Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I read this (Oct 16-31 2011)

Here's the rest of October, because I know you were waiting with bated breath (no, it isn't baited, that's dumb).

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Wolf Moon by Charles de Lint: I am ambivalent about this. That is all I have to say.

Sunshine by Robin McKinley: Buffy-esque, which is a good thing, but the lady-protagonist was kind of annoying? And I didn't understand anyone's motivations. I think it needs a second book, I didn't really like the ending.

Dead on the Delta by Stacey Jay: Not everyone's cup of tea, but I liked it a lot.

Young Adult

Vanish by Sophie Jordan (Firelight, Book 2): I really disliked Firelight and I think I may have disliked this more. And goddamnit, yet another cliffhanger.


Jinxed by Inez Kelley: More erotica than romance but with more interaction between the characters outside of a bed (or wherever). The dude-pro gets a little creepy sometimes, but it was a fun read over-all. Nothing to write home about but not a regretful waste of time.

Pleasure for Pleasure by Eloisa James (The Essex Sisters, Book 4): My favorite of the series because Josie is sarcastically funny and Mayne sounds super-hot and I enjoy a love-by-surprise plot. The end is a little weak (as in cutesy) but it's still lots of fun.

Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale: I love this book. I especially enjoy how the dude-pro is the one who falls easily in love and the lady-pro is the one who is resistant and spends most of the book denying her twue-wuv.

Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas (The Wallflowers, Book 3): I can never decide if I love this one or Scandal in Spring more. If you like Lisa Kleypas, this series is a good one.

Girl From Mars by Julie Cohen: Yes, yes, yes.

Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey: I'm just going to have to admit that I am probably going to read everything she's ever written. Lindsey's books aren't really good at all but I can't seem to stop myself.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase: Mmphh, yes.

The Gunslinger's Untamed Bride by Stacey Kane (Brides, Book 2): Oh westerns, I secretly (not-so-secretly now) love you.

Kissing Comfort by Jo Goodman: I liked this a lot, but I'm not really sure why. The first 1/2 of the book is slow. The latter half is where pretty much all of the romance happens and it wasn't totally convincing but I pretty much spent the whole time sighing wistfully. Also, Comfort's relationship with her uncles was pretty awesome. I'm not going to dissect it.

Delicious by Sherry Thomas: Meh, I really liked Not Quite a Husband, but I thought the writing here was not nearly as good and the characters were kind of boring. Also, food porn is not really my thing. I'll try another by her because I hope this one was just a fluke.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I read this (Oct 1-15, 2011)


The Soul Mirror by Carol Berg (The Collegia Magica, Book 2): Um, a really good book, but it was a job to read. It was too...something. I had the same issue with the first book. If you prefer fantasy that's more cerebral then you'll probably like this.

Contemporary Fiction

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese: I enjoyed it quite a bit but it was so long that I was practically dancing when it was over.  


An Offer From a Gentleman and Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn (The Bridgertons, Books 3 & 4): I love, love, love the Bridgerton series and AOFaG is probably my favorite of the bunch. I love most of Julia Quinn's books and this series is arguably her best work.

Seven Secrets of Seduction by Anne Mallory: Nope, boring. And the writing was mediocre. And way too much page-time was spent on the lady protagonist. And the romantic relationship was not believable. And...I'm sure there was more. But that's quite enough.

Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught: This was probably the fourth time I've read this since I bought it (which was early this year). It's like crack or something. 

Isabella by Loretta Chase (The Trevelyan Family, Book 1): Short and sweet and perfectly romantic. Not racy like her later novels, but it's one of the books I re-read when I'm bored or feeling indecisive about what to read next.

I Love the Earl by Caroline Linden: I remember enjoying it, but that's pretty much it. That's not quite a ringing recommendation, is it?

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie: I love this book SO MUCH, despite the overabundance of Chicken Marsala. The whole thing is funny and fun and sexy. If it wasn't for the length of the book, it would be another of my in-betweens.

Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey (Cardinia Royal Family, Book 1): I honestly don't know why I keep reading Lindsey, the only novels of hers I've truly liked were Defy Not the Heart and The Heir. Since my library has all of her books available digitally, I think maybe I'm hoping to find another gem.

