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 MarĂ­a, 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.