Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: Windhaven

Before we talk about anything, can we take a minute to appreciate the awesomeness of this cover? It's so bad it's good. Okay, now we can move on to the book. Windhaven is about Maris, who lives on a world that has flyers and landbound. Flyers use wings made out of materials from the spaceship that brought their ancestors to the planet. Maris wants nothing more than to be a flyer. Unfortunately for her, wings are passed down only through families, and she wasn't born to a flying family. So she sets about trying to change hundreds of years of tradition, and in doing so changes much more than she ever thought.

I really liked Maris for the most part, but there were times when I thought she was just being really stupid. The nice thing about this story was that there were moral conflicts with no easy answers. There was no clear right and wrong here, and it made for some really good reading. It's nice to read fantasy with no clear good guys and bad guys.

The world wasn't spectacular, despite what the dinosaur looking head on the cover would have you believe. There were sea monsters, but they were mostly only mentioned in passing with no real detail. The setting is a bunch of islands, thus creating the need for flyers to deliver messages from island to island (because the sea monsters made ship travel dangerous).

A Sample of the Writing:
Maris rode the storm ten feet above the sea, taming the winds on wide cloth-of-metal wings. She flew fiercely, recklessly, delighting in the danger and the feel of the spray, not bothered by the cold. The sky was an ominous cobalt blue, the winds were building, and she had wings; that was enough. She could die now, and die happy, flying.

I'm a huge fan of George R.R. Martin, especially the Song of Ice and Fire series. Windhaven is not quite up to par, and I'm not sure if that's because it's an earlier work, was written with a co-writer, or both. It was still a very enjoyable book, and although I've read quite a few reviews from disappointed Martin readers, I think it's worth reading.

Book Details
Title: Windhaven
Author: George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle
Genre: fantasy
Page Count: 324
Publishing Info: first published in 1980
Why I Read It: It has been on my shelf for quite awhile.
Grade: B (pretty good)
Cover Thoughts: I've already mentioned the cover, but go ahead and take another look at it, just for fun.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Review: Kat, Incorrigible

Twelve-year-old Kat Stephenson may be the despair of her social-climbing Step-Mama, but she was born to be a magical Guardian and protector of Society--if she can ever find true acceptance in the secret Order that expelled her own mother. She’s ready to turn the hidebound Order of the Guardians inside-out, whether the older members like it or not. And in a society where magic is the greatest scandal of all, Kat is determined to use all her powers to help her three older siblings--saintly Elissa, practicing-witch Angeline, and hopelessly foolish Charles--find their own true loves, even if she has to turn highwayman, battle wild magic, and confront real ghosts along the way!

Kat was such a fun character, and one that younger teens and tweens are going to adore. She is spunky, curious, and gets into all kinds of trouble, but she's also very caring and mostly just wants to help the people she loves. The side characters were also wonderful, and although at the beginning I was worried that some would be too stereotypical, I was pleasantly surprised to find that wasn't the case.

The story itself was absolutely charming, and reminded me a bit of Pride and Prejudice. The upside was that it is more accessible to younger readers than P&P is. The other bonus, if you like that sort of thing, is that it has magic. Luckily for me, I like anything that adds a bit of fantasy into my books.
I would highly recommend this to younger readers who are looking for a fun, sweet story, and to older readers like me who remain young at heart. This is the first in a series, and I will definitely continue.

Book Details
Author: Stephanie Burgis
Genre: Middle grade fantasy
Page Count: 304
Publishing Info: April 5, 2011 by Atheneum
Why I Read It: netgalley review copy
Grade: B (very good)
Cover Thoughts: The cover is as charming as the book. I like it a lot!

Friday, March 25, 2011

DNF: Divine Appointments

Divine Appointments: A Novel (A Snowglobe Connections Novel)I've tried to get into this book twice, and haven't been able to make it very far. The book is overly descriptive and starts off quite slow. I couldn't really connect or get a feel for the main character, and felt that she wasn't particularly likable. I think fans of women's fiction might enjoy this, especially those who like a more descriptive style of writing.

With so many books on my shelves (not to mention books at the library, at the bookstore, books not yet written), I don't have time to push through a book that I'm not enjoying at all. 
This book was provided to me for review by Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers.  More information on the book can be found here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Review: Green Eyed Demon

I was a little disappointed in this one.  I have to say, I thought the first book, Red-Headed Stepchild, was just okay.  But then The Mage in Black was a lot better.  This third book took a step way back in the wrong direction, and I think was probably the weakest of the series so far.

