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.