Showing posts with label 3 Star Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 3 Star Review. Show all posts

Monday, April 29, 2013

eBook Review: Gone with the Wolf

CEO and alpha werewolf Drake Wilder has given up the search for his one true love. When he discovers that she’s a secretary in his company, Drake’s primal instincts kick into overdrive.

What he wouldn’t give to have her fingers rake over his body instead of the keyboard…

Free-spirited bartender Emelia Hudson wants nothing more than to make her Seattle-based bar succeed. But when profits decline, she slips into a dress suit and secures a nine-to-five. After learning that her bar has become property of Wilder Financial, Emelia is determined to get some answers.

Two can play the ruthless business game. If only her attraction to the boss wasn’t so intense…

When Drake’s twin brother senses that Drake has found his match—and now inherits their father’s billion dollar estate—he hatches a plan to take Emelia out. Drake vows to protect her at all costs, but he might have to pay with his own life

Overall I enjoyed this book, but it didn't leave much of an impression. I think I would have enjoyed it more if the charade had gone on a little longer, mostly because I think it would have made the 'Drake stole my bar' plotline a bit less...annoying.  It was a little unbelievable that Emelia, who owned her own business, would blame Drake for personally stealing her bar out from under her.  She shows more common sense then that throughout the book.

Since this is a werewolf paranormal it of course means that there is a 'predestined mate' (called 'Luminaries') and I'll give Miller credit Emelia doesn't take the pill and swallow it.  Things get a bit muddled (continuity wise) for Drake though since he grows steadily sicker the longer he's away from her, but promises to let her go if she really doesn't want him (and he's good on his word).

Emelia for her part isn't a shrinking violet.  She's not as well defined as a character as Drake is, but she holds her own and doesn't come across as a damsel in distress.  I particularly enjoyed near the end when Drake is all happy puppy about a present for her and she's like 'Are you effing serious? Have you not listened to me at all?' and makes him figure out what he did wrong.  Though since it takes him rather longer than you'd think it led to other complications, but there you have it.

At some point the book became too heavy with too many different plot points.  We had Drake trying to woo Emelia, Emelia fighting her attraction, Emelia trying to figure out what happened to her bar, Drake fighting his brother, his brother wrecking havoc, Emelia trying to figure out what being mated to Drake is about--while all the threads fed into the same problem (Emelia and Drake are mated), they jostled for position and kept things from being fleshed out.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Book Review: Zenn Scarlett

When you're studying to be exoveterinarian specializing in exotic, alien life forms, school... is a different kind of animal.

Zenn Scarlett is a resourceful, determined 17-year-old girl working hard to make it through her novice year of exovet training. That means she's learning to care for alien creatures that are mostly large, generally dangerous and profoundly fascinating. Zenn’s all-important end-of-term tests at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars are coming up, and, she's feeling confident of acing the exams. But when a series of inexplicable animal escapes and other disturbing events hit the school, Zenn finds herself being blamed for the problems. As if this isn't enough to deal with, her absent father has abruptly stopped communicating with her; Liam Tucker, a local towner boy, is acting unusually, annoyingly friendly; and, strangest of all: Zenn is worried she's started sharing the thoughts of the creatures around her. Which is impossible, of course. Nonetheless, she can't deny what she's feeling.

Now, with the help of Liam and Hamish, an eight-foot sentient insectoid also training at the clinic, Zenn must learn what's happened to her father, solve the mystery of who, if anyone, is sabotaging the cloister, and determine if she's actually sensing the consciousness of her alien patients... or just losing her mind. All without failing her novice year....

Right off the bat I think I should make it clear that while exciting things do happen in this book, this is largely a day to day accounting of what its like to be a novice exoveterinarian (exovet).  Zenn is an engaging, if sometimes a bit too clinical, main character who grew up around practical people living in a harsh environment.  While she worries about what's going on with her, those are secondary to the very real problems she's facing each day.

This sort of narrative tact can be frustrating at first.  As a reader we can see a larger picture than the characters so when something happens that's obviously much more serious than the characters are giving it credit for, it can get irritating.

This happened a lot to me, especially in the beginning.  Otha, Zenn's Uncle (and only actual family present), dismisses everything Zenn says to the point where Zenn wonders if she is just going crazy.  Its not to say he doesn't make logical points, but the logical points serve no purpose.  We know that Zenn is experiencing something 'supernatural'.  We know that Zenn is not to be blamed for the mistakes occurring.  There's no belief of tension at all.

Schoon is not subtle.  Whether because Zenn is naturally paranoid or clumsy writing, who's at fault for almost everything is apparent pretty quickly and the motivation behind it clicks about half way through.  This again leads to a sort of simmering frustration as everyone tiptoes around the obvious.  The world is fascinating--its very 'wild west'/frontier oriented, but the cloister and its wild aliens make it interesting.

I liked Fane quite a bit.  Yes he was a jerk, but its not like Zenn was making many friends with her attitude (which given her environment its a wonder she can talk to anyone at all).  I loved Hamish--I look forward to seeing more of his 'independent thinking'. Schoon is careful to keep romance a very small part of this novel.  Zenn doesn't really understand it and at any rate is too busy wondering if she's gone insane or if she'll fail her three tests.

Overall this was an interesting if uneven read for me.  I'm hoping that in the next book, since Zenn won't have her exams to worry about, the book will be less concerned with the everyday minutiae and focused on Zenn's search for answers.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Book Review: And the Miss Ran Away with the Rake

Daphne Dale never could have imagined that when she answered an advertisement in the newspaper that she would find true love. Now she has the opportunity to meet her unknown suitor, but it means traveling to Tabitha’s wedding, and into the heart of her family’s sworn enemies. Everyone knows the Seldons are terrible rakes and bounders, but Daphne will risk anything to gain the happiness she is certain is right around the corner.

