead and From Dead to Worse.
read 10/30/11 as part of Unusual Suspects anthology.

"Gift Wrap" between books 8 and 9, From Dead to Worse and Dead and Gone.
read 10/3/12 (also part of of Unusual Suspects anthology).

REVIEW: Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 9) by Charlaine Harris

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

This is truly one of my favorite series and Charlaine Harris is a fantastic writer. I've read almost everything she's written including her much older Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard cozy mystery series, and the first couple from the Harper Connelly series (kinda put Harper aside so I could concentrate on catching up on this and several other series from other authors).

But what can I say other than I LOVE Sookie! (and Eric and Pam). Yet I cannot read this series during the summer when True Blood is on HBO because the TV series has deviated from the books in so many ways, that it can get confusing reading the books during True Blood season.

In this installment, the Weres and Shifters have finally decided to come out. And why not? The Vampires have been pretty successful with their own Great Reveal, so they feel it's high time the human population know the truth: that there's even more supernaturals living among them. Unfortunately, things don't go as smoothly as planned and several Weres close to Sookie lose their lives in a battle that's bigger than all of them.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

REVIEW: Stephanie Plum books 4 thru 8 and Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Just whipped through books 4 through 8 of the Stephanie Plum series, along with the Between-the-Numbers Holiday short story Visions of Sugar Plums. These are such fun, quick, reads that it's hard to sit down and write a review after each one without wanting to just jump right into the next instead. :)

Even though it's been 6 years since I've last hung with her, Stephanie is still such a wonderfully fun and refreshing person to hang with! And if you haven't yet read this series, let me tell you that Evanovich definitely throws you right into the story with her writing, making you feel like you're right there next to Stephanie and Lula kicking bad guy butt (or more like the other way around usually). LOL Or even Ranger or Joe... yummmm ;)

In any case, it took me a little over three weeks to read to read all 6 books--really 5 1/4 since Visions of Sugar Plums is only 152 pages--and right after that, Mike and I watched the One for the Money movie which we'd rented from Netflix. It was hilarious and I was happy to see that the screenwriters held true to pretty much everything in the book. I don't know if that movie did well enough at the box office to justify the sequel but I'd really love it if they made one. Stephanie and the gang are definitely worthy of the big screen. :)

BookCrossing journal page for Four to Score
BookCrossing journal page for High Five
BookCrossing journal page for Hot Six
BookCrossing journal page for Seven Up
BookCrossing journal page for Hard Eight
BookCrossing journal page for Visions of Sugar Plums

Friday, September 14, 2012

REVIEW: Fifty Shades Freed by E L James

My Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

This final book in the trilogy had a little more going for it and in my opinion, was a bit more interesting than the others as it actually had a little more to the plot than just sex and more kinky sex. There was actually a little bit of intrigue and danger going on in this one as someone is after Christian and Ana. Though if you've been paying attention, it's really a little too easy to figure out who that someone is. But at least the why remains a mystery till the end.

And then they've got relationship issues they're struggling through: Ana is determined to maintain her own identity, integrity, and independence despite all the smothering and control that her life with Christian now affords, while Christian must learn to overcome his compulsion to control everything and come to grips with the horrors of his past. Together, they're determined to face all their challenges so that they can have their happily ever after. And yes, as trite as it may seem, this book definitely has a fairy tale ending. :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

REVIEW: Fifty Shades Darker by E L James

My Rating: 3 out of 10 stars

Repetitive and predictable: the two words that immediately come to mind when reflecting back on this book. I had liked the first book enough to want to read the next, especially when it ended on a bit of a cliffhanger in Ana and Christian's relationship. I though this second one book would be different, perhaps a different focus, maybe a little bit of suspense, but unfortunately it was just more of the same, and even the small slice of danger from two separate events was over in a couple of pages! :(

With all the overused phrases, the overused sex, and basically the same interaction between characters over and over again, I felt like I was in a time loop, or the movie Groundhog Day.

