Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review: Cryer's Cross

Book Details
Title: Cryer's Cross
Author: Lisa McMann
Genre: YA
Page Count: 240
Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, February 8, 2011

My Review
Why I read it: ARC Tour
The Plot: Cryer's Cross is a very small town, so when a teen girl disappears the town is shaken.  Who would do something like this in a town where everyone knows everyone else?  She is never found, and weeks later another teenager disappears.  This time it's main character Kendall's best friend.  Kendall starts finding new messages carved into the desk next to her, and when she touches the desk, she can hear voices.  Something weird is going on, and Kendall (who has OCD) fears she may be going crazy.  The story is told in third person present tense, which brings a sense of urgency to the story, but can also, at times, be annoying.  When the mystery was revealed at the end, I found it unbelievable and almost laughable.  I was hoping for a little bit more. 
The Characters: Kendall isn't bad as far as girl characters in YA books go.  She's not a silly, whiny girl who everyone seems to be in love with, so there is that.  That being said, of course there is a love interest, and he's not bad either, but you can see it coming a mile away.
The Setting: Cryer's Cross is an interesting little town, and it was really the only setting where this story could have worked.  It's a farming community with a tiny population.  So tiny that there is a one room high school with about 24 students total.  I found the setting interesting, and would actually have liked to read a different type of story set here.  Maybe one with less horror and more with a fun, small-town life feel.
Who Should Read This? Fans of the authors previous books will probably enjoy this, Although I didn't like it as well as Wake and Fade, it was miles better than the mess that was Gone
Final Thoughts: I really didn't love this one, and I wasn't sure what to expect because I feel like this author has gone downhill with her writing.  I was mostly underwhelmed, especially with how it ended, but it was a quick read, and interesting enough to keep me going, so not a total loss. 
Grade: C-
Cover Thoughts: The cover is pretty creepy, and fits the story well.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Review: The Fallen Blade

Book Details
Title: The Fallen Blade: Act One of the Assassini (The Vampire Assassin Trilogy)
Author: Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Genre: fantasy
Page Count: 432
Publishing Info: Orbit, January 27, 2011

My Review
Why I read it: netgalley review copy
The Plot: I'm not quite sure how to describe the plot, it's quite complex, and I don't think I could do it justice, so I will give you the synopsis from the author's website: 
Venice 1407
The city is at the height of its powers. In theory, Duke Marco commands, but Marco is a simpleton so his aunt and uncle rule in his stead. They seem all powerful, yet live in fear of assassins better than their own.
On the night their world changes, Marco's young cousin prays in the family chapel for deliverance from a forced marriage. It is her misfortune to be alone when Mamluk pirates break in to abduct her – an act that will ultimately trigger war.
Elsewhere Atilo, the Duke's chief assassin, cuts a man's throat. Hearing a noise, he turns back to find a boy drinking from the victim's wound. The speed with which the angel-faced boy dodges his dagger and scales a wall stuns Atilo. He knows then he must hunt him. Not to kill him, but because he’s finally found what he thought was impossible – someone fit to be his apprentice. 
The Characters: There were a few main characters here, and although I think the book is supposed to be mostly about Tycho (the previously mentioned angel-faced boy), there were a few other characters that took center stage as well.  And I didn't really love any of them.  Don't get me wrong, the characters are all interesting, but I feel like they kind of took a backseat role to the setting.
The Setting: If the characters didn't feel completely fleshed out, it's because the author spent his time fleshing out the setting instead.  In every chapter, it seems there are detailed descriptions of Venice--the smells, the sights, the sounds, the history.  The main character in the story really is the setting. 
Who Should Read This? Fans of gritty, darker fantasy.  It's definitely not for the faint of heart, or those who like lighthearted fantasy.
Final Thoughts: The Fallen Blade started out with a bang, and I was really excited about reading it.  But somewhere in the middle I felt like it faltered a bit, to the point where I wasn't even sure what the story was supposed to be about.  But then it seemed to pick up at the end in a huge battle scene.  All in all I really liked this one, and will definitely continue on with the series, but feel like it had more potential than what is seen in the book.
Grade: B
Cover Thoughts: The cover is very well designed, from the picture to the font used for the title and author, and I think goes well with the feel of the story.

Monday, December 27, 2010

I'll post again soon!

