Saturday, March 31, 2012

Review: Westlake Soul

Westlake Soul
Westlake Soul by Rio Youers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a free eGalley eBook ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: “All superheroes get their powers from somewhere. A radioactive spider bite. A science experiment gone awry. I got mine from a surfing accident in Tofino. The ultimate wipeout. I woke up with the most powerful mind on the planet, but a body like a wet paper bag. . . .

Meet Westlake Soul, a twenty-three-year-old former surfing champion. A loving son and brother. But if you think he’s just a regular dude, think again; Westlake is in a permanent vegetative state. He can’t move, has no response to stimuli, and can only communicate with Hub, the faithful family dog. And like all superheroes, Westlake has an archenemy: Dr. Quietus—a nightmarish embodiment of Death itself.

Westlake dreams of a normal life—of surfing and loving again. But time is running out; Dr. Quietus is getting closer, and stronger. Can Westlake use his superbrain to recover . . . to slip his enemy’s cold embrace before it’s too late?

My Thoughts: This was such a cool idea – a superhero who is basically unable to do anything. I figured the entire story would be taking place in his brain, and thought that would be pretty neat. What I didn’t expect was that it would be so incredibly funny – the scene with the gold finch? Priceless! Westlake has a bad situation, and he’s fairly bitter, but he manages to keep a humorous perspective on it. At least for the first quarter or so of the book – things get a bit more serious after that. But it is well-done and not overly morose. However, it gets into the end-of-life issue – euthanasia, to be blunt. And makes you think – are people who seem to be gone really gone? Maybe they just can’t communicate? Ever heard of locked-in syndrome? Can’t move, can’t talk, seem to be gone – but in reality, that person is completely awake, aware, and feels every indignity, hears every word spoken in his or her vicinity, understands everything. Just can’t get out. Can you imagine that? shudders

Chapter 17 was so beautiful, so sad - I read it with tears in my eyes. And 21? Wow, so heart-breaking. I didn’t know if I could keep reading, ‘cause I’m just not good with heavy emotions like that. I tend toward being depressive, so it’s not usually a good thing for me to read things that will make me sad. But I kept thinking, maybe …. maybe …. and on I went. Fortunately those chapters alternate with chapters that made me angry, about a real jerk named Wayne. Man, I was hoping he would die painfully! You’ll probably feel the same way, or maybe not. I did grow up watching violent movies, you know!

Well, I’ve given you more information about the story than I probably should have, but it was amazing, heart-breaking, breath-taking... difficult to read, but definitely worth it. Highly recommended. Book available 4/12/12 from ChiZine Publications.

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RCC wrap-up

Well as I suspected, I went backward. I read 32 books this month, and I won't bother listing them all here - you can see them to the right toward the bottom where there is a listing of many of my old posts - but I added even more to my To Be Reviewed shelf, leaving me with (at this moment) a staggering 554 books to read and review.


And to make things worse, I'm planning to use April to read a few of the books I want to read that aren't on my "To Be Reviewed" shelf - I'll still read a few that require reviews, because I've promised to do so, but I have so many of my personal favorites I'm falling behind on that I want to get to them.

So, that's March. I might get another book up yet today, we'll see. Watch for a few book reveals in the upcoming month, and a couple giveaways! March is going out like a lion - then again, it came in like a lion, so who knows what April showers will bring? Tah!

Review: Love Thy Neighbor

Love Thy Neighbor
Love Thy Neighbor by Mark Gilleo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a free eGalley eBook ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Clark Hayden is a graduate student trying to help his mother navigate through the loss of his father while she continues to live in their house near Washington DC. With his mother’s diminishing mental capacity becoming the norm, Clark expects a certain amount of craziness as he heads home for the holidays. What he couldn’t possibly anticipate, though, is that he would find himself catapulted into the middle of a terrorist operation. As the holiday festivities reach a crescendo, a terrorist cell – which happens to be across the street – is activated. Suddenly Clark is discovering things he never knew about deadly chemicals, secret government operations, suspiciously missing neigh- bors, and the intentions of a gorgeous IRS auditor. Clark’s quiet suburban neighborhood is about to become one of the most deadly places on the planet, and it’s up to Clark to prevent the loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives in the nation’s capital.

Fast, acerbic, wise and endlessly exciting, Love Thy Neighbor marks the unforgettable debut of a startling new voice in suspense fiction.