Because of this, I had almost decided against reading the final book in the series. But as she did with the first book, the author left a little dangly bit at the end meant to pique the reader's interest: the promise of danger ahead for Christian and Ana. Hmmm so maybe book three will be more than just Ana and Christian doing it every which way to Sunday for a change. I hope so, because at this point, even the sex is getting boring! :/

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

REVIEW: Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James

My Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

If you're reading this review, I'm sure you've already heard of Fifty Shades of Grey or the Fifty Shades trilogy. Though I'm not much of a romance reader, I was anxious to find out what all the hype was about; why so many people were raving about this book, while other BookCrossers and BookObsessors had plenty of criticism for it. What is it that gave the Fifty Shades trilogy the push to cross over from the erotica genre into mainstream? And is all the high praise that's been poured upon it truly justified? ETA - I since feel that this book was never really erotica to begin with. More details on that below.

For point of reference, I have a wide range of experience to draw from, both real life and fiction, and there is so much about the BDSM lifestyle portrayed in this book that just doesn't ring true. But knowing that the author was drawing from research as opposed to first hand experience, I was able to overlook that to a point. This is a fiction title after all.

Moving along to the writing style, I found it a bit amateurish at times; I mean, just how many times can Anastasia and Christian murmur to each other? When they're not arguing, they seem only to talk to one another in murmurs, mutters, whispers, and sighs. And the author often got pretty repetitive in her descriptions. I swear if I had to hear about Christian's tousled hair one more time, I was going to go shave a hairy mole just for the satisfaction of pretending it was Christian Grey's sexy tousled locks! ;)

So why did I keep reading? Well, it was like a beautiful train wreck! It just sort of snuck up on me and sucked me in. And the fact that it even ended on a bit of a cliffhanger left me anxious to find out what happens next. Though I knocked this book in several places on the writing and even the believability of the story itself, I actually liked Ana's character somewhat; she's the kind of girl I'd like to be friends with despite all her flaws and shortcomings (or perhaps because of them). Just like a real friend, I found myself exasperated with her over how clueless she could be, or for keeping certain things from Christian that she really should've fessed up to earlier on. While at other times, I applauded the way she stood up to him. Yet it was that same odd combination of both vulnerability and strength that I admired about her, so much so that I even cried along with her at the end!

So what do I think made this story so "great" that it crossed the erotica genre into mainstream and made the bestseller lists? Well for starters, I'd call it more of an erotic romance than full erotica, more comparable to the soft porn one might find on late night Showtime for example. Really nothing to get too hot and bothered over, and the sex scenes didn't really work me up at all the way full erotica books do. I think that fact made it a bit more digestible to the masses. ;) Though one might think the BDSM aspect of the story would place it into the full erotica or hard porn category, all that is really just an aspect of Christian's personality and the BDSM does not really dominate. It's definitely more the relationship itself, and the feelings Ana is experiencing along with it, including her conflicting feelings about being submissive, which pull together the pieces of the story.

The story started off as online fan fiction of the Twilight series, so it had already gotten a wide audience through that channel. And finally, I think timing played a key role. At a time when our economy is just pulling out of a serious depression, a bit of control and dominance might be appealing to a lot people, that and the focus on the "darker side". ;-)

Friday, July 27, 2012

REVIEW: Santa Steps Out by Robert Devereux

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

What do you get when you take the myths of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny, turn them on their heads, and add in a little bit of naughtiness and perversity? If you said Santa Steps Out: A Fairy Tale for Grown-Ups then you would be correct.

This story is both shocking and titillating, yet funny and reflective. I can't say I found it to be a super read. Perhaps it's because I've read too many great books lately (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, Hunger Games trilogy) to feel this was in the same league as those. And though I kept losing interest in the beginning and had trouble getting beyond the first few chapters, I read on nonetheless and found it more interesting as the story progressed, with a bit more of an underlying story going on beyond just Santa doing the Tooth Fairy every which way to Sunday.

I didn't always care for the way the author portrayed some of these characters. It's not because he turned them into highly sexual beings, for I'm not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but some of their actions seemed a bit forced or cliche to me, almost as if you could tell they were written by a guy, with a guy's fantasies.