I know I haven't posted in a bit, and I'm hoping to get back to it soon.  I've got a couple of books I need to write reviews on, and am almost finished reading another one.  I think we all get busy around this time of year, but I'm still alive, still reading when I get the chance, and wishing all my readers a wonderful upcoming New Year.  I've got some New Years reading resolutions in the works, but I'll post about those later. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: Flight of Shadows

Book Details
Title: Flight of Shadows: A Novel
Author: Sigmund Brouwer
Genre: Science Fiction
Page Count: 305
Publishing Info: Waterbrook Press, May 18, 2010

My Review
Why I read it: received review copy from Waterbrook Multnomah publisher
The Plot: In a futuristic dystopian society, Caitlyn wants to remain unnoticed.  Because of genetic experimentation, she has a deformity on her back.  But she's being hunted.  Not only by a sadistic bounty hunter, but by a government agency.  With the help of a mysterious guy named Razor, she escapes capture, but not for long.  This book is a sequel to Broken Angel, but I didn't read that, and although at times I wondered if there was a previous book (I looked it up later), I didn't feel lost or like I was missing anything. 
The Characters: Caitlyn is a very strong character, but because she is so withdrawn and slow to trust anyone, it's hard to really get to know and love her.  I was very curious about the secondary characters, especially Razor.  I wanted to know exactly what had happened to him in the past, and what he was going to do next.
The Setting: A horrible dystopic United States that I hope never comes to pass.  I don't think anything like that will, especially in my lifetime, but it didn't sound like a good place to live.
Who Should Read This? Anyone looking for a fast-paced, interesting science fiction novel set in the future.  It was published by a Christian publisher, but the religion is very minimal.
Final Thoughts: I really liked this book.  The chapters were really short, and moved from character to character, which really helped to move the story along and make sure it never got stagnant.  I was worried when I first started reading that it was going to be a little heavy on the science, especially when there was one sentence with three words I didn't know, but it wasn't bad at all (I am so not a science person).  I'll definitely read more by this author.
Grade: B
Cover Thoughts: I like the cover, but I wish the writing was a little less prominent.  It's hard to notice anything else.

Review: Marysvale

Book Details
Title: Marysvale
Author: Jared Southwick
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 387
Publishing Info: Brigham Distributing, October 5, 2010

My Review
Why I read it: received review copy from the author
The Plot: We start out with our main character, John Casey, escaping from a small town.  He is chased by the Brean, which are big, darkish monstery things (we never find out what they are or where they come from).  He manages to get to a house on the outskirts of Marysvale.  From there he travels with a couple of sisters into Marysvale.  He starts to remember things from his childhood that he had forgotten.  Things he had seen.  And also, Marysvale is not a very good place, and once you're there it's hard to get out.  This story felt a lot like hearing a story someone was telling me, rather than being immersed in a story. 
The Characters: The good people in the story were suitably likable, and the villains seemed awful enough, but I just didn't really connect with anyone in the story. 
The Setting: It's hard to really get a feel for the setting.  Marysvale was an interesting enough place, but we really only got to hear about it from John (because the story is told in first person), and he's just arriving there.  The setting feels pretty bleak, with the monsterish Brean everywhere, so it's not some place I'd want to visit anytime soon.
Who Should Read This? Those who like their fantasy a little more mysterious.
Final Thoughts: While I didn't love this story, there were some very tense and exciting moments.  I'm not sure if I'll read the next book in the series or not.
Grade: C
Cover Thoughts: I think the cover is fairly generic, and I'm not sure exactly how it relates to the story, but it could be worse.  :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Review: Christmas Letters

Book Details
Title: Christmas Letters
Author: Debbie Macomber
Genre: holiday fiction
Page Count: 272
Publishing Info: Mira, October 1, 2006

