Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Review: This Is Your Afterlife

This Is Your AfterlifeThis Is Your Afterlife by Vanessa Barneveld
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Publication Date: October 21, 2014
Source: Netgalley review copy

Keira is a high school girl who suddenly has the ghost of a classmate show up in her room. He has been missing for a few days, so obviously they figure out he must have died. Her and the boy, Jimmy, decide that have to find out how he died in order for him to "move on". She enlists the help of Jimmy's brother, Dan, who she has been friends with for a long time.

I liked Keira well enough. She seemed to take the events that came at her fairly well. But as a detective solving a mystery she was pretty horrible. The romance that built up between Keira and Dan was nice, and it was nice to read a YA novel without a love triangle for a change.

This was a very short, easy read, which is nice if you're looking for something that doesn't require a lot of time commitment or brain power. I don't know if I'd seek out more by this author in the future, but I would be averse to reading another of her books if it sounded good.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Review: Trace of Magic

Trace of Magic (Diamond City Magic, #1)Trace of Magic by Diana Pharaoh Francis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publication Date: September 2014
Source: Netgalley review copy

Even the most powerful tracers can’t track you if the magical trace you leave behind is too old. But I can track almost anything, even dead trace. That makes me a unicorn, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and the Lock Ness Monster all rolled into one. In a word, I am unique. A very special snowflake. And if anyone ever finds out, I’ll be dead or a slave to one of the Tyet criminal factions.  
Riley Hollis has quietly traced kidnapped children and quietly tipped the cops to their whereabouts one too many times. Now she’s on the radar of Detective Clay Price, a cop in the pocket of a powerful magic Tyet faction. When he blackmails her into doing a dangerous trace for him, Riley will have to break every rule that keeps her safe. Or become a Tyet pawn in a deadly, magical war. 

If I think about it too much, it would be pretty easy for me to start nitpicking this book and listing all its flaws. Ignoring that, I really enjoyed reading it, and thought it was a good start of a new series. I didn't much care for the romance, and felt like the love came way too quick. But that seems to be normal for romance books, which this partly is. The magic system, and fantasy part of the book was interesting, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it all goes.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Book Review: Life is Sweet

Life is SweetLife is Sweet by Elizabeth Bass
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Publication Date: September 2014
Source: Netgalley review copy

Becca Hudson has come a long way since she was a tween starring in the sitcom Me Minus You, but as far as she’s concerned, she finally has her act together. She’s relocated to Leesburg, Virginia, owns a successful bakery, and has a great set of friends—even a friendly ex-husband. She ignores “Whatever Happened To?” speculation and the occasional overly obsessed fan, and flatly turns down a lucrative offer to appear on a reality show called Celebrities in Peril: Child Star Edition. She has an uncomfortable relationship with her Hollywood past, preferring to think of herself as more than a 1990s trivia question. Then one day a mysterious man appears and stirs up her past—all of it—in ways she never imagined...

I don't really know quite how to review this, because there was just nothing in this book that excited me. The bakery aspect was what made me request the book, but that was just thrown in there I think to give the main character something to do. It seems like it could have been anything. I never felt anything for any of the characters or their situations. It all just seemed to happen and then the next thing happened, and the next, with very little emotion felt (at least by me).

Monday, September 29, 2014

Book Review: Zomburbia

ZomburbiaZomburbia by Adam Gallardo
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Publication Date: August 2014
Source: Netgalley review copy

My name is Courtney Hart, and I'm here to tell you about things that suck. Being born in a podunk town like Salem, Oregon, for one. Living in a world infested with zombies? That, too. And the meat heads I go to school with? I think I'd actually take the undead over them most days. But I have a plan to get out of here and move to New York. I just have to keep selling Vitamin Z along with your fries at The Bully Burger. The secret ingredient? Zombie brains.

I've noticed things are getting even worse lately, if that's even possible. The zombies seem to be getting smarter and faster. If I can avoid being arrested, eaten by shufflers, or catching the eye of some stupid boy, I should be able to make it through finals week still breathing. . .

There was really nothing particularly special or memorable about this book. It's supposedly a different take on the zombie novel, but I didn't find anything all that different about it. I guess people are supposedly going on with life as usual, but they still have to fight and try to avoid zombies.

The main character is extremely unlikable. She's rude to everyone, including her father (her only family) and her friends. She's hypocritical; at one point thinking badly of one of her peers for buying a bunch of alcohol to serve to underage teens at a party, but then proceeding to drink said alcohol.

There were a couple of excitingish things that happened during the story, but for the most part it was just dull. I kept waiting for the point of the story, and didn't feel like it ever got there. Then realized at the end that this is part of a series, and I have absolutely no intention of continuing on. I wouldn't recommend this one.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Book Review: The Winter King

The Winter King (Weathermages of Mystral, #1)The Winter King by C.L. Wilson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Publication Date: July 2014
Source: library

Wynter Atrialan, the Winter King, once lived in peace with his southern, Summerlander neighbors, but when the prince of Summerlea steals Wynter’s bride and murders his young brother, Wynter calls upon a dangerous Wintercraig magic called the Ice Heart and marches against Summerlea.

