Monday, December 12, 2011

Still Catching Up

I'm nearing the home stretch. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can catch up by the end of the week.

'The Invisible Tower' by Nils Johnson Shelton--Another good but not great book for younger readers. And I had such high hopes. I mean, any book where Merlin is still alive and is the proprietor of a comic book shop is going to pique my interest. Sadly, it felt like it was trying to hard to be nerd-cool at the expense of being fun. Of course, I'm far outside it's target audience and there are probably hordes of ten-year-olds who will really get into it.

'The Garden Intrigue' by Lauren Willig--Another charming installment in her Pink Carnation series. I keep waiting for there to be a clunker in this series (it seems to happen to even the best authors), but there has yet to be one. I dread the day when she decides to tell Jane's story because I'm pretty sure she's holding that one back for the very last. Until then, I look forward to every new book.

'Bloodrose' by Andrea Cremer--This is the final volume of her Nightshade trilogy and it was an excellent ending. The action never let up, there were a couple of heartbreaking deaths, and the resolution was one that I should have suspected might be coming, but didn't. And, although it left me wanting to read more from this author, I am perfectly satisfied to leave this world she created just as it is.

'Unclaimed' by Courtney Milan--A really, really lovely historical romance which will join the list of those titles to be placed in the hands of those who claim the genre is nothing but fluff. If reading novels like this one doesn't change their minds, then they're just stubborn.

'Sex, Gossip, and Rock & Roll' by Nicola Marsh--A contemporary series romance, which I rarely read mostly because they're too short. I quite enjoyed it, but wished it had a few more pages to further develop some of the supporting characters and their stories.

'Night Hawk' by Beverly Jenkins--I used to read Beverly Jenkins fairly regularly, but haven't read any of her books for a few years and I'm not sure why. Reading this one reminded me of all the things I enjoyed about her work and I've since picked up a couple of her older titles to add to my TBR pile. I love not just that she writes about non-white heroes and heroines (which is huge), but that her research is thorough and exposes me to historical events that I probably wouldn't otherwise have learned about.

'The Snow Child' by Eowyn Ivey--Oh, how I loved this book. It's just simply beautiful. I picked it up because I love fairy tale re-tellings and grew up reading books about frontier days. This is a re-telling of a Russian folktale set in Alaska in the '20s and it was just so, so wonderful. I think this is likely to make my Best of 2012 list, even though it will publish in February and there are ten months more of books that may knock it from its perch. Oh, just, wow. Read this. Please.

'Pure' by Julianna Baggott--This is being marketed as an adult book, but is clearly YA dystopic fiction. It's true that there is a segment of the adult reading audience who misses out on a lot of great fiction because it's shelved in the "Kids" section, but this maybe isn't the book to try crossing over. It's okay, and to an adult reader who hasn't read a lot of YA dystopic fiction it'll probably seem fresh and unique. I just don't think it's worth the extra seven or eight dollars the publisher is going to be able to charge by marketing it to an adult audience.

'Fever' by Lauren DeStefano--This is the second volume in her Chemical Garden trilogy and I think I liked it ever better than the first volume. Usually, the middle books in trilogies feel like "bridge" books and are weaker than the first and third volumes. This one bucked the trend. It's still very much a bridge book, but it also added new elements to the story and has gotten me really excited for the third volume.

'The Mirage' by Matt Ruff--I really liked this topsy-turvy look at the events of 9/11. In Ruff's world, the attacks take place on 11/9 and it's American extremists who take down the twin towers in Baghdad. It's clever and smart and has an interesting take on who some of the central players would have become if things had played out differently. Oh, and Rummy got his, so extra super bonus points to Ruff for pulling that off.

'Incarnate' by Jodi Meadows--Another book that I absolutely loved. It's a YA paranormal, but there's not a werewolf or vampire or fallen angel to be found. It has a wholly unique mythology and a heroine who is so broken that you can't help but ache for her. An absolutely wonderful book.

'Cinder' by Marissa Meyer--Another fairy tale re-telling, this being a Cinderella (natch) story set in the future and featuring a cyborg Cinderella. It took me a while to get into, but, as soon as it started clicking with me, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.

The rest of the catch-up list is now less than 20 titles, so I feel like I've made some progress. I probably won't be able to post tomorrow, but I won't have a lot of time for reading either, so I shouldn't get myself further behind.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Next Batch

Okay. So, here's the next twenty or so in my catch-up marathon.

'Animal Attraction' by Jill Shalvis--Jill Shalvis + hunky vet + cuddly animals = The Grilled Cheese Sandwich of reading. Perfect rainy day comfort food.

'The Silent Oligarch' by Chris Morgan Jones--Reminded me of the spy novels that were being written during the Cold War, including the Russian bad guys. Quieter and more cerebral than I usually go for, with a lower body count and not nearly enough shit blowing up, but quite good all the same.

'Love? Maybe' by Heather Hepler--It's on my list, so I know I read it, but I can't really remember it. Which means it wasn't a standout, but it also didn't totally suck.

'Why We Broke Up' by Daniel Handler, illustrated by Maira Kalman--This was awesome. It was also a difficult read in some ways because I could just see every mistake that Min was making and why this relationship was doomed. I mean, yeah, you know it's going to end because it's a breakup book, but watching each and every mistake get made is like watching a train wreck in slow motion--you know it's going to be ugly but there isn't a damned thing you can do to stop it.

'Treasure Island!!!' by Sara Levine--I really wanted to like this one because it had such an interesting premise:  a twentysomething slacker gets inspired by Robert Louis Stevens's classic and decides to be more adventurous. Unfortunately, she's so utterly unpleasant and so completely oblivious to the effects of her actions on those around her that I wanted to set her on fire. And that was before she killed the parrot she bought with money she stole from her employer. There's a line between eccentric and asshole and she crossed it and never looked back.

'The Anatomist's Apprentice' by Tessa Harris--An okay historical mystery that occasionally got bogged down in trying to show off the author's extensive research.

'The Litigators' by John Grisham--It's been years since I've read a Grisham and I had forgotten how entertaining he can  be. The man knows how to tell a story.

'Seven Nights to Forever'--Older woman, younger man. A woman forced into prostitution by financial difficulties. A miserable marriage and guilt over "cheating" on the horrible spouse. All kinds of things that I love in an historical romance and all in one well-written package. Collins has cemented her place on my must-read list.

'11/22/63' by Stephen King--If you haven't already read about a hundred raves about this book, you've probably been living under a rock or possibly you were in a coma. There's no need for me to repeat what others have already said. I'll only say that the 800+ pages flew by and I would have read it in one sitting if I hadn't had to sleep.

'Dragonswood' by Janet Lee Carey--Dragons! Witches! Forbidden Forests! Doomed Love! An excellent YA fairy tale filled with references to historical witch hunts, the Inquisition, and Arthurian legend.

'The Cabinet of Earths' by Anne Nesbet--An okay middle-reader with a premise that reminded me too much of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials for me to not compare the two and find this one wanting.

'The Dispatcher' by Ryan David Jahn--Contemporary noir about a father who would do anything to find and rescue his kidnapped daughter. Lots of bullets and blood and a villain all the more disturbing because he really thinks he's doing the right thing for his "family".

'The Catastrophic History of You and Me' by Jess Rothenberg--Teen romance with ghosts as hero and heroine, which is not half as disturbing as when only one of the lovers is dead. It's actually a very sweet book with a strong emotional core.

'The Spellman Files' by Lisa Lutz--Okay. I admit it. I don't get the love that so many people have for this series. It was good and had some funny moments, but I don't feel the need to read any more. Oh, well. I'm sure there are plenty of authors I enjoy who other people just don't get.

'The Next Always' by Nora Roberts--It's the first book in a new trilogy from LaNora and I quite liked it, even with the ghost. And, okay, bonus points for making her heroine a bookstore owner.

'The Katerina Trilogy Book 1: The Gathering Storm' by Robin Bridges--A YA paranormal set in czarist Russia and incorporating many elements of Russian folklore. Sadly, there are still vampires and zombies, but the unique setting and strong heroine more than compensate.

'Shadow Heir' by Richelle Mead--I love Richelle Mead, but I have to admit to being disappointed with the endings she's written for both of her adult series. This, like the final Georgina Kincaid novel, felt like the actual ending--the tying up of the series mythology--was rushed and too full of coincidence.

'Scrumptious' by Amanda Usen--A decent romance, but I wish that the foodie bits had been stronger. if you're going to write a culinary romance in this day and age, you probably need to describe the food in as much drool-worthy detail as the hero's abs.

'Winterling' by Sarah Prineas--A charming Middle Reader story about a girl who finds out that it is her destiny to save Faerie and then has to make a choice between that world and this one.

'Secrets' by Freya North--I love British "chick lit" because it doesn't all take place in urban settings and the heroines aren't all dressed in couture (or wishing they were) and there's almost always a scene where the heroine gets caught outdoors in next to nothing, which is usually a pair of manky knickers, a dressing gown, and wellies. The heroines, in other words, are more like women I actually might know. This isn't a glamorous book, but it does have a happy ending, which is all I wanted.

'The Invisible Ones' by Stef Penney--A really good detective novel set in the world of English Gypsies in a time before cell phones and computers were ubiquitous. The time period meant that conversation and legwork were the most important tools a detective had, which created relationships that probably wouldn't have developed in the digital age. It took me a couple of chapters to get into it, but once it grabbed me, I didn't want to stop.

'Under the Never Sky' by Veronica Rossi--More YA dystopia and this one was really very "meh." It had some good moments, but there was nothing unique or compelling enough to set it apart from the rest of the crowd.

One or two more posts and I'll be caught up. And then I'll most likely slack off for a few weeks again, no matter how good my intentions.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Two Months Later...

I really, really need to update this more often. It's been lying fallow for nearly two months and I now have a list of more than seventy titles that I've read since then. So, here we go, in order of reading:

'Revealed', 'Follow My Lead', and 'Compromised' by Kate Noble--I did to a Noble-centric post, it just wasn't here. A new must-read author.

'Too Hot to Touch' by Louisa Edwards--It was really good, but it just didn't grab me like the books in her previous trilogy did, and I'm not sure why.

'The Fault in Our Stars' by John Green--Have tissues handy. Sad, but stunningly lovely.