Lord Henry Seldon is aghast at the latest addition to the house party guest list—one would think after the unforgettable scandal Daphne Dale caused at the duke’s engagement ball, she wouldn’t dare show her face at the duke’s wedding. But here she is, poking her nose where she shouldn’t and driving Henry mad . . . with an unforgettable passion that will turn enemies into lovers.

Boyle and I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to her romances. I've liked a couple, but by in large I don't find her as captivating as say Julia Quinn or Sarah MacLean or Eloisa James. However the premise of this series (a town who's women are cursed to be spinsters pretty much) caught my attention and thus I found myself caught up in this book.

Happily Boyle doesn't drag out the letter writing alter egos plotline too long--both Daphne and Henry are clever and quick-witted, kind of seeing what was going on.  The two play a cat and mouse game, trying to ferret out information, while trying to seem uninterested, and not coming to blows (since their families hate each other).  Though I'd argue it was some of the best passages when the two would convince themselves who the other was (mentally) and then try to trip the other up. Admittedly it was frustrating at times because as soon as they convinced themselves, they un-convinced themselves for this or that reason, but it was amusing most of the time.

I hadn't read the first book in this series, Along Came a Duke, though that story is eluded to in the "forward" by the author explaining the Curse that has beset Kempton.  Henry is related to Preston (his Uncle, though that's a farce) and Daphne is friends with Tabitha, but other than giving an excuse as to why Daphne is constantly around the Seldons, the previous novel doesn't affect the story here at all.  The other characters throughout--especially Daphne's obnoxious cousin Crispin--were all right, but not very interesting.  Boyle spends little enough time with many of them to make me feel interested.  Harriet and Roxley, who are the main couple of the next book If Wishes Were Earls, feature during the house party at Owle Park, but they're the only ones that stand out (in a pleasing way).

As the attraction between Daphne and Henry is based off their banter it comes around well.  Daphne gives as good as she gets from Henry (including a lovely turn around near the end).  I do think the book went a bit overlong in that the charade was hard to allow stand once it became obvious the two were falling in love with their non-letter selves.  Plus Daphne did some thoroughly reckless things, which if she had been wrong in any way would have spelled the end for her.  I understood why she did those things, but each time I wanted to shake her and ask her why she exhibited so much intelligence one moment and no common sense the next.

Overall this was a fairly entertaining novel that moved quickly.  As I said the bantering is the best part, but try to ignore the illogical moments as best you can.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

eBook Review: Just for the Summer

Dani Sullivan has come to Lake Bliss to write her latest cookbook and take a breather. After the year she’s had, she deserves a summer retreat to reevaluate priorities and make peace with past decisions. But from the moment single dad and sheriff Matt Reagan shows up, she has a hard time convincing herself that a life away from Lake Bliss could beat the life she might have here.

Recently divorced Matt is ready for a new relationship, but he doesn’t want short-term—his son needs permanence, and so does Matt’s heart. Unfortunately, it’s the smart-mouthed and sinfully sexy Ms. Sullivan who catches his eye. But when Matt learns Dani’s secrets, will he still want her to stay? Or will her chance for love last just for the summer?

My main issue with this book was that it felt like Matt's reaction to Dani's omission was too much.  It was basically "I can't believe it you're just like my ex-wife!" without listening to her side of things.  I'm not saying what Dani did (or rather didn't do) wasn't worth getting upset over.  However Matt takes it a step too far and even after realizing why she must have hidden the knowledge, he's still "Why did she lie to me?".  In short he made some very selfish decisions.

Its also all very coincidental and easy for Dani to find out the information she needed to find her son (plus illegal) and she was very lucky that it worked out the way it did.

Regardless when Dani wasn't agonizing over the fact her son was so close, but so far she was an engaging heroine.  Playful, up-beat and determined Dani doesn't let her dark past overwhelm her.  Rutland pays lip service to the fact that Dani had to go through counseling to get past what happened, but Dani gives the impression that through force of will she overcame it.

I couldn't get a handle on Matt.  He kept claiming he's such a great, non-sexist guy, but almost every word (or thought) was a barely veiled insinuation that Dani should get in bed with him.  Actually sometimes it wasn't even an insinuation, but an outright confidence game.  Dani gives as good as she gets though and keeps him on his toes, calling him on some of his more jerky comments and doing the proverbial slap down.

That is until an inconvienent plot device throws them together all the time.  This next part is a bit of spoiler so read at your own risk:

[spoiler] Her son, or rather Matt's son, develops Diabetes quite suddenly.  Like I mean he's fine at the start of the chapter and by the end of it he's critical.  I know very little about Diabetes, but what I've read would suggest that there should have been some warning signs prior to the 'critical' stage.  Regardless this means that Dani moves in to educate Matt and his mother on what it now means.  I'm sorry what?   Dani says she'll leave each night, unless she's working too late on recipes, but I'm stuck on the fact she felt a need to be there.  And that Matt thinks its completely rational.  True something happens and Matt almost makes the wrong decision, but all the printed material that Dani gave them would have given him the same answer that Dani gave him.  It felt so forced and disingenuous that I found myself getting irritated the further the book went on.[/end spoiler]

Bringing back to another point--Matt's mother (Elaine) had to be the most selfish person to ever grace the page as a grandmother.  I can't think of any other reason why, after being told its her grandson's life on the line if she doesn't change her ways, she stubbornly thinks its all just an excuse of Dani's to kick her out.  Her refusal to think that what Dani was saying was anything but an elaborate ploy to make her look bad made me want to strangle her.