My Thoughts: I need to start right off by saying I am more than a bit confused by something – and I apologize that this is a bit of a spoiler, but it occurs very early in the book and there are plenty of other surprises to be seen – but I’m very surprised that a woman is put in charge of an Islamic terrorist cell. Women are treated as second-class citizens by most Islamic fundamentalists, from my understanding, even if that is not what the Koran teachers, and it doesn’t make any sense to me that a bunch of radical Muslim men would take orders from a woman for any reason. From that point the whole house of cards sort of falls apart unless you are very much willing to suspend disbelief. Also, her daughter just disappears with absolutely no explanation as to where she went or how. While not insurmountable, these issues raised enough questions to leave me a bit unsettled.

However, as the plot progressed, I found myself caught up in the story. Switching back and forth between a terrorist cell and the prosaic life of Clark and his elderly mother, the story flows smoothly and quickly. While I frequently found myself upset, mostly because I just can’t fathom the mindset of people involved in terrorism of this sort, it is generally a good sign when a book is able to elicit those sorts of emotional responses. I don’t know exactly how this writer got so far into the minds of the terrorists – it’s a little scary, actually – but he did a good job of it.

Oh, by the way, she was a minor character and toward the end of the book, but I loved Mrs. Crowley. She would have made a good match for Clark’s randy old WWII vet neighbor, Mr. Stanley. I also enjoyed Clark’s mother, crazy as she was.

It is true that this is a galley, so hopefully the typos will be fixed – there are a lot of problems with using the wrong homonym. It gets worse as the book progresses, as if whomever did the initial proofreading lost focus. This happens, unfortunately – even I’m guilty of that when I’m editing.

So, a mixed bag. There are some plot issues that might make reading this more of an exercise in suspense of disbelief than the average reader will find easy, but the story itself is fast-paced, well-developed and suspenseful, with plenty of twists and turns. Recommended for fans of suspense and thrillers.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Subliminal

Subliminal by Brian Blocker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a free eBook galley ARC from Rhemalda Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Robert Dawes is a hard man to say no to. In fact, it's almost impossible not to let him have his way. After using his charm to construct the perfect life and conquer his part of the corporate world, he meets a stranger who tells him the real reason for his success.

Robert is subconsciously controlling the minds of others.

There are more people like Robert. Some want to help him develop his abilities, some want to harness his power for their own ends. As Robert struggles to control his growing power before it consumes him, he is drawn into a conflict that threatens his sanity, his family, and the future of mankind.

My Thoughts: I have yet to read a book from Rhemalda Publishing that I don’t love. This highly evocative and suspenseful thriller did not disappoint; I was kept on the edge of my seat as a I read it through in one sitting, only stopping periodically to breathe a bit when things got a bit too tense. This is a book that is not afraid to ask the big questions – if it came down to it, would you put the benefit of yourself and your family over the benefit of society? Going deeper, if you could get away with something, would you? Should you? Where should the line be drawn? What is acceptable in defense of yourself and your family? What is truly important? After reading this, I feel almost physically exhausted by all that Robert went through in his metamorphosis and voyage of self-discovery. It was awe-inspiring.

If you like a good thriller with paranormal aspects, one that is thought-provoking at the same time as it is entertaining, you will not go wrong with this terrific novel. Highly recommended.

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Review: Seattle Sleuth

Seattle Sleuth
Seattle Sleuth by Alexandra MacKenzie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a free eBook galley ARC from Rhemalda Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: It is 1921. A war lies behind him, a new battle lies ahead. Philip Shaw is a Great War veteran and widower struggling to put his life back together. He grasps at a chance to make a difference by investigating the death of a newspaper editor-did the man die in an accidental fire or was it murder? Shaw joins forces with fiery crime reporter Ray Taylor to dig into police corruption, a rivalry between a powerful shipbuilder and a sly politician, and the seedy world of Seattle's wide-open red-light district. Will they find the answers in the speakeasies, among the rumrunners on the waterfront, or at the mansions of the rich? Before they can solve the mystery, level-headed Phil Shaw and hot-tempered Ray Taylor will have to learn to work together-without killing each other first.

My Thoughts: What a fun story! Rhemalda has a great eye for terrific stories and I have yet to read a book published by them that wasn’t excellent. MacKenzie has a deft touch with description and narration to provide an easy-reading, fast-paced story that provides great character development and witty repartee. I would have liked to been given a more “period” feel to the story, set as it was at the very beginning of the Roaring 20s, right after the first World War; there was very little slang and the narrative felt very modern, except for the careful language maintained around ladies. But honestly, that didn’t take anything away from the story – I’ve read stuff that used bewildering amounts of slang to the point where it was difficult to understand, so I guess it is better for it to be accessible than making too much of an effort to make a point that this story is set in 1921.