My Review
Why I read it: book club pick
The Plot: Katherine (who is called K.O.) has a sister who has twin daughters.  This sister has read a parenting book called The Free Child, and has decided to implement it with her children.  It has turned her children into monsters.  So Katherine thinks the author of this book is an idiot, to put it bluntly.  But, the whole plot here is about how she meets and falls in love with this author.  The guy whose worldview is completely different from hers.  This isn't a small thing, either, but they just decide not to talk about his book or his ideas about children or anything.  Even though that's his job--it's what he does for a living.  I don't expect my holiday reads to be completely believable, but this one was pretty bad.
The Characters: First of all, what kind of a nickname is K.O.?  It's horrible and ugly, and I don't believe any woman would go by that name.  Besides that, Katherine is very unlikable.  I found her obnoxious and at times a little stupid.  Same with her sister.  And the author of the book who she falls in love with is no prize either.  In fact, I really didn't care for any of the characters in this one, and they had me rolling my eyes throughout.  Nobody says the things and acts the way these characters did at times.
The Setting: The book takes place in Seattle, and the setting was actually quite cozy.  I would have liked the setting a lot better if the story and characters were more to my liking.
Who Should Read This? Fans of Debbie Macomber and those who are desperately looking for a holiday read and can't find something else.
Final Thoughts: As much as it sounds like I hated this book, I didn't actually hate it.  I didn't really like it, and definitely wouldn't recommend it to people I like, but it was a quick read, and did have a cozy holiday feel (sometimes).  I'm not mad about time wasted while reading it, I just didn't think it was my style of book.
Grade: C-
Cover Thoughts: This seems to be a fairly typical type of cover for Christmas stories.  It's got that cozy feel that makes you want to be in the cover.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Unearthly Review

Book Details
Title: Unearthly
Author: Cynthia Hand
Genre: YA Paranormal
Page Count: 448
Publishing Info: HarperTeen, January 4, 2011

My Review
Why I read it: netgalley review copy
The Plot: This is a really refreshing change from other YA paranormals I've read.  There's still a girl who finds out she has paranormal powers, but as the story opens, she already knows she has them.  No mysterious hot boy has to give her the news.  Does that mean this book is without a mysterious hot boy?  Of course not--that'd be asking a little too much, I think.  Clara, our main character is an angel-blood.  She has recurring dreams about the previously mentioned boy, a forest fire, and that she needs to save him.  Her mother explains to her (her mother is also an angel) that this dream is her purpose.  So, as details of the dream reveal themselves, they figure out the boy is in Wyoming and move their little family (she also has a brother who is an angel) there.  There she begins high school life, trying to fit in, meeting the boy from her dreams, a couple of good friends, and another boy, Tucker, who shows her the beauties of Wyoming (they're in Jackson Hole).  So, yes, another thing that would be too much to ask would be no love triangle.  We can't have everything.  This one is different though, and you'll just have to take my word for it and read it to see why. 
The Characters: Clara is actually really likable.  She's not bland and boring, all the while attracting the eye of every boy in the story.  She just seems to be a fairly normal girl who happens to be an angel.  But the real draw, for me, was the love interest.  Normally when I read YA paranormals, the minute the love interest is introduced (and throughout the story) I think the guy is such a tool.  Only attractive in that the author is telling me so, and not in anything I read in the story.  But this time, what's left over of my teenager heart was really crushing on Tucker.  Oh how I would have loved an attractive cowboy to show me around beautiful country.  Cynthia Hand really does it right here.  I'm finally reading a love interest that I can root for.
The Setting: I've already mentioned that most of the story takes place in Jackson, Wyoming.  The author does a wonderful job of describing the beauty of the place and making the reader want to be there.  I've never actually been there, so I can't say how accurate it is, but if it is anything like how it is in the book, I want to live there.
Who Should Read This? Every fan of YA, especially those who are burned out on the crap (yes, I said crap) that's out there right now. 
Final Thoughts: Sometimes you want to read a book that doesn't require a lot of thought, and just sweeps you away in the adventure of the story.  This is one of those books.  I was charmed the whole way through the novel, and I absolutely adored it.  It seems like this has to have a sequel, and I really hope it does.  I want to read more by this talented author!
Grade: A
Cover Thoughts: The cover is pretty, but it's a little too pretty for the story.  Clara goes hiking, rafting, fishing, flying--she's a girl who seems to love adventure and the outdoors, not an untouchable pretty girl, which is what this picture looks like to me.  Still, it could be worse.  I can kind of see what they were trying to do here with this cover.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Me on Mondays - Dec. 13th

This past weekend I've been working on getting all ready for Christmas, and I'm getting close, although I'm not there yet.  My husband gave me an early Christmas present--a new laptop, which I'm really excited about.  It's nice to be able to relax on the couch and read all my blogs and stuff.

The Tourist I went with a friend yesterday and saw The Tourist.  I hadn't seen any previews, and I had no idea what it was about going in, and I'm not sure if that made things better or worse.  I like both Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, and they did fine here, but I didn't love the movie.  It was interesting, but it wasn't spectacular.  It's definitely a renter and not a full price at the theater movie.