Sabina does seem to have grown as a character.  She's not so quick to get angry and want to do violence at every turn, but there was another character just like that to make up for it.  I'm just finding it really hard to like any of these characters.
Each of the books in the series has taken place in a different city.  This time we were in New Orleans, and the setting was very well-written.  I could really get a feel for the place, and I liked it better than any of the characters.  :)

Those who read the first two books in the series will most likely want to continue on with this one, and there's really no reason not to.  Although the series has been fairly uneven, I'm hoping that the next book will be better.  This is definitely not my favorite urban fantasy series, but it's interesting enough that I'll keep reading.

Book Details
Author: Jaye Wells
Genre: urban fantasy
Page Count: 400
Publishing Info: February 22, 2011 by Little, Brown and Company
Why I Read It: netgalley review copy, third in a series
Grade: C- (not great, good enough to keep me with the series)
Cover Thoughts: I'm definitely not in love with this cover, although I think it goes well with the rest of the covers in the series.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Checking In

Hi readers, sorry I haven't posted a review in the past week.  I've read a couple of books, but just haven't felt in the mood to write reviews.  Do any other reviewers ever feel that way?  I'm sure I'm not alone. 

But, in case you're looking for something to read online, head over to Grasping for the Wind and read which 5 books I, and a bunch of other bloggers, would save in case of a disaster.  Lots of great books listed there!  There was a lot of work done by John to compile all the responses and put together that lovely blog post, so please take a few minutes to check it out. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Review Index

Reviews by Author

Reviews by Genre

Reviews by Grade

Reviews by Author







Friday, March 11, 2011

Review: How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf

Mo is tired of her controlling parents, so after her fiance breaks up with her, she decides to move to a small town in Alaska.  A very small town; there is a Main Street, but not much else.  She gets a job at the local saloon/diner and soon becomes friends with everybody in town, with the exception of Cooper, who doesn't seem to like anybody.  Cooper is also a werewolf (an alpha who left his pack), which Mo figures out on her own (a little too quick, if you ask me), and one day he shows up on her doorstep naked, with a bear trap on his foot.  From there romance blossoms, but all is not well in the quiet little town.  Someone (or some wolf) is killing Mo's new neighbors, and Cooper thinks he might be doing it unknowingly while he's in wolf form.  Mo doesn't believe he's capable of it, but they don't know who else it could be. . .

Mo was intensely likable and Cooper was quite the man, er . . . wolf . . . man.  And the romance was pretty hot and steamy.  (Steer clear of this one if you don't like sex in your books)  I just really liked these characters a lot--all of them, from the main characters to the side characters.  They were the kind that you want good things for them, without being too sickly sweet.
This little town in Alaska, Grundy, was so well written and so appealing that despite my intense dislike of cold weather, I wanted to move there by the end of the book.  I liked the small town feel where all the neighbors knew each other.  Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name.

A sample of the Writing:
"I like my processed meats to be somewhere in the unnatural-nitrate-red range.  Ergo I will handle the cooking, thank you."
Cooper was quiet for a long moment.
"You're trying to come up with some sort of 'processed meats' double entendre, aren't you?" I accused him as I held the sticks over the fire.
"Yeah, you didn't leave me a lot to work with," he grumbled.
I'm not usually a big laugher while I'm reading books.  Outright attempts at humor will, more often than not, annoy me.  But I found myself chuckling quite often throughout this one.  It's more of a subtle humor that's not beating me upside the head saying "look at me, I'm funny!", and I just found the whole story really fun from start to finish.  I would definitely recommend this to paranormal fans, and as it was such a fun, quick read, I would recommend it to someone who is going through a book slump as well.  I will definitely be reading more by this author, and am anxiously anticipating the next book in this series, The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf, which is due out later this month.