I'd definitely say this book belongs in the Erotica genre as opposed to the Dark Fantasy/Horror genre where it currently resides. Though the antics of the Tooth Fairy could well fit into horror at times, the actions throughout the rest of the book. and the language it uses, would definitely categorize it as erotica. And it is that part which kept me reading, and the fact that I found some of the sex scenes kind of hot. ;-)

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

REVIEW: ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes, Year 1 by Susan Helene Gottfried

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

This collection of short stories introduces the reader to the world of Trevor Wolff and Mitchell Voss, and their rock band ShapeShifter. They were originally published at the online blog of author Susan Helen Gottfried, The Meet & Greet at West of Mars, so many of the visitors to that site—fondly referred to as groupies—might already be familiar with them. Since I never really liked reading online, I wasn't much of a groupie myself, so I was happy to see this collection come out so I could find out what all the fuss was about. ;)

Trevor's the kind of character you love to hate... he's rude and obnoxious, but underneath it all, has a heart of gold. There's not a whole lot of substance to most of these stories, they're just sort of the day-to-day of these characters, an introduction in preparation for the book she later published, Trevor's Song. That's not to say that Trevor, Mitchell, and the gang don't have fun, or manage to get themselves into some funny or sticky situations. For that they certainly do, but it's hard to critique this book like a book when there wasn't really a plot or anything. So just take it for what it is... and if you like the characters enough to want to follow along and see what happens from here, pick up the next 2 years of Demo Tapes, along with Trevor's Song. Actually they're all being offered FREE (in digital or ebook format) at Smashwords until the end of July. Refer to each individual book page for the code to add to your cart. I grabbed them myself and since this was a fairly quick read, plan to catch up more on Trevor and the gang over the course of the next year. :)

PS - Up until I read this book, I was convinced Trevor was a werewolf. I mean, who wouldn't with the surname of Wolff and band name of ShapeShifter, right? But this book set me straight and I was a wee bit disappointed to discover the characters were just regular joes like you and me.

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

REVIEW: Free Four: Tobias Tells the Story by Veronica Roth

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

This was a short little read that didn't add a whole lot to the story but gave you a glimpse into Four's point-of-view when Tris first joined the Divergent. I actually read it after the second book Insurgent instead of after the first one so I kind of already knew a lot more about him than this short story let on. Still, it was well written and was probably a nice hold-over for those who read Divergent and then had to wait an entire year for Insurgent to come out. :)

Goodreads page for this book

REVIEW: Insurgent (Divergent, Book 2) by Veronica Roth

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Warring between the factions has become a reality, and the Dauntless are at the front of the line fighting the fight, being controlled by a mind controlling simulation serum and not even aware of their actions. Only the Divergent--those whose Aptitude Tests indicated they were suited for more than one faction--are immune to the simulation serum being used to mind control the others. And since Tris was suited for 3 factions during her own test, she is one of the Divergent.

But in their world, being Divergent is a dangerous thing which can be used against you. It means you can't easily fit into one of the predefined molds. Many Divergent, upon discovery of their status, are often found dead by some form or other. So for that reason, all the Divergent are expected to keep their status to themselves. But as it turns out, Tris is not the only Divergent among the Dauntless, and with the help of the others, it's up to them to defeat the the knowledge seeking Erudite, developers of the mind control serum, and find out what they're trying to suppress.

Insurgent is the follow-up to the highly successful dystopian science fiction novel Divergent and though I did like it a lot, there were a couple things that kept me rating it as high as the first book (just one star less).

There was a lot of action going on here, sometimes too much as Tris and crew were jumping from faction to faction, allying with this one, then that one, so much so that I sometimes had a hard time keeping track of where they were. A couple of times, I felt a little extra proofreading could've helped too since some events seemed to contradict one other. An event between Four and Zeke for example, that seemed out of place when I read it yet none of the other characters batted an eyelash; only to find out a few chapters later the reasoning behind said event. A similar thing happened with Peter, when all of a sudden it's as if the author just forgot he was even there and the actions of Tris and Four didn't make a whole lot of sense in that context. Maybe it's the kind of thing most readers wouldn't pick up on but I'm kind of nit-picky like that since I tend to throw myself into the events of the story while I'm reading and those events are ones I can recall that threw me right out of the story I had immersed myself in. That said, it is really easy to immerse yourself in this story... it is that good!