Some good points in its favor are the secondary characters--Lake Bliss is blessed with an assortment of caring, vibrant characters (a couple of whom I'm sure will be getting their own book(s) soon).  Dani is instantly welcomed into the community, though I'm sure some of that has to do with the fact she's writing a cookbook and everything in town has a (horrible) pun for a title.  No one, in any world, should ever write a cookbook called "Beauty and the Yeast". Ever.

Overall this was an easy read with mild enough irritations.  It makes for a good summer read with its breezy writing and quick to catch on plot.  While the end game is obvious, sometimes the getting there is amusing.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review: Bite me, Your Grace

England's "vampire craze" causes much vexation for the Lord Vampire of London, Ian Ashton. To save his reputation, Ian enlists aspiring authoress Angelica Winthrop without realizing she has hidden plans of her own.

Angelica Winthrop's life goal is to ruin her reputation, avoid marriage, and become a gothic authoress like her idol, Mary Shelley. To find inspiration for her new story, she breaks into the home of Ian Ashton, Duke of Burnrath, not knowing she will be coming up against the Lord Vampire of London. Romance sparks and reputations are at stake. But who knows the real difference between fact and fiction?

Bite Me, Your Grace was a disappointment on a couple of levels.  I was expecting a fun wallpaper historical romance with vampires, a smart heroine and humor (kind of like Minda Webber's books), which I guess was my first mistake.  This is by no means a bad book, its just...Angelica is so annoying.  She's an utter harridan!


This was kind of how things went:

Mother: Angelica!  You need to behave!
Angelica: I refuse to behave as a lady must! I will RUIN MYSELF! :flings self into ruination:
Ian: This damn female...I should marry her and maybe possibly get these people off my back about being a vampire...ho young lady!  I shall save you!  You shall be awesomely celebrated!  Also lots of passion!
Angelica: Married to a vampire? Never!  I will show you how smart I am! And difficult! And political! And strongly against women being marginalized!
Mother: Oh my smelling salts!
Ian: All you are are doing is proving how different you are and how right I was.
Angelica: I'd rather be poor and destitute! As long as I can write it doesn't matter!
Ian: :shows Angelica the poor and destitute lifestyle:
Angelica: :immediately horrified by the stench: Maybe I will marry you I mean it can't possibly be as bad as all that right?  I mean I can still do whatever I want...

So on and so forth.  The book is literally one idiotic notion of Angelica's after another as she attempts to either a) get Ian to not marry her, b) get Ian to tell her more about his vampire lifestyle for her Gothic writing or c) both at once.  After they marry it only gets worse because she then falls into the 'Oh the sex is so good!  Why does he not love me?' angst.  I don't know Angelica, considering you spent half the book trying to convince him you shouldn't marry?  Or maybe because you're idea of communication is to say how strong and independent you are and then run off doing something stupid?  She gets drunk at Almack's and kicked out just to prove she shouldn't get married for pity's sake!

I realize she was meant to be a 'strong' and 'socially progressive' woman, but instead it seemed like she was a child having a tantrum because no one would listen.  Why did she have to be a Women's Rights Activist AND a gothic romance author AND cross dress AND not want to be married or have children AND hate everything about the ton AND be virtually friendless?  Mind you she's also an immensely wealthy heiress who's apparently gorgeous.

Meanwhile Ian, who's a couple centuries old and has not apparently ever fallen for a mortal before, finds her simply refreshing.  Personally I think he just likes having to save her.  Oh he's Lord of London and is super powerful and super wealthy and super this and super that, but for a guy who's ready to take some poor writer's head off for writing a satirical novel (that may or may not be about his vampire self) he's awfully jolly about sharing everything with Angelica.  Only to wonder why his gothic romance obsessed wife would try to write a gothic romance about it.  Ian you knew what you were marrying when you married her, don't acted surprised when the crazy woman who broke into your house (for research!) ends up, well, being crazy even after you marry her.

Honestly it sounds like I dislike the book and really I only disliked Angelica.  She just...no.  Every time she spoke I was taken out of the story.  Yeah I can see why folk want her dead.  Your mileage may vary though, so take this as a cautious recommendation.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

eBook Review: Tower in the Woods

Raised by the Women’s Independent Territory Church (WITCH), Nel Zapur is a skilled sniper tasked to eliminate zombies. Never having once laid eyes on a man, she has been a prisoner in her tower for eleven long years. A fateful snowstorm leads a mysterious stranger to her window, and saving him may prove to be the best and worst decision of her life.

Special Agent Dane Prince was sent to gather intelligence on the WITCH, and his journey leads him to a mysterious tower in the woods. Snowed in with a virginal member of the feminist cult, Dane is determined to use the situation to his advantage. Not only will Nel provide him with the information he needs, she will also learn to submit to his every desire.

In all honesty I think this could have benefited from a much longer presentation.  While the premise is certainly interesting, and its a different twist on the story of Rapunzel (or of surviving Zombies), Quan doesn't establish a firm enough grasp of the world before tossing everything helter skelter.  Nel is an unreliable narrator and straight from the start it proves problematic because Quan has the story third person from both Nel's perspective and from Dane's.  Nel is unrelentingly certain about everything, to the point that I wasn't sure why Dane put up with her.  Dane meanwhile vacillated between 'Gonna shag her and get what I need' to 'Gonna shag her, get what I need and protect her' in a short amount of time.