Book Details
Author: Molly Harper
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Page Count: 371
Publishing Info: February 22nd 2011 by Simon & Schuster
Why I Read It: Received review copy
Grade: B+ (very good)
Cover Thoughts: The cover is really cute, even if the people do look freakishly tall.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Review: The Goddess Test

Book Details
Aimee Carter
YA Fantasy
Page Count: 
Publishing Info:
April 19, 2011 by Harlequin Teen
Why I Read It:
netgalley review copy
C+ (enjoyable, but not great)
Cover Thoughts:
I'm not exactly sure what's going on here on the cover, or how it relates to the story exactly.  It's kind of a typical YA cover 

My Review
Kate's mother is dying, and before she dies she wants to move back to her childhood home in a small town.  Kate starts going to high school, and (as we so often see in YA) seems to catch the eye of the good-looking boy with the jealous girlfriend.  So the girlfriend plays a prank on Kate, and that's how she meets Henry, who is actually Hades, god of the underworld.  Kate doesn't believe him at first, even after he brings someone back from the dead.  But eventually she believes him, and agrees to live with him and try to pass seven tests (judged by the Olympians) where if she passes, she'll become immortal, and also his wife.

Kate is nice enough, but I got annoyed at how she took the blame for every single thing that was going on around her.  And Henry, your typical brooding, gorgeous YA boy was not very believable as Hades.  At times I think the author forgot she was supposed to be writing Greek gods and goddesses.  I wasn't really feeling the romance either, mostly because Henry was just so blah about it all.  I don't really care about the reasoning behind it; the way it was written doesn't make me root for the romance.  On the plus side, there weren't any characters I hated, and the eye-rolling was minimal.
The gigantic house/manor they were all living in was very nice, and although you'd think it'd get boring having the whole story pretty much set in one house, it really didn't. 

If you're a big fan of Greek mythology, you really won't see a whole lot of it in this story.  In fact, if you go into it looking for that, you're bound to be quite disappointed.  On the other hand, if you completely forget that aspect of it, and are just looking for an easy to read, enjoyable YA, you might like this one.

It only took me a couple of days to finish The Goddess Test, and it's a very quick and easy read (that also happens to be quite predictable).  I was thinking the tests she was going to have to pass would have been harder--more focused on Greek mythology maybe, and less on Christian morality (the seven deadly sins).  The story was kind of a mish-mash of different things, but really overall it was enjoyable enough and good if you're looking for something that doesn't require a lot of thought (and in fact, may require you to not think about certain things).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Review: The Mysterious Lady Law

Book Details
Robert Appleton
Page Count:
108 on my reader
Publishing Info:
January 31, 2011 by Carina Press
Why I Read It:
review copy from Netgalley
C- (not really my thing)
Cover Thoughts:
The cover is quite possibly the best thing about the book.  I've always been drawn to steampunk covers, and that's probably why I keep trying steampunk, despite my bad luck with it. 

My Review
After her sister is mysteriously murdered, Julia accepts an offer from Lady Law to solve the case.  Lady Law has successfully solved every case she takes on.  No one knows how she does it, and therefore a lot of people are very suspicious of her.

This book was so short that I really couldn't get a feel for any of the characters, which makes it hard to care what happens to them.  There was a bit of a romance between Julia and a constable named Al, but I wasn't really feeling that either.

The Mysterious Lady Law is a steampunk set in Victorian London.  There were a whole lot of things that were described that I couldn't quite picture, which may be usual in the steampunk genre, but I think this story just needed to be fleshed out more.

A Sample of the Writing:
By five o'clock the gas lighter was already making his rounds, lighting the streetlamps with surgical precision.  Steam-powered cranes billowed white clouds as they raised workmen to dismantle scaffolding from the new submarine factory.  Tired shopkeepers dragged their advertisement stands inside, paid the window cleaners and errand boys, and then set about tidying their storefronts.  Men with faces blackened by oil and coal lumbered home from the factories.  As dusk descended, London wound down for the day.

I think the fact that I didn't care for this book may be chalked up to the fact that steampunk isn't really a genre (or sub-genre) that I enjoy.  I like the idea of it much more than the delivery, for the most part.  Fans of steampunk may very well enjoy this one, but I do think it suffers quite a bit because of it's length.  It's more of a novella, so if you're looking for a fleshed out story, this isn't it.  Still, I think there's definitely an audience for this book, it's just not me.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Review: A World Without Heroes

Book Details
Brandon Mull
Middle Grade Fantasy
Page Count: 
Publishing Info:
March 15, 2011 by Aladdin
Why I Read It:
ARC from the publisher
B+ (Very good)
Cover Thoughts:
My ARC had a different cover, but I like this one much better.  I'm guessing this is the one that will be on the published book.  Very cool looking! 