Character-wise, I also liked Tris and Four just a little bit less in this book than I did in the previous. Many times I felt Tris was so out of touch with what was going on around her and found myself getting angry or annoyed at her. And with Four, now known primarily by his real name of Tobias, we discover he's not really the impenetrable tough guy he first seemed. The revelation of his past, along with his relationship with Tris, has opened up a more vulnerable side of him, and though that might otherwise be a good thing, I felt he used that vulnerability to manipulate Tris one time too many. I even thought of him as a bit of an Emo at times! LOL But still, the fact that I can have such strong feelings for the characters when I don't feel they're acting the way I want them to just goes to show how much the story impacted me. It kept me up way too late reading on several nights! Overall, I felt it was a worthy successor to Divergent and a recommended read indeed! :)

Sunday, July 01, 2012

REVIEW: Divergent by Veronica Roth

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

This is the first book in the Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth. After enjoying The Hunger Games Trilogy, several people recommended this series to me, so I joined my library's waiting list for the Kindle edition and snatched it up when it came available. I really enjoyed this first book in the series, and the view into a Dystopian world that's based on 5 distinct factions, each with their own specialty that helps make their "perfect society" function most optimally.

Every year, all the 16-year-olds from every faction are administered a controlled simulation Aptitude Test which helps determine which faction they're best suited for. And then at the following day's Choosing Ceremony, they make the ultimate decision which will impact the rest of their lives. Many kids decide to remain with their family, in the same faction in which they were raised, and often their Aptitude Tests will point them in that direction anyway. However, a smaller percentage strike out on their own and transfer to an entirely different faction. This is the case with Beatrice "Tris" Prior and her brother Caleb, who come from the Abnegation (the selfless) faction but transfer to Dauntless (the brave) and Erudite (the intelligent) respectively. During her Dauntless training, Tris goes through a grueling initiation process in which more than half the initiates are elimited and forced to live faction-less, but she also learns a great deal about herself in the process, all while keeping a secret that can threaten her life.

If you like books like The Hunger Games, then you should enjoy Divergent as well. The writing is crisp and action-packed and the characters likeable but flawed. I found it really creepy how this Dystopian society attempts to pigeon-hole everyone into a particular way of thinking, so they can fit one of their predefined molds, and that those who think outside-the-box or do not follow the norm are a threat to their existence.

Monday, June 25, 2012

REVIEW: Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, Book 3) by Suzanne Collins

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

The second Hunger Games has ended and as expected Katniss made it out alive. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for some of the other victors. While Katniss is rescued from the arena by the rebels, some of the other still-alive victors are taken by the Capitol and being tortured for information. But the rebels want Katniss to become their "Mockingjay", the bird which has become their symbol of hope, to help rally the troupes that are leading the revolution against the Capitol. Can the rebels succeed and wrest control back from the oppressive Capitol government? Or will it be the end of free life as they know it?

I enjoyed this final book in The Hunger Games trilogy nearly as much as the first one. There's a lot of emotion going on here; it had me laughing one minute and crying the next. Instead of focusing on the Katniss-Peeta-Gale triangle as readers might expect, the relationship issue takes a back seat to the war that is being fought front and center in this book. And yes, by the end, the question of whether Katniss chooses Gale or Peeta is resolved as well. When I'd finished reading, I found myself feeling a bit melancholy that I was done with the trilogy, and the movie is not yet out on DVD, since I didn't want it to end. :)

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

REVIEW: Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, Book 2) by Suzanne Collins

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Katniss and Peeta have survived the Hunger Games once and emerged from the arena as victors. Unfortunately, Katniss unwittingly inflamed the Capitol, and President Snow in particular, with what was perceived to be an act of defiance in the arena and now her and everyone she cares about is paying the price. Winning the games was supposed to mean a worry-free life for her and her family, but instead Katniss and Peeta are called back into the arena for a second time, to participate in the Quarter Quell, aka the Seventy-fifth Hunger Games. Can she and Peeta be lucky enough to survive a second time in the arena? And if they don't, what's to become of their families?

This follow-up to The Hunger Games started off a bit slower than it's predecessor, but began to pick up steam about 1/3 of the way in. I can't really say I liked it as much as the first book but most nearly so. The author is a terrific story teller and all the characters are interesting and memorable. Right after I finished this, I immediately loaded up Mockingjay on my Kindle as it seems to pick up right where this one leaves off. And then I'll anxiously await the DVD to see if the movie lives up to the book(s). :)

Monday, May 28, 2012

REVIEW: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Colllins

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before-and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.


This was a great book. The characters were all so very likeable, especially Katniss, who has taken care of putting food on the table for her family ever since she was 11 years old and is now fighting for her life in the Hunger Games. She's one tough girl whom you can't help but admire. Several times while in the middle of reading, I found myself cheering her on, saying "woohoo", or even chuckling out loud.