I admit it was a novel experience to have the guy be the uncertain one.  Regardless of anything else Nel has a plan, or at least a routine, to combat anything Dane throws at her (at one point Dane is grumpy about the fact she's all business all day and a seductress at night with nothing in between).

I was often confused by the world mechanics.  Nel is sure there is nothing but her Sisters in WITCH, their Mother and lots of dead people.  So Dane rocks her world.  Okay.  She's a straight forward better to tackle this head on sort of gal.  Okay.  Dane clearly is alive and nothing like Mother said so the logical course of action would be to...ignore this and instead just go about her business?  And was she REALLY going to let herself freeze to death?  She'd been stationed there for many years--nothing Quan said short of 'this is the first winter in the last decade' would have me believing that she didn't know when to call it quits.

The chemistry is good however and Nel takes to sex like a fish to water (which is only slightly weird given her celibate lifestyle and upbringing).  Dane is more or less your typical guy--hot woman+passionate nature=lots of sex.  Once he got over his moral quandary about shagging her and leaving her high and dry, he's actually very protective and nurturing.  A bit fatalistic also (he doesn't see how he can get her away safely since he's not sure how he'll get away safely), but mostly encouraging of her independence surfacing.

I do like that in the end Quan shows us practical growth in Nel.  I hope more is explained.  Its all rather rapid fire let's hit the Happily Ever After button, so some of the loose ends (and world building holes) aren't wrapped up neatly.  Still I'm interested to see what her next entry is!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: Blood's Pride

Rising from their sea-torn ships like vengeful, pale phantoms, the Norlanders laid waste to the Shadar under cover of darkness. They forced the once-peaceful fisher folk into slavery and forged an alliance with their former trading partners, the desert-dwelling Nomas tribe, cutting off any hope of salvation.

Now, two decades after the invasion, a rebellion gathers strength in the dark corridors of the city. A small faction of Shadari have hired the Mongrel, an infamous mercenary, to aid their fledgling uprising—but with her own shadowy ties to the region, she is a frighteningly volatile ally. Has she really come to lead a revolution, or for a more sinister purpose all her own?

This thrilling new epic fantasy is set in a quasi-Medieval Mediterranean region, drawing together the warrior culture of Vikings, the wanderlust of desert nomads, and the oracles of ancient Greece.

We all know I love my epic fantasy tomes.  Melanie Rawn, Michelle West, Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks...seriously its hard to convince me that the more pages there are the less interested I'll become.  World building is one of my favorite things to read about, I mean come on I have countless companion books for the shows and books I love.

This may be a good example folks can hold up from now on however.

Its not that this was bad exactly.  I just felt as if Manieri crammed things that may have served themselves better by being spread out throughout several books.  Character revelations, character motivations, even relationships all seemed to shove each other around.  They jockeyed for position like shoppers during Black Friday and in doing so fell short on development.

I realize this is part of a larger series, but Manieri seemed dead set on wrapping up some plotlines in that book instead of letting them come to a natural conclusion maybe later.  I'm not sure if it was because she had all these great ideas and was so excited by them she couldn't figure out what to cut and save or if this will be a trend throughout.

She also treated every plot as super important to the overall series plot, but were really character stories that probably aren't necessary to the larger whole.  It seemed to me that at times Manieri took side stories--interesting tales about the soldiers' interactions, curious asides between the conquered people, discussions about religion and faith--that a lot of authors are now putting out as 'between' book novellas/novelettes (or are used in anthologies) to flesh out the world and inserted them into the whole of the book.  Quite a few of the asides could be left out or trimmed without affecting the overall book.  It would have made the pacing faster and the book's focus tighter overall.

Can I recommend this?  Mot so much.  I'll be picking book 2 up, just to see if Manieri continues the trend of too many stories, but this won't be my go to example when trying to convince people of the benefits of epic fantasy.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Graphic Novel Review: Empowered Vols 1-3

Damsel in distress? Check.  Hot blonde in skin tight, scantily clad costume?  Check.  Constantly tied up?  Triple check.  EMPOWERED is a look into the life of Empowered (Emp for short) as she, despite being continually kidnapped and 'bondage bait', tries to be the best heroine she can be. 

Summary (Book 1): Not only is costumed crimefighter "Empowered" saddled with a less-than-ideal superhero name, but she wears a skintight and cruelly revealing "supersuit" that only magnifies her body-image insecurities. Worse yet, the suit's unreliable powers are prone to failure, repeatedly leaving her in appallingly distressing situations... and giving her a shameful reputation as the lamest "cape" in the masks-and-tights business. 

Nonetheless, she pluckily braves the ordeals of her bottom-rung superheroic life with the help of her "thugalicious" boyfriend (and former Witless Minion) and her hard-drinking ninja girlfriend, not to mention the supervillainous advice from the caged alien demonlord watching DVDs from atop her coffee table...

For some reason, and I honestly can't say why because I can't remember, this series has been on my Amazon wishlist for YEARS.  Its like one of the first things I put on my Amazon wishlist.  I couldn't remember why.  I suspect it has something to do with the fact that Adam Warren worked on Gen13 and Livewires, which are both comics I enjoyed greatly.

This first volume begins with a bunch of much shorter comics, with a very loose connecting plot (that is Empowered being...well...constantly kidnapped).  As you can tell the art is influenced by manga and as the book progresses gets better and more defined, though its still a lot of shading.

I think my favorite 'comic' was "Best Laid Plans" in which Sistah Spooky, Empowered, Ninjette and Thugboy are their very young selves describing how they hope their adult years will turn out (which...yeah.).  Warren wins for by far the creepiest, most sickening villain ever crafted however with Willy Pete!  I could hear this creep's voice and what he does to folk...god...