Vengeance in Death by J.D. Robb (In Death, Book 6): 27 books to go and I already want to hit myself with a hammer. (Romantic Suspense)

Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh (Psy-Changeling, Book 2): I had the same problem with this that I had with the first book. The writing is technically good and the premise is interesting, but I feel zero interest in the characters. ZERO. I may not bother with the rest of the series (thankfully each book is about different characters, so the compulsion to know everything is not there).  (Paranormal Romance)

Young Adult

So Silver Bright by Lisa Mantchev (Theatre Illuminata, Book 3): I loved Eyes Like Stars (Book 1). I liked Perchance to Dream (Book 2), but it was super weird. So Silver Bright was somewhere in between. A lot of it made no sense to me, but I was happy to be reading it. And the covers are extra-purdy. Made me nostalgic for my angsty-goth teen days (not really).

Fire by Kristin Cashore (The Seven Kingdoms, Book 2): I like this book, but I loved, loved, loved Graceling (Book 1). Fire is more of a prequel/companion novel and was different in tone from Graceling, but it was an interesting read. Definitely read Graceling first. Both books have independent lady-protagonists, a little romance and lots of intrigue. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

I picked this one up from Amazon when it was on promo and I am mighty glad I didn't pay full price for it. I feel awful enough for having paid $1.99. And the sample chapter did not allude to the awfulness of this book.

Catherine Crawfield is half-vampire/half-human. Her mom was attacked and raped by a fanged menace and after an abridged pregnancy, out popped Cat. Apparently, Cat has been atoning for her existence by hunting and killing vampires. She trolls area bars, snuggles up to vampires (she has a special sense about these things, plus the vampires have really pretty skin,  please excuse me while I vomit in my mouth), taking them for a ride (not like a super-sexy naked ride, although that is what the vamps think they are getting), and then staking them (not a nice way to treat your date). Anyway, on one of her vigilante missions, she tries to mack it to Bones (he is English, super-hot, likes to drink blood). Bones takes up Cat on her offer, kicks her ass, and then recruits her (Bones happens to be a vampire bounty hunter, yes a vampire hunting other vampires for money, some things don't change even if you stop breathing).  The rest of the book is about Cat learning how to fight, posing as bait for vampires, going to college, whining about having to wear extra-revealing clothes, blah blah, not-sexy sex, implausible fight scenes, noble sacrifice, The End.

Alright, so the story itself, not so new/interesting. That's fine, I don't need extra-special-shiny-new thing. But the writing? GODAWFUL. The flow is jerky, the dialogue is stilted and stiff, and the sex is boring, boring, and more boring. Cat is only an okay character; she's not totally offensive and she's not totally sympathetic. I spent a lot of the time annoyed at her but that may be due to the fact that she's 22 and acts like she's 7. Bones sounds kind of hot, but he's not a convincing character despite his semi-tragic history. 

I cannot 
understand how this series managed to make it to six books and spawn a spin-off series. I know Ms. Frost's writing has improved since this was published but sweet baby Jesus, why did people keep reading after this? I'm going to read the rest of the series because I have book-OCD (and my threshold for pain is clearly far too high) but if I had read this before the rest of the books were issued, I would have been happy to throw this one off of a cliff. Or into a fire. Or off of a cliff and into a fire.

Final Reckoning

Should you read this? GOD no. Save yourself.

Buy It . Borrow It . Skip It

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
Series: Night Huntress, Book 1
Next book in series: One Foot in the Grave
P.O.V.: First person, past; single narrator
Language: Salty
Sexxxoring: A few sexy scenes with semi-frank language

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

So apparently, November is read-an-amazing-book month. I had just finished Daughter of Smoke and Bone (I give it a bajillion stars, if you were asking) and I was perfectly astonished to have the next book I read be just as amazing (in an altogether different way).
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
I know The Night Circus has been hyped unbelievably but I have to say that I loved, really loved this book. Everything about it appealed to me: the magic, the romance, the whimsy and fantasy, and the utter bizarreness of it. It's definitely not a plot-driven story; I knew how the contest would end (in a general sense, although the specifics were fun) and it's not really character-driven either. It's the prose and imagery that really impel the whole thing. The imagery is seriously incredible (an aside: I am terrible at actually imagining imagery, right? But I felt like I was seeing everything. Or like I was remembering a place I had visited. This is a pretty cool thing for me because it happens so rarely). 

I usually enjoy when a story is told in a nonlinear fashion but here I felt like the timeline jumped around too much? Because even though each event is happening years apart, the way the story flowed just
felt linear. Having to keep in mind that this one thing happened four years before this other thing but only two years after this new thing was a little jarring. I kept having to refer to the chronology at the beginning of each chapter and it broke up the experience for me. But really, this was my only complaint. 

Final Reckoning

Should you read this? Yes, go buy it now. This is another book that you should 
own physically  because it's just really beautiful.

Buy It . Borrow It . Skip It

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Series: n/a
P.O.V.: Alternating 2nd person, present/3rd person, present
Language: Mostly clean with a couple of dingers

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

This isn't a real review. I'm going to post the synopsis, squee a bunch and then faint. I'm not lying about the fainting.

This is a really difficult story to summarize. If you reveal too much, it ruins the suspense and the blurb doesn't really do it justice. But blurb is what you get because I am lazy.
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. 
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war. 
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.
When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
You're thinking "Angels, bah, BORING", right? WRONG. I mean, yeah sure angels, whatever, but not like JESUS angels, more like alien species angels. So, give it a chance, ok? OK?

I've read Laini Taylor's other books and loved them (I am super pissed that Putnam has elected to not continue with the rest of the Dreamdark series; screw you, Putnam). But this book blew them all out of the water. It's romantic, mysterious, magical, melancholy, surprising, insert-complimentary-adjective-here. Every time I thought I had a handle on the story, it went all twisty. And even when I figured out the who, the why and how of it surprised me. Also, the writing itself is beautiful.

Generally, I finish one book and IMMEDIATELY start a new one, but here I had to give myself a short break so I could let the story settle in my brain. I know I'm gushing so I'll allow that I do have a couple of complaints; the third-person narration is mainly focused on Karou and Akiva but occasionally jumps to minor characters. But not consistently, so when it happens, it takes a second or two to adjust (by which point we have switched back to Karou or Akiva). Also, the pacing in the first two-thirds of the book is really spot on but drags a bit in the last third. The big reveal was wonderful and interesting, but I think the flow of the story suffered because it took so forking long.

Final Reckoning

Should you read this? YES, a million times, YES. Buy the hardcover, this is one of those books that needs to be read on paper. I borrowed my copy from the library, but I'm going to buy one this weekend (it's
Support A Small Business Saturday!). I may actually buy both the digital and physical versions, just so I can have it with me always. The only other book I've done that with is Daughter of the Forest. You should go read that too.

Buy It . Borrow It. Skip It

It's the first book in a trilogy which I'm assuming will be named "Daughter of Smoke and Bone". I have no real idea, the author's website doesn't actually say much.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Book 1 of 3 (projected)
Next Book: Who knows? It's not mentioned anywhere on the author's site
P.O.V.: Third person, past; omniscient

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Girl From Mars by Julie Cohen


Okay, I made myself wait a few days to post this review so I could get over my squeeing and maybe write something that approaches objectivity. This was a mostly successful endeavor. Anyway, blue-haired socially awkward geek girl, comic books, romance, Star Trek? In the same book? It's like it was written just for me. And really, I must stress that the cover is one of the coolest covers I've ever seen. The only thing that could make it better is tentacles.

I'm grabbing the blurb from Amazon because I am feeling too lazy to sum this up myself. It's not wholly accurate but it's good enough.
"I, Philomena Desdemona Brown, do solemnly swear to forsake all romantic relationships . . ." It's not like the vow, made by Fil and her three nerdy male best friends, seemed much of a big deal at the time. Frankly, Fil wouldn't know romance if it hit her in the face, and with her real love being her artist job at Girl from Mars, the comic whose heroine has never had a love interest, she doesn't exactly mind being relationship-free anyway. Until her world is rocked to its core when one of her long-standing quartet and Girl from Mars herself both unexpectedly fall in love. Is it time to give in to temptation and finally fall in love?

I may be a bit biased because it was basically like reading about myself, except I'm not white, English, or an artist. And the blue hair, not since I was twenty. But the socially inept geeky girl bit? ABSOLUTELY. 

The tone of the whole story is mostly wistful, because Fil doesn't want to be alone but she is fighting her attraction to her nemesis (she didn't know he was her nemesis until way after they met). The writing style is really simple and lovely, no flowery nonsense. And the dialogue is great.

I would have liked to see more growth from Fil as a character because she was definitely lacking in the self-awareness department and had a bad case of pretend-it-doesn't-exist-itis, but she did eventually grow up/out a bit. Also, even though Dan (our nemesis/love interest) sounds awesomely hot and nice, he was a bit flat. A lot of the Fil/Dan interaction took place off-page and it left me a little doubtful of the romance. But maybe that's because everything is from Fil's POV and she doesn't really get it either. I don't care, I still love this book.

Final Reckoning

Read this: Yes, you should. As a matter of fact, I'm going to take my own advice and read it again tonight.
Buy It . Borrow It . Skip It

Girl From Mars by Julie Cohen
Series: n/a
P.O.V.: First person, past; single narrator
Language: I am pretty sure it was clean but honestly, my memory can't be trusted
Sexxxoring: Maybe two or three scenes with super vague naked business