The author did a really good job setting the pace of the story; it was chock full of action right from the get go and there weren't really any slow parts. The only teeny weeny thing I didn't care for so much, even though I understood it's necessity to the story, was the killing and eating of the wild rabbits. Those who know me know I have two pet rabbits whom I love dearly so even though I recognize the difference between hunting wild rabbits for game and domesticated rabbits as pets, that was probably the only part of the story I didn't love. But hey, I was the same way with Lord of the Rings too. :)

I am soooo looking forward to reading Catching Fire, the next book in the Hunger Games series!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

REVIEW: Cirque Du Freak #12: Sons of Destiny by Darren Shan

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

The time has come for Darren Shan to face the final showdown against his arch-enemy Steve Leopard. Dead if he loses, damned if he wins! As they fight to the death, the victor will go on to become the Lord of the Shadows, destined to destroy the world. It's looking like death may be the best of two evils... unless Darren can figure out a way to trick destiny.

This is the final book in the The Saga of Darren Shan, aka the Cirque Du Freak series. This has definitely been one of the better vampire series I've read. Though written for young readers, the action is nonstop and all the books have drawn me in and glued me to their pages long into the night. Like its predecessors, this final book in the series does not disappoint, and wraps the series up quite nicely with a surprise ending you won't see coming! Definitely recommend this series for all lovers of vampire fiction.

BookCrossing journal page for this book

Sunday, May 13, 2012

REVIEW: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millennium Trilogy, Book 3) by Stieg Larsson

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

The final book in the Millennium trilogy, after The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire, brings to conclusion the saga of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist.

As Lisbeth lies in a hospital bed with a bullet hole in her head, her fate is being determined by the people and forces beyond her locked hospital room door. She's set to stand trial for at least three murders, yet she is also determined to find a way to fight back against the people and government officials who allowed the system to lock up a 12 year old girl in a mental institution.

As the final book in the trilogy, this book seemed the least polished of the three. I agree with another Amazon reviewer who thought that most likely the author had meant to go back and do a bit of fine tuning on this final manuscript, and I would have to agree as some parts rambled on aimlessly with an overabundance of detail that didn't really contribute much to the story. I'm certain the author's untimely death after delivering the 3 manuscripts undoubtedly played a role in this. Anyone who's read all three books would agree that this final one didn't have quite the same zip to the plot, and I picked up on a few grammatical and contextual errors as well.

Despite these criticisms, I still felt this book a worthy successor to the trilogy as it wraps everything up quite nicely. And actually, the last part of the book took on more of the snappy dialogue and plot line of the first two so by the time I reached Part 4, I began to have that same "can't put it down" feeling that I did with the first two. :)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

REVIEW: The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium Trilogy, Book 2) by Stieg Larsson

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

In this second book of the Millennium series, after The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Millennium magazine is getting ready to publish a very revealing exposé on the sex trade and trafficking in Sweden. But just as the article and book are preparing to come to press, Dag Svensson, author of the book and article and friend to Mikael Blomkvist, is murdered in his home along with his wife Mia. Mikael is fairly certain that the murders have something to do with the material in Dag's book, but due to an unusual set of circumstances, Lisbeth Salander is being sought in connection with the crime instead. But now Lisbeth has gone into hiding, and while Mikael desperately searches for pieces of a really bizarre puzzle in an to attempt to prove her innocence, some of what's uncovered reaches deep into the highest levels of international security. It seems someone will do whatever it takes to keep a secret!

When I finished this book my first thought was, "Whoa, what a ride!" I'm not sure why several people told me they couldn't get past the first few chapters. I agree that like the first book in the trilogy, things may have started off a little slow, but before I was even halfway through, I was having a hard time putting this one down. Though this book could actually stand alone, it certainly adds a lot to have read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo first. For that reason, some initial character development and past story line summaries were scattered throughout the beginning of the book. Perhaps that turned some people off, I don't know.