This isn't a comic for everyone.  There's sex, a whole lot of bondage, scantily clad women, racial, gender and species insults and it really might not make you think too great of superheroes.  If you can move past the lots of sex and ignore the mental image of what Willy Pete does to his victims this is a humorous, oftentimes tarnished look at what it takes to be a superhero in a world where your online presence means more than your heroics.

Summary (Book 2): Empowered returns for further misadventures, as a distress-prone girl wonder struggling with life on the superheroic C-list Clad - or unclad, as fate would too often have it - in her embarrassingly revealing and maddeningly unreliable supersuit, she fights a neverending battle against overly sensitive supervillains, irrationally envious superheroines, and her own body-image issues 

Meanwhile, her boyfriend, Thugboy, plays with fire when he foolhardily attempts to compliment his profoundly insecure sweetheart on the awe-inspiring power of her... well, booty. And her often-inebriated gal-pal, Ninjette, pursues a drunken and ultimately disastrous mission to acquire Empowered some respect - by force if necessary 

All this, plus crossword-obsessed goons, speech-impaired superbeasts, "Ninjas Gone Wild," and even a few self-help hints from nigh-omnipotent cosmic overlords You know, the usual.

Welcome to the second volume of our favorite bound and gagged heroine!  Empowered keeps on trucking even as things manage to get even...dicier.  With the addition of a Best Friend (Ninjette), a Devoted Boyfriend (Thugboy) a pet...kind of (the Caged Demonwolf) and hey maybe a bit of recognition for all her hardwork...well okay that last part is a lie.  But everything else is totally true!

I find it interesting that the villains give her way more props than her fellow 'capes'.  I mean, they're still willing to kidnap her and hold her for ransom, but along the way she manages to gain a fangirl (who makes her life...less than better, but hey she's genuine in her respect!I think) and is genuinely well liked outside of Superhomey teammates.

Warren takes the time to flesh out the other characters a bit more as well.  We learn more about Ninjette's history as well as some less than savory aspects to Thugboy's history (in which Willy Pete still remains the creepiest mo-fo ever. End of story.) and we even get to learn more about Sista Spooky, who is a bit of a puzzle wrapped in a bitchy outercasing.  I truly think there were moments when she kind of felt bad about how she treated by Emp, but they quickly got overshadowed by her petrifying hatred of pretty blondes.

Ninjette also attempts to help pump up Emp's image, but only manages to make everyone assume that Emp's rack isn't what it appears to be and the Caged Demonwolf makes veiled allusions to the true power of the suit Emp wears.  Fun!

Summary (Book 3): As if life as an often-struggling superheroine weren't already hard enough, now costumed crimefighter "Empowered" discovers that another female superhero is ripping off her distress-prone persona - and cashing in, big-time! Even worse, her relationship with live-in boyfriend (and semi-reformed Witless Minion) Thugboy has run afoul of an extremely literal set of "power issues"! 

Worse yet, a singularly bloodthirsty and ruthless ninja clan is gunning - no, make that shurikening - for Emp's best friend and karaoke partner, Ninjette! Can our unlucky but still plucky heroine prevail over all these obstacles as well as further threats posed by foreign fanfiction outrages, her own supersuit's attempts to manipulate her self-esteem, and the revelation of (gasp!) her real name?

Raise a hand if you thought you could make money off videos detailing how to avoid being Bondage Bait for badguys.  Anyone?  Well you can be apparently--quite lucratively too.  Emp's former kidnapper turned fangirl turned impersonator turned Capitalistic Moneyhound figured out a way and she wants to cut Emp in on the dough!  As long as she's okay with being tied up and spanked that is.

Sista Spooky gets a taste of her own badgering when she's the helpless victim in Bondage and very unsettling things come out about Thugboy that make me question how okay I am with him being with Emp and the karmic bitchslap Willy Pete (who I still revile and cringe away from) dealt him and his friends.  Also did you know Ninjette is a NEW JERSEY NINJA? Yep.  Color me not surprised we are pretty violent.

And if that's not enough the Superhomey guys learn just how many of their fans think that things are occurring behind closed doors when they come across yaoi doujinshi (sadly I can attest that what is depicted is tamer then some yaoi I've readseen before). 

Warren's ability to build an overarching storyline beyond Emp's self-image issues, Ninjette's drinking problems, Thugboy's anti-cape history and the Superhomey's lack of heroic-ness began slowly, but has really built steam.  Many of the plot lines don't converge until later, and they're usually still full of the standard bag of gags the books are littered with, but the slow reveal about Emp's suit or the bits and pieces we hear/see about Thugboy's past are there and make completely sense in hindsight.

And truthfully by this point I was enamored of this series and kept on reading without stopping. Next up volumes 4-6 and oh my god the horror.  SO MUCH HORROR.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

eBook Review: Leopard Moon

How do you disappear when you come from a family of predators?

A wereleopard, Kess is forced to flee her home and family in Miami once her brother's obsession with her turns violent. She runs from city to city, trying to stay one step ahead of the investigators her family has dispatched to bring her home. Kess ends up in the mountains of North Carolina and attracts the attention of Cormac, a young man with a secret of his own. As she attempts to live as normal a life as her were-nature allows, her brother Sek continues to hunt for her. He believes she is the key to revitalizing their weakened clan and is driven to extreme measures to ensure their continued existence. As Kess' relationship with Cormac deepens, Sek closes in, threatening Cormac's life and Kess' freedom.

When the moon rises, the hunt is on….