I thought MacKenzie did a great job at providing internal dialogue for a veteran of a war, as well as the great twist in Ray Taylor’s history (which I won’t tell, so as to avoid spoilers), which added to the veracity of the time. I also loved the fact that she kept making a point of how different the financial times were – 50 cents was a lot of money and $2000 was a small fortune, whereas $5 was enough to survive on for a week or two. And payments on a brand-new Ford were $5 a month, which many people found to be too expensive. It’s rather mind-blowing looking at it from here, where the current lottery sits at $490 million! In some ways, it was a much simpler time; in others, it was likely much like it is today with elders bemoaning the lack of respect of the young and the degeneration of society.

But I’m digressing. My point is, I highly recommend this story to anyone who likes a good mystery, a good story and/or a good read. Wonderful book, and thanks to Rhemalda for the chance to read and review it.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Review: She Speaks to Angels (AngelFire Chronicles, #1)

She Speaks to Angels (AngelFire Chronicles, #1)
She Speaks to Angels (AngelFire Chronicles, #1) by Ami Blackwelder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a free advance copy of this ebook frrom the author in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Coming April 6th exclusively on Kindle, and Amazon Prints. What if everything you believed was a lie? "I tried not to sound hysterical, but it’s not every day you find out the paranormal is hunting you."

A Suicide.
Seventeen year old Allison Maney attends Millennium High School in Manhattan. Nothing out of the ordinary, unless you consider the occasional suicides at the school. At least that is what everyone is told, what everyone believes. But Tommy Bachelor was a popular football player; why would he jump off the roof of the school? 

Dangerous Liaisons 
When Dameon pays attention to Ali, she couldn't be more excited, because for the past three months he was all she could think about. But now that Dameon is finally pining for her affections, she is becoming more and more wrapped up in a clique of three who, as new transfers to the school, are proving to be trouble. But at least Dameon loves her, doesn't he? 

Kian- a dangerous love interest she did not ask for. 
Powers- belonging to an underworld she never knew existed. 
A Clique- that could be friends or foes? 

A Soul Purpose 
The underworld of angels and demons have one thing on their mind: Earth. Demons want to do what they want. Angels want to protect humans from these rogue angels, AKA: Demons. For Allison Maney, everything is not exactly what it seems… 

A Suspenseful Romance 
Caught between Dameon and Kian, the suicide and the clique of three, Ali won't know who to trust…or who to love.

My Thoughts: This was an unsolicited book that the author sent to me; I guess because I’d won a couple of her books from LibraryThing. My reactions to the previous books I’d read by this author were mixed, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this, other than it isn’t really in my preferred genre. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the story. Despite a lot of really silly similes, the writing was pretty natural-sounding, and very much like what would come out of high school students. I also found the relationships and their progressions were pretty realistic based upon my own memories of the hormone-charged days of being a teenager.

Admittedly this is an ARC, so I can probably believe that the janitor, whose name changes from Alberto to Antonio, will have his name finalized in the end. However, after the girls took all the stuff out of Tommy’s locker, that night it all disappeared; then Sunday night Ali gets up and looks at his drawings – which were among the items that disappeared on Wednesday night. This is probably a major plot point that will be hard to fix. Hopefully it is.

Overall I would recommend this book - I quite liked it despite the few problems, most of which I anticipate will be fixed by the final copy.

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Review: The Mers

The Mers
The Mers by Ami Blackwelder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this ebook via the LibraryThing Members Giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: The Mers: What lies beneath the surface?

One hundred years from now, the world has changed and brought with it, new forms of life. Who are the Mers? Who is Mira?

Mira always knew she was different. Growing up with Mers, she never quite fit in. When Mira breaks the rules and takes Niren with her, across the border dividing Elise Island and New Jersey, the border dividing two vastly different worlds, she thought the journey to find out who she really is would be an easy one. But as the world in Jersey proves to be a convoluted mix of humans who hate the Mers, and pirates who want to sell them...finding her true identity will be a challenge, especially when her best friend Niren is a Mer willing to fight to the death.

A series twist on the Mermaid tale.