My Review
Jason is a middle school student who is great at baseball and works at a zoo (I don't know how someone in middle school gets a job at a zoo, but we move past that very quickly).  One day while working he is transported through the hippo cage to another world called Lyrian where an evil wizard emperor holds all the power.  There he meets Rachel, who was also transported from Earth to Lyrian.  With the help of scattered rebels, they must find a secret word that can be used to destroy the emperor.

One thing Brandon Mull does well is write characters to engage his readers.  Jason and Rachel are likable characters that will draw in young boy and girl readers.  At times I felt that Jason seemed to be quite older than his thirteen years, but maybe it's because I underestimate what young teens can do.  Rachel is a little more secondary as a character, so we don't find out what she's thinking as much as with Jason.

Lyrian is a very interesting world with a lot of different settings.  The world building was very creative, and very much a part of the story as Jason and Rachel search for the secret word.  They travel to many different places, but I don't want to go into too much detail because I think part of the fun of reading is discovering the world with the characters.

A Sample of the Writing:
" My people are right.  Indulgence is emptiness.  I have probed the limits with food and frivolity.  There is no real fulfillment in meaningless rushes of pleasure.  You try to conceal the emptiness with more extravagance, only to find the thrills becoming less satisfying and more fleeting.  Most pleasures are best as a seasoning, not the main course."
If you enjoyed Fablehaven, you'll definitely want to give this one a read as well.  This book is aimed at ages 8-12, and I think those ages will enjoy it, but older readers will like it as well.

A World Without Heroes is a very fun, creative fantasy and I'm very much looking forward to the next book in the series.  There were a few slow spots, but overall it's quite an engaging story that the reader will have a hard time putting down.  This is definitely one to watch for.

View the trailer below: 

For Utah Readers: Beyonders Launch Party

If you live in Utah and have read and enjoyed the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull, you may be interested in attending the launch party for his new series, Beyonders.  Details are in the flyer below.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Review: 47 Echo

Book Details
47 Echo
Shawn Kupfer
Military SF
Page Count:
Publishing Info: 
January 17, 2011 from Carina Press
Why I Read It:
netgalley review copy
B- (promising, but could've been better)
Cover Thoughts:
I really love this cover--from the buildings in the background, to the silhouettes of the soldiers, it's just perfect for the story.

My Review
In a futuristic society, Nick Morrow is a convict who is assigned to 47 Echo, a suicide squad in war-torn Russia.  47 Echo has only the hardest criminals, and from the start you get the sense that Nick doesn't really belong.  He's smart and has a great analytical mind, but he's half Chinese, and in a world where China attacked the U.S., that doesn't do him any favors.  This one grabbed me right from the start.

Nick is a great character, and was definitely one that I could really root for.  There were so many other soldiers coming in and out of the story so that, besides one or two others, I couldn't even remember who was who.  That made it a little harder to care about what happened to some of the characters.  Someone could die, and since I had no idea really who they were, it didn't really phase me.  It was just a character name.

47 Echo is set in a future world that is at war, and is classified as science fiction, but I didn't really see a whole lot in the way of sci-fi.  Sure, it takes place in the future, which I guess already takes it out of the realm of regular fiction, but for the most part it just felt like military fiction with a few things that I didn't recognize, like the vehicles.  The story is so straightforward and to the point that you really don't get many details on how things look or what the world is really like.

This one started off so good, but I was a little disappointed as I continued reading and found the writing lacked depth.  It was great as a quick, entertaining read, but I kept wondering when I was going to get to the meat of the story.  Where were the intricacies, the surprises, the plot twists . . . anything?  I couldn't really get a feel for what the story was supposed to even be about besides a group of soldiers.  And that's when I realized that was the story.  It's like the mindless action movies you watch when you don't want to have to think and you just want to see stuff blowing up.  