'The School for Brides' by Cheryl Ann Smith--Yay! Prostitutes reforming their lives and settling down in matrimony. It's a cheesy trope, but I love it like crazy.

'Tithe' by Holly Black--I love dark fairy stories and wish I had read this one when it came out years ago.

'A Million Suns' by Beth Revis--Not sure why I read this, considering that I was fairly "meh" about 'Across the Universe'. It was more interesting to me than its predecessor and I'll probably read the sequel because that story looks to be interesting.

'Clockwork Prince' by Cassandra Clare--It was exactly what I wanted and expected it to be.

'Agent 6' by Tom Rob Smith--I think this is maybe my favorite of the trilogy, and this is from someone who still thinks 'Child 44' is one of her favorite crime novels of at least the past decade.

'The Demi-Monde: Winter' by Rod Rees--I would have liked this a lot more if it weren't so full of "clever" naming conventions. But, the premise was good and the heroine was awesome, so I just rolled my eyes a lot at the names of things.

'May B' by Caroline Starr Rose--A Middle Reader book in verse, which I would normally avoid like the plague. However, it was a Little House-ish story and not very long, so I read it and was quite impressed. Nine-year-old me would have loved it.

'The Book of Blood & Shadow' by Robin Wasserman--Absolutely one of the best 'DaVinci Code'-esque YA novels that I've read.

'The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen' by Thomas Caplan--This could easily have been cheesy and over-the-top (Hollywood superstar is also a spy), but Caplan pulled it off and wrote a highly entertaining spy novel, and I love a good spy novel.

'There Is No Dog' by Meg Rosoff--This one has people's panties in a bunch because it imagines God as a petulant, horny teenage boy (which would explain sooo much). I hope the controversy means that readers who may have otherwise overlooked this will pick it up because it's really good and worth a read.

'Good Girls Don't', 'Bad Boys Do', and 'Real Men Will' by Victoria Dahl--Solid contemporary romance trilogy about three siblings who own a brewpub, with the third installment, about the eldest brother, being my favorite.

'Hellbent' by Cherie Priest--The second installment in her vampire detective series, which isn't, to my mind, as good as her Clockwork Century novels, but it has some truly great supporting characters who will keep me coming back.

'The Kitchen Counter Cooking School' by Kathleen Flinn--Hey, look, non-fiction! It wasn't awful, but it did feel condescending at times, which tainted the parts that I did like.

'Daughter of the Centaurs' by K.K. Ross--With a title like that, I wanted to love it. I liked it okay, but it didn't live up to the promise of its title or premise.

'77 Shadow Street' by Dean Koontz--There was a time when I devoured Koontz like candy and this book reminded me of why that was. He's a damned fine storyteller who can completely suck you into the worlds he creates, whether they're places you want to visit or not. And this was definitely Not.

'The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae' by Stephanie Laurens--I devoured the first two installments in this series  and was really looking forward to this third and final volume. Sadly, it was lacking the excitement of the preceding volumes and ended the trilogy on a low note.

'The Family Fang' by Kevin Wilson'--This is not the sort of thing I would normally pick up on my own, but I'd heard good things from readers I trust, so decided to give it a go and discovered it to be excellent. Quirky and odd and funny and melancholy and I'm very glad that I read it.

'Irma Voth' by Miriam Toews--Also very good and very much off my normal reading path. I'm glad I read it, but I don't know that I'll be recommending it to others like I will the Wilson.

Okay. That covers about a third of the catch-up list, so I'll take a break and continue this later. And by "later" I mean hours, not months. I hope.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Home Stretch

This is the final catch-up post and then I'm taking tomorrow off, but will be back to regular-ish posting on Friday. Unless I get lazy, which could totally happen.

Lots of Romance again this time, which shouldn't come as a surprise. Probably 75% of my reading is either Romance or books for young readers.

I've stated before and I will state again that I am a Jill Shalvis fangirl. And, if I weren't so already, I have a sneaking suspicion that 'Head Over Heels' would be enough to make me one. It's the third in her Lucky Harbor series and focuses on Chloe, who is the flighty youngest sister of the three who own the inn in the town of--you guessed it--Lucky Harbor. She's never really settled down in one place for long and her sisters don't have a lot of faith that she'll do so now. And, I'm going to stop synopsizing and just say that I think this is my favorite in this series so far. Chloe is so sweet and insecure and feels so completely alone, even though she has her sisters and her best friend and, apparently, the hot town sheriff. Characters like Chloe can often come across as pathetic, but Shalvis is a skilled writer and Chloe just comes across as heartbreakingly human. This is another one of those novels that's getting me all misty-eyed just in the recollection. The cover makes it look like a lighthearted romp, but it's not. It's got layers and texture and good, true emotion. Definitely, definitely worth reading.

'The Highest Stakes' and 'Fortune's Son' are inter-connected novels by Emery Lee and I wanted to like them much more than I did. Although I liked the characters and the stories well enough, there were what I saw as some serious issues with the writing. First, some well-meaning advice to Ms. Lee: Sweetie, you don't have to use all of your research. 'The Highest Stakes' was set in the world of 18th Century horse racing and I ended up skipping great swathes of prose because they went into endless, boring detail about it. Seriously, a little flavor and background is great, but I don't need to read a complete history. If that's what I wanted, I'm sure there are numerous non-fiction books on the subject--most of which were probably listed in the bibliography. As for 'Fortune's Son', I was hoping it would intersect more with the first volume--maybe with some of the military history shared by the two books' heroes or any of the other big plot points that influenced the events of this book. Sadly, it was all barely touched on, which made me think that none of it was terribly important. In which case, why was so much made of it in the first book? Also, again with the bibliography. Since 'Fortune's Son' is being packaged and marketed as a Romance novel ('The Highest Stakes' was touted as historical fiction, so the bibliography was less bothersome), the bibliography just feels like trying too hard. Although I expect the hero and heroine to have to work for their happy ending, I don't think the reader should be expected to.

'The Summer of You' by Kate Noble was so good that I'm now on a Kate Noble binge. 'Nuff said.

'Immortal Rider' by Larissa Ione is the second volume in her new series about the four horsemen of the apocalypse and I have to admit to being totally hooked. I'm quite enjoying her mythology, even though it has vampires and fallen angels in it, both of which I am growing heartily sick of. However, her take on them is different from most, and I can appreciate that. A lot. From the way events played out in this book and the teaser at the end, I'm not sure I'm going to be able to wait patiently for volume three. I want to know NOW.

'Shattered Souls' by Mary Lindsey is the only non-Romance on this particular list. It's a YA about reincarnated souls whose job it is to help guide the "Hindered" on to their eternal reward (or punishment). So, um, yeah. I'm kinda over ghosts, too.

'The Many Sins of Lord Cameron' by Jennifer Ashley is the third volume in her absolutely amazing series about the MacKenzie siblings. (If you haven't read 'The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie', you need to do so right the hell now.) This series and these characters are just wow. Lots of angst and brooding and emotional walls and the whole gamut of darkness, but with humor and believable redemption and happy endings. And, if you pick this up, be forewarned that Cam's dead wife was a right bitch and seriously, seriously disturbed. It gets really dark, but I promise it all ends well--happily, even.

Yay! I'm all caught up. Now, I have another Kate Noble novel to get back to. Expect a Noble-centric post in the not-too-distant-future.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Still Catching Up

I'm going to try to get through the remainder of the titles on my list, but a few may have to be held over until tomorrow.

'Blood Rights' by Kristen Painter is a book I wanted to read because the cover is absolutely gorgeous. It's the first book in a new Urban Fantasy vampire series and, if I weren't so very burned out on the whole lot of 'em, I would have probably enjoyed it a lot more. That said, though, it wasn't bad. It kept me entertained for a few hours and I was engaged enough with the characters to want to see how the story turned out. As a bonus, the cover was actually representative of the content, which made me happy. I thought it was just pretty to sucker in readers like me. Nope. It actually meant something. So, bravo anonymous (to me) cover designer.

'Scandalous Desires' by Elizabeth Hoyt is the third book in her Maiden Lane historical romance series and my favorite so far. It had a pirate in it. And, not just any old pirate, but a Thames River Pirate, which isn't a hero I've run into before. It was, of course, full of drama and high emotion and damaged characters, which is standard for Hoyt. It also featured another lovely fairy tale serving as chapter headings. I still believe that Ms. Hoyt should collect all of the fairy tales she's created for her novels and sell them as a collection. They're absolutely lovely. Even if her novels were less than wonderful, I'd probably continue to read them simply for the fairy tales.

'Endurance' is the sequel to Jay Lake's 'Green', which is a favorite of mine. I've been eagerly anticipating this sequel and, though I didn't swoon over it quite as much as I did with 'Green', it was still  very, very good. It set things up for a third volume, which, with the new developments in this volume, should be fascinating. I'm sure to find myself growing impatient while I wait. I'm excited to see how Green and her world will react to the events and revelations of 'Endurance'.

'The Virtuoso' is another historical Romance from one of my favorite authors. Grace Burrowes only has four books under her belt, but all of them have been outstanding. The events of this novel occur before those of 'Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish', though that novel will be published first. It doesn't really matter, though, because everyone knows you get a Happily Ever After at the end of a Romance novel. The joy is in how the author gets you there. So, it's not like reading 'Lady Sophie' first is really going to spoil anything for you. On the other hand, if you're a stickler for chronological order, you should definitely read 'The Virtuoso' first. But, whichever order you read them in, you need to read them if you like historical Romances. I promise you won't be sorry.

'Genie Knows Best' by Judi Fennell is the second novel in her genie romance series. It's fun and fast-paced and enjoyable and served as a nice change of Romance pace from the deep, painful emotional journeys of the Hoyt and Burrowes novels.

'Too Wicked to Wed' by Cara Elliott is a book I remember enjoying reading, but I can't recall much about it at all. Which just goes to show that I need to write these posts when the books are still fresh in my mind, rather than days or weeks later.

'Heart of Darkness' is the first book in a new series by Lauren Dane. It's UF about witches. I remember liking  the story and characters okay, but getting annoyed by some of the dialogue, which occasionally felt as if it would have been more at home in the mouth of a teenager than a high-powered lawyer/witch.

'Until There Was You' is the new novel from Kristan Higgins, who has always been kind of hit or miss for me. I know she has fans who think she can do no wrong, but some of her heroines are so needy that I can't imagine that anyone would put up with them for long. This, however, was not one of those books. It was sweet and tender and touching and had me tearing up in places. Definitely a hit.

'You're (Not) the One' by Alexandra Potter was okay. It had magic in it (or something that passed for magic, anyway), but, like most RomComs, the resolutions to the A and B plots were just too easy and convenient, magic or no.

'The Sinner' by Margaret Mallory was a Scottish historical Romance, which I usually avoid like the plague because the dialect is so damned annoying. Thankfully, Ms. Mallory keeps it to a minimum, so I was able to enjoy the reading experience. I don't know that I'm going to start downing kilt & claymore novels regularly, but it was nice to see that not all of them think that every other word needs to be "ach" or "dinna".

'The Affair' by Lee Child was a Reacher novel. If you're a fan, you know what to expect and won't be disappointed. If you're not already a fan, this wouldn't be a bad place to start, since it's the story of how Reacher became Reacher.

Okay. I'm going to stop now. That leaves five books on my list to be covered tomorrow and then I can get back to some kind of normal schedule that is, I hope, devoid of these monster posts.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I Really Will Be More Diligent

I just got a brand new laptop, so as long as I stay enamored of my shiny new toy, I should be more regular about posting here. Of course, it's been long enough that I need to do a handful of catch-up posts first. I'll start with the books for younger readers, since that's about half of the titles since my last post. Like the last time I did this, I probably won't share my thoughts about everything, but just those that I actually have some lingering impression of. Or whatever.

'Legend' by Marie Lu is another post-apocalyptic dystopian YA, this time told from alternating points of view. Half of the chapters are narrated by Day, the outsider emo-boy hero and the other half are narrated by June, the super-smart, super-establishment heroine. And one character's chapters are printed in gold ink. I think it's Day. The book isn't bad, and June is more together than a lot of the heroines in these things, but that gold ink was really hard on my eyes and if I'm having that much trouble making out the words on the page, I'm going to have a hard time really getting into the book. So, there's that. Had I not had to squint half the time, I may have found this book to be much better than I did.

'The Future of Us' by Jay Asher and Caroline Mackler is also told in the alternating voices of the hero and heroine. It's about two best friends who magically stumble onto Facebook in 1996 and start doing things to see if they can change how their futures turn out. It's smart and engaging and makes me really glad I didn't have Facebook in 1996. I would have surely thought my future self deceased for as rarely as I bother logging in. Also, no gold ink on the pages, so I enjoyed the reading experience much more than that of 'Legend'.

'Snow in Summer' is an Appalachian-set Snow White tale from Jane Yolen. It's Jane Yolen, so you should read it because she does amazing things with fairy tales.

'Darker Still' by Leanna Renee Hiebler is a turn-of-the-century paranormal romance inspired by Oscar Wilde's 'Dorian Grey'. I quite enjoyed it and am pleased that it both tied up the story and left plenty of room for sequels.

'My Very Un Fairy Tale Life' by Anna Staniszewski is cute middle reader fantasy with an evil clown. Since we all know that clowns are inherently evil, I am probably a bit prejudiced in this book's favor for blatantly naming one as the villain.

'The Space Between' by Breanna Yovanoff was, hands-down, my favorite book on this list. I cannot praise it high enough. It's out next month and I encourage everyone who has any tolerance at all for YA paranormal romance to give it a read. It's absolutely beautifully written and devastatingly heartbreaking, but ultimately hopeful. I'm getting a little misty-eyed just remembering it. Seriously. Read this book.

'Liar's Moon' by Elizabeth C. Bunce is a sequel to 'Star Crossed', which I loved. I didn't love this one as much because it introduced sequel bait on the last page, and I hate that. Until then, though, it was damned good.

'Unleashed' by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie is about teen werewolves and is (oddly) based on 'King Lear'. Not sure where this series is going, and not sure I care about finding out.

'The Dead Gentleman' by Matthew Cody could have been awesome, but was just okay. There were some great Jules Verne moments, but the intersection of the Victorian and contemporary felt forced and awkward.

'Shatter Me' by Tahereh Mafi was an unexpected pleasure. There's not a lot unique about the story (post-apocalyptic dystopian YA again), but the writing was fantastic. The prose style changed from beginning to end  in a way that reflected the heroine's change from feral and possibly insane prisoner to almost superhero with hard-earned faith in herself. It was the writing, and the slow-dawning realization of what Ms. Mafi was doing with her prose that kept me absolutely riveted.

'Extraordinary' by Adam Selzer made me wish that authors would stop feeling the need to do "send-ups" of popular genres. They hardly ever work well.

'Illuminated' by Erica Orloff is the book I finished on the train ride home today. It had a great premise and I had high hopes for it. However, it really needs a good copy editor. Since the copy that I read was an "advance uncorrected proof for limited distribution", I'm hoping it gets one. About 100 of the ellipses need to be edited out and the grammar needs help. And, from a personal point of view, it needs about fifty more pages of story to develop the relationship between the hero and heroine and to actually do something with the villain who was introduced and then dropped like a hot potato.

I wish I could have ended this on a better note, so I'll take this opportunity to advise both of you to read 'The Space Between' by Brenna Yovanoff. I promise it will be worth your while.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Futuristic Steampunk Zombie Romance

All it's missing are fallen angels and perhaps a generation ship. But, there are sequels coming, so I continue to hope.

Okay. You may well be asking how a book can be both futuristic and steampunk and it's sort of convoluted how it got there, but 'Dearly, Departed' by Lia Habel is, yes, a futuristic steampunk zombie romance novel for young adults.Briefly, the world as we know it has come to an end and the surviving North Americans have settled in Central America and latched on to the Victorian era as a model for their new society. Hence, futuristic steampunk. And, because the market isn't yet glutted, this is a zombie novel. And, in the best Romeo and Juliet tradition, it features an impossible romance between a society miss and a zombie soldier. Apparently, Ms. Habel wrote this book as a joke, and with that many elements thrown into the mix, I can believe it. For all of that, though, it actually works pretty well. Except for the names. There's a character named Vespertine Mink, for heaven's sake. Vespertine Mink. There's a Dr. Samedi. And the heroine is named Nora Dearly. Dearly? And, please, to all authors of YA, stop naming your heroines Nora(h)! It's not unique. At least Vespertine hasn't been used so much as to become cliche. And, for gods' sake, if you must use Nora(h), please stop making her a petite brunette.

Okay. Enough of my anti-Nora(h) rant. It just feels like every other YA paranormal has a heroine named Nora(h) and I'd like to see a little more originality in naming, but not to the extreme of Vespertine Mink.

Anyway, before I got distracted by the name issue, I commented that this book actually worked pretty well for all the mish-mash of elements involved. It was, however, too long, at close to 500 pages. And there were multiple character POVs, which could occasionally get confusing.But, the multiple plot threads were nicely developed and played out to satisfying conclusions. The relationships between the characters were believable and unfolded naturally over the course of the book. And, though this is apparently the start of a series, it had an ending that made it work well as a single volume. I probably won't seek out future installments, but I don't regret taking the time to read this one.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Not the Sequel I Expected

But, quite satisfying, nonetheless.

As soon as I set down Jade Lee's 'Wicked Surrender', I had to know what happened to Kit. I mean, all of the central characters believed him to be dead and there was a big funeral scene and then you get an epilogue that tells you that Kit is actually on a ship at sea somewhere. Say what? And Kit was not exactly the most mature and self-reliant of fellows and there was no way in Hell that he was going to survive and, yet, he's set up to be the hero of the next book. I had no idea how, or if, Lee could make this work.

And, you know, she kinda didn't. I mean, the book works quite well on its own, but I had a really hard time believing that the Kit from the first book, no matter what he had gone through in the intervening seven years, would become the Kit from this book. The spoiled, privileged child of the first book just never seemed to have it in him to become the mature, tortured man of this one. The Kit of 'Surrender' was more likely to have given up and, consciously or not, allowed himself to be killed.

But, as I said, this novel works well on its own, especially if the reader can view this Kit as an entirely separate being than the Kit of 'Surrender'. Maddy is an engaging heroine with a lot of crap going on in her life, but she still finds bits and pieces of happiness where she can. She serves as companion to her younger cousin, Rose, who is the most flighty, silly, and possibly intellectually challenged flibbertigibbet ever put to paper. Honestly, she was the most unrealistic character in the book and was almost enough to ruin the whole story for me. And, naturally, her stupidity almost ruined everything for everyone. There was lots of villainous behavior by several different secondary characters, but no big ominous threat hanging over anyone's head. The villainy was, instead, of a fairly everyday variety and stemmed from selfishness and not deep-seated evil, which was fairly refreshing. There was lots of drama and darkness and angst, but also lots of humor and healing and, in the end, happiness.

I really, really hope that Ms. Lee doesn't decide to write a book with Rose as the heroine. She's just too annoying and idiotic to ever make a respectable heroine.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Voodoo and Nuns

Sadly, not in the same book.

'Black Heart Loa' by Adrian Phoenix is the second book in a new UF series and I think, surprisingly, that I enjoyed it more than the first, although it did get a little busy. There were times when I felt there was just too much going on, but, once the various plot threads started to interweave themselves into a single narrative, it fairly galloped along. Ms. Phoenix's world is built on a combination of voodoo and Celtic folklore, which is an interesting combination and one that really works for me. Unfortunately, the relationships between the characters are such that it would be difficult for a new reader to jump in with book two and know who was what to whom and how and why.

I recently read Tess Gerritsen's 'The Silent Girl' and realized that I really liked the Rizzoli & Isles novels, but that there were several I hadn't read. I dug 'The Sinner' out of my towering stack of "I'll get around to that someday" books. This was one of the earlier novels in the series and it was interesting to see the seeds of elements that would bear fruit in later books (hello, Father Brophy). Gerritsen has allowed her protagonists to grow and change a lot over the course of the series and has made sure that Rizzoli and Isles were always as interesting as the cases they were investigating. And, this one was quite interesting, involving, as it did, nuns and lepers. Oh, and one of the nuns had had a baby, which always adds an element of either interest or squick, depending on your sensibilities. I, personally, lean toward interest--or. perhaps, morbid fascination.

'Sorry' by Zoran Drvenkar was interesting. I wasn't particularly keen on the prose, nor on the shifting POV, and the characters never really engaged me, but I liked the concept and the twisty-turny path the narrative took. It was, ultimately, worth the time spent reading, but I'm glad I didn't pay the hardcover cover price for it.

And, that's me. All caught up now. I can get back to one or two books per post, rather than these weird group things I've been doing. And to try to never dig myself this big of a hole again.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Back to "Normal"

Of course, in the time it's taken me to write my update posts, I've now got eight more books that I've read and need to blather on about. I'll be doing them in two batches and be caught up again a lot sooner than that last lapse. I mean, eight is a hell of a lot better than 57, so this shouldn't take any time at all.

I'll start with the Romance novels, since that'll knock off four.

'The Edge of Impropriety' by Pam Rosenthal features a heroine who is an author, so it appealed to me right away. The hero is an antiquarian, so that got me even more interested. The book was smart and engaging and full of awesome dialogue and had a young child--well, a twelve-year-old girl--who was as smart and confident as her elders, but not in an annoyingly precocious way, which was such a refreshing change from how children are usually portrayed in these sorts of novels. The hero and heroine are also older (she's thirty-six and he's in his forties, at a guess) than one normally sees, and I love to see that. It means they both have pasts and that makes them interesting as characters. Pam Rosenthal is definitely an author I'm looking forward to seeing more from.

'Wicked Surrender' by Jade Lee was also quite excellent and I'm glad I already have 'Wicked Seduction' on my TBR pile. The heroine here is an actress who wants nothing more than the security of marriage. She becomes engaged to a young man whose family naturally deems her a most unsuitable wife. Even before the betrothal, said family sets plans in motion to separate the two. Of course, the plans backfire and the family member they elect  to seduce her away ends up falling for her, so they end up related to her anyway. There was an interesting twist that set up, and made me anxious to read, 'Wicked Seduction'. Maybe I'll do that tonight.

'Nearly a Lady' by Alissa Johnson, sadly, didn't quite match up to the quality of those two novels. Perhaps if I had read it first, I would have enjoyed it more. Unfortunately, the heroine just came across as very young. She was supposed to be twenty-five, but there were times when she spoke and acted like a child. She was supposed to be naive and sheltered, having grown up all-but-alone in the Scottish countryside, but even with her limited social interaction, I would have expected her to be more mature. Unfortunately, once I started viewing her as little more than a child, the whole book became kind of squicky.

'His Mistress by Christmas' by Victoria Alexander was witty and charming and featured another pair of very grown up protagonists. It also has an element of farce to it, in that there's a marriage that isn't quite and two families who descend on our hero and heroine for Christmas and endless attempts to keep the truth from everyone, who, of course, all find out anyway.

I could also spend some time on Terry Pratchett's 'Snuff', since it had a lot of elements often found in historical romances--decamping to one's country house, a mama with a passel of unmarried daughters, a neighborhood bluestocking who upsets the village's ideas of propriety--but it also had gnomes and crime and a thrilling fight on board a boat on an out-of-control river and Sir Terry's usual insights into human nature in the guise of lighthearted fantasy. So, hey, I guess I have told you about it without really meaning to. Which means I've killed five of eight and only have three to go 'til I'm completely and totally caught up. Not bad.

Monday, September 19, 2011


This is the final of the big catch up posts and then it's back to semi-regular postings.

To refresh your memory (and mine), here's the list of the titles that were neither Romance nor Kids, with commentary:

'All Men of Genius' by Lev AC Rosen--a smart and engaging steampunkish mash-up of Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, which sounds like it would be impossible to pull off, but Rosen made it work.

'Awakenings' by Edward Lazellari
'The Potter's Field' by Andrea Camellari--The most recent installment in one of my favorite mystery series. Excellent, as always.

'One Grave at a Time' by Jeanine Frost
'Ink Flamingos' by Karen E. Olson
'Magic Slays' by Ilona Andrews
'Eye of the Tempest' by Nicole Peeler--All four also installments in series that I love.

'Cut to the Quick' and 'A Broken Vessel' by Kate Ross--19th Century set mysteries that appeal to both the historical romance and mystery lover in me. Ms.Ross only published three (or maybe it was four) titles in the series before she died and they've been unavailable for quite a while. Thankfully, Felony & Mayhem are bringing them all back into print. I highly recommend giving them a try.

'Hexed' and 'Hammered' by Kevin Hearne--This might very well be my new favorite Urban Fantasy series. The first three titles were pubbed back-to-back, all leading up to a climactic battle with the Norse gods. I can't wait to see where the series goes now that its whole world has changed.

'A Fire Upon the Deep' and 'Children of the Sky' by Vernor Vinge--I re-read 'Fire' in preparation for 'Children'. This is the kind of smart, intense Science Fiction that I don't read often, but always enjoy when I do. These are the kinds of books that I read in stages because my brain needs a break every now and again. So very, very, very good. With everything that happened in 'Children', though, I just hope another sequel isn't  as long in the making as this first one was.

'Damned' by Chuck Palahniuk--The most enjoyable Palahniuk I've read in years.

'The Sacred Band' by David Anthony Durham--The final installment in an epic fantasy trilogy that I recommend most highly.

'Been There, Done That' by Carol Snow

'Ganymede' by Cherie Priest--The third of Ms. Priest's "Clockwork Century" novels. Each successive novel has built upon the mythology established in the first while telling a story that could stand alone. I would recommend reading the series in order to watch the subtle weaving and layering of characters and stories to build toward what promises to be an explosive series conclusion.

'Aloha From Hell' by Richard Kadrey--The third and final (?) Sandman Slim novel and the perfect way to tie the story up. In fact, it couldn't have ended any other way.

'Lost Memory of Skin' by Russell Banks--There's an iguana on the cover, but the iguana dies early in the book, and quite brutally, which pissed me off and kind of summed up the whole reading experience. It's brutal and a bit heartbreaking and if it doesn't piss you off at least once, you aren't paying attention. Though, honestly, I would probably have appreciated it much more were I in possession of a Y chromosome.

And, hey, now I'm all caught up and can get back to some kind of semi-regular posting schedule. Yay, me!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Kids Books (Catching Up, part two)

And, here's the list I'll be choosing from today:

'Enthralled' edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong
'The Predicteds' by Christine Seifert
'Between the Sea & Sky' by Jaclyn Dolamore
'The Scorpio Races' by Maggie Stiefvater
'The Unwanteds' by Lisa McMann
'Abarat: Absolute Midnight' by Clive Barker
'Anna and the French Kiss' by Stephanie Perkins
'The Death Cure' by James Dashner
'The Apothecary' by Maile Meloy
'The Infernals' by John Connolly
'Fox & Phoenix' by Beth Bernobich
'Liesl & Po' by Lauren Oliver
'Variant' by Robison Wells
'Eve' by Anna Carey
'Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick' by Joe Schreiber
'Icefall' by Matthew J. Kirby
Here's the thing: I don't finish books I don't like (or find spectacularly ridiculous, which explains 'Modelland'). So, it's not like any of these were a waste of time. But, a few were a bit more than that, so those are probably the ones I should single out.

Maggie Stiefvater's 'The Scorpio Races' might actually be my favorite book on this list, though Stephanie Perkins's 'Anna & the French Kiss' runs a close second. Both are good teen romances, though that's where any similarity ends. 'The Scorpio Races' uses, as its inspiration, the myth of the water horse (man-eating horses from the sea) and is set on a small, isolated, and poverty-stricken island where the races are pretty much the only attraction for mainlanders. 'Anna and the French Kiss' is set at a boarding school for American teens in Paris and there isn't a single killer horse in sight. Both books are smart and emotionally honest and very worth curling up with.

'Abarat: Absolute Midnight' and 'The Death Cure' are the third volumes in their respective series and shouldn't be read unless you've read the first two volumes. Barker continues to create a fascinating and magical world full of danger and adventure and fascinating characters. Dashner's 'The Maze Runner' was one of the most compelling dystopian YAs I've read. Unfortunately, though the next two volumes were good, they just didn't "wow" me like that first novel.

'Variant' had a really interesting twist, which of course I'm not going to tell you about, but it kept me thinking about it for a long time after I finished reading.

I seem to be reading a lot of books recently that are set in Asian and Nordic worlds, some fictionalized, some historical. 'Fox and Phoenix' is set in a Chinese-inspired  futuristic world where magic is real. It's full of allusions to folk and fairy tales, but also has a healthy dose of intrigue and court politics. 'Icefall' is set in a realistic historical Norse land and has, in Solveig, a strong and admirable narrator/protagonist. 

Those are the best, or at least most interesting to me, of a good bunch.

Next time, I'll cover the rest of the catch-up lists and then, I hope, I'll get back to (and stick to) a more regular posting schedule.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Romance Novels, a Catch Up Post

I've already said I'm not going to write about every book that I read during my "fallow" period, but I will re-list all of the Romance novels, mostly so I have a convenient list to pick from.

'Ripe for Scandal' by Isobel Carr
'Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord' by Sarah MacLean
'The Seduction of His Wife' by Tiffany Clare
'Cloudy With a Chance of Marriage' by Kieran Kramer
'Millie's Fling', 'An Offer You Can't Refuse', and 'Miranda's Big Mistake' by Jill Mansell
The Surrender of Lady Jane' by Marissa Day
'Venetia' by Georgette Heyer
'Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue' and 'In Pursuit of Eliza Cynster' by Stephanie Laurens
The Goblin King' by Shona Husk
'Utterly Charming' by Kristine Grayson
'Dangerous Lord, Innocent Governess' by Christine Merrill
'Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish' by Grace Burrowes
'Flawless' by Carrie Lofty
'The Seduction of Scandal' by Cathy Maxwell
'One Night in London' by Caroline Linden
'The Rose Garden' by Susanna Kearsley
'Always a Temptress' by Eileen Dryer
'The Dragon & the Pearl' by Jeannie Lin

So, 21 of 57--more than a third, but less than a half. But, of those 21, what stood out? How to choose? I'm just going to go with my gut. If I have something to relate, then that book gets picked. And, just because a book doesn't get more than a listing doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile. With only a couple of exceptions (at least one of which I'll detail), I quite enjoyed the time I spent with each of these novels, I just don't necessarily have much to say.

'Cloudy With a Chance of Marriage' is Kieran Kramer's third book and I loved the first, but was disappointed by the second. Happily, this third book had all the wit and charm that I found so endearing about the first. Thank goodness. Now I don't have to relegate her to the "One Hit Wonder" list.

I love Jill Mansell like chocolate. I had a little mini-binge of some of her older titles because I needed some comfort food reading. I don't really have anything meaningful to say, just wanted to show some love for a favorite author.

Same for the Laurens books. The first two titles in a new trilogy are exactly what I wanted and expected from Ms. Laurens. And, now, I'm waiting impatiently for volume three.

'The Goblin King' by Shona Husk is one of the disappointments from the list. I wanted it to blow me away. Instead, and maybe this was just me, it read like thinly-disguised 'Labyrinth' fanfic. And, once I had that notion in my head, I couldn't shake it. It may be brilliant, but I couldn't get past my initial impression to enjoy (or not) the book on its own merits.

'Utterly Charming' by Kristine Grayson was quite enjoyable, but I had a hard time with some of her geography. Her heroine worked in downtown Portland, Oregon and her office had a view of the Columbia. If someone figures out the logistics of that, please let me know. It's been a couple of weeks since I finished the book, and that one detail is still nagging at me.

'Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish' is another absolutely gorgeous book by Grace Burrowes. Only three books into her career and she's already keeper shelf-worthy. Seriously, if you haven't discovered her yet, go read 'The Heir' and 'The Soldier'. However, you may want to hold off on 'Lady Sophie' until after 'The Virtuoso' is released in November, since the events in 'The Virtuoso' occur before those in 'Lady Sophie'. Of course, I didn't do it that way, and it certainly didn't lessen my anticipation for 'The Virtuoso' one whit. I'm so thrilled that there are four more sisters, so at least four more books.

'Flawless' was a completely unexpected surprise. It's an estranged husband and wife tale that starts in New York at the end of the 19th Century (I want to say 1893, but don't quote me on that) at the reading of a will. None of which is terribly unique. Where this book really surprised me was that it quickly moved from New York to the diamond mines of Kimberly in southern Africa. And it never, not once, shied away from the racial and economic disparities that were part of that time and place (and still exist to this day). It could've had a crap plot and characters (which it very much didn't) and I would have kept reading just for the unique setting. I hope the next two books in the series take us places equally unexpected.

Susanna Kearsley writes beautiful stories of time travel and romance, with contemporary women who find themselves slipping back into the past, usually around the time of some doomed-to-fail rebellion against the English throne. They're lovely and charming and dreamy and romantic and should be read in a comfy chair in front of a fire, preferably with a cup of tea or a tumbler of whisky. 'The Rose Garden' didn't quite captivate me the way 'The Winter Sea' did, but I still really, really, really liked it.

Jeannie Lin's 'Butterfly Swords' was one of my favorite Romance novels last year. 'The Dragon & the Pearl' is kind of a sequel, in that the "villain" of the previous book is the hero of this one, which is the sort of thing that can only work if it's handled just right, which Ms. Lin does. Part of the appeal of these books for me is that they're set in China in the 9th Century, which is a very unique and intriguing setting for Romance novels. But, they also have quite strong, capable, intelligent heroines and well-developed love stories. I did feel that the ending to this one was a little too convenient, but that's a minor quibble about an otherwise engrossing story.

Well, there's that done, then. Next up: Kids' books.

The Catch-Up List, Part Deux

No thoughts on anything yet, just the next half of the list of what I've read since I last had my act together enough to update properly. Then I can start picking a few titles to give brief little bits of info about.

'The Surrender of Lady Jane' by Marissa Day
'The Sacred Band' by David Anthony Durham
'Been There, Done That' by Carol Snow
'Venetia' by Georgette Heyer
'The Death Cure' by James Dashner
'Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue' and 'In Pursuit of Eliza Cynster' by Stephanie Laurens
'The Goblin King' by Shona Husk
'Utterly Charming' by Kristine Grayson
'Dangerous Lord, Innocent Governess' by Christine Merrill
'Ganymede' by Cherie Priest
'The Apothecary' by Maile Meloy
'Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish' by Grace Burrowes
'Flawless' by Carrie Lofty
'The Infernals' by John Connolly
'The Seduction of Scandal' by Cathy Maxwell
'One Night in London' by Caroline Linden
'Fox & Phoenix' by Beth Bernobich
'Aloha From Hell' by Richard Kadrey
'The Rose Garden' by Susanna Kearsley
'Liesl & Po' by Lauren Oliver
'Variant' by Robison Wells
'Always a Temptress' by Eileen Dryer
'The Dragon & the Pearl' by Jeannie Lin
'Eve' by Anna Carey
'Children of the Sky' by Vernor Vinge
'Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick' by Joe Schreiber
'Lost Memory of Skin' by Russell Banks
'Icefall' by Matthew J. Kirby

So, there's another 29. Added with yesterday's list, that's a total of 57 books to update, which is fairly daunting and why I am reserving the right to leave some out. For my next post, I'll tackle the Romance novels, which should knock out between a third and a half of the lists. Then, maybe, Young Adult and Middle Reader, which should probably account for another third. And, then, finally, whatever's left over. Then, I hope, I can get back to some kind of semi-regular posting groove and not get myself into a pickle like this again.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I Need to be More Diligent

Because this is what happens when I neglect updating for a while. I wind up with a monster list of books and can't bring myself to do much more than just, well, list them. And, this is only a partial list. There are about thirty more titles I need to add, but I can only face so much at one time. Over the next few days (really. I swear.) I'll add the second part of the list and some thoughts on those titles that really stood out for me, for good or ill. For now, though, the list:

'Ripe for Scandal' by Isobel Carr
'Enthralled' Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong, eds.
'All Men of Genius' by Lev AC Rosen
'The Predicteds' by Christine Seifert
'Awakenings' by Edward Lazalleri
'Between the Sea & Sky' by Jaclyn Dolamore
'The Scorpio Races' Maggie Stiefvater
'The Unwanteds' by Lisa McMann
'Abarat: Absolute Midnight' by Clive Barker
'The Potter's Field' by Andrea Camilleri
'One Grave at a Time' by Jeanine Frost
'Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord' by Sarah MacLean
'Ink Flamingos' by Karen E. Olson
'Cut to the Quick' and 'A Broken Vessel' by Kate Ross
'Eye of the Tempest' by Nicole Peeler
'Domestic Violets' by Matthew Norman
'Hexed' and 'Hammered' by Kevin Hearne
'Magic Slays' by Ilona Andrews
'The Seduction of His Wife' by Tiffany Clare
'Cloudy With a Chance of Marriage' by Kieran Kramer
'Millie's Fling', 'An Offer You Can't Refuse', and 'Miranda's Big Mistake' by Jill Mansell
'A Fire Upon the Deep' by Vernor Vinge
'Damned' Chuck Palahniuk
'Anna & the French Kiss' by Stephanie Perkins

So, yeah. That's nearly thirty. You can't really expect me to go into detail about all of them. But, I'll do my best. Just not right now. Tonight, maybe. No later than tomorrow.

Really. I mean it this time. Promise.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


So...Tyra Banks wrote a YA novel. Which, of course, I totally expected to hate. And I kinda did. But I kinda didn't, either. I mean, I'm certainly not going to be recommending this one to every teenage girl I meet, but I'm also not going to be scowling and rolling my eyes in disgust if they choose to read it. Because it really is cheesy and the names are hi-frickin'-larious and the idea of a whole world that revolves around a "Next Top Model"-style competition is beyond ridiculous. But it's also full of Tyra's "Everyone is Beautiful" message and, in a day and age where girls have so many things stripping away their self-confidence, any book with an underlying message about loving yourself just as you are is super-welcome.

But, Oh My Gods, it is completely OTT. Let's start with the names. Our protagonist is called "Tookie" and I dare anyone to read this book and not keep thinking of "Tootie" from "Facts of Life". Tookie lives in "Metopia". Her sister is "Myrracle" and her mother is "Creamy". Their last name is de la Creme. The superest of the supermodels in this world are called Intoxibellas, which, to my way of thinking, makes them sound more poisonous than intoxicating, especially since their ruler is called the BellaDonna. The superestest of the Intoxibellas is called Ci~L (pronounced, as the book tells you, see-el). Tookie's friends are Dylan and Ross and (my favorite) Shiraz. Her "enemy" is "Zarpessa". And, really, it just gets more and more ridiculous.

And the's, uh, every year these Scouts fly down from the misty mountain on top of which sits Modelland and they hand-pick about a hundred girls from all over the world and you can only be picked if you are Walking and your chances of being picked are improved by 91% (still unsure about the significance of this particular number) if you get one of the seven SM-IZEs (kinda like Golden Tickets, only eye makeup) that are delivered to supposedly random girls via water and Tookie is friends with this apparently crazy homeless girl named Lizzie and everyone expects Tookie's sister Myrracle to get picked to go to Modelland, but Tookie gets picked instead. So, Tookie and her soon-to-be-besties are all picked even though none of them are traditionally beautiful and Tookie has to leave Lizzie behind and has all kinds of guilt because they were supposed to run away together and the four new BFFs get to Modelland and most of the really pretty girls are super-mean to these odd girls out, which, duh. (I say most because there are exceptions, as there have to be, unless beauty=evil, which would be totally un-Tyra.) And then this totally hot dude from Bestosterone (the male modelling academy) totes falls for Tookie and stuff and stuff and stuff and drama and oooooh, twist! (that isn't very twisty to anyone who reads much) and happy-ish girl-power-esque ending-like-thing that is really just a prelude to the next book aaaaand...Scene.

Look, it's not going to be nominated for the National Book Award or the Printz or anything, but it's not awful and it does have some decent, self-sufficient female characters and a good core message about self-esteem. And, mostly, the over the top cuh-ra-zee is highly, highly entertaining. Teen girls could certainly do a lot worse when picking out a book.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Love and Death

Mostly love, though. Three romances and a mystery and, tomorrow, pure cheese. (It's a celebrity novel and it's, shall we say, fierce.)

Carly Phillips's 'Serendipity' is the one I forgot the other day and that's not really a surprise. It's not a bad book, but it is fairly forgettable. It's a good choice if you want a nice, un-offensive contemporary with nice, un-offensive protagonists in a nice, small-town setting. It was, in a word, nice. Which certainly has its place, but isn't enough to make it stick in my mind.

Unlike 'A Night to Surrender' by Tessa Dare, which is proving hard to shake. This is one of those books with some absolutely amazing dialogue (I wish I had it in front of me so I could quote bits at you) and a hero and heroine worth rooting for not just as a couple, but as individuals. It's the first book in a series and I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment, not least because the hero and heroine of Book 2 promise to be very, very interesting to watch.

'A Trick of the Light' by Louise Penny is another outstanding installment in her Chief Inspector Gamache/Three Pines mystery series. I love this series because the characters are so rich--and they aren't above commenting on the proliferation of murder in the tiny Quebec village of Three Pines. Although each story can stand alone, I would advise starting this series from the first book, 'Still Life'. Watching these characters grow and change and hurt and heal is, for me, even more satisfying than the inevitable resolution of the central crimes. And, in spite of what I know about these characters (and Three Pines's astonishing crime rate), I still want to go live in their fictional village with their fictional selves.

And, finally, there's Tina Gabrielle's 'In the Barrister's Chambers', which I was really looking forward to reading because the hero is a counsel for the defense, which one doesn't often see in historical romances. And the plot and characters were quite good, but, somehow, the actual writing never quite sparked for me. There wasn't any fizz to the prose. And the couple of diversions into the mind of the villain were probably completely unnecessary. And maybe a little more doubt about the guilt of the accused would have helped. Huh. Well. I guess that was my problem. The romance worked for me, but the suspense plot surrounding it didn't.

Don't forget: Cheese tomorrow. Possibly of the kind that comes in a can. At the very least, plastic-wrapped American slices.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

At Last!

As of this post, I will finally be caught up from my ill-advised and not-on-purpose week away. As of tomorrow, I can start devoting posts to single titles--or maybe two at a go if I've had a good day of reading. But, for a while I hope, no more of these multi-book posts. They kinda hurt.

'The Forgotten Waltz' by Anne Enright is a book that I will freely admit I wanted to read because I kinda loved the cover. Sadly, the cover has fuck all to do with the contents of the book. Yes, there's a middle-class, middle-ish-aged lady on the cover, but that's all the cover model has in common with Gina, the protagonist. And, worse, the whole book is a rather depressing detailing of Gina's affair with a married man. It's quite well-written and I'm sure there are readers out there who enjoy this sort of thing, but I'm not one of them. Gina was not, to me, at all a sympathetic character. I never really understood her motivations for much of anything that she did. To be fair, I don't think she ever really understood them, either. I kept reading, hoping for some redemption or something, but never got it.

'No Proper Lady' by Isabel Cooper is an historical romance with elements of time travel and paranormal. The premise is quite good, the characters are realistic and sympathetic, and the whole reading experience was pleasant from start to finish. I don't really want to say much more, because this is really one worth reading for yourself. I also admit to quite liking the cover, mainly because the half-undone gown isn't just for titillation, it's showing the heroine's tattoo and a quite impressive bruise. I like this proof that ass-kicking has its cost.

'The Aviary' by Kathleen O'Dell is a lovely, fairy-tale-ish MR. I thought, at the beginning, that it was going to be a rip-off of 'The Secret Garden', but it's not. It has magic and birds and kidnapping and ghosts and all kinds of other really interesting stuff. It's set in 1903 (which I only found out after looking up a film that is mentioned in the book), which it has to be in order for it to be at all believable. Not the truly magic stuff, but the stage magic and kidnapping elements would never work in a contemporary setting.

And...oh...I know there was one more. Crap. What was it? Well, it's obviously not so superfantastico that it can't wait until tomorrow.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Final Catch-up

I should be back on track on Sunday. This will actually take me through Wednesday night's reading, so I'm officially all caught up.

'To the Moon and Back' is the latest Jill Mansell novel and, once again, I'm in love. Ms. Mansell has the Brit chick lit thing down. Her books are smart and funny and touching and full of charming characters and the requisite adorable animals. Also, the apparently necessary scene of Our Heroine (in this case, Ellie) being caught outside in a state of near nudity (in this case, a dressing gown, but, sadly, no wellies). I gotta tell you, though, that this one did not start out easy and it kinda broke my heart a little bit. But, as is so very, very necessary in these sorts of things, Ellie got her Happily Ever After--and so did nearly everyone in her tight-knit circle. If you're looking for the perfect book to accompany a bubble bath and a glass of wine, then Jill Mansell should be your go-to girl.

Colson Whitehead has written a zombie novel called 'Zone One'. And, because it's Colson Whitehead, it's really well-written and smart and full of some delicious metaphors and descriptive passages. But, it's the Zombie Apocalypse and I, for one, am completely over it. The next time I read about the ZA, I kinda hope it's in the newspaper.

'When She Woke' is Hillary Jordan's follow-up to 'Mudbound', which won all kinds of prizes and accolades. I never read it, so had no expectations of this second book. Which is probably good, because, from what I understand, 'When She Woke' is completely different from 'Mudbound'. 'When She Woke' is a sorta-kinda dystopic retelling of 'The Scarlet Letter'. Of course, I hated 'The Scarlet Letter' with a fiery zeal. Thankfully, WSW only uses Hawthorne's novel as inspiration and jumping-off point and I really, really liked it. There's a touch--well, maybe more than a touch--of Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' and some really nice Underground Railroad parallels. It's also got a very, very lovely cover, which I am shallow enough to admit influenced my desire to read the book. Also, I was quite pleased by the fact that there were No Zombies. There were, however, religious fanatics and they're probably more frightening than hordes of the living dead, at least to me.

Yay! I'm all caught up! Here's hoping I can stay that way.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Almost There...

Nearing the end of the catch-up list. Looks like tomorrow I'll be all caught up. Remind me never to be a week between posts again.

'Lola and the Boy Next Door' by Stephanie Perkins is an absolutely charming YA romance about first love and true love and friends and family and fabulous clothing and finding yourself and figure skating. Okay. Figure skating is really only tangental, but it's there. Perkins is an author who is quite adept at putting to paper all the hurt and confusion and self-centeredness of being a teenager without making you want to kill yourself or her characters. Lola is both charming and kind of an asshole, as teenagers--or anyone--can be. She's easy to root for and easy to want to smack upside the head, sometimes at the same moment. By the end of the book, I was glad and more than a little relieved that she had finally started figuring shit out. And, oh, the "Boy Next Door"? His name is Cricket, which I pretty much can't forgive, but, other than that, he's completely awesome and it's a damned good thing Lola shaped up or she never would have deserved him.

'The Stranger You Seek' by Amanda Kyle Williams is a solid, but unsurprising and fairly unexciting crime novel about an alcoholic former FBI profiler who gets brought in on a serial killer case. It wasn't bad, and I liked the character of Keye Street okay, but I'm not jonesing for the next in the series. I think the problem might be that I read too much crime fiction, so it takes something truly unique or somehow spectacular to get me excited. It's no fault of the authors', but lies entirely with me, the jaded reader.

Teri Hall's 'Away' is a sequel to 'The Line'. It's decent post-apocalyptic older-Middle-Reader fare, but I think I'm getting burned out on the post-apocalyptic thing. And on authors being coy with the causes of the apocalypsi and how the subsequent changes to society came about. It's always some vague technological or atmospherical or viral or eveolutionary "Event" (or some combination) , but it's always just "Shit happened and now the world is like this." Sometimes, an author can pull it off--usually by dropping enough clues through the narrative that an alert reader can piece together the series of events--but mostly it's just annoying. Or maybe I'm just reading too many post-apocalyptic stories written for younger readers. They can't all be 'The Hunger Games' or 'The Maze Runner' or 'Gone' and I should stop expecting them to be or just stop reading them altogether. But, I keep hoping that I'll find the next gem, rather than another series that's just okay.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Three More or Maybe Four

Still playing catch-up...

'The Postmortal' by Drew Magary has an awesome cover and an awesome premise and is pretty good, but not awesome. I quite enjoyed the first half, but the second half kinda felt like a different novel. Not a worse novel, just a different one and I think the (perceived) change in tone and theme just never quite clicked for me. And, okay, its cover says "comedy", but it ended up, while having some quite humorous bits, being, ultimately, a tragedy. Or tragedy-lite, anyway. I think I wanted something more Christopher Moore-esque, or even Max Barry-esque and it just never delivered the humor level I wanted. Which is nothing against the book, really. I think I just read it at the wrong time with the wrong expectations.

'Cold Kiss' by Amy Garvey is a YA zombie novel. Sorta. It is about a teenager who brings her dead boyfriend back, but there's no eating of brains. The zombie bit is kinda secondary, really. It's more a book about loss and grief and moving on and first love and second love and family secrets and there's really only incidentally a dead boy in the neighbor's garage and he's really just a metaphor. In other words, it's a solid mainstream YA about teen issues, but with a lovely paranormal wrapping to trick the 'Twilight' crowd.

'Sanctus' by Simon Toyne is the new Dan Brown novel. Okay, not really. It's a little better than the standard Dan Brown offering, but it does have the "OMG Christianity is based on a big fat lie!" central theme and some ancient artifacts and ciphers and lots of globe-trotting and a mysterious religous organization. It's highly entertaining, but not really much more.

And, okay, looks like I have time for a fourth.

'Ashes' by Ilsa J. Bick is a post-apocalyptic YA zombie-esque novel. But, unlike most zombie apocalypsi (because it sounds better than "apocalypses"), this one is caused by an EMP and the "zombie-ism" doesn't appear to be contagious. It also seems to only affect teens and young adults. It's quite an interesting take on the zombie story, but sadly ends up falling into cliche toward the end. OH! And it's one of those YAs that I hate. You know? The ones that don't have an ending of their own because they're part of a series? Yeah. This one had a big ol' cliffhanger and no real resolution of any to what I thought were the primary plot points. So, that sucked. But, Bick's take on the ZA is interesting enough to me that I might be willing to read further in the series. I'm just not going to seek them out.

And, with that, it looks like I'll be all caught up by the end of the week. Yay, me!

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Mini YA Binge

More catch-up.

'City of Lies' by Lian Tanner is a sequel to last year's 'Museum of Thieves'. There was some fear that, because this second volume wouldn't be set in the museum, it would somehow disappoint. However, fans of that first volume should be pleased with this second installment, which has parts set in the museum, so no favorite character is completely off-screen for the whole book. There are a lot of new characters introduced in this volume and some very interesting new facets to how Tanner's imagined world operates.

'Wisdom's Kiss' by Catherine Gilbert Murdock is apparently a sort-of sequel to 'Princess Ben'. However, having never read 'Princess Ben', I can honestly state that it is not necessary to the enjoyment of this volume. I love a good fairy tale, and this one had a lot to like. It has multiple POVs, which occasionally got distracting, but mostly worked quite well. It had a Happily Ever After that was very much not the HEA one would expect. There was magic and a wicked queen and a cat and a circus and lots of other clever, charming things. It's not going to change anyone's life, but it's a quite pleasant way to spend an evening.

One of my favorite of my recent reads was Curtis Jobling's 'Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf'. It's a good, strong YA fantasy series with a very interesting take on the myth of the were. It's also got plenty of fighting and magic and political intrigue and pirates and kick-ass female characters (it's a series that seems to be aimed at boys, so that last is more pleasantly surprising than you might imagine). It also has--dare I say it?--a lot of heart. Family and friendship play a vital role and, though both win through in the end, there are some very difficult challenges to get to the happy-ish ending. Ooooh...that reminds me of one of the things I liked very best about this book. See, I have this problem with MR and YA series especially, where the early volumes in the series are not complete stories. If, for whatever reason, the next volume isn't published, there's no ending, just an end. This book, however, did not have that problem. It has an ending. Yes, there's more stuff that could happen, and probably will. But, all the major action of this book? Done. Over. So, kudos to Mr. Jobling for not leaving me pissed off and frustrated. I'm actually really looking forward to future books in this series, rather than wanting to fling this one against the wall.

Okay. Looks like just a couple more days and we'll be all caught up. Finally. I really hope I don't stay away so long again in the future. This catching-up thing is a pain.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

That Was a Long-Ass Book

Yes, I'm talking about Neal Stephenson's 'REAMDE'. And, here's the thing, if it weren't written by Stephenson, I would probably be bitching and moaning that the book really needed a good trimming; that there are probably 200 pages of description of surroundings, or trekking, or clothing that could have been cut without the book losing any impact. But, it was Stephenson, so a.) I expect long-assedness and b.) he can make that boring shit pretty much not boring. I will admit that there were parts that I skimmed, some of it just because I was exhausted and needed to skip some of the more brutal goings-on. But, in the end, for a nearly 1000 page thriller, it mostly moved at a jaunty clip. It helped that Stephenson broke up the various players into smaller groups and only followed each group for a handful of pages before switching off to the next, which kept me from getting restless and talking out loud to the book in an attempt to move things along. I will also admit that some of the various plots held much less interest for me than others and, unfortunately, the ones I wasn't as fond of were, I think, supposed to be the primary focus of my attention, and the stuff I found most intriguing was supposed to be peripheral. In most thrillers, in fact, the scenes I was most interested in would have all taken place off-screen and been revealed in bits of boring exposition when the characters once again converged. And, that, ultimately, is why I'm not bitching about the length. Had Stephenson not been allowed such a tremendous page count, I would have proabably quickly lost interest in the central narrative, while my mind wandered to what might be going on with all those other characters we had met and who seemed like they might have important things to do to get us to the final saving-of-the-day.

'Those Across the River' by Christopher Buehlman is a creepy novel set in Georgia during the Great Depression. It's not until fairly late in the game that the reader comes to realize that this is an out-and-out horror novel, and not just a bit of a Southern Gothic. There are echoes of both Harper Lee and Shirley Jackson in these pages, leading to it feeling a bit like what might have happened had Stephen King been writing in Georgia, rather than Maine. The monster in this novel is a fairly common one, but Buehlman does a good job of not making it obvious from the get-go and instead allowing the reader to put the pieces together alongside the narrator. He also does a good job of building the pace and the tension until the final, deadly showdown erupts violently onto the page and then winds quietly down to an epilogue that manages to be both creepy and heartbreaking at the same time.

Slowly but surely I'm getting caught up with my list. I hope to be fully up-to-date by the end of the week.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I Didn't Mean to Be Away for So Long

Mostly because it means I now have about a zillion books I need to post on. Hmmm...maybe I'll break the list down into a handful of parts and spread it out over the next few posts. I think my typing fingers might appreciate that.

'The Familiars: Secrets of the Crown' by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson is the second in a MR trilogy about a trio of magical animals. I completely loved the first one, and thought this second entry was good. Unfortunately, this second volume ends on a cliffhanger, which pretty much annoys the hell out of me, but seems to be par for the course in series novels. But, if you've read the first one (which I highly recommend), you'll probably want to read this one, if for no other reason than to revisit some favorite characters. And, because bunnies are evil, which Epstein and Jacobson are apparently well aware of.

Kiersten White's 'Paranormalcy' was one of my favorite debuts of last year, and 'Supernaturally' totally lived up to the promise of that first novel. And, though the story isn't done, this middle volume didn't feel like a middle book. It was a story in and of itself, with enough information about what happened in 'Paranormalcy' scattered throughout that I could easily bring that first book to mind, but didn't feel like I had to wade through a book report-style plot summary. (And that completely made sense in my head.) I'm really looking forward to the third novel. White planted enough seeds of...something in this one that I know there's some big picture out there, but I have no idea what it might be and am curious as bleep to find out.

'All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky' is Joe R. Lansdale's first foray into Young Adult literature and I just have to say it's about damned time. Lansdale is a great storyteller, no matter what genre he chooses to work in (and I think he's worked in them all, except maybe Romance), so it's no surprise that this is yet another compelling yarn. It's set during the Dust Bowl years and centers on three kids whose lives have pretty much sucked and who decide, now that all their parents are out of the picture, to hit the road in search of something better. Along the way, they meet up with mobsters and hoboes and circus people. It's a little Steinbeck and a little 'Paper Moon' and all Lansdale. I'm not sure how wide an audience it will attract, but I'm pretty sure it won't be as widely-read as it should be. It's a good story, well told.

Well, I've got at least six more on my list, one of which is Neal Stephenson's nearly 1000 page 'REAMDE', so I think I'll stop now. I hope to get caught up next week sometime, but the week after may be more realistic.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Week? It's Been a Week?

I promised myself I'd be better about posting. Just goes to show that I can't even keep promises to myself. So, a lot to get through, since it's been so very long.

'The Lady Most Likely' is a collaborative novel by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway. And it's good. And sweet. And a nice summer read. But, the problem with a novel like this, with three different couples to be paired off before the page count expires, something has to give. Thankfully, it wasn't the romances themselves, which were all given the time to develop fairly naturally (house parties are wonderful for bringing couples together in a condensed time frame), but there was a serious lack of Sexy Fun Times. Now, I'm not one of those people who reads Romance just for the "naughty" bits, but I do want a bit of steam, and, with three stories to tell, this book barely managed a simmer. Honestly, though, if something had to be sacrificed, the sex is the least crucial to a good romance.

'Mercy Blade' is Faith Hunter's third Jane Yellowrock Urban Fantasy novel and it's The One Where Everything Changes. You know that novel, it happens in every UF series, but usually not until much later. The changes here are big and I'm very, very interested to see how they play out over the next book or two.

Hello, Bandwagon! I finally got around to reading George R.R. Martin's 'A Game of Thrones' and I am totally and completely hooked. In fact, I've already finished the second book in the series, 'A Clash of Kings' and have 'A Storm of Swords' wating in the TBR pile. There's no need for me to say anything, as there are entire websites devoted to the series, but I do have to wonder why I hadn't read these before now. Maybe some day I'll figure out what the hell I was thinking, but today is not that day.

'The Orchard' is an upcoming memoir by Theresa Weir and it was totally not my cup of tea at all. But, it was short, so I read the whole thing. It'll probably be a big hit with book clubs, especially in the Midwest.

I expected Maureen Johnson's 'The Name of the Star' to be something completely different than it was, which definitely colored my reaction to it. I liked it well enough once I got into it, but it took me awhile to appreciate it for what it was, rather than be disappointed by what it wasn't. I actually really enjoyed the last third or so and am hoping that Ms. Johnson writes more books with these characters, now that I know what not to expect.

'A Monster Calls' by Patrick Ness is an illustrated late middle-grade novel that was inspired by an idea from the late Siobhan Dowd. It's full of darkness and danger and folklore and melancholy and loss and stories that have a different lesson from the one you were expecting and it made me cry a little at several points. Not a happy vacation read, but a very good one.

And, finally, 'Daughter of Smoke and Bone' by Laini Taylor. I finished this one up last night and I really liked it, but it was one of those annoying YA novels that is part of a series and doesn't have a real ending of its own. Which kinda pissed me off. Especially since I liked the world Ms. Taylor created and her different take on the eternal war between angels and demons. In Taylor's mythology, neither side is all good or all evil, but has some of both and all the shades of grey in-between, as well. Her descripions of the characters and places are so vivid as to be almost visual. Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that the protagonist, Karou, is an art student who has 90+ sketchbooks in which she chronicles her life and in spite of the fact that Ms. Taylor's husband is Jim di Bartolo, who provided illustrations for her "Dreamdark" MR fairy novels and the cover illo for 'Lips Touch, Three Times', this book is entirely without illustration. Not that it needs it, but I can't help but feel that illustration would have enhanced the already vivid prose.

I promise to try to do this more than once a week, but I don't hold out a lot of faith in my ability to do so.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Surprises, Pleasant and Less So

'Hounded' by Kevin Hearne is the first book in what might be a must-read Urban Fantasy series for me. It's got magic and old gods and a "talking" dog and all kinds of fun stuff. The protagonist is a 2100-year-old Druid who's in possession of a magical sword and gets caught up in godly politics and power plays. It moves quickly and is smart and sharp and funny. I went into reading it with absolutely zero expectations, and came away feeling like I had really "discovered" something. I can't wait to dig in to the next two books.

'Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right' by Kieran Kramer was pretty much the exact opposite kind of reading experience. I had loved Ms. Kramer's first novel, 'When Harry Met Molly, and so was prepared to love this one. Sadly, I only kinda liked it. It got really, really draggy in parts and lacked the warmth and humor that I liked so much in Molly. It picked up in the last quarter, but by then I was frustrated and more than a little bored. I hope Ms. Kramer's third book is more like the first than like this one. Otherwise, I think it's the end for the two of us.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Quick Hits, part 3

I promise to get back to posting more regularly and, therefore, writing a little more in depth, but I decided to take a mini-break from reading my September ARCs (with a couple of exceptions) and just read for pleasure. But, this also meant I didn't feel compelled to get my thoughts down in writing right away.

'Birds of Paradise' Diana Abu Jaber: I've been getting a lot of women's fiction sent to me recently, and I'm not sure why. I don't dislike it, but it isn't my first choice of reading material. Anyway...This is a good mother-daughter story that, in my opinion, was elevated above the crowd by its lush descriptions of pastries and the Florida fauna. There's some good relationship stuff here, but I wish the men were more fully realized characters, rather than seeming to exist only to serve as foils for the women.

'Icebreaker' Dierdre Martin: I didn't hate it, but it never quite gelled for me. I never got fully invested in the romance or cared if either the hero or heroine got their HEA, which is not what I want or expect from a Romance novel. And, on a side note to Ms. Martin and other similarly misguided writers: There are some females who find the Stooges funny.

'Kitty and the Midnight Hour' Carrie Vaughn: After reading ARCs for the two upcoming Kitty Norville books, I thought it was time to go back and read the first Kitty novel. Strangely, I'm glad I didn't start here, because I don't know if I would have continued with the series. It wasn't bad, it just didn't grab me and make me feel compelled to keep reading more about this character. But, I liked seeing how Kitty first met Cormac and, basically, how she got to be the Kitty she is now.

'A Lady's Lesson in Scandal' Meredith Duran: I don't have a lot of "keeper shelf" Romance authors, but Meredith Duran is one. This story was a little Eliza Doolittle and a little Anastasia and even a little Dickens. In spite of that, it mostly avoided falling prey to cliche, except near the end when there was an ill-conceived and fairly well unnecessary kidnapping. I don't think this was her best work, but it was still really good and reminded me why she earned one of the limited spaces on my "keeper shelf".

More Quick Hits

'Late Eclipses' Seanan McGuire: I've loved the Toby Daye novels from the beginning, and each successive volume just deepens and enriches the world and characters that McGuire has created. I held off as long as I could on this one, but still have a ridiculously long wait for the next.

'Heartless' Gail Carriger: Another series that I lovelovelove and wish had a new volume every month. Sorta Steampunk-y, sorta Urban Fantasy-ish, sorta Romance-like, there's just a lot to love about Ms. Carriger's fictional world. I also appreciate the fact that she's an author who's not above sharing a wink with the reader at the ridiculousness of some genre cliches.

'The Chase' Erin McCarthy: I don't get NASCAR, but I am totally hooked on McCarthy's contemporary romance series set in the world of stock car racing. They're not enough to make me want to spend my weekends watching cars go 'round a track, but plenty enough for me to put aside my admitted prejudices and devour each new volume in a single sitting.

'Beautful Dead: Summer' and 'Beautiful Dead: Phoenix' Eden Maguire: The last two volumes in a YA series that started off strong, but became a bit repetitive toward the end. However, I was invested enough in the characters that I couldn't not finish the series and see how it all ended. And, though the ending wasn't what I would have chosen, it worked and I wasn't too disappointed.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Short Bits on Six Titles

Since my last post was so very many days ago (I promise to try to be better), I got through quite a few books. To keep from boring anyone who's bothering to read this, I'll keep my thoughts short, though not necessarily sweet.

'Girl of Fire and Thorns' by Rae Carson is a very interesting YA fantasy novel set in a world that seems to be inspired by Spain and her colonies. There are tantalizing hints that the inhabitants of this world are refugees from Earth, but nothing concrete. Unfortunately, this book punched a whole lot of my buttons when the author KILLED OFF THE MALE LOVE INTEREST. And, also, the protagonist is supposed to be fat in the beginning of the book and always remains curvy, but the model on the cover is thin. I could have loved this book, but those two issues are major sticking points.

'The Lantern' by Deborah Lawrenson is an "homage" to Daphne duMaurier's classic 'Rebecca'. It's not bad and has some astonishingly lovely prose, but there's no real suspense or sense of dread, which are vital to a good Gothic.

'Down the Mysterly River' by Bill Willingham is a Middle Reader fantasy novel about books and characters and creativity. Although its target audience will find a good adventure story, complete with talking animals, unfathomable villains, and magic, adult readers, especially those familiar with Mr. Willingham's other work will find a lot being said on the nature of creativity and the creative process. Plus, the pictures are quite nice.

'Wonderstruck' by Brian Selznick is, quite simply, amazing. Two intertwining narratives, one set in 1927 and told completely in Mr. Selznick's beautiful illustrations, and the other set in 1977 and told in prose, finally come together in a final section that combines both prose and illustration. It's a book worth going back to over and over, because you'll see something new every time.

'The Art of Fielding' by Chad Harbach is a novel I expected to dislike because it's about baseball, which I dislike. However, the characters and the narrative sucked me in right from page one. I never thought I'd stay up past my bedtime to read a "baseball" novel, but I couldn't stop until I knew how it all turned out for everyone.

'Every You Every Me' by David Levithan was a disappointment. I hate to even type those words, because I generally love Mr. Levithan's work, but there you have it. For me, this was a novel where the concept (it's a "photographic novel" wherein the story was inspired by a series of photographs) seemed more important than the content. I didn't actually care for any of the characters (which is not something that has ever before happened with Mr. Levithan's work) and the story, especially the ending, just felt way too stream-of-conciousness and not well-developed.

I'm currently finishing up another piece of "women's fiction" and plan on spending my weekend with a nice stack of mass markets before digging back in to my September galleys.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hardcovers are for Home

I spent my weekend catching up on hardcovers, since I hate dragging them around on public transportation. All three books were series installments, and two of the three were actually the final volumes of their series.

First up was 'The Demon's Surrender' by Sarah Rees Brennan. It was the third and final volume in her YA Demon's Lexicon trilogy and I thought it was a fine conclusion to the series, though I didn't agree with some of her choices in romantic pairings. This is one of those rare series where, although the ending works and doesn't need anything more to make the story complete, I'd really like to go back and see how this world develops after the events of this final book. And, really, I'd like to see how some of the couples she threw together are weathering their relationships.

'Plague' is the fourth volume in Michael Grant's Gone series of post-apocalyptic YA novels and this story is far from over. In fact, with each volume, the world gets darker and more complicated and I'm pretty well convinced that there's no way this can end well. Too much awful stuff has happened and, unless Mr. Grant writes a complete bullshit ending, these kids are not going to go back to a world of happy fun times. In this volume alone, several of the kids caught a flu that caused them to literally cough up parts of their internal organs and several others were eaten alive by nearly-unkillable giant bugs. How do you make that okay? How do you not end up with a town full of kids in serious need of high-grade pharmeceuticals? It's just not possible, unless you write an ending that disrespects your readers. (If this all ends up being a dream, or the timeline is reset and no one remembers what happened, I am probably not the only one who is going to be righteously angry.)

And, finally, 'Naamah's Blessing' is the third and final volume in Jacqueline Carey's Naamah trilogy, which is, in itself, an extension of the world she created in her Kushiel novels. It was a pretty damned good ending to this particular trilogy, though I could have personally done without the river of killer ants. I like the way that a lot of elements that were introduced in the first novel of the trilogy were paid off here at the end. It's always satisfying to read a series where there was apparently some serious thought given to the ending even from the beginning. I'm always sad to finish one of Ms. Carey's trilogies set in this particular world because they always really do feel like endings. Thankfully, she's always returned to give readers more stories in this setting, and enough seeds were planted here for future stories. Then again, this could be the last we read of this world, which would, in my opinion, be a shame.

I'll most likely be back to reading September galleys for a while now, since the stack is ginormous. But, it was good to take a break and catch up on some series that I love.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I know it's been a few days and I promised myself when I started this that I would be more regular, but I got distracted by shiny objects. However, since I last posted, I reached a personal goal of reading 500 books in a calendar year, excluding, as I do on this here blog, anything of a primarily graphical nature or anything I didn't finish. I did finish three books, though, in the last handful of days and since the actual point of even keeping this blog is to keep a log of every book I read, I should probably get on with it.

'Wildwood' is a debut Middle Reader by Colin Meloy. Yes, that Colin Meloy. The one from the Decemberists. And it was a decent MR fantasy novel, but I don't think it would be getting nearly the pre-pub push that it is if the author weren't already semi-famous. And, although it's a decent read, there were several things the author did that are personal pet peeves of mine, so they annoyed the hell out of me and influenced my reaction to the book as a whole. Firstly, Mr. Meloy chose to employ both crows and coyotes as villains, or at least villainous hench-creatures. Neither of these species are inherently evil, but, as long as authors continue to use them (along with wolves and snakes and the like) to frighten younger readers, they're going to have a stigma attached that may never go away. I understand having villainous animals, but not all of the specimens need to be evil. Why not keep with the anthropomorphising and have some be bad and some be good, like humans are? And the other thing that Mr. Meloy did that bugs me is the utter fictionalization of a non-fictional locale. In this case, the areas around my neighboorhood and the nearby urban forests. It's one thing to create buildings or streets or even neighboorhoods that don't exist, but to essentially relegate an entire quadrant of the city to the realm of the fictional is a bit of overkill. So, even though I could have really enjoyed this book, my own preferences got in the way. I'm sure these things won't irritate most people, and I'm probably just too persnickety for my own good, but they were big issues for me, so I couldn't let them pass without mention.

'The Magician King' by Lev Grossman is a sequel to 'The Magicians', which was marketed as a kind of Narnia/Harry Potter for grown-ups. Whatever 'The Magicians' was, 'The Magician King' is more so. It's about magic and power and love and loss and sacrifice. It's got all the best bits of children's fantasy--magical creatures and fantastic quests and even a bit of naive innocence--but it's suffused, too, with very adult emotions and circumstances. So, if you want to escape into a magical world, like you did when you were a kid, but you want a bit more drinking and swearing and sex, these are the books for you.

'A Long, Long Sleep' is a debut novel by Oregon author Anna Sheehan. It's a S-F story that takes as its inspiration the moment when Sleeping Beauty is awakened by a kiss. It's got the action and romance that one expects from YA S-F, but it also has some very well-done stuff about family dynamics and corporate power and even genetic modification. I picked it up expecting a straightforward futuristic love story, but got a lot more than I bargained for. I appreciate a book that makes me think about things, but doesn't beat me over the head with the author's opinions. It would have been very easy for this book to become preachy, so I give a lot of credit to Ms. Sheehan for never letting it do so.