My Thoughts: After The Invasion of 2020 I wasn’t expecting much. However, while the idea of a young girl deciding to go wander around in the city of her people’s deadly enemies just to see if she can find her family is a little far-fetched, this is a much better book overall. However, Blackwelder does a much better job developing the characters and creating an easily followed plot. I actually found myself quite engrossed in the story, wondering what would happen next. I liked the genetic progression from human to mer and although I’m not certain how realistic the pace of the mutation was, I felt the mutation itself was fairly realistic based upon the adaptability of DNA. I’m not sure of the additional progression that takes place, but this is a fantasy novel, so I’ll let that slide – it made sense in the context of the story and that is what matters. Folks who enjoy dystopian YA fantasy, especially regarding merfolk, should find this book eminently readable.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

And the winner is ...

First of all, thanks to all of you for making my first giveaway a great success! I chose a winner randomly last night (asked my husband to pick a random number, without telling him why) and just send off the e-book after receiving confirmation of the edress. Congratulations to:
Tabitha Ormiston-Smith!! Your e-book should be in your email right now!

I'll be hosting another giveaway next week, watch for it!

Review: The Invasion of 2020

The Invasion of 2020
The Invasion of 2020 by Ami Blackwelder

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this ebook via the LibraryThing Members Giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Alaska 2020. Earth. Shifters. I nvasion. 

Summary: Set in Alaska in 2020, Uri Petrov and Dr. Samantha Croon find their lives intertwined when the shifters first land on Earth. Both motivated by love for their families, each is taken down a different path that will change the course of their lives forever and eventually the fate of the world.

Meanwhile, the military has divided into fractions...those who believe in the alien invasion and those who refuse to accept it, leaving Captain Raul at opposing ends with other heads of military.

With the shifters invading the forests of Kenai Lake, they explore their new world of refuge, and must discover how to shift in animal form while uncovering what it truly means to be human.

With underlining themes of how prejudice breaks human connections and animal/wildlife conservation, this novel which has received rave reviews will leave the reader flipping through the pages.

My Thoughts: Well, this is a very interesting idea – creatures made of light and malleable DNA fleeing to Earth from a dying planet, and the repercussions thereof. Unfortunately, the delivery wasn’t up to the idea – the characters didn’t have enough development, tending toward flatness with a few exceptions, and there was a major plot issue with Uri and Julia’s ages – at the beginning they were college students and had been for at least a couple years, yet 5 years later they were still college students and Uri was only 21. This does not at all fit with the timeline. I’ve noticed this sort of thing before in an ensemble cast of a story that takes place over a number of years – the author doesn’t take the time to really think out the timeline and plan the ages of the characters clearly enough. The story was really complex and Blackwelder did do a good job of keeping the story flowing in an understandable way – it could have been a real mess, but she did keep that together. Unfortunately, it seemed like she was just skimming the top of the story and leaving out huge chunks. The story was 5th written, but is chronologically first in the Shifters Evolution series, followed by The SCM of 2030. I have also the 3rd book in the series, The Shifters of 2040, but the series really wasn’t my cup of tea, so I don’t think I’ll continue it. Blackwelder has a number of other books out, too, two of which I’ll be reading and reviewing this week, so watch for my reviews of The Mers and She Speaks to Angels.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: Solomon Family Warriors

Solomon Family Warriors
Solomon Family Warriors by Robert H. Cherny

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclosure: Mr. Cherney offers this book for free from his website; he has no expectation, but I am happy to offer an honest review.

Synopsis: This epic science fiction saga (470,000+ words) is offered free as an incentive to buy my later works. It follows four generations of a space traveling family who, if all other things remained equal, would rather be left alone.

"It's like growing up in the circus, only more lethal."

My Thoughts: This is a very long book – on my Nook it was 1203 pages long. I was very excited to read it, as I love a story that really gets into the characters and is willing to be told as it needs to be told. I was hooked almost immediately – this is like the best of Modesitt’s space operas rolled up with a good David Weber story. The Solomon family’s adventures start with Greg Solomon and Avi Bardwell Solomon, on to their children Rachel and Wendy and eventually includes Avi’s mother Rose. Greg and Avi were pirate interdiction pilots who eventually turned to shuttling refugees from the religious persecution of the Swordsmen and helped set up a planet on which people could fight back against them. Raising Rachel and Wendy in this environment caused the girls to grow up as warriors, engaging in their first official combat at the ages of 16 (Rachel) and 14 (Wendy). They eventually moved on to the Jewish settled planet before the girls returned to Earth to attend the Federation military academy. I could probably go on for paragraphs outlining basic plot, but what I’ve covered here is maybe the first quarter to third of the book. The pace never flags – sometimes covering years within a few paragraphs, sometimes stopping and covering events on a day-to-day basis for awhile before skipping on. A multi-generational story like this is not easy to tell in a way that maintains the reader’s attention, but I think Cherney does a good job with it.