In fact, as I was reading, I kept thinking this would make a great action movie.  Maybe the author should look into writing movie scripts.  There is quite a bit of language in this one, and violence, of course.  And if the word "smirk" bothers you, steer clear of this one because the author uses it constantly.  All in all, I would probably read another book by this author, and would recommend it to someone who was looking for a quick action-style read.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Review: Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer

Book Details
Author: Maureen McGowan
Genre: Ya Fantasy
Page Count: 320
Publishing Info: April 1, 2011

My Review
Why I read it: netgalley review copy
The Plot: In this thrilling story full of adventure and romance, Sleeping Beauty is more than just a lonely princess waiting for her prince—she's a brave, tenacious girl who never backs down from a challenge. With vampire-slaying talents that she practices in secret, Sleeping Beauty puts her courage to the test in the dark of night, fighting evil as she searches for a way to break the spell that has cut her off from her family. In a special twist, readers have the opportunity to make key decisions for Sleeping Beauty and decide where she goes next—but no matter the choice; the result is a story unlike any fairy tale you've ever read!
The Characters: In a way, Lucette was the kind of kick-butt, strong heroine that I really like in YA books.  But in a different way, I found her pretty stupid and kind of annoying.  She just wasn't very likable, for me.  The only aspect to her parents that we are treated to is that they fight all the time.  That's almost all we really know about them.
The Setting: The set-up is a pretty typical fairy tale except for with a separate kingdom of vampires, which adds an interesting twist.
Who Should Read This? YA Fantasy fans
Final Thoughts: While I thought there were some fun and interesting aspects to this story, it failed to grab me.  Ultimately, it fell flat, and I thought the "choose your path" aspect was more annoying than fun. By the time I got to the last choice I really didn't care what she did, I just wanted to finish the story. It wasn't good enough that I'd go back and re-read to try different choices and paths.  The romance also seemed very abrupt, and I didn't buy it in the least. 
Grade: C
Cover Thoughts: The cover is pretty and eye-catching.  I like it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Review: Flesh and Fire

Book Details
Author: Laura Anne Gilman
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 374
Publishing Info: October 13th 2009 by Pocket

My Review
Why I read it: Reading Cove Book Club
The Plot: Fourteen centuries ago, all power was held by the prince-mages, who alone could craft the spell-wines. But the people revolted against harsh rule, and were saved by a demigod called Sin-Washer, who broke the First Vine, shattering the hold of the prince-mages.
In 1378 ASW, princes still rule, but Vinearts now make spellwines, less powerful than in days of old. Jerzy, a young slave, has just begun his studies to become a Vineart when his master uncovers the first stirrings of a plot to finish the work Sin-Washer began, and shatter the remains of the Vine forever. Only his master believes the magnitude and danger of this plot. And only Jerzy has the ability to stop it…before there are no more Vinearts left at all.

The first half (or maybe 3/4ths) of this book was agonizingly slow.  Page after page of pretty much the same thing.  It's very much a set-up book for the rest of the series.
The Characters: Jerzy is the main character, and he's really the only one we get to know.  I felt like we knew every thought and feeling of Jerzy's, but didn't get beyond the surface of any of the other characters.  You'd expect that in a first person novel, but this was third person, and the author could have done better in that aspect.
The Setting: The setting is described in great detail in this book, over and over.  If you read this and can't picture the grapevines and the buildings and such, you're just not trying.  There are plenty of things we could have been given more information about, but the setting wasn't one of them.
A Sample of the Writing:
Jerzy refused to allow those memories to resurface.  That was a life that had happened to someone else, a story told and retold until he knew all the twists and turns but felt little of the emotions the players must have felt.  It was Then.  This, the aches and pains of his backside, the jostle and slosh of the spellwines on his saddle, the creak of the leathers and the clodding noises of the horses' hooves on the packed dirt road, this was the Now.  Now he was no slave, but an apprentice Vineart on a mission of great importance for his master.
Who Should Read This? Those who like descriptive writing.
Final Thoughts: If I hadn't have been reading this as a group read, I would have most likely given up on it.  It was just so slow for most of the book.  The writing wasn't necessarily bad, it was just over-descriptive (I tried to give a sample of the descriptive writing above) and a bit repetitive.  Surprisingly, the last bit of the book made up for it.  It was enough for me to say I actually liked the book.  I feel that this was an overly long set-up, but it was quite the set-up, and done well enough to make me want to read the next book, so I'd consider that it did it's job.  Now, if I read the second book and there's another half a book of set-up, that'll be it for me with this author.  We'll see.
Grade: B
Cover Thoughts: I like the cover, and I think it fits pretty well with the story.