Also last night I watched the finale of The Amazing Race.  I think it was the first time in reality TV history that the team I was rooting for actually won.  It wasn't very tense, and about halfway through you could tell who was going to win, but I didn't care.  It's nice to be happy about a finale for once.

Stargate Atlantis - The Complete Fourth Season My husband and I have been making our way through Stargate Atlantis.  We don't have cable, so I never watched it on TV.  I've watched most of the DVD's previously, so I've seen the first four seasons and a few shows of season 5.  It's just as good on the second watch.  This show and Friends are my all-time favorite shows, and I'd be hard pressed to say which one I liked more.  Probably because they're completely different types of shows.  They're not really comparable.  Stargate Atlantis is a must see for all sci-fi lovers, though.

This week I'm hoping to get a little bit more reading done than usual.  If I can keep my computer time to a minimum, I should be able to get a few books read.  This week I'm hoping to finish:
Wolfsbane and MistletoeMarysvaleThe Ten ThousandAlcatraz Versus The Knights Of CrystalliaChristmas Letters

That might be a little ambitious for me, but I'm partway through Marysvale already, the Christmas books should be fairly quick reads, and the Alcatraz book is a fast YA read.  We'll see.  That's it for me today.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Spirit Thief Review

Book Details
Title: The Spirit Thief (The Legend of Eli Monpress)
Author: Rachel Aaron
Genre: fantasy
Page Count: 320
Publishing Info: Orbit, October 1, 2010

My Review
Why I read it: kept seeing it reviewed all over
The Plot: At first glance this sounds like a lot of other books I've read.  A thief who is so good that he can do anything and get out of any scrape?  It sounded a bit like The Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1) or The Lies of Locke Lamora.  I mean, in The Thief, we start out in pretty much exactly the same place--with our hero locked up figuring out how to escape.  But there's an interesting magic system here that makes it different.  Every single thing has a spirit, from trees to sand to doors, and wizards can hear and talk to the spirits.  So, our main character, Eli is looking for a way to increase the bounty on his head, and the fastest way he knows how to do that is to kidnap a king, and he's able to sweet talk just about any spirit into doing whatever he wants.  Craziness ensues.
The Characters: At first I was pretty sure I wouldn't like Eli.  He seemed a little too good at everything.  But it turns out that Eli wasn't quite as strong as I first suspected.  He had weaknesses and flaws, which made him a better character, and surprisingly, I really liked him.  Yes, he was snarky and a little full of himself, but he was also funny and interesting.  I also really liked Josef, the swordsman who is a part of Eli's gang, and would like to know more of his backstory.  There really aren't very many characters in this one, but that's part of what makes it nice.  You never get confused about who is who. 
The Setting: The story takes place in the fictional kingdom of Mellinor, and never really goes beyond that.  We start out in the castle, and the whole story takes place within a few miles of it.  It never feels stagnant though, and the scope feels broader than what we're given.
Who Should Read This? Fans of fantasy, especially lighter fantasy that includes humor.
Final Thoughts: I was a little leary of this one at the start, but it turns out that I really liked it and thought it was a lot of fun.  I'm glad that the second and third books are already out so I don't have to wait to continue on with the series.
Grade: A-
Cover Thoughts: The cover for this one is a bit deceiving.  It looks like it might be an urban fantasy or something, not the fun adventure fantasy that it is.  If you're turned off by the cover, ignore it and give this one a go anyway. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bloggy Friends

I always love finding new blog friends, especially ones who have the same tastes in books.  A great way to do that is the meme I did last week at Crazy for Books.  There's also a similar meme called Follow Friday on Parajunkee.  Both great ways to find new blogs and new friends.

I've also found that on twitter, you can get to know book bloggers on a more personal level, and while I don't always have time to keep up with all the people I follow there, it's been fun chatting with others every once in awhile.

So, with the blog memes that I just mentioned, they always ask a question so you can get to know your fellow bloggers better.  Here are my answers:    

"What is the thing you like most about reading book blogs?  Is it the reviews, author guest posts, articles, giveaways, or something else entirely?"

I really like hearing about upcoming books and books that other readers are loving.  My TBR list is rising toward 800, and I've probably got a couple hundred books sitting on my bookshelves waiting to be read, but I can always use more reading suggestions.  I'll just have to live a long, long time.

Do you have an under-noticed author that you think we should all know about?