There were parts of the story I was unhappy with, on a personal level that had to do with not liking how certain plot points were resolved. This was not due to any problem with the writing, but just in how I, personally, felt about the people involved. Authors are incapable of pleasing all people all the time, so I definitely do not count that against this excellent piece of military sci-fi. I was, however, downright stunned at the ending – after all that, to just end it in the middle of what could have potentially been another story really surprised me. I hope that Cherney had finished this story in a sequel or something, because I need to know what happens! If you like space opera and military sci fi, and if you have the time, I highly recommend this excellent story.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Book trailer contest, and Treasure Island adaptation!

I have two exciting things to relate. First, for those of you who are fans of the Liv Bergen series by Sandra Brannan, JKS Communications is hosting a Book Trailer contest - deadline to enter is 4/10/12. You accept an ARC of the 3rd book in the series, and create a trailer. The winner gets lots of nifty stuff, including signed copies of the entire series and a trip to historic Rapid City, SD for the kickoff. You can see more details here: Widow's Might Book Trailer Contest All you of creative bent, this is a great opportunity to show off your stuff!!

Secondly, Sea Lion Books is announcing a new and upcoming Treasure Island adaptation. Click through here for all the details: Sea Lion Books press release.

Review: Elizabeth Clansham

Elizabeth Clansham
Elizabeth Clansham by Catherine E. Chapman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this eBook in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Goodreads: Elizabeth Clansham retreats to a croft house in the Scottish Highlands to write a novel and avoid real life. Reluctant teacher and aspiring author, she finds that the part-time job she has taken to fund her idyllic existence impacts upon her life more than she'd anticipated; her students are determined to find her a love-match. Will it be Angus, gamekeeper and uncle of one of Elizabeth's pupils, or Andrew, Elizabeth's reclusive neighbour in the croft?

Andrew's solitary bachelor life is turned upside-down by the arrival of his former girlfriend, Laetitia – fleeing the city of Glasgow and her mounting debts, and seeking shelter with Andrew in the hills. Will their old flame be rekindled or will Lauren, Laetitia’s seven-year-old daughter, get her way and realise a father-figure in Angus?

Andrew maintains it’s the things you don’t do in life that you regret but is it ever too late for love to blossom?

My Thoughts: I should start out by saying I don’t like romance novels. What particularly drives me mad is when the romantic couples spend most of the books hating each other, or being jerky at random for no real reason. Therefore, I’m happy to say, that was not the case here. The only ones acting like adolescents were, actually, adolescents. There were actually several scenes at which I laughed out loud, particularly some of the random discussions Elizabeth Clansham’s night class would get into, as I remember starting a fair numbers of like discussions myself while in school. It also reminded me why I decided against being a teacher; I definitely would not have dealt with her classes with the patience that she showed. I rather like Angus - I guess I, like Laeticia, am a fool for a big, hairy man, and would probably especially like one who regularly supplied me with venison and steaks! *laugh* Andrew was a weird one - I couldn’t decide exactly how I felt about him, and I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to develop his character a bit more, but as it was, he remained rather an enigma.

Overall, not really my type of book, although I enjoyed it well enough, but folks who enjoy literary fiction and/or romantic fiction should enjoy it quite a lot.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: Forever Richard

Forever RichardForever Richard by Sue Dent

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Synopsis: The saga of redemption and spiritual triumph readers enjoyed in Never Ceese continues in Forever Richard. Cassie Felts, graduate student and reluctant believer of such things as vampires and werewolves, couldn't be happier for Richard and Ceese Porter. Their curses lifted and after hundreds of years apart, they can now celebrate being brother and sister once more. Even Rodney, Cassie's college roommate and former nemesis, shares her relief. But will the faith that saved Richard and Ceese be enough to defeat the new evil that threatens them all? Cassie learns that Dr. Clayton Henderson, the corrupt stem-cell researcher, has acquired the vampire's curse and has managed to transfer it to Rodney's troubled, drug-addicted buddy Josh. Addict or vampire, Cassie can see Josh isn't handling his new cravings for blood any better than he did his old habit. Their best hope seems to be taking Josh to Richard's isolated country estate in England. There, Josh can learn to temper his desire to curse another while they try to figure out how to deal with the impossible-to-kill Dr. Henderson. Their mission becomes more complicated when they find a new vampire inhabiting Richard's castle, a malevolent werewolf stalking Ceese, and a long-lost relative who shows up carrying a sawed-off shotgun and an ancient knife he claims has supernatural powers. Will the faith that redeemed two lost souls before be enough to overcome the wicked forces that now threaten to destroy them all?