After three bitter years of battle, a victorious Wynter arrives at Summerlea’s royal palace to issue his terms of surrender. The prince of Summerlea stole Wynter’s bride and slew Wynter’s Heir. He wants the loss replaced. The Ice Heart is consuming him. Wynter hopes holding his own child in his arms will rekindle the warmth in his heart before he becomes the monster of Wintercraig legend, the Ice King.

The Summer King has three very precious daughters whom he loves dearly. Wynter will take one of them to wife. She will have one year to provide him with an Heir. If she fails, he will send her to face the mercy of the mountains and claim another princess for his wife. And so it will continue until Wynter has his Heir or the Summer King is out of daughters.

The plan is perfect—except for one small detail. The Summer King has a fourth daughter. One of whom he is not so fond. And she is a fiercely passionate creature, with a temper as volatile as the forces of her weathergift, the power of storms.

I'm sure I'm not the only fan of this author who will say it, but this was disappointing. I thought her Tairen Soul series was fantastic, and as I read this I kept questioning my judgement on that one. Was I just in a really good mood when I read it? Or is this one just not anywhere near the standards of that series? I hope it's the latter, and if I re-read Tairen Soul someday (which I probably will), I will enjoy them as much.

The characters in The Winter King were just not likable. The romance was just not there. The two main characters constantly mistrusted each other, to the point where I couldn't even handle it anymore. All the way to the very end there was mistrust, until the moment they decided they were, in fact, so desperately in love that they loved each other more than anything in the world.

What there was, if not love (or blossoming love) was a whole heckuva lot of lust. And sex. Which is why I generally don't read romances. And the descriptions of the sex were so out there, and in some cases impossible, that it took me out of the story. I mean, to give you an idea, I present (delicate readers please look away):

"She curled her fingers around him. The flesh that had only moments ago been soft and malleable was now a thick, rapidly hardening shaft. Her fingers spanned little more than halfway around the base."

What? How is that even possible? This wasn't the only time the sex scenes were just physically not possible. But even that could have been forgiven. I often skim over sex scenes in books because they're just not my thing. It was just the lack of actual romance and the mistrust between the main characters made it hard for me to like them.

And then there was the plot, which wasn't horrible, but wasn't great either. It was too long, and there was just nothing to redeem the lack of likable characters, which previously had been C.L. Wilson's strong point. I think she is a talented writer, and I'm really disappointed that I didn't like this more.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Book Review: Frozen (Heart of Dread #1)

Frozen (Heart of Dread, #1)Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Publication Date: January 2013
Source: Netgalley review copy

Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.

At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she's heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.

But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson to take her there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all.

There was just way too much going on in this book. It feels like the author had 50 different ideas of things she wanted to write about, and threw it all in one book. Some of the ideas were even interesting and would have made a good story, but all together it felt more like a hodge podge, and the story was sloppy because of it.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book Review: Ceviche

Ceviche: Peruvian Kitchen by Martin Morales
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publication Date: May 2014
Source: Review copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for review

Flavor-driven and captivating, Peruvian dishes are unique and familiar at the same time. This cuisine combines native ingredients that are becoming increasingly popular in their own right (such as quinoa and amaranth) with Spanish, Italian, Chinese, and Japanese techniques and ingredients to create fresh, multicultural gourmet dishes that appeal to America's ravenous taste for ethnic food. From sizzling barbecued beef anticucho skewers, superfood salads featuring quinoa and physalis, and piquant ceviche to airy giant choclo corn cakes and lucuma ice dessert, The Peruvian Kitchen will be the first authoritative cookbook to bring the delicious dishes from Peru's lush jungles, Andean peaks, and seaside villages to US kitchens.

Let's start off with the aesthetics of this cookbook.  I know I'm not the only one who likes to display beautiful cookbooks in my kitchen.  While I wouldn't call this beautiful, it is very interesting to look at.  The outside of the book has a tiled look to it, which is different and fun.  The inside does include some very beautiful, full color pictures.

When I first received this book, I wasn't sure how useful it would be to me.  See, I don't care very much for seafood, and there are a lot of seafood recipes in here.  But I shouldn't have worried, because once I started reading through, I found lots of lovely recipes I'd like to try.  There were many in the Street Food section that looked especially delicious.  Things like Sánguche de Chicharrón (Pork and Sweet Potato Rolls) and Chifles (Deep-fried plantain) are recipes that I will definitely be trying.  Other standouts that sound really delicious are Lomo Saltado (Peruvian Beef Stir-fry), Tacu Tacu de Palta (Avocado & Rice Fritters), and Picarones (Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Doughnuts).
I don't think I've ever eaten Peruvian food, let alone cooked it.  So reading through this cookbook was an interesting experience for me.  A lot of the ingredients are definitely not things I'd have on hand, and some I don't even know if I could find in my local stores.  But there was enough recipes throughout that I feel like I could definitely get a taste of Peruvian food.  

The little stories told throughout were also quite enjoyable, and is one of the reasons I'm enjoying cookbooks so much lately.  It's so fascinating to read about people living in different cultures, how they grew up, the reasons behind the things they cook, etc.  Ceviche is a great example of that, and I'm so happy to add it to my cookbook collection.