This was an okay and moderately satisfying read. The pacing was erratic and the character development was spotty at best however. I'm not sure where Battista is taking the series as a whole and it reflected in the flow of events. The scenes with Mac and Kess were, while tense because of her fear, languid almost. Then there were chapters focusing on her brother and those were utterly disturbing pages. Then more languid courtship. Then more disturbing. I think the book would have benefited by having the confrontation between Kess and Sek occur in the second book.

For much of the book I wasn't sure how I felt about Kess.  Skittish and paranoid, I couldn't understand why Cormac found her so fascinating.  A few glimpses of a clever girl with a sweet personality don't make up for genuine connection.  Of course this is a shifter book, so that undoubtedly counts for quite a bit.  Cormac was pretty basic as far as personality goes.  He goes from interested to possessive in a hot second over Kess, even before he knows she's a wereleopard.

The scenes with Sek were disturbing, though his inferences that the Clan as a whole is unsavory icked me a bit.  It also seemed at odds with the kind of person their father was.  Sek references debauchery happening left, right and center during their childhood plus condoning of (what I assume to be) drugs being smuggled through their territory.  This is completely different then how their Father was presented.  Or any of them actually.  None of the other wereleopards seemed particularly...creepy.  Just Sek.  Truthfully we saw very few other wereleopards--a couple of henchmen really and no one seemed overly concerned with interceding when Sek got out of hand.  

Truthfully, other then the vague hints at the end that Kess doesn't get to live the happy peaceful life she wants after all this book wrapped up things well.  I'm not entirely sure I want to see the hardships Kess is going to have to deal with in the next couple of books.  I want her to have that happy ending.  No reason to make it complicated.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Review: Brave New Love

Young love has always had its challenges, but even so, the world falling apart at its seams is a pretty big obstacle. This stellar collection of YA dystopian tales explores survival of the fittest in terms of love, passion, and humanity. When the survival of the human race is at stake, what will it take for the bond between two people to hold strong together?

Note: I'm going to review each story separately, then review the volume as a whole.

"Hidden Ribbon" by John Shirley

Having never read anything by this author before, I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this story.  Giorgio was running from some thugs when he came upon Felice's little hidey-hole in dystopic Los Angeles (2044).  The two hit it off, but given a choice will they choose each other?

Its quick, but given to telling us what the two are talking about rather then showing us so there's an inorganic feel to the bond they form.  The ending is kind of a cop out, since the choice Felice is given isn't really a choice (considering her personality), but its sweet.

"The Salt Sea and the Sky" by Elizabeth Bear 
I really enjoyed this story--though I tend to enjoy Bear regardless of anything else.  I'll warn for same-sex pairing, since some folk like to be told about that.  There was never a question of if they'd be together.  The question had always been for how long?   

This had less of a dystopic feel to me then some of the others.  Maybe because it was set in Ireland and most dystopias I read are set in America (or Australia oddly enough).  This is also less about the love story the two have and more about what that love means to the narrator and how it could change her plans.

"In the Clearing" by Kiera Cass
I almost skipped this one because I really didn't like THE SELECTION, but I figured why not?  For once in his life Dylan chose something for himself, too bad that something turned out to be a someone.  Now if he can't convince her that something is wrong, everyone is in trouble.

Ignoring the romance, because this was almost Stockholm Syndrome Romance and that squicks me a bit, I was fascinated by the world.  Of course its kind of like the world of Miranda from the film "Serenity" (with drugging the population into complacency).  Just with less death.  I have a feeling if this had gone on much longer (and its easily the longest story in the collection) I would have thrown it across the room, the characters grated on my nerves.

"Otherwise" by Nisi Shawl 
Another new to me author, this one had a weird flow of writing.  Note there's a same sex pairing here as well.  Aim was everything Lo wanted in one package, but was that enough?  And if it wasn't, was Lo prepared to risk everything so Aim can be happy?

This is another drug as a dystopia future--except this one was more like 'Here take this hallucinatory drug so you can have the fantasy life you always wanted'.  The mechanics are a bit iffy--the world that isn't Otherwise is dominated by the uber-rich...but anyone can go Otherwise at any time because they're all kind of exposed to it?  Or something?  So I spent more time thinking about that then the overly dramatic romance.

"Now Purple With Love's Wound" by Carrie Vaughn
Carrie Vaughn rarely let's me down and this one gave me one of my favorite kind of endings--the lady or the tiger ending. Elspa was given the highest honor in the land, but for her it was incomplete without Thom's heart.

This really felt out of place.  Aside from the one odd mention of indoor plumbing, this was easily a fantasy short story.  Still I really enjoyed it and thought it worked well as a concept and in execution.  I would love to see this expanded, but then again I think this ended appropriately. 

"Berserker Eyes" by Maria V. Snyder
Hands down Snyder is in my top five favorite writers.  Even the books which I'm so-so on are usually better then most others.  So yes, I looked forward to this story and bought the collection almost exclusively for it. Kate had always heard that to go Berserker was the absolute worst thing that could happen--you're a threat to everyone you love then.  But what if that's a lie?

I want this as a novel.  Or a duology.  Or trilogy.  Anything at all that gets me more of Kate is a good thing.  While the beginning has a bit too much exposition right off the bat, Snyder packs a punch in how close two people can be with very few words.  Well worth the money spent.

"Arose from Poetry" by Steve Berman
DNF, no seriously this story is like maybe 10 pages? And I couldn't bring myself to read it.  The voice just...didn't appeal to me at all.  So. Yeah.  I think its same sex pairing however.

"Red" by Amanda Downum
I love Downum's fantasy books, so I was excited to read something different from her.  This was..surprising.  [insert name] had dreams of a red-eyed girl and garden of death in the North.  But with a secret as big as hers to keep and a new family she doesn't want to lose, can she afford to seek out the truth?

This didn't read like a short story, this read more like a novel that had bits cut out and the bare essentials pasted together.  I wouldn't specifically label this as a 'romance' (same sex or otherwise) since [insert name] doesn't see Felice that way, but as a kindred spirit more like.  I wouldn't be opposed to seeing more of this world.

"Foundlings" by Diana Peterfreund
Peterfreund and I have a rocky relationship in terms of reading.  I enjoy her shorter stories set in the 'Unicorn Killer' books, but not the books themselves. Twin sisters, one always the 'good' twin and the other always the 'troublesome' twin, find themselves fighting to make a decision society thinks they're too irresponsible to make.  I think this could have been longer.  The 'good' twin, who helps her sister hide her pregnancy by matching her (weight wise) and taking her place for some things, has far more characterization then the 'troublesome' twin, or the guy who helps them.

I'd also argue this is less about the romantic love felt between two characters, then the love between the twins who both make extreme sacrifices because of that love for each other.

"Seekers in the City" by Jeanne DuPrau
I had never read the 'City of Ember' books, but I found myself enjoying this sweet tale.  A fleeting glimpse of each other send two teens in a crowded future on separate quests to find the other.  This *really* doesn't fit into the collection.  While the other stories have some sort of desperate future to them, this story could have easily been placed in a contemporary setting and still not lost its shine.  DuPrau weaves the 'dystopian' elements in subtly (over population, Governmental oversight taken to the nth degree, etc) and stays focused on the two teens.

"The Up" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Haven't read Hoffman, though I've heard of her and I think have one of her books on my shelves, but I wasn't keen on this.  I'm not really sure what the story was here?  It was kind of a girl wanting more then she had and grabbing an opportunity when it presented itself, but the last few lines suggest it was less opportunity and more of a plan.  Which conflicted with about half of the girl's internal lamenting.

"The Dream Eater" by Carrie Ryan
I won't lie, I was hoping this was "A Forest of Hands and Teeth" short story, since I adore those, but this was surprising. Warning for same-sex pairing(s). One girl volunteers each generation to take on all the misery and painful memories of everyone else in the village.  What happens when that girl reaches out?  Unlike the others, this doesn't quite give us the 'well at least they have each other' vibe.  On the one hand I felt this worked well--Ryan didn't reveal the endgame until the very end, nor tip her hand in its execution.

On the other it was bittersweet at best.  Then again all of her stories are like this aren't they?

"357" by Jesse Karp, "Eric and Pan" by William Sleator and "The Empty Pocket" by Seth Cadin all didn't interest me at all.  I think at this point I was kind of like 'oh geez another one' and felt burnt out.  Too many of the stories felt rushed (writing wise, if not content wise) and barely explored. 

The interesting thing about this collection is that quite a few of the authors aren't normally YA authors.  Amanda Downum for instance writes fantasy and John Shirley writes a like of media tie-in fiction for games and movies.  Also there's about twice as much LGBT fiction in here then any other anthology I've read in genre fiction (not specifically geared in that direction).  In that, I found this worth reading.  

It fails however in that yes its a dystopic future, but very few of the stores give us plausible reasons why, implausible but at least entertaining reasons why or even a reason why.  "Otherwise" implies its because everyone began taking the drug (which may have been legal at one point?).  "In the Clearing" likewise implies that its because of the drug...but we're only given a very small idea of this drug's effects on the population.  Is everyone using this drug to keep the people docile?  Is this a government thing or is it a corporation thing?  Why?  

Many of these stories fail to give a reason how the story got to be in a bleak (or at least strictly controlled totalitarian regime) future.  And that's frustrating.  I also wish there was a more unified approach to length of story.  I read this on my Kindle, so I don't know the exact amount of pages, but some really seemed to drag on.


Friday, July 27, 2012

e-Book Review: Dante's Girl

  // Courtney Cole

I have spent every summer since I was ten years old with my father in London. Every summer, since I was ten years old, has been uneventful and boring.
Until this year.

And this year, after a freak volcanic eruption strands me far from home, I have learned these things:

1. I can make do with one outfit for three days before I buy new clothes.
2. If I hear the phrase, “You’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto,” even one more time, I might become a homicidal maniac.
3. I am horribly and embarrassingly allergic to jellyfish.
4. I am in love with Dante Giliberti, who just happens to be the beautiful, sophisticated son of the Prime Minister of a Mediterranean paradise.
5. See number four above. Because it brings with it a whole slew of problems and I’ve learned something from every one of them.

Let’s start with the fact that Dante’s world is five light-years away from mine. He goes to black-tie functions and knows the Prime Minister of England on a first name basis. I was born and raised on a farm in Kansas and wear cut-off jeans paired with cowboy boots. See the difference?

But hearts don’t care about differences. Hearts want what they want. And mine just wants to be Dante’s girl.

My heart just might be crazy.

This is very much like the teen romances I read back in the day.  Which isn't a negative thing at all, but refreshing.  There's a slightly deeper mystery, that's easy to puzzle out once the player(s) are revealed, but this was just a fun, relaxing read perfect for the beach.

I wasn't always a fan of Dante or Reece honestly.  Dante was just too polished one moment and too angst-ridden the next.  Reece spent what seems like a good chunk of book convinced she is far too inferior to even LOOK at Dante, never mind think about being with him.  The other characters (Mia, Elena, Gavin, Nate, Becca, Quinn) are given broad strokes for characterization.  This wasn't bothersome until the end when the 'villain' of the piece feels very cookie-cutter.