My Thoughts: The second book in the Thirsting for Blood series, this book continues the story of Richard and Ceese, while introducing new elements and problems to their already-troubled lives. This one was a quick read, much shorter than Never Ceese, yet continued the character growth begun in the first book. There was a lot of action in this book, too – and some really great characters. I liked Geoffrey a lot, and hope we’ll learn more about this enigmatic butler. I’m actually quite keen to see where Dent goes with this series. Fans of vampire lore, werewolves, and paranormal suspense/action/horror books should enjoy this book.

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Review: Never Ceese

Never Ceese
Never Ceese by Sue Dent

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through a giveaway. No stipulations were placed upon my receipt of the book, but I feel an honest review is appropriate in exchange.

Synopsis: What happens when a determined werewolf and a skeptical vampire join forces at the request of an aging friend? Will they succeed in finding a way to rid themselves of their respective curses in spite of their natural hatred for each other or will they suffer at the hands of a radical and evil stem cell researcher who wants the fame and immortality he believes their blood will give him? 

My Thoughts: This is an interesting and different take on the same old vampire and werewolf stories. In Sue Dent’s world, vampires and werewolves suffer from a very similar curse,which leaves them young, strong, immortal – and completely missing a soul. In this world, many werewolves go feral, living decades with wolf packs and away from people. And, interestingly, if they don’t transform periodically they will forget how.

I enjoyed these characters, and felt that, at least as far as vampires go, Dent’s ideas more truly match with the legends and lore than many modern vampire tales. After all, without a soul how could one comprehend, let alone feel, human emotion? I felt that the solution was maybe a bit too simplistic in the end, but at the same time the conclusion was satisfying. I think people who enjoy the vampire and werewolf mythos will enjoy this book. I certainly did!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: Electric Angel

Electric Angel
Electric Angel by Sue Dent

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Synopsis: Because of her cancer, Anna Chadwick wouldn't live long enough to carry her twin infants to term. Yet she wanted nothing more than for them to have a chance at living. Learning one would be stillborn didn't lessen her desire. It would take a she prayed for one. When an electrical entity arrives to take the place of her stillborn, some would reflect that prayers aren't always answered the way we'd expect them to be.

My Thoughts: This is a very interesting book, with a very imaginative premise – a young woman, with terminal cancer, desperately prays for a miracle to save the lives of the twins she is pregnant with – and that prayer is answered. This is about the extent to which this piece of speculative fiction could be called Christian, as there are no other major mentions of Christianity or God in the book. The characters are fascinating and are developed fairly well, although this is a quick book that focuses more on the action than the characters. I read it within about 4 ½ hours, and that was with frequent stops to fuss over the cats. I think most people would enjoy this book, so definitely check it out.

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Book Review: "The Truth of All Things" by Kieran Shield

The Truth of All Things review
Author: Kieran Shields
5 out of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a complimentary galley of this book from the Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, in the summer of 1892, a grisly new witch hunt is beginning...

When newly appointed Deputy Marshal Archie Lean is called in to investigate a prostitute's murder in Portland, Maine, he's surprised to find the body laid out like a pentagram and pinned to the earth with a pitchfork.  He's even more surprised to learn that this death by "sticking" is a traditional method of killing a witch.

Baffled by the ritualized murder scene, Lean secretly enlists the help of historian Helen Prescott and brilliant criminalist Perceval Grey.  Distrusted by officials because of his mixed Abenaki Indian ancestry, Grey is even more notorious for combining modern investigative techniques with an almost eerie perceptiveness.  Although skeptical of each other's methods, together the detectives pursue the killer's trail through postmortems and opium dens, into the spiritualist societies and lunatic asylums of gothic New England.

Before the killer closes in on his final victim, Lean and Grey must decipher the secret pattern to these murders--a pattern hidden within the dark history of the Salem witch trials.

My Thoughts: A fascinating blend of historical thriller and paranormal thriller. I really enjoyed the writing style, and the back-and-forth quips passed among Lean, Grey and Stieg. Helen was a great character, a very strong and independent woman determined to do what she wanted during a time when women were coddled and kept like they were made from eggshells. Shields did a great job of keeping the murderer a secret from the reader, throwing out hints and clues, but never the answer. I quite enjoyed the story overall, and I think fans of historical fiction and occult thrillers will find this one of interest; although there is never a real answer as to any potential occult activity. The book is left open for a sequel, so hopefully we’ll see another book with these great characters.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

RCC Challenge #3: Don't Be Such a Tease!