One thing I have to mention again though, and I believe I said this in my review for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo too, I don't particularly care for the convention of calling characters by their last name. Especially with these non-American names which (to me) so many of them look or sound alike. What's nice about reading on the Kindle though is it makes it super easy to just highlight and search on the name to get a refresher, otherwise I'd probably find this a lot more burdensome than just a minor distraction. Overall, a great read and two thumbs up! I've already started on the final book in the trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

Monday, April 16, 2012

REVIEW: Cirque du Freak #11: Lord of the Shadows by Darren Shan

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Eighteen years after he was pronounced dead and buried, Darren Shan is heading home. The Cirque du Freak is performing in Darren's home town, and though there's the chance he might run into people he used to know and have to explain why he hasn't aged, the greater threat is that this is where destiny has led him, and the fate of both the Vampire and Vampaneze races will be determined by a single battle that is to take place here with the Vampaneze Lord.

This is the 11th book and second to last in the Cirque du Freak series. As usual, it was a super quick read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I really like the author's way with words as he describes everything so vividly. And also, he throws in reminders of past characters and events as needed in the story line so even if you've gone awhile in between books, you can easily pick up and recall relevant events from previous books.

I noticed at one point they tried to make a movie out of these books, but it didn't do well at all. I don't recall the details but I remember that it didn't follow the book at all, way too many differences, and the screenplay didn't appear to be written very well at all. It's too bad really because if done right, this 12 book series could easily fit into a couple of 2 hour movies. And they'd be great!

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Friday, April 13, 2012

REVIEW: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Mikael Blomkvist is a 42-year old financial journalist recently accused of libel and facing three months in prison and some pretty hefty fines. After his trial, Mikael is approached by retired industrialist Henrik Vanger with an offer to write the Vanger family history and do a little extra research into the 1966 disappearance of his great niece Harriet. Henrik has been obsessed with Harriet's disappearance for the last 36 years and is convinced that someone in the family is behind her murder, despite the fact that the previous investigation has turned up no evidence to support that supposition. In exchange, Henrik offers to hand over some dirt on Hans-Erik Wennerström, the financier which Mikael is attempting to expose.

With help from some unlikely sources, including 24-year-old Lisbeth Salander, a genius hacker with Asperger's and a large assortment of tattoos and body piercings, they uncover some seriously sick shit that someone will go out of their way to keep hidden. And which puts Mikael right in the line of fire.

Though it starts off a bit slow, this book picked up speed about halfway through and got so that I couldn't put it down. I have to say this was definitely a multi-layered story with a lot going on and some serious undertones. For example, Lisbeth Salander looks and acts like some kind of anti-social street punk but she's actually extremely intelligent, has a near photographic memory, and is simply a product of all the shit she's been through. She's pretty much had to raise herself and up until recently, nobody has really taken the time or interest to help her acclimate. There's also the whole issue about violence against women which comes up several times in the course of the story, and again, the way Lisbeth deals with it, I'd say she's anything but a victim.

Because this was translated from the original Swedish text, there were a couple things here and there that bugged me a little. The author's habit of referring to characters by their last name instead of their first was one. Perhaps it's a European thing but I just couldn't wrap my head around a woman called Berger, or a young girl called Salander. (Which I kept wanting to read as Salamander. LOL) Also, some of the descriptions, especially pertaining to computer stuff, could be a bit tedious:
"He used the NotePad programme (www.ibrium.se), one of those full-value products that two men at the Royal Technical College had created and distributed as shareware for a pittance on the Internet."
Or,
"The rucksack contained her white Apple iBook 600 with 25-gig hard drive and 420 megs of RAM, manufactured in January 2002 and equipped with a 14-inch screen."
The above are just a couple of examples where the added details had absolutely no bearing on the rest of the story and seemed a bit out of place. I assume this was the way it came through in the translation, but I'm surprised all that superfluous detail wasn't edited out.

Those minor points aside, I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading the next book in the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire, very soon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

REVIEW: Cirque du Freak #10: The Lake of Souls by Darren Shan

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

In The Lake of Souls, the 10th book in the Cirque du Freak series, Half-Vampire Darren Shan and Little Person Harkat Mulds set off on a quest to discover the person that Harkat used to be, before Desmond Tiny remade him into a "Little Person". As they step through the mysteriously glowing arched doorway, suspended midair in the middle of a field, to the strange world beyond, they have no idea of the kinds of odd and fantastical creatures they will soon encounter in the land beyond, nor if they'll even make it back alive.

This was another great but fast read in the Cirque du Freak series, which is very nearly at the end. Book 12 is the last in the series. Though it's been several years since I read my last Cirque du Freak book, the author is great about dropping in extra description at appropriate points to remind you of past events when necessary. It may even be easy enough for a new reader to pick up any book in the series without having read the previous ones, though they wouldn't know the characters nearly as well as someone who's followed the story from the beginning. As usual, the writing style is swift and the action is quick, which I believe makes it quite suitable in the young adult genre, and definitely had a hard time putting it down once I started reading. I have a library book I have to tend to now, but I look forward to returning to the world of Darren Shan again really soon.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

REVIEW: The Ghost Shrink, the Accidental Gigolo, & the Poltergeist Accountant by Vivi Andrews

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

As a consultant to the dead, Lucy Cartwright receives nightly visits from the dead, usually from horny or sexually frustrated ghosts who have trouble moving on for one reason or another. But when she's visited by a live, hunky PI named Jake Cox who's investigating a murder and believes one of Lucy's ghosts has the answers he seeks, the sexual sparks between them are immediate and potent. Unfortunately, until Lucy's Cassanova ghost pays her a visit, the hookup between her and Jake is an itch that just can't be scratched since it would mean no more visits from the hornball ghosts.

This was a cute little short story. Some of the dialog seemed a bit cheesy at times, but mostly that was in the ghosts, and of course that's how they were supposed to be. As a short story, it held my interest even if the eventual outcome was a bit predictable and happily ever after. :)

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

REVIEW: From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 8) by Charlaine Harris

My Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

This is the 8th book in the True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse series. Sookie has returned home to Bon Temps and is hoping things can finally get back to normal after all the horrible events that took place at the Vampire Summit in Rhodes. The Queen is on the mend but several of her lieutenants are still MIA, and though Sookie's boyfriend Quinn did make it out alive, she has yet to hear from him.

But there's plenty else going on in Sookie's life to keep her from dwelling too much on her failed relationship. For starters, wars have broken out in both the Vampire and Were communities and as usual, Sookie is caught smack dab in the middle of all the ruckus, with lots more killings going on all around her. When the dust settles, it brings with it some some major leadership changes in both the Vampire and Were communities, and the lives of a few more supernaturals are lost in the uproar. But when one life is lost, another is introduced, or so they say, and to that end, Sookie is introduced to a new family member whose existence had remained secret up until now.

As the story progresses and Sookie grows more accepting of her blood bond with area 5 sheriff Eric Northman, I can only hope their relationship goes back to the way it was when Eric had amnesia, especially since Quinn no longer seems to be in the picture. I'd rather see Sookie with Eric anyway. Mmmmm Eric.... *drool*

I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series, which according to the author herself, is slated to end after book 13. I will be sad to see Sookie go but hey, there will always be True Blood reruns to relive, in addition to the other projects Charlaine Harris is working on. :)

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

REVIEW: Mirror Mirror by Gregory Maguire

My Rating: 4 out of 10 stars

The year is 1502, and seven-year-old Bianca de Nevada lives perched high above the rolling hills and valleys of Tuscany and Umbria at Montefiore, the farm of her beloved father, Don Vicente. But one day a noble entourage makes its way up the winding slopes to the farm and the world comes to Montefiore.

In the presence of Cesare Borgia and his sister, the lovely and vain Lucrezia--decadent children of a wicked pope--no one can claim innocence for very long. When Borgia sends Don Vicente on a years-long quest, he leaves Bianca under the care (so to speak) of Lucrezia. She plots a dire fate for the young girl in the woods below the farm, but in the dark forest salvation can be found as well ...

I had a difficult time making it through this book. The pace was pretty slow most of the way through, and the dialog and phrasing would often set my mind to wandering so next thing I knew, I wasn't even comprehending what I was reading. That's usually a strong indicator that I'm pretty bored with a book. :( I decided to plod through anyway. Perhaps it was because I enjoyed Wicked so much--both the book and the theater production--that I thought Mirror Mirror would eventually get there too, but alas it did not, and I was left feeling that my time could've been better spend with my nose in the next Sookie book which has been lying in wait on my night stand. :)

The reason I'm not giving this book a lesser rating is that even though I didn't enjoy it, I still felt the author himself is a good writer. I didn't find myself criticizing the story itself as I was reading as I do with other books with really bad writing. So just because this book wasn't my cup of tea, and I'm sure others will agree that it's a bit slow-paced, there may be others who enjoy it a lot more than I did.

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