Cole did a good job at sweeping the reader away though, she has a way with words that made me almost feel like I was at the fictional island of Caberra, which is nestled fairly close to Greece. The story was just predictable at times and that detracted from my enjoyment.

Instead of wondering what would happen next I could almost guess.  Oh things are going well so toss in a sophisticated, but bitchy female who lays claim to Dante.  Okay that angle is used so let's now add some home troubles.  It got to the point where I was able to guess, with about 95% certainty what 'obstacle' would happen next two obstacles before it happened.

As I said however, this was a breezy, easy and enjoyable read for a day at the beach or a lazy summer day when you want to feed your romantic side.  I'm looking forward to the second book, which features a couple of characters introduced here (and who I think will hit it off fabulously...I kind of hope for book 3 that two other characters get together...but I guess I'll just have to wait!

Monday, March 12, 2012

e-Book Review: On One Condition

OCD kindergarten teacher Johanna hates Valentine’s Day. She hates romance, hates commercialism, and definitely hates her school’s annual charity date auction. She never expects her pre-auction night of drinking to land a sexy Brit in her bed. Or for that Brit to show up at the auction, bid thousands just to talk to her again, and get down on one knee in front of everyone and ask her to marry him.

Viscount Damon Hayes has never met anyone like Johanna. She’s neurotic, fascinating, and fun. She also doesn’t care about his title and doesn’t want his money, which makes Johanna perfect to fulfill a surprise clause in his father’s will: marry within three months and remain married for a year, or lose his fortune. A relationship is out of the question, but when passions ignite and the two fall in love, their marriage of convenience becomes anything but

On One Condition is a contemporary romance which I don't normally indulge in.  I've read more lately, since finding the awesome that is Jill Shalvis, and when I read this synopsis I thought it sounded like something I could enjoy.

Johanna doesn't come off as likeable at first.  She kicks a guy out of her bed after a one-night stand (without even learning his name), and then assumes the worst of him when she runs into him again.  Damon meanwhile is nothing like any Viscount I've ever read about, but then I've never read a non-historical book where an honest to goodness Viscount is the hero.  For all that he laments his misspent youth and his resolve to do better in his life, Alberts doesn't show us that side at all.  Other characters note his 'change' in behavior, and how serious he's gotten, but that's all we the reader ever see so the impact isn't so great.

The various obstacles in their paths are pretty routine--scheming exes, misunderstandings, lack of communication, but Alberts ties it all together in a nice enough bow.  I didn't forsee where the story was going with the exes, and I still contend what they did was so illegal I'm surprised lawyers weren't circling the house waiting for them, but that was really just a plot point to bring Damon and Johanna together.

Alberts has some intriguing plotlines that sort of flow in and out of the story, but don't really go anywhere.  A lady in Damon's life for instance is just kind of there and given a very broad stroke as a character.  And while I liked Damon and Johanna, they fell flat for me--neither really changing over the course of the story (despite what others' say).  At the end of the book Damon is still Damon, Johanna is still Johanna.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Book Review: Blood Red Road

Title: Blood Read Road
Series: Dustlands Book 1
Author(s): Moira Young
Genre: Dystopian, Young Adul, Adventure
Publisher/Year: Margaret K. McElderry/2011
-Webpage/blog: ??

Synopsis: Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.


Review:  When originally I heard about this book I was very excited.  I'm not huge on dystopian novels, but in the case of this one I was ready to invest a considerable amount of time into it because it was a rather long novel (450 or so pages) and the MC is older then most (as far as young adult fiction goes).  I kept away from early reviews and excerpts because I wanted to go into the book with a fresh set of eyes, no preconceptions whatsoever.

I really wish I had read a couple at least, so I was prepared.

As a plot BLOOD RED ROAD was thoroughly engrossing.  This story is 100% Saba's; her voice, her perceptions, her feelings.  Saba doesn't hold back or try to sugar coat things, she's very upfront (to the reader at least) about her faults as well as her strengths.  She readily admits that her younger sister is an unwelcome burden, a constant reminder of what they had (a happy family) versus what they didn't have when their mother was alive.  She also admits that Lugh is the bright light, the one that leads them and is their guiding force.  She doesn't say anything of this with bitterness, she merely accepts that he leads and she follows.

The closeness the twins share is a steady pulse throughout the novel, even when Lugh is taken away and Saba has to face a world where he isn't there to show her what needs doing.  I wouldn't say that Saba suddenly realized 'Gee I'm just as smart as Lugh!', it was more of a gradual understanding that Lugh's understanding of the world came from how he saw it.  As her perception changed so too did her her ability to interact with the world.

As I said, the plot held me captivated.  So its with some irritation that I report it took me nearly two weeks to finish this novel.  In that time I put it aside so often I got nearly three times that many pages done on various other books.  Even while I sat wondering how Saba figured out a way to keep going, I could not make myself read it any faster than I did.

To put it simply the writing killed me.  Not that Young couldn't write, its just because the book was from Saba's POV everything was written as if Saba was writing it down.  And since Saba's education was rudimentary at best that meant a whole lot of spelling mistakes, grammar headaches and weirdly placed punctuation.  At first I thought it was because it was an advanced reader's copy, but with a sinking feeling I realized that's how the ENTIRE BOOK is written.  If it had just been when Saba or the others talked, I could have tolerated it.  But when Saba is describing a scene and its in that broken mostly phonetic spelling it grated on me.

That's a personal problem however.  As I said, the plot is gripping, I just couldn't get beyond the narrative tone.

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