So, I'm currently reading the most interesting The Truth of All Things. Here's what the back of the book has to say:
Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, in the summer of 1892, a grisly new witch hunt is beginning. Ooooh! It's a good 'un, too!

A listing of the books I've read since my last Challenge post:
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year, Vol. 6
Katja From the Punk Band
Pazuzu's Girl
Christ's Ventriloquists

Magnus Opum

Morgue Drawer Four
Every Other Day
And She Was
Waking Hours

If you check my Read-Review shelf on Goodreads, you'll see I'm at a whopping 547 books to be read and reviewed! Still I managed to get a good number done this past week. Until next time!

Monday, March 19, 2012

COVER REVEAL! "Shadowborn, a Lila Gray novel" by Jocelyn Adams

A Lila Gray Novel (#2)
by Jocelyn Adams
Release Date: October 1, 2012
Target Reader: Adult
Keywords: Romantic, Urban Fantasy, Fairy

Back of the Book

Why me?

That’s the question Lila Gray asks every time yet another bad guy tries to destroy the earth, and she learns she’s the only one who can stop it. Once again, something’s on the prowl, leaving hundreds of comatose, souless victims in its wake.

Couldn’t the deadliest assassins of the Otherworld go after someone else instead of the brand new Queen of the Seelie? One who still hasn’t adapted to her new role.

Lila would ask Liam Kane, King of the Unseelie, for advice, but something’s off with him, too. He’s holding back. In some way. About some thing. In fact, he refuses to tell her what’s going on.

The truth holds Lila back from the greatness of her role—the people she was born to lead—the man who she desperately loves—and the solution to the latest war raging around her.

To find the answers, she’ll need to fight through her own darkness and embark on a journey through her psyche.

If she doesn’t succeed, the Shadowborn will claim not only her world, but her soul.

Previous Books in this series include:
The Glass Man (Lila Gray #1)

My First Giveaway! "Eternal Investigations" by Nancy Griffis

Welcome, book fans, to my very first giveaway on my not-so-shiny-new-anymore blog! I'm so pleased with how Now is Gone is growing, and hopefully the giveaways I hope to have a couple times a month will increase traffic even more.

First up, a .pdf file of the wonderful Eternal Investigations by the extremely awesome Nancy Griffis (click for her blog). I loved this book, and you can see my review from Goodreads here.

In order to enter, simply leave a comment including your e-dress, so I can send the file to the winner! You don't have to be a follower, but if you choose to follow me little blog, I'd be very happy :-) The winner will be chosen randomly on Monday, March 26. I'm giving it that long to include the folks who won't get a chance to see this until the weekend. You're welcome :-)

I'm so excited about this first giveaway, and remember, I'm planning a couple each month and have them lined up well into the fall! So, keep popping by to see what's new, because Now is Gone is going places!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

"Waking Hours" by Lis Wiehl review

Waking Hours review
Author: Lis Wiehl
3 out of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a complimentary galley of this book from the Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: A high school girl is found dead in the town park. And forensic psychiatrist Dani Harris wants answers. All the suspects are teenagers who were at the party with her the night before--but who woke up the next morning with no memory of what transpired. Even though evidence confirms they were all at the scene of the crime.

My Thoughts: This is Book 1 in the East Salem trilogy, and is considered to be a Christian thriller. While I’m not normally a fan of Christian thrillers, I found this one mostly readable – it is not preachy, and it’s characters’ Christianity is not overwhelming, but rather simply a part of their lives. However, there were parts that really made me angry – for instance, one character was talking about how “Saint” Adrian destroyed paganism in England by showing the pagans how much better Christianity was – because their gods only caused misfortune and disease while Yahweh was about love. Love? OK, “I love you, so do exactly what I say or I’ll burn you forever in fire”? That sort of love? As opposed to the eternal bounty of the Earth? Yeah, whatever. But I digress... (I tend to do that)

There are distinct aspects of the paranormal in this story – Dani has several highly meaningful dreams, there is an appearing/disappearing angel, and a mysterious force that walks through walls in the middle of the night. There are plenty of red herrings in the search for the murderer, but eventually it becomes pretty obvious whom the culprit is. I liked the forensic psychiatric aspects of the story and found that very interesting. I also rather liked most of the characters; Tommy, especially, is hilarious. He made me laugh all the time. Fans of Christian fiction will enjoy this book, fans of paranormal thrillers will probably find it readable. While I enjoyed it well enough, I don’t think I’ll be continuing the series, as it seems like it is going to go into end-time theories and that’s not something I am really interested in reading.

"Archon" by Sabrina Benulis review

Archon review
Author: Sabrina Benulis
5 out of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a complimentary galley of this book from the Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Angela Mathers is plagued by visions of angels, supernatural creatures who haunt her thoughts by day and seduce her dreams by night. Newly released from a mental institution where she was locked away for two years, she hopes that her time at the Vatican’s university, the West Wood Academy, will give her a chance at a normal life. Unlike ordinary humans, Angela is a blood head — a freak, a monster, the possible fulfillment of a terrifying prophecy of overwhelming death and destruction. Only in Luz, the Vatican’s wondrous enclave, are blood heads accepted and encouraged to discover what kind of powers or special abilities they might possess.

But within West Wood, a secret coven plots, and demons and angels roam the streets searching for the key to open Raziel’s book — a secret tome from a lost archangel. Some are determined to destroy Raziel, while others, like the beautiful Supernal Israfel, one of the highest of the high, wish to free him. And when the Archon — the human chosen to possess the spirit of a dead angel — rises as foretold, they will control the supernatural universe.

Torn between mortal love and angelic obsession, Angela holds the key to Heaven and Hell — and both will stop at nothing to possess her.

My Thoughts: This book is haunting, full of darkness and storms. Any sense of light is quickly overcome with storm clouds and ruin. The characters are complex, full of contradictions, and you never know which of them you can trust or believe. Beautifully written! This is true dystopianism, no sense of brightness to be found, yet the darkness is strangely compelling, strangely lovely, enchanting, luring you to your doom. Angels and demons have little to distinguish themselves, other than their point of origin. Good and evil are relative terms. Highly recommended.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

"And She Was" by Alison Gaylin review

And She Was review
Author: Alison Gaylin
5 out of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a complimentary galley of this book from the Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Missing persons investigator Brenna Spector has a rare neurological disorder that enables her to recall every detail of every day of her life. It began in childhood, when her older sister stepped into a strange car never to be seen again, and it’s proven invaluable in her work. But it hasn’t helped her solve the mystery that haunts her above all others—and it didn’t lead her to six-year-old Iris Neff, who walked away from a barbecue in her small suburban town more than a decade ago... and vanished. When a local woman, Carol Wentz, disappears eleven years later, Brenna uncovers bizarre connections between the missing woman, the long-gone little girl... and herself.

My Thoughts: Definitely a suspenseful novel, this book has plenty of twists and turns, secrets to be revealed; old secrets come to light and characters reveal that things aren’t always what they seem. Brenna is an interesting character, and the neurological disorder from which she suffered is presented in such a way as to give an idea as to how distracting and disturbing it could be. I felt that the interactions between most of the characters was realistic. Basically, if you like thrillers and suspense novels, you will like And She Was. Check it out.

"Croak" by Gina Damico review

Croak review
Author: Gina Damico
5 out of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a complimentary galley of this book from the Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby has sucker-punched her last classmate. Fed up with her punkish, wild behavior, her parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape. But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than that of shoveling manure.

He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach her the family business.

Lex quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated entirely by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. Along with her infuriating yet intriguing partner Driggs and a rockstar crew of fellow Grim apprentices, Lex is soon zapping her Targets like a natural born Killer.

Yet her innate ability morphs into an unchecked desire for justice—or is it vengeance?—whenever she’s forced to Kill a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again. So when people start to die—that is, people who aren’t supposed to be dying, people who have committed grievous crimes against the innocent—Lex’s curiosity is piqued. Her obsession grows as the bodies pile up, and a troubling question begins to swirl through her mind: if she succeeds in tracking down the murderer, will she stop the carnage—or will she ditch Croak and join in?

My Thoughts: A really amazing book, and one I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a series arising from. Lex is a great character and watching her change and grow is amazing. She is surrounded by wonderfully quirky characters in Croak! and I loved the unique and interesting culture surrounding the Grims in this universe. I’m not certain this would be the best book for younger readers, as it deals with death and dying and is very grim in places, but there are plenty of laugh-out-loud funny moments, too. Highly recommended!

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Every Other Day" by Jennifer Lynn Barnes review

Every Other Day review
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
5 out of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a complimentary galley of this book from the Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Every other day, Kali D'Angelo is a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She goes to public high school. She attends pep rallies. She's human.

And then every day in between... She's something else entirely.

Though she still looks like herself, every twenty-four hours predatory instincts take over and Kali becomes a feared demon-hunter with the undeniable urge to hunt, trap, and kill zombies, hellhounds, and other supernatