Friday, December 19, 2014

REVIEW: Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Ex-archaeology student turned international antiquities thief—though she'd be loathe to admit to the thief part—Alix Hiboux, better known as Owl, has only one rule: No supernatural jobs... EVER! Unfortunately, she has no choice but to accept a job offer from Mr. Kurosawa, the red dragon who owns the Japanese Circus Casino in Las Vegas. As luck would have it, he also promises to get rid of the pack of vampires that have been on her tail for the last year, a benefit Owl certainly can't overlook.

From Japan to Bali and back to Vegas, Owl hunts down the clues she needs to find the requested scroll for the dragon. With a little help from her best friend Nadya, along with a sexy mercenary, Owl bumbles her way through various dig sites, where trouble is never more than a step behind her. But will she be able to deliver the coveted treasure before her enemies catch up to her?

I truly enjoyed this great start to an exciting new urban fantasy series. As a character, Owl is extremely likeable. She's very headstrong, but also quite impetuous and even a bit frustrating at times. While she definitely knows her stuff when it comes to archeology, she lacks the forethought to plan properly and continuously places herself and her friends in danger with her short-sighted decisions. How she's managed to survive as long as she has is beyond me. It's a lucky thing Rynn is around to save her ass! Or perhaps she's got nine lives like her cat! ;)

Speaking of cats, I've never been much of a cat person but I have to say that Captain rocks! An extremely smart Egyptian Mau that's bred to hunt vampires, Captain has managed to save Owl's hide just as much as Rynn has. He can open windows, sneak through air ducts to get where he needs to be, and even understand and retrieve things for Owl. He's a wonderful companion for her and really adds a lot to the story.

With an assortment of supernaturals thrown into the mix, from nagas to nymps and everything in between, this was an exciting, action-packed read, and I look forward to adding this new urban fantasy series to my must read list. Going forward, my only criticism is that I sincerely hope Owl will take time to learn from past mistakes, as it's hard to imagine her being around much longer at the rate she's going. A few fighting lessons from Rynn could go a long way too.

Owl and the Japanese Circus will be released on January 13, 2015, but is available for pre-order at Amazon now. If you're a fan of urban fantasy with strong female characters, and particularly if you're interested in archeology, then I strongly recommend you check this one out!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Pocket Star Books, for providing me with a pre-release copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, December 15, 2014

REVIEW: Dark Prayer by Natasha Mostert

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Eloise Blake is on the run from a life she no longer remembers. Having went into some kind of fugue state that's lasted about two years now, she's left behind her former life as Jenilee Gray, taken up a new hobby with a tribe of free runners, and is living in a run down squat. Eloise's new identity is as different from Jenilee as night is to day.

Enter Jack Simonetti. Jack is a bit of a spoiled playboy, living off his rich father's purse strings, and recently transported from the UK to NYC. Dear old dad threatens to cut off Jack's money supply unless he does a favor for an old friend, Daniel Barone. Grudgingly, Jack agrees but eventually heads off to London to meet with Barone. Barone, who was Eloise's former guardian, fills Jack in and tasks him with getting close to Eloise and convincing her to return to her previous life. For as luck would have it, Barone is an expert in memory manipulation, and believes he has the skills to help Eloise return to her former self.

Unfortunately, things aren't quite that straightforward. Eloise has had one too many "accidental" close calls and Barone is certain that someone is dogging her, intent on doing her harm. Though Jack manages to get close to Eloise, using their common interest in parkour (free running) as his in, he starts to develop feelings for her. So if he manages to convince her to trust Barone and return to her previous life, she'll no longer remember him or any other details about her life as Eloise. So what's a guy to do??

I thought this was a fantastic story. I loved how much of the memory stuff was backed up by scientific fact, something I didn't fully realize until the author's note at the end. I know the whole "boy meets girl, falls in love, saves girl from bad guys" can be a bit cliché and overdone at times, but seriously, that small but overly simplistic piece of the plot was done up so well around an amazing thriller of a story, that you barely even realized that's what was going on.

The author did a wonderful job building her characters and the world around them. Eloise seemed tough as nails at the start, but as Jack gets to know her, she starts to let a bit more of her vulnerable side show, and you feel like you're peeling layers off an onion. (Shrek anyone? LOL)

Seriously though, if you like mystery and suspense thrillers, you owe it to yourself to check this book out. And now I realize I've had one of Mostert's other books, Season of the Witch, languishing on my TBR shelf for far too long. Must push that one towards the top of the pile!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Portable Magic, Ltd., for providing me with a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

REVIEW: Dark Screams: Volume One by Stephen King, Kelley Armstrong, Bill Pronzini, and Simon Clark

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

This collection of short horror stories, edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar, both of Cemetery Dance Publications, was both creepy and thought provoking. Some stories were definitely better than others, namely the one by Simon Clark which really stood out for me, seeing as he's an author I hadn't come across before.

WEEDS by Stephen King
Jordy Verrill wasn't all that bright, but when a meteorite lands on his farm one night, dollar signs flash before his eyes. Unfortunately, this is no ordinary rock, and it seems as if the life force inside has found it's first victim.

This was a decent short story, reminiscent of classic King, not surprising seeing as it was originally written back in 1976. But that said, I didn't care for it all that much since I didn't really relate to the main character. He was a bit of a lughead, by his own admission, and there wasn't a whole lot else going on.

THE PRICE YOU PAY by Kelley Armstrong
There's always a price to pay... just never pay more than you owe. Words Kara Snow has attempted to live by after the traumatic events of her childhood. Unfortunately, certain habits are hard to break, relationships in particular, and Kara finds herself in hot water all over again when her childhood friend Ingrid comes back into to her life.

I'm a fan of Kelly Armstrong and I found this short story more to my liking than the previous. The main character was quite relate-able and the circumstances surrounding her story all too real. The surprise ending indeed took me by surprise, but still delivered a closing I was quite happy with.

MAGIC EYES by Bill Pronzini
Edward James Tolliver lives his life among the criminally insane, convicted of a crime for which he insists he's innocent. Adamant in his innocence, yet constantly pressured by his doctor to accept responsibility for his actions, how can he do so without revealing the presence of these spectral invaders that have been visiting him... when doing so would only prove he's exactly where he belongs.

This was a creepy tale about an inmate who sees demons in the people around him. It's conducted mostly in monologue as the protagonist Edward writes in his journal, and I found that got a little tiring after awhile. But I suppose this type of delivery helped to emphasize the crazed mind behind the story. Overall, I found it just alright, but nothing special.

The best of the bunch. A gripping story reminiscent of old Saw movies. John York awakens in a large underground sewer, having no idea how he got there, and chained by the neck to a large, scary killer. How far will he go and what will he do to save himself?

I really enjoyed the suspense with this one, never knowing where it was going to lead next, the crazed killer a mere 10 feet away from the protagonist the entire time. The author did a really good job building the suspense, especially for a short story, and I found myself really empathizing with the main character. Simon Clark is now a name I will definitely watch for in the future.

THE WATCHED by Ramsey Campbell
Young Jimmy meets a man in the woods on his way home one day. Claiming to be a local policeman, the man asks Jimmy to keep an eye on the house next door. But why would a policeman have a young boy running errands for him, and why does this man look like he hasn't slept in days? What Jimmy discovers over the course of the next few days will impact his life forever more.

Though not nearly as suspenseful as the previous Simon Clark story, this one had enough going on to command a different sort of suspense. Keeping secrets, yet never quite sure what was really going on, Jimmy's actions leave the reader constantly searching for clues, just as Jimmy is himself.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for providing me with a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

REVIEW: Chronicles of Steele: Raven by Pauline Creeden

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

This was a highly entertaining steampunk fantasy. Raven is a reaper that lives by the reaper's code: for every life she takes, another must be redeemed. She's just about broken even, and has been seriously considering settling down and leaving the reaper life behind completely. But when she's asked to provide protection to the young Baron Darius of New Haven and bring him before the Wood Witch to help cure his malady, she decides to take this one last job. Unfortunately, things aren't quite as straightforward as she would've hoped, and along the way, it's not only her own life and that of her charge that are put in danger. To survive this trip, Raven will have to call upon all her reaper training, and examine her true feelings in the process.

I thought the author did an excellent job with the character and world building. The story takes place in an alternate universe, with cool steam-powered gadgetry, mechanical servants who look completely human, and yes evil witches too! I really connected with Raven's character. Despite her occupation, she's very real and vulnerable underneath her kickass exterior. I'm happy to see that Ms. Creeden will be releasing another book in the Chronicles of Steele universe in 2015 which will focus on young Darius, now the Duke of New Haven. I look forward to delving into more of this fantastic world.

Thank you to the author and NetGalley for providing a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

REVIEW: Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

This book is a collection of four short stories, each published individually but also sold together as a unit as well, told from Four's point-of-view. The first three take place prior to the events of Divergent while the last takes place during the events of Divergent, after Tris has entered the picture.

Four: The Transfer
This short story gives us a glimpse into Four's life with his father, Marcus Eaton, where he's known by his given name of Tobias Eaton. We see the hardships he endured under his father's control, get to experience his Choosing Ceremony, and learn the true reasons he left Abnegation to because Dauntless.

This was a well-written short story, engaging from the start, and though the enlightened reader who's already read the trilogy may already know most of the back story contained herein, it gave me a new appreciation for Four and everything he went through to get where he is today.

Four: The Initiate
This well-written and engaging short story focuses on Four's initiation into Dauntless, and the beginning of his rivalry with Eric. Although he's still learning to assimilate his learned Abnegation morals into his new Dauntless lifestyle, he's started to make friends and eventually makes a name for himself as he progresses through his initiation with the highest of scores.

As he's adjusting to the Dauntless way of life, Four begins to get the feeling that things are not as they appears to be. His father's fervent warnings that he not show awareness under simulation during the Choosing Ceremony's aptitude test begins to coincide with some of the things he's experiencing. Is this faction system all it's cracked up to be, or is it just another way of controlling people, the way his father always controlled him?

Like the previous story, I loved this glimpse into Four's initiation, and I loved getting to know Shauna and Zeke more too, who were more minor characters in the book trilogy. The foreshadowing at the end left me happy that I have the collection of all four stories to read on hand.

Four: The Son
This short story picks up right where Four: The Initiate leaves off. A major twist is introduced, causing Four to further question all he's known his whole life. Four: The Son finds Four examining the relationship he had with his parents, and how it's affecting his current situation.

Like the previous two short stories about Four, this one was just as good. As top of his class of initiates, Four's asked to be a leader, to help shape the future of Dauntless initiation, but after a couple meetings, he's come to realize this isn't what he wants at all. He's begun to feel that the faction system is just another form of control, one he was trying to escape when leaving his father and Abnegation. So instead, Four begins to exert himself through small acts of rebellion against being controlled, all while keeping it on the down low.

Four: The Traitor
It's been two years since the events of the previous short story, this one taking place during the time of Divergent. Four confronts his inner demons about becoming a traitor to his faction as he ponders what to do with some important information he's discovered. At the same time, he also begins to examine his feelings for Tris and decides to open up to her.

I enjoyed seeing the events surrounding Tris's initiation into Dauntless from Four's point-of-view. When I first read Divergent, I was slightly put off by his seemingly indifferent attitude towards Tris, but in this short story, we get to see what he was really thinking, and it allowed me to understand his character a lot better.

Though these short stories aren't necessary to the story line, I felt they added a lot to it, giving the reader a whole new dimension in which to view the events of the books. Almost makes me want to read the books all over again knowing what I do know about Four. :)

Monday, December 01, 2014

REVIEW: The After House by Michael Phillip Cash

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Remy Galway and her daughter Olivia are rebuilding their life in the small historic town of Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, New York after Remy's divorce. Little do they realize however that one of the house's previous occupants, a whaling boat captain who passed away in 1841, is still lurking... a specter who hasn't been able to find his way to the light. As Remy struggles to put her life back together, will the Captain's presence hinder or help her?

This was an alright read for me. The writing threw me off a bit at the beginning as I found it overly descriptive, particularly of characters as they were introduced, the author recounting details that often had very little to do with the rest of the story. In many cases, I felt it would've been better to leave some of those details out and allow the reader to discover them on their own, if indeed they were necessary. About 17% of the way through (I was reading on my Kindle), things got more interesting with the appearance of the ghost of Captain Eli in Remy and Olivia's life.

I'm not much of a romance reader—I find much of it too corny and cliché for my taste—and unfortunately there were a few romantic scenes between Remy and the local mayor, Hugh, that gave me that same feeling. This and the verbose descriptions were my primary criticisms which detracted from the story for me. But outside of those criticisms, the rest of the story had an interesting premise, and while the ending was a bit predictable, I was still satisfied with how it all turned out.

Thank you to the author and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

REVIEW: Prince Lestat by Anne Rice

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

It's been twenty years since the completion of the Vampire Chronicles, twenty years since Lestat brought his last fledgling, Mona Mayfair, into the blood and then retreated to the seclusion of his family home in the French Auvergne.

Now however, an evil presence has awakened, drawing the ancient ones from their long, dark slumber beneath the earth and inciting them to violence against their own kind. Vampires the world over are being hunted; it seems as if none are safe. As the radio ambassador to the Vampire community, Benji Mahmoud begs for the ancient ones to come forth and offer their assistance, for one to act as leader to their Undead tribe and provide a unified front against this malevolent Voice which can speak directly to ones consciousness. Lestat, while not quite a Child of the Millennia, has long been looked upon as the Brat Prince of Vampire kind, and as such is also implored by Benji to make himself known and come to their aid as well. But Lestat wants no part of this, his days in the limelight are done, and he'd much prefer to simply be left to his solitude to finish the meticulous restoration of his remote family estate.

But the Voice is not to be silenced, and as it continues its violent rampage, the Vampires realize Benji is correct, and if they have any hope of quieting this Voice, and getting out of this intact, they must join together as one.

If you didn't read the previous Vampire Chronicle books, you may not appreciate Prince Lestat all that much, not really recognizing most of the characters referenced throughout. Granted there is an appendix with characters and their chronology, but I found that more of a refresher for previous readers as opposed to a suitable introduction for new readers. But to keep things interesting all the same, there are a few new characters introduced that didn't appear in previous books.

My only criticism is that there were several parts of the book, especially in the middle, than the character's inner dialogue became a bit excessive and repetitive, like they were just droning on about a particular subject ad nauseum, i.e. how wonderful Lestat is, and I found my mind wandering during those times. This was probably the primary reason I didn't award it full stars. This 458 page book could have easily been 300 something just by eliminating a lot of the repetitiveness and babbling.

I also found it odd that while references to past events were scattered throughout the book, the most recent tales of the Mayfairs and the Taltos that took place in Blood Canticle were strangely absent. Perhaps due to the harsh criticism that book received, Ms. Rice decided to just act like it never happened. *shrug* Fortunately, its dismissal didn't really affect the current story in the least.

I think fans of the previous books will definitely enjoy this one, to find out where all the characters are at now, and what's changed for them over the last 20 years. Those who didn't already read the Vampire Chronicles may want to pass this one by for now.

Monday, November 17, 2014

REVIEW: The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

The continuing story of Ceony Twill and Magician Emory Thane didn't quite live quite up to it's predecessor, The Paper Magician, for me. I'm not sure if I was simply in a different frame of mind this time around or what, but was Ceony this annoying in the first book? If she was, I certainly didn't pick up on it until now.

Ceony has been pining after Emory ever since she saved him in the first book. The bad guys are still on her tail, consistently putting her and everyone around her in danger. But I seriously felt that the emotions she now has for Emory have clouded her judgement, making her quite short-sighted and reckless! Gone is the young girl I fell in love with in The Paper Magician and while she's still headstrong, she's now making foolish decisions and letting her emotions rule her actions, putting everyone in jeopardy with her foolishness.

I also disliked how a certain details in the story would come along and then suddenly be dropped and forgotten. For example, what happened to that super nice safety bicycle Ceony had, the one she took to her luncheon with Delilah with the enchanted tires that wouldn't wear? When she fled the scene, she just left it there, never went back to retrieve it, and it was never mentioned again. Perhaps the author thought it an unimportant detail but it still bugged me that Ceony would treat her belongings so carelessly. Several other things about the way Ceony now acted and thought irked me too, one that was already mentioned by several other reviewers was her thinking that Langston needed a wife because he didn't know how to cook? Puhhlease!

That said, I still liked the story overall, and found it a fast-paced and entertaining read despite it's drawbacks for me. If Ceony wasn't so vexatious this time around, I may have even liked it as much as The Paper Magician.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

REVIEW: Doctor Who: Lights Out by Holly Black

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

I love Doctor Who, and I quite enjoyed this short story. Holly Black has captured in writing the expressions and mannerisms of the 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi) quite well. There was one part, when the Doctor was describing the duties of his companion, in which he says, "remind me how brilliant I am, notice things that I've already noticed, ask me questions whose answers are so blazingly obvious that it would never have occurred to me to explain." That quote had me cracking up laughing. It is soooo snarky Capaldi-esque!

In this forty-page story, the Doctor meets and befriends a young, scaly monster at the Intergalactic Coffee Roasting Station (ICRS). When the lights go out and one of the coffee shop patrons is murdered in the dark, everyone becomes a suspect. The Doctor works through the clues in his usual genius way, deducing the murderer and saving the day.

Thank you to NetGalley and Puffin Books for providing me a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

REVIEW: The Void (Witching Savannah, Book 3) by J.D. Horn

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Mercy and Peter are happily married and looking forward to the birth of their son. Unfortunately, it seems everyone has it out for Mercy right now, and her life is consistently being put in danger. The other anchors of The Line want to take her out, afraid of the power she holds, and their fear that she will be responsible for taking down the line down and letting loose all the old Gods and Demons to return to our world. Not only that, but severed body parts have begun to show up scattered all around Savannah, all with dark magic attached. The Taylor family, in their usual close-knit fashion, have bound together to protect Mercy, while at the same time trying to get to the bottom of these horrible slayings and figure out the meaning behind them.

The third and final installment in the Witching Savannah trilogy ends with a bang! There are all sorts of twists and turns that will keep the reader on their toes. Whether you'll like all those twists and turns however, I can't truly say. Like the previous books in the series, the story really draws you in. It's fast moving, the characters are well developed, and the writing gives you a spectacular feeling of place, as if you're walking the streets of Savannah yourself. I was happy to see Jilo make a minor re-appearance here as well as she was definitely one of my favorite characters.

The story shifted drastically about halfway through however, and many readers may be disappointed they're not getting the nicely wrapped-up ending they were seeking. I did find it a bit unsettling myself at first, but after awhile, I resigned myself to what was going on and then was pleasantly surprised with how it all turned out, especially after I'd been expecting the worst. Overall, I quite enjoyed the Witching Savannah series and would recommend it to anyone looking for a good ole southern witchy tale.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, 47North, for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

REVIEW: The Source (Witching Savannah, Book 2) by J.D. Horn

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Mercy Taylor has finally come into her powers and is slowly learning to control them. But when her long-presumed-dead mother makes an appearance, and asks Mercy to keep her presence a secret, Mercy starts to wonder whom she can really trust--the sister who tried to kill her, the aunts and uncle who hid the truth about her mother's death, or even mother herself, who is suddenly making a reappearance in Mercy's life after twenty plus years.... With all the deception surrounding her, Mercy knows she needs to get to the bottom of all these mysteries before it all blows up around her.

This was a pretty good follow-up to The Line, although overall I liked the first book slightly better. We learn a few secrets about Peter here, and though he was more of a background to Mercy and Maisie's story in the first book, his character begins to take on more prominence in Mercy's life here, though not necessarily for the better in my opinion. The same is true of Emmet, the golem who manifested during The Line, and I actually came to like him better in this book. I hope to see some of the loose ends with Mercy's mother tied up in the third book, The Void, which I plan on reading next. And I hope Peter finds out the truth about himself too. I don't think it's right his family keeping such an important secret from him!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

REVIEW: The Line (Witching Savannah, Book 1) by J.D. Horn

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Mercy and the rest of the Savannah Taylors are part of a long line of witches that have been given the responsibility of holding down the "Line" that keeps demons from entering our world. Mercy's fraternal twin, the golden-haired Maisie, was born with all the beauty and power of a true witch, while poor flame-haired Mercy is ordinary and weak, powerless by comparison. Burdened throughout her life as a disappointment to the family, Mercy has blissfully accepted her lot in life, living instead in the glow of her sister's blessed existence, and remaining remarkably happy and full of spunk for someone in her shoes.

Though the main character was only 20 years old (21 by the end), I wouldn't consider this a young adult novel as there's a few adult themes going on, or at least discussed. I believe it may actually fall into a somewhat new genre called New Adult. So parents, definitely don't push this one on your teen unless you've read it first yourself.

Overall, I thought this was a really good read that ramped up even more about halfway through and then kept you on your toes right up to the very end. The first chapter started out a bit choppy, and didn't seem to have much to do with the rest of the story. After reading it, I didn't have a strong sense about the book overall, but in retrospect, it seemed to have introduced and even added a bit of dimension to several characters in the story, Mercy's included, without having to go into long lengthy explanations. The characters were well developed and I really felt for Mercy and everything she went through. Though I did question her angelic like quality of being able to unequivocally forgive some of the people who've wronged her so terribly. Mother Jilo, another awesomely drawn character, really pulled you into the whole vibe of Savannah. Witches, Hoodoo, boo hags, and golems... all taking place down in the deep south. I look forward to the next title in this series.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

REVIEW: The Time Roads by Beth Bernobich

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

The Time Roads is an intriguing collection of related steampunk era stories that tie together into a larger, more complex picture. Ireland, referred to by it's ancient name of Éire, is the stronghold of Europe here, instead of England. Mathematical scientists of the time have discovered ways to access alternate realities by traveling what they call the Time Roads. These time roads later prove quite invaluable for Queen Áine and the livelihood of the Éire kingdom, which is under threat from Anglia (England) and the Prussian Empire, to name but a few.

The first and fourth stories, the longest of the four, are both told in the first person point of view from Queen Áine of Éire. The second and third stories shift to third person point-of-view and focus on different characters which are still related to the overall picture. I actually liked the first and fourth stories best, feeling more of a connection with Queen Áine. But at the end of the first story, I did find the shift to an entirely new set of characters whom we hadn't yet been introduced to, a bit unsettling at first, and I honestly didn't like that story as much as the others. Once I realized how it tied into the overall story however, I was a bit more tolerant. :)

I also longed for a pronunciation guide throughout. The spelling and pronunciation of the many Celtic names were difficult to master, and without it, I had a harder time remembering and recalling names since I couldn't sound them out in my head as I came across them. My Kindle came in quite useful in this regard as I could highlight and search for previous mentions of that particular name, but if I had to read this one in traditional book format, it would've bugged me quite a bit more.

Overall, the stories were quite thought-provoking, with some better than others as already mentioned. The character development was decent and the world building was great as I truly felt immersed in the time in which these stories took place. I look forward to reading further works from Beth Bernobich.

Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Books for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

REVIEW: The Dark Victorian: Risen (Volume 1) by Elizabeth Watasin

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

A rogue re-animationist is causing mayhem in the streets of 1880's London, reanimating the dead to all sorts of deadly, nefarious deeds. But the Crown has their own weapon to fight back. The Secret Commission, an arsenal of supernatural beings, has been established exactly to help fight such crime. Artifice "Art", a very recently reanimated Quaker, and her partner Jim Dastard, a talking skull, have a job to do if they're to stop the string of recent murders plaguing the city.

Having only been recently reanimated, and remembering nothing of her former life by design, Art's journey of self-discovery is endearing, warming me to her character even more. For we as the reader get to discover and learn more about her as she does herself. And her partner Jim, a reanimated skull with no other living organs or parts and fueled by fire and smoke, is chock full of witty remarks and simply darling as well.

I truly enjoyed this supernatural romp through the streets of Victorian London. The author tells a lively, animated story, full of mystery and intrigue, and the characters of Art and Jim are simply awesome! The world building puts you right in the middle of the action, the author's descriptions giving just the right amount without bogging things down... a perfect balance. I very much look forward to reading the following titles in this entertaining series.

Many thanks to the author and NetGalley for providing a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

REVIEW: Carniepunk by Rachel Caine, Rob Thurman, Kevin Hearne, Seanan McGuire, Jennifer Estep, Allison Pang, Kelly Gay, Delilah S. Dawson, Kelly Meding, Jackie Kessler, Mark Henry, Jaye Wells, Hillary Jacques, Nicole D. Peeler

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

All the stories in this anthology revolve around the carnival and/or circus life, a subject I really enjoy. Didn't y'all want to run away and join the circus when you were younger... or is that just me? ;)

I reviewed this book on a story by story basis, and most of these stories were really good. I was also introduced to several "new to me" authors whose books and series I've since added to my TBR or wish list.

Painted Love by Rob Thurman - 6 stars
This story about a man, who's really a monster underneath, is purposely misleading, deceiving the reader into believing something that isn't so, just as Bart wears his false face to the rest of the world. I thought Doodle's endless narratives could drone on a bit too long at times, but overall the story was thought provoking and had me rereading it again after I'd finished.

The Three Lives of Lydia by Delilah S. Dawson - 6 stars
Parts of it were cool, other parts, not so much. I enjoyed the carnival scenes, but the reality of the situation was pretty depressing.

The Demon Barker of Wheat Street by Kevin Hearne - 8 stars
This was a fantastic short story, part of the Iron Druid Chronicles taking place after the 4th book in that series. The writing really drew me in, snarky yet action-packed. It can definitely stand on it's own outside of the rest of the series, but I enjoyed it so much that I immediately hunted down the Iron Druid Chronicles and added that series to my TBR list.

The Sweeter the Juice by Mark Henry - 1 star
Sorry but I didn't like this one at all. A transvestite junkie in a post-apocalyptic world of zombies. No thanks!

The Werewife by Jaye Wells - 6 stars
A riveting tale that teaches the lesson to be careful what you wish for... particularly while in the vicinity of the carnival freak show.

The Cold Girl by Rachel Caine - 7 stars
This was a fast-paced young adult story, and it held my interest throughout. Though I didn't like seeing Kiley as a victim, it at least depicted life honestly, albeit brutally, as to how cruel some people can be.

A Duet with Darkness by Allison Pang - 3 stars
I didn't really get this one at all, and the end was too obscure and made absolutely no sense to me. All the characters were unlikeable as well. Not a great introduction to this author for me.

Recession of the Divine by Hillary Jacques - 6 stars
The Greek goddess Mnemosyne taken on a human form and enslaved as a fortune teller at the local carnival. An interesting read.

Parlor Tricks by Jennifer Estep - 7 stars
An exciting short story that takes place in the world of the Elemental Assassin series. I got a bit of a feel for the main character Gin and think I'll check out the full series of which these characters are a part.

Freak House by Kelly Meding - 8 stars
Really liked this one, so much so that I'd like to check out more of this author's work. The title of this story states that it's a Strays Short Story, though I don't see that that's the name of any of her existing series, so I don't know if these characters are part of any of her other books or not. I hope so however, as I really liked the characters of Shiloh and Julius and would love to learn more about them.

The Inside Man by Nicole D. Peeler - 7 stars
This was a pretty decent read, and also part of an existing series, Jane True. I'm not sure if I loved it enough to seek out more books by this author or not, but I will definitely be checking goodreads to see what the Jane True series is about and find out what others thought of them.

A Chance in Hell by Jackie Kessler - 7 stars
I enjoyed this one, and liked Jezebel's character. I guess this is part of the author's Hell on Earth series, the first 2 books of which I have somewhere in my TBR boxes in the garage. I may just have to pull them out to add them to my more current TBR pile after this short but enticing short story.

Hell's Menagerie by Kelly Gay - 5 stars
The story itself was alright, though I didn't care for the author's writing style all that much. The action scenes, which should've been fast-paced and exciting, were instead bogged down with excessive detail. For this reason, even the actions scenes seemed to just sort of creep along with the rest of the book.

Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea by Seanan McGuire - 7 stars
Mermaids are magical! Though this story wasn't nearly as dark or action packed as the others, the author's writing style really drew me in. The quality of that writing, combined with mermaids and carnies, will definitely have me seeking out additional works from this author.

Friday, October 10, 2014

REVIEW: Quite Contrary by Richard Roberts

My Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

Mary is lost in the story of Little Red Riding Hood, continually jumping between various fairy tales and myths to escape the Wolf who's trying to kill her... and so the story goes.

I almost didn't finish this, had pretty much decided to give up after five chapters in. Mary was quite contrary alright, so much so that I couldn't care less what happened to her. I started to wish she'd just die already so the story would be over! Her bad attitude was just plain rude, vulgar, nasty, and mean. And it was hard to believe she was only twelve years old based on her thought process!

However, after reading several Goodreads reviews that mentioned Mary's change in attitude, and the dawning realization that a change was taking place, I decided to plod on. It was around the 1/2 way point that I started to enjoy this story a bit more. Mary's tough exterior began to soften and crack in places, and as she opened up her emotions to her companions—a rat and a wooden doll—the reader starts to learn a bit more about what makes her tick, and why she's so nasty.

The final chapter was a bit of a letdown. It tried to summarize the entire story, making it Mary's own instead of that of Little Red Riding Hood, but it left out a lot of detail, and also changed some parts along the way. I guess the author's reasoning for including it was that Mary was retelling her own story, but I still thought it was too simplistic.

Overall, the last part of the book redeemed itself for the first half, thus bringing my rating up slightly from the original 1 star I was going to give it.

Monday, October 06, 2014

REVIEW: Splintered by A. G. Howard

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Hearing the thoughts of plants and insects can be a bit unsettling for Alyssa Gardner, especially if it means she may eventually follow in the crazed footsteps of her matrilineal relations. In a desperate attempt to rid her family of their curse, Alyssa decides to take things into her own hands and travel down the rabbit hole, her dear friend Jeb by her side. A wildly psychedelic trip to Wonderland, with the darkly enchanting netherling Morpheus as their guide, pits Alyssa against a series of challenges designed to right the wrongs committed by her great-great-great grandmother Alice Liddell when she'd visited Wonderland so long ago. But Alyssa also finds her loyalties torn between the stoic and dreamy Jeb and the deliciously magic and mysterious Morpheus.

I thought the story started off a bit slow. It had trouble holding my interest until around the 4th chapter when things started to pick up. But once the real ties to Wonderland started to materialize, even before Alyssa ventured down, is when it got good. The characters were all written quite well, the descriptions of Wonderland and its various creatures and netherlings fantastic, throwing you right into the middle of the brilliant yet frightening world opening up around you. At times, when the romantic aspect between the characters would start to take center stage, I felt my interest waning a bit. But that's probably just me since I don't like romances. Other readers may thoroughly enjoy Alyssa's tangled feelings for Morpheus versus her guilty feelings for Jeb. Fortunately for me, there was so much more going on here that the romance didn't bother me all that much. Overall, I thought it was an interesting read and I plan to read the other books in the series sometime soon.

Friday, October 03, 2014

REVIEW: Waistcoats & Weaponry: Finishing School Book the Third by Gail Carriger

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Sophronia and her friends are off on another adventure, this time in an attempt to return Sidheag to Scotland to reunite with the broken werewolf pack her grandfather left behind. But along the way, they uncover a sinister plot that forces Sophronia to decide where her loyalties lie.

Another action-packed read in the young adult Finishing School series by Gail Carriger, this third book was just as riveting as the first two. Though there's a bit of a love triangle starting to go on now—a plot device I'm not particularly fond of—it hasn't really been over done here, not to the point where it's driving the plot by any means. That said, I'm really curious to see the direction the relationships with both Felix and Soap take after this book, especially with Soap's new station in life.

Ms. Carriger has crafted a wildly imaginative steampunk world that continues to dazzle with it's charm and strong characters. I realize it'll be awhile before another book in this series is released, so I've decided to check out her Parasol Protectorate series to tide me over. :)

Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 29, 2014

REVIEW: Curtsies & Conspiracies: Finishing School Book the Second by Gail Carriger

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Sophronia is enjoying her time at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy. In addition to learning a proper curtsy, she's also learned how to wield a letter opener to deathly effect. In this second book of the Finishing School series, the school is on the move—a trip to London to witness the very first transcontinental dirigible expedition, with possibly more to it than meets the eye. With Monique's coming out ball on the agenda, the recently botched kidnapping attempt on Dimity, and untoward advances from Viscount Mersey, Sophronia's certainly got her hands full if she's to make it through the school year.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, just as much as the first, if not more so. Ms. Carriger has build a wonderfully detailed steampunk world, abounding with dinghies, airships, gadgets, and mechanicals. Full of action and adventure, this book draws the reader in and doesn't let go. One thing I noted is that these books can easily stand alone if necessary. When a significant event would occur, one that relates to or depends on something that occurred in the previous book, the author neatly summarizes the event to bring the reader up to speed. So though you may have missed out on the excitement of said event the first time around, there's enough information given so a new reader is up to speed on current events, even if they haven't gotten to know the characters quite as well yet.

As I said in my review of Etiquette & Espionage, I love Sophronia's audacious character, and think all the major characters in this book are very well drawn. I'm very much looking forward to Waistcoats & Weaponry, the third book in the series, due to be released in November, but which I luckily have an advance readers copy of waiting right here. :)

Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, September 26, 2014

REVIEW: Etiquette & Espionage: Finishing School Book the First by Gail Carriger

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

When mischievous young Sophronia Temminnick is sent off to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, she immediately envisions the worst—for she would much rather be climbing and dismantling mechanicals than learning how to be a lady. But coupled with the fine arts of social etiquette, dress, and dance, the girls are also trained in espionage, diversion and intelligence gathering. Insofar as Sophronia had expected to abhor the boarding school, housed in an air dinghy hovering over Dartmoor, she instead finds that she's quite enjoying her time there, thriving in an environment that seems to cater to her shenanigans. Danger ensues as Sophronia commissions some of her new friends in tracking down a mysterious prototype, and meets an odd assortment of gentlemen, flywaymen, and Picklemen along the way.

This was a fantastic read! I quite enjoyed the romp through this fantastical 19th century world, of dirigibles and air dinghies. The writing style was fairly fast paced, slowing down at times when extra description was needed, but otherwise moved along pretty quickly. There were elements of the supernatural as well, though they definitely didn't dominate the story. I loved Sophronia's character, her determination and fearlessness were inspiring. And the little mechanimal Bumbersnoot... awesome!

I've already started on Curtsies & Conspiracies, the second book in the series.

Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 22, 2014

REVIEW: The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Revelation Dyer is descended from a long matriarchal line of New England witches, each with their own curious power. Revelation's power is that she can vanish into thin air, making her talent as a stage magician quite legendary. When her husband, famed magician Jeremy Maskelyne and the other half of her act, is killed in a freak accident—which turns out to be not quite an accident after all—Reve's life starts to fall apart. On the prompting of her grandmother, whom she fondly calls Nan, she does the only thing she can think of: gathers up her three daughters and returns home, to the small town of Hawley Five Corners, Massachusetts, an area where her ancestral magic runs strong. The little ghost town, residing on the edge of Hawley Forest, and next to it's larger Hawley neighbor, has quite a bit of controversy surrounding it, and it's own rich set of historical legends the locals are reticent to even talk about. But if Reve is to defeat the elusive enemy that's haunting her, she's going to need all the help she can get.

Wow, what an amazing, spectacular, spellbinding story! It gripped me from the moment I picked it up, and though I was excited to hear that there will be more Revelation stories to come, I'm sad I'll have to wait for them. Chrysler Szarlan has got some mad skills with world building and character development, a startling fact considering this is her debut novel. I found myself lost in the story for hours on end, difficult to put down.

This story was both haunting and magical, drawing the reader in with it's flowing prose and vivid descriptions. If I had to give any criticism at all, I'd say it's only that Reve frustrated me at times, with her reluctance to believe what was right in front of her, especially coming from a magical family as she did. I liked that the story took place primarily in Western Massachusetts as well as Las Vegas, both areas I'm familiar with, as I love feeling that connection with place that a story can evoke. I'm definitely looking forward to more!

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Ballantine Books for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

REVIEW: The Undays of Aralias Lyons by K. L. Horvath

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Aralias Lyons belongs to an eccentric family of Travelers living in 19th century England. When he meets Clara Heartwell, widowed wife of a famous archeologist, he discovers she holds a significant artifact that allows him to more precisely control time. Together they travel back in time—fighting iron dragons, poisonous marsiders, and clockwork men—in a desperate attempt to save Aralias's son Jack from the mind torture of the evil Simeon Bliss, a heinous megalomaniac with a potent desire for control and power.

This was an engrossing story, the world and its characters within detailed with vivid imagery. I'm a sucker for the Victorian age and the era in which this story takes place, of gears and steam engines and all manner of steampunk that goes along with it. Traveling through time with Aralias allows the reader to experience several different spaces in time, and always the author was full of lush, vivid descriptions that really pulled you into the story. I felt as one with Aralias, living his ever-changing life through his eyes in a whirlwind of time and space.

For all the good things it's got going for it, this book could've used a bit of editing to make the story flow smoother, and for that it lost a star. This wasn't an advance reader copy or uncorrected proof so there's really no excuse for all the grammatical errors I encountered. The improper use of commas—not only lacking in places where needed but also inserted in places where they weren't—would often throw me out of the story and force me to reread sentences or entire paragraphs to understand what the author was trying to communicate. These occurred often enough that I felt it worth the mention, especially since they weren't isolated. Other errors—the use of were instead of we're, or two characters speaking in the same paragraph—continued to unnerve and confuse me and snap me out of this otherwise extraordinary world the author created.

I received this book directly from the author in exchange for an honest review. I attempted to do it justice while pointing out areas I felt it was lacking. I sincerely hope Ms. Korvath considers hiring an editor for future works, because I really liked what she was putting out there, but the transference from words to paper needs to be tweaked a bit to make her story completely transcendent. (Who knows, perhaps she may even decide to edit and release an updated version of this e-book for future readers.)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

REVIEW: Faerie Tales from the White Forest Omnibus by Danika Dinsmore

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

This omnibus contains the first three books of the Faerie Tales from the White Forest series: Brigitta of the White Forest, The Ruins of Noe, and Ondelle of Grioth. I am reviewing each book separately, and the star rating above is an average of the three.

Brigitta of the White Forest (Book 1) - 6 stars
Brigitta embarks on a bold journey to save her realm from the mysterious curse that has turned all the other faeries to stone. Accompanied by her sister Himalette, the only other who was spared the curse, the two leave the protection of the White Forest to seek help from a faerie banished to Dead Mountain long ago. What ensues is a grand adventure filled with menacing beasts and ominous danger. But with the help of some unlikely allies, the two might just be able to save the day.

The author does a lot of world building in this first volume, and thoughtfully included a lexicon at the end to further elaborate on the intricate details of this magical realm. It's indeed written with a young adult audience in mind, though learning the complexities of an entirely new world may be a bit intimidating to less experienced young readers.

One thing that disappointed me slightly is that I never fully connected with the main characters, even though I liked them well enough. While the author was wonderfully detailed in constructing this beautiful faerie realm, I didn't feel that same depth extended to the characters. Instead I felt more like a comrade traveling alongside them, never really experiencing the wonder of the land through their eyes, or feeling what they felt. Lacking that, I lost a level of intimacy and immersion that I often experience with other fantasy novels. I saw an Amazon reviewer mention a similar sentiment and noted that Ms. Dinsmore comes from a background in script writing, which probably explains this somewhat. In any case, I'm hoping to see the author gain her stride in later volumes and let us live this magical world more fully through her characters.

The Ruins of Noe (Book 2) - 7 stars
The faeries of the White Forest have begun to lose touch with the Ancients—baby faerie are born with eyes of crystal white, and the spirits of the deceased are no longer being dispersed. An ancient prophecy predicts these events, and foretells of the coming of a guiding light, which a single faery would call by name. And so it is that Brigitta recognizes the whisper light, which slipped through the protected perimeter surrounding their realm, and becomes the one referenced in the prophecy. Brigitta and High Priestess Ondelle travel to the valley of Noe, the original home of the Ancients, in order to seek the means to make the elemental balance right again.

I liked this second book a bit better than the first as there was more action and danger. I started to feel a bit more connected to Brigitta too, even though I still feel as if the author is writing from the outside looking in instead of living in her characters' skins more fully—she tends to describe actions and places with a lot of detail but really scrimps on the feelings of the characters. If that characteristic of her writing style was changed, I could easily see this series moving up into 8 or 9 star territory.

Ondelle of Grioth (Book 3) - 8 stars
Brigitta has absorbed HP Ondelle's air energy and is learning to control it, but finds she's now being bombarded with the former High Priestess's memories as well—memories that are speaking to her, leading her to a destiny she does not yet fully understand. With the whole of Faweh still not in balance, several daunting tasks remain if their way of life in the White Forest is to be preserved. With her destiny spread out before her, Brigitta is leading the charge.

I was left with a feeling of awe as I finished this third book in the series. On the one hand, the awe-inspiring wilderness of the terrain thru which Brigitta and her friends traveled—cold and beautiful at times, hot and deadly at others—and the vividness with which the author describes them, makes you feel as if you're traveling right there along with Brigitta and her friends. On the other hand, their most important journey wasn't fully complete at the close of this book, so I was also thinking, "awww must I really wait until Summer of 2015 for the next book to be released?"

I still didn't get into Brigitta's head as much as I'd have liked to, but by now I became used to being more of a traveling companion alongside her rather than feeling like I was seeing this world through her own eyes. The fact that I still give this book 8 stars (or 4 for Amazon/Goodreads) goes to show how great I think the rest of the story is here. I am sure that despite that single shortcoming (which I've pointed out above), this will be one of those books that stays with me for awhile. Certainly, I hope, long enough for me to remember everything by the time I pick up the 4th book next summer.

*I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Sunday, September 07, 2014

REVIEW: The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Seventeen-year-old Olivia Mead is a headstrong young lady living in Portland, Oregon in the year 1900. Women of this period were expected to be silent, docile, and nurturing, without a voice in government or much say at all as to what goes on around them. The suffrage movement is in full swing and Olivia stands firmly on that side of the camp, very much in favor of women's rights, and very much in opposition to her overly domineering father.

Dear old dad—the local dentist who strikes fear in the local community by inflicting pain on his patients with his myriad dental torture devices—decides to have the rebelliousness hypnotized right out of Olivia by Henri Reverie, the intriguing young hypnotist who's recently come to town. But what Henri gives to Olivia isn't necessarily quite what the doctor ordered. Instead he gives her the gift to see the world as it really is, and see people's true natures. Suddenly, Olivia is seeing things she shouldn't—ordinary people who now look like vampires or fiends, women in cages, brilliant lights like halos around certain individuals—and the visions she's having only make her all the more determined to speak her mind.

This was a fascinating story, vividly real and overflowing with the atmosphere of a significant turning point in American history. It really opened my eyes to the suffragist movement taking place during this time as it was a subject I knew very little about, and of which I remembered next to nothing from my high school and college studies. I've discovered that I do much better remembering historical facts—dates, times, location, important people—when said facts have a story surrounding them. Dull, dry facts taken in alone readily vacate my mind, while weaving a story around them allows them to linger. The mind is an amazing thing—the way certain brains only retain knowledge for the long term when taken in in a particular way. I've experienced this over and over again through various other novels that take place during significant periods in time—95% of them have actually been among the best books I've read, current title definitely included.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

REVIEW: The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Mookie Pearl is a thug—a bald, hulking brute of a man that works for the Organization, the syndicated crime ring that runs New York City. He's a harsh, gruff ruffian, and at first, I thought I wouldn't care for his character at all, but as the story progressed and I got a bit more insight into his character, I found beneath his brash exterior an endearing and admirable set of morals that can't help but endear him to any reader, no matter how rough he is around the edges.

The Organization, in addition to defining territories and providing extra protection to the smaller above ground gangs, is also responsible for controlling the flow of Blue, a trendy, underground pigment-based drug that's tapped from the veins of prehistoric schist found in the Great Below. In addition to increased strength and endurance, Blue gives the user the ability to see the true form of the monsters living among us, hidden in human guise to anyone not riding the Blue Blazes.

The story moves swiftly as we traverse the deep underbelly of the Great Below, running across goblins, ghosts, wraiths, daemons, snake-men, and all sorts of other monsters. But what gets under Mookie's skin most of all is his own teenage daughter Nora—street name Persephone—who decides she wants a piece of the pie and is determined to undermine the Organization, taking her father down with them, while they're at their weakest.

This was an action-packed book, full of monsters, mobsters and plenty of cussing. It's the first in the Mookie Pearl series, with the follow-up, The Hellshound Bride, due to be released at the beginning of 2015. I'm already looking forward to it! :)

Friday, August 29, 2014

REVIEW: Love & Zombies by Eric Shapiro

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

The zombie apocalypse is upon us, the government is attempting to nip it in the bud by wiping out entire areas where full permeation has occurred. The smartest people—who use their brains and don't believe everything the government tells them—are convinced that's not the solution. But some of the more slimy yet enterprising degenerates of the business world are trying to make a buck off the zombie invasion. Zombie porn anyone?!

Enter Henry and his whacked out friend Sam, who head to Las Vegas on a job that will net them a huge sum of cash to retrieve a zombie from the vast desert north of the Vegas strip and deliver it to the Sharks Hotel & Casino. Voila! Everyone's happy! Only things don't go down quite that easy... and Henry is in for the run of his life!

Though it took me a little while to get into the writing style—the overuse of colons and abundance of section breaks—I found after awhile that the choppiness of it worked well here and actually added to the overall tone of the story.

At only 90 pages, this short book is full of non-stop action, at 100 mph! What you get for investing only an hour or two of your time is a campy, dark comedy with a highly original plot and lots of humorous tongue-in-cheek dialogue—and inner monologue. Oh and of course, hungry shambling zombies. :)

REVIEW: The Monsters in Your Neighborhood by Jesse Petersen

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

The Monsters of New York City are back in this hilarious sequel to Club Monstrosity. It's been six months since the death of their friends—and the subsequent removal of the menace causing it—and war is brewing between the Monsters and the Van Helsing family. While most of the monsters just wish to remain anonymous and blend in with humanity, the Van Helsings are looking to expose them for the monsters they truly are.

When a YouTube video of an unknown Frankenstein Creature tearing the arm off a man in Central Park goes viral, Natalie realizes she's not the only child of the great doctor still walking the earth. But more importantly, she needs to find out who the Creature is and why he's acting so violently. While Twitter is trending with hashtags of #MonstersInNewYork and #KillTheMonsters, Natalie and the rest of the monsters must put their heads together to formulate a plan to take down their enemies once and for all!

This was a great read, even slightly better than Club Monstrosity in my opinion. Many of your favorite monsters from the first book are back, along with a few new ones such as the formidable Patrick the Cthulhu. Awesome-ness! And since the original characters were previously fleshed out in book one, we can really get under their skin and see what makes them tick here. A very fun read indeed... with plenty of LOL moments! I sincerely hope Ms Petersen will continue to feed us more tales of these quirky, entertaining monsters in future volumes to come.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

REVIEW: Club Monstrosity by Jesse Petersen

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Monsters are living among us—although these particular monsters prefer to remain in the shadows. After being hunted for centuries, the monsters of the Monstofelldosis Anonymous (MFD) support group meet several times a week to discuss any current problems or issues, chief among them being the best way to remain hidden and conceal their monster tendencies among the population of New York City.

Unfortunately, someone has managed to figure out who they are, and that someone is now hunting down the monsters of their little group one by one, killing them in the same way they were finished off in the book or movie that made them famous—Invisible Man Ellis hunted down by an angry mob, and Bob the Blob found locked in his freezer. Now, if they wish to remain among the "living", the remaining monsters—Natalie, "daughter" of Frankenstein, Alec the Wolf Man, Kai the Mummy, Drake the Vampire, and Linda the Swamp Thing—must discover who's behind these crazy murders before they become the next victim.

This was a funny and engaging read, fairly quick at just over 200 pages. Unlike most of the fantasy books I read, the monsters in this book keep their identities secret from the general population out of fear of persecution; monsters are not very well received in their society. The characters were all likeable for the most part and the story was fast-paced and entertaining. I look forward to reading the sequel, The Monsters in Your Neighborhood, next.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

REVIEW: Unmarked (The Legion, Book 2) by Kami Garcia

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! I'm so excited I was able to obtain an advanced reader's copy of the second book in this series, since it's not actually coming out in the US until the end of September.

Unmarked picks up nineteen days after Unbreakable left off. Kennedy is at the boarding school she was to have attended after her mother's death, and the torrential rains of hell are pouring down around her. She has unleashed an unspeakable evil on the world and lost the boy she loves, along with the rest of the Legion. But Kennedy knows things can't stop here! Once again reunited with the Legion, the group unearths even more shocking secrets about both the Legion and the Illuminati, and Kennedy's past is even more entwined than she could've possibly imagined. So why is she still Unmarked???

As with the previous book, the reader is thrown into a world that explodes around you, and the unsuspecting twists and turns will keep you glued to the pages from beginning to end. It's definitely best to have read Unbreakable first before picking this one up. Though the author does throw a few reminders in from time to time, it's not really enough to catch you up fully unless you've read the previous book first. So for complete world immersion, definitely go in order. :)

Overall, I'm extremely delighted with where this series is going. I didn't feel anywhere near the same level of elation after reading the first book of the Beautiful Creatures series, too much teenage love drama for me there to get overly excited about it. But in The Legion series, the balance between fantasy, adventure, intrigue, and just a sprinkling of romance is just the right balance for me. I hope everyone else enjoys the ride as much as I did.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

REVIEW: Unbreakable (The Legion, Book 1) by Kami Garcia

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Kennedy Waters has no idea where her life is heading after she comes home one night to find her mother dead in her bed. But when gorgeous twins, Lukas and Jared Lockheart break into her house one night nearly a month later to save her from a similar fate, a vengeance spirit trying to kill her in her sleep, they fill her in on all the mysterious details.

Kennedy doesn't want to believe her mother may have been part of a secret society called the Legion that battles demons... or that her death wasn't accidental at all. Though that last part's a little easier to swallow after her own brush with death. But the Legion??? Despite her reluctance, Kennedy joins forces with the twins and fellow Legion members Priest and Alara; they seem to be the only ones who understand what's going on, and can keep her safe while they attempt to track down the fiery demon causing all the havoc.

Unbreakable was a fast-paced exciting read with an engrossing story and engaging characters. Lukas and Jared reminded me of the sexy Sam and Dean Winchester of Supernatural, a TV series I very much enjoy, and the demon-hunting secret society fits into the Supernatural story line as well. But though the author may have borrowed some inspiration from Supernatural, Unbreakable is definitely a different enough story in all other aspects, strong enough to stand on it's own and definitely not feel like a rip-off.

It ended on a bit of a cliffhanger though so I'm very much looking forward to the next book in the series, Unmarked, due to be released September 11.

Friday, August 22, 2014

REVIEW: Demonic Dora (The Demon Diaries, Book 1) by Claire Chilton

My Rating: 4 out of 10 stars

Dora thought summoning a demon lord would be the answer to her prayers, helping her escape the wrath of her evangelical preacher father, and equally uptight mother. But things never quite work out the they should....

I had a difficult time getting into this book, and very nearly didn't finish it. However, since it's a NetGalley review book, I wanted to at least try. So I told myself I'd read the first 25% and if I still couldn't stand it, then I'd stop.

Fortunately, it was right around that 25% point, with Dora's arrival in Hell, that things started to get a little more interesting. It was still stupid, but at least it was a bit more silly stupid now, and the writing seemed not as juvenile as it had starting out--though I still thought it sounded like that of a 14 year old girl. So if you can put up with all the teenage angst and stupidly cliched behavior of the first 9 chapters, you may actually get a giggle or two out of the remainder of the book.

I didn't find myself particularly drawn to either of the main characters however. Dora was entirely too whiny and always putting herself down. How can you like a character who doesn't even like herself?? Is this what teenage mentality has come to these days... hating on oneself 24/7? Though it was a recurring theme throughout the book, it was lessened somewhat in the latter half as other more interesting events began to take place. I could've cared less about Kieron as well. The one character I did like was Pooey, the brown, scraggly-furred demon with the squashed face that Dora won at the carnival. He was a hoot!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

REVIEW: Hammer of Witches by Shana Mlawski

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Fourteen-year-old Baltasar Infante is a simple bookmaker's apprentice in fifteenth century Spain. Or so he once believed. Now he's discovered that his parents aren't who he thought they were, and that his skills as a Storyteller allow him to bring characters and settings from his stories to life, to materialize in the here and now. As exciting as this skill sounds, it unfortunately puts him on the radar of the Malleus Maleficarum, the radical witch-hunting arm of the Spanish Inquisition.

Soon, Baltasar finds himself heading west on-board the Santa María, serving as translator to the ship's captain, in order to escape the corrupt arm of the law, track down his true father, and attempt to fulfill the prophecy of the Baba Yaga.

This was an amazing read!! A fantastic debut novel from author Shana Mlawski, lush with historical references--and a bit of fiction thrown in--made for a spellbinding story. With such rich and vivid imagery, I found myself pulled into the world of 15th century Spain, and Columbus' voyage to the new world, all while keeping the story fresh, fast-paced, and exciting. The author does an impressive job using of historical facts and figures, and weaving a wonderfully magical tale around them. I'd definitely love to read more from her in the future.

Monday, August 18, 2014

REVIEW: Peregrine Harker & the Black Death by Luke Hollands

My Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

It's the year 1908 in London and Peregrine Harker, an enterprising young reporter, is sent on a mission to uncover the cause behind the rising price of tea in England. But with his knack for turning up clues, what Harker discovers is so much more: smuggling rings, murdering lords, and a mysterious brotherhood called the Black Death. Can Harker get to the bottom of the story before he finds himself six feet under?

I received this book in exchange for an honest review and for the most part, I enjoyed it enough to continue reading, even though at times it seemed to get bogged down in details. In addition, there were several incidents which seemed to happen purely for the sake of the storyline, and then all of a sudden everything would turn around and one of the characters would have this grand explanation for why things went down the way they did. It made the story seem a bit too forced at times. (I know there's a proper term for such phenomenon but for the life of me, I can't recall it right now.) Suffice to say, I realize that's probably a common shortcoming of any new writer, one that can easily be overcome with practice and more writing.

Beyond some of these minor annoyances, I found the plot interesting, and when it moved along at a steady pace, was able to hold my interest. Despite the subject matter, I think it's definitely geared towards a younger audience due to the simplistic way certain events unfolded and then were quickly wrapped up.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

REVIEW: Slimy Underbelly (Dan Shamble, Zombie PI #4) by Kevin J. Anderson

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

The Unnatural Quarter is bubbling, right up through its manhole covers, as all manner of amphibious creatures work to concoct all sorts of nefarious plots right beneath the surface. As the sewers literally explode with all the nasty effluent, and a gang of thieving lawn gnomes terrorizes several local businesses above, Dan Shamble, Zombie PI, must successfully get to the bottom of all the muck before the half-breed son of a Senior Citizen God from another dimension brings down the entire Quarter.

If you follow my reviews, you'll notice I quickly read through all the previous books and short stories in this remarkable urban fantasy series in order to catch up to this latest up-and-coming release (which I received an advance copy of in exchange for an honest review). Though the author definitely provides enough background story and sprinkles interesting little facts throughout for this book to stand on it's own, I always gain a certain satisfaction reading a series from the beginning so as to develop a stronger bond with its characters. And Slimy Underbelly certainly did not disappoint. If you haven't yet checked out this extraordinary series, I highly recommend you do so, fans Jim Butcher's Dresden Files books also highly encouraged. :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

REVIEW: Naughty & Nice (Dan Shamble, Zombie PI #3.5) by Kevin J. Anderson

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Santa Claus has come to the Unnatural Quarter, and he's enlisted Dan Shamble's help in tracking down his stolen Naughty and Nice list. One of the prime suspects is an oddly garish elf in a rhinestone studded jacket and blue suede shoes named Elfis, who plans to undercut Santa by delivering gifts to all children, both naughty and nice, and do it much earlier too, by Christmas Eve Eve. Dan is sure that Elfis is behind the stolen list, as well as all the children that have recently gone missing in the Quarter, all he has to do is prove it in time to save Christmas for Santa!

This short holiday story comes between books 3 and 4, Hair Raising and Slimy Underbelly, in the Dan Shamble, Zombie PI series. At only 43 pages, it's a quick read, but fast paced and fun nonetheless. :)

REVIEW: Hair Raising (Dan Shamble, Zombie PI #3) by Kevin J. Anderson

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

The fur has really started to fly as a serial scalper is taking the top off several full-time werewolves in the Unnatural Quarter. But Dan Shamble, Zombie PI is on the case, and if he can get to the bottom of the endless pile of clues thrown at his feet, he just might figure out who's skimming off the tops in time to prevent a gang war between the Hairballs and the Monthlies.

Of course, Shamble runs into the most unusual cast of characters along the way: a voodoo vampire tattoo artist, a mad scientist, a grossly obese zombie crime lord, and an assortment of Hairballs, both the kind that clog up drains and the ones walking around on two feet howling at the moon. And with the Worldwide Horror Convention in town as well, the hilarity just never stops.

This was another fun, fast-paced read in what is turning out to be a fantastic series!

Monday, August 11, 2014

REVIEW: Road Kill (Dan Shamble, Zombie PI #2.5) by Kevin J. Anderson

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Another wild ride with Dan Shamble, Zombie PI! This short story, which takes place between books 2 and 3, Unnatural Acts and Hair Raising, was a quick read but highly entertaining nonetheless.

When Dan awakens to find himself nailed into a coffin in the back of a semi truck, not recalling any of the details of what went down and how he got there, he knows it's going to be another one of those days!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

REVIEW: Unnatural Acts (Dan Shamble, Zombie PI #2) by Kevin J. Anderson

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Action in the Unnatural Quarter is a bustling business for zombie detective Dan Shamble and his human lawyer partner Robin. While unnaturals are being threatened with impending legislation from the Unnatural Acts Act, Dan and Robin have their hands full with a slew of unusual cases of their own, like the ghostly production of Shakespeare in the Dark going up in flames, and the mummified madame who needs security for her unnatural brothel. To make matters worse, his favorite watering hole is under new management and the place is drying up. All just another day in Shamble's unordinary existence.

I'm really enjoying this series. Extremely likeable characters, a captivating story line, and a well drawn world that sucks you right in. Dan and his BHF McGoo are definitely a couple characters I'd like to sit down and have a beer with at the Goblin Tavern for sure! :)

Friday, August 08, 2014

REVIEW: Stakeout at the Vampire Circus (Dan Shamble, Zombie PI #1.5) by Kevin J. Anderson

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

This short story in the Dan Shamble, Zombie PI series was light and entertaining. I've always been a sucker for anything to do with the circus, especially a dark, freakish circus like this.

In this tale, Zombie PI Dan Chambeaux and his ghost girlfriend Sheyenne visit the circus to investigate the disappearance of a deck of magic cards, presumed stolen. Upon their arrival, they learn that several other things have gone missing in the last several weeks as well, generally small, insignificant items, though not necessarily unimportant to the owner.

The circus staff consists of a most unusual set of characters such as a transvestite fortune teller, a zombie clown, and a vampire trapeze artist. But whom amongst them is the thief? Though he and Sheyenne take in the show, Dan refuses to be deterred from his sleuthing, and finding the rustler among all these carnies makes for a very humorous tale.

REVIEW: Death Warmed Over (Dan Shamble, Zombie PI #1) by Kevin J. Anderson

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Over a decade ago, the Big Uneasy unleashed vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and all manner of undead unto the world. Dan Chambeaux--called Shamble by many of his friends--is a Private Investigator, and since rising from the dead as a zombie, has seen no need to change his occupation. After all, he enjoys his work and these cases don't solve themselves!

In this first book of the Dan Shamble, Zombie PI series, Dan, along with his human lawyer business partner Robin, and his ghost girlfriend/office assistant Sheyenne tackle a number of interesting and unusual cases, like a resurrected mummy who's suing the museum that put him on display, witch sisters who fall victim to a spell gone horribly wrong. Not to mention he's got his own murder to solve.

This was a funny and fast-paced read, and I'm looking forward to reading the other books in this fairly new series.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

REVIEW: The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Ceony Twill had wanted to be a Smelter. While most graduates of the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined were able to choose which material they dedicated their craft to, headmaster Magician Aviosky had assigned Ceony to Paper. "There simply aren't enough Folders left in the world", she had said. And thus Ceony was grudgingly begins her apprenticeship as a Folder under the tutelage of Magician Emery Thane. What follows is a fast-paced, perilous romp through the chambers and chasms of Mg. Thane's heart... literally!

I read this book on my Kindle, and at only 226 pages, I finished it in less than a day, so engrossed I was in the story that I didn't want to put it aside. (Fortunately, I had to paint my nails and toes today so I was able to sneak in the extra reading time.) The story was the perfect tempo and I immediately fell in love with Ceony, her astute mind and quick thinking.

I can't wait to read the next book in the series!

REVIEW: Ripped by Shelly Dickson Carr

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Katie Lennox makes a wish on the famed London Stone to go back in time, to have her family back, and find the true identity of Jack the Ripper, who murdered her distant relative. Unfortunately, she ends up getting a lot more than she wished for when she travels back to Victorian London 1888, and is thrown into the midst of the Ripper's murdering frenzy.

The story was well written, though a couple parts of it did feel a bit forced or contrived at times, as if manipulated to fit the outcome the author was hoping to achieve. The part leading up to the ending was one of those forced parts; I was jarred out of the scene playing out before me by the way parts of it played out.

But despite those few instances, I enjoyed the rest of the story and the characters themselves. It was well thought out and the author has a good sense of time that truly transports you back to Victorian London. Overall, I feel this is a very solid first novel from Ms. Carr and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

Friday, April 18, 2014

REVIEW: Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 10) by Charlaine Harris

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

In this 10th installment of the Sookie Stackhouse series, Sookie has begun to recover from the injuries she sustained in the recent Fae war, and her relationship with Eric seems to be getting more serious all the time. But as is often the case with Sookie, someone is still out to get her. And even though her great-grandfather Niall supposedly sealed off the land of Faery from the human world, there is still one who would wish to do her harm.

This was another excellent book in the series, and I have been trying to spread out these last few books out because I will be so disappointed when it all ends after book 13. Boo hoo! As with all her other works, this is another fast, action-packed read, impossible to put down. I've literally walked into walls, chairs, you name it, while carrying my book around the house. LOL

Thursday, April 17, 2014

REVIEW: Allegiant (Divergent, Book 3) by Veronica Roth

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Growing up in alternate reality Chicago, Tris and Four never knew anything of the world outside their walls--a world ruled by factions, where each group has it's place in society: the brave, the intelligent, the selfless, the peaceful, and the honest--until now. With the help of their friends, the two are ready to escape the city and discover the truth about what lies beyond. But what awaits them outside the city's walls? And will they be able to find their place in the world out there?

Allegiant brings to a close the final book in the riveting Divergent trilogy, and new author Veronica Roth has done a fantastic job of putting together an alternate reality universe that has become a fast favorite with fans of the The Hunger Games and other young adult dystopian fiction. The first book in the series, Divergent has already been made into a movie and I look forward to seeing if it's as good as the book.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the book, the quick-paced writing style and fast action, I wasn't all that happy with the way it all ended. Then again, some of the best stories often leave you a bit uncomfortable at the end. If you felt the similarly, take the time to seek out the alternate ending online, written by fan fiction writer Stephanie Ziel. Maybe it'll make you feel better. :)

Saturday, April 05, 2014

REVIEW: A Fistful of Charms by Kim Harrison

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Wow! I can't believe how much I've missed Rachel, Jenks, and Ivy. I have done a lot less reading over the last couple years, and this series got put to the side while I tried to catch up with books I owe to others, or reviews I owe to publishers, and things like that. But I'm glad that I'm finally making some time again to get back to my favorite series!

In this fourth installment of The Hollows series, Rachel and Jenks set out on an expedition to rescue Nick (Rachel's ex-boyfriend) and Jax (Jenks's son). Their run is anything but routine. And when they meet up with a pack of militant werewolves from Michigan, things only get worse from there!

Rachel has begun to discover some very unusual things about herself, and the magic she is capable of, stuff that no ordinary witch can usually handle. And Jenks... well Jenks is just as loveable as ever, and in this installment, there's even more of him to love... literally!

Harrison delivers yet another engaging well-rounded story that will keep you up reading way past your bedtime. Bosses beware! LOL

BookCrossing journal page for this book