You know, I think there are a lot of authors that don't get the recognition they deserve.  Sandra Byrd is one of my all-time favorites, and she's definitely not as widely read as she should be.  I recently finished a trilogy by R.B. Holbrook that was very original and entertaining, and she's another author that more people should read.  I'm sure there are lots of others.


So that's it for me today.  Thanks for visiting, and watch for my review of The Spirit Thief tomorrow.



Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Buffyverse lives on

Today I picked up my comics from my supplier.  I'm sitting here reading the new Spike series, and it's literally laugh out loud funny.  Comic books aren't for everyone, and they can get kind of expensive if you read a lot, but if you are a Buffy or Angel fan, I have to recommend a few different series.

We'll start with the newest Spike series I was just talking about.  I've gotta say I was never really a Spike fan throughout either Buffy or Angel, but he's definitely won me over in comic book form.  #1 starts off with a little bit of Twilight mocking in the form of books and movies called "Twinkle".  It really doesn't get much better than this.  It helps when reading this one if you've already been following along with Buffy season 8 (which I'll talk about in a minute) and all the Angel storylines (which I'll also talk about in a minute).  You can purchase the start of the Spike series at IDW, but if you want to buy comics, if at all possible, try to get them from your local comic book store.        

Okay, so here's where things get a little bit tricky.  There are so many different Angel series, spinoffs, and one-shots (for non-comic readers, that just means it's not part of a series) that it can get a little confusing as to what order to read them in.  Well, I'm here to tell you that I can't help you.  Do start with Angel: After the Fall vol. 1, or even better, check out the first TPB from your library to see if you like it.  And then find someone who knows more than me and figure out where to go from there.  But After the Fall starts directly after the events at the end of season five of the TV show Angel. 

Next we have Buffy, which basically continues the TV series in comic book form.  This is season 8 (the show ended on season 7).  Once again, I'd recommend looking for the first trade paperback of this one: The Long Way Home (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Vol. 1).  Season 8 is just about wrapping up, and I'm not sure if there will be more after this.  I haven't loved the whole season--there have been some good parts and some bad, and right now, nearing the end of the season, I'm kind of in a "what the heck?" place with the whole thing.  But, if you're a big Buffy fan like me, this is a way to keep on with the story since there's no more show.

To some of you this is all old news, and you're either yawning through my post, or you haven't even read this far.  But I'm thinking maybe there's someone out there who was a fan who wasn't aware of these comics, or who was aware and just didn't know if they were any good.  I definitely have liked the Angel (and now Spike) series better than the Buffy, but they're both worth reading, for sure.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Genius Files: Mission Unstoppable Review

Book Details
Title: The Genius Files: Mission Unstoppable
Author: Dan Gutman
Genre: Middle Grade Adventure
Page Count: 256
Publishing Info: Harper Collins, Jan. 25, 2011

My Review
Why I read it: received e-copy from Netgalley for review
The Plot: Two twins named Coke and Pepsi find that they are targets of assassins.  As the plot unfolds, they find out that they are part of a secret group called The Genius Files.  All of this happens as they finish up the school year and head on a cross country trip in an RV with their parents.  Obviously the whole plot was fairly unbelievable, but the target audience should find it fun.
The Characters: Besides having quite possibly the most ridiculous names I've ever seen for characters, Coke and Pepsi are your regular almost teenagers (they turn 13 during the story).  Except that they are both exceptionally smart.  It comes off somewhat in the story, but they're not annoyingly smart, if that makes sense.  Kids should be able to relate to these characters, mostly.
The Setting: This was the fun part of the story.  The family sets off on a cross country trip, leaving from San Francisco and ending up in Washington D.C. (although they don't make it all the way in this book).  Throughout the book the author interjects cities you can plug into google maps to follow along with them on their trip.  There are also pictures throughout of the places they visited.  And if that's not enough, since both Coke and his mom are lovers of useless facts, we learn a lot of things about different spots in the U.S.
Who Should Read This? This is a great book for the middle grade audience.  Parents who like to read to their younger children might like this one as well, just for its silliness and fun.
Final Thoughts: I'll be honest here.  If I was judging this book purely on it's entertainment level for me, I wouldn't rate it very high.  It was very silly and very young, especially the humor.  That being said, this book wasn't written for my age group.  It was written for kids, and I think they'll really like it.  So while it may not go on any favorite lists of mine, it's great for what it was meant to be: a fun adventure tale for middle grade readers.
Grade: B
Cover Thoughts: The cover has a cute, cartoonish look that will definitely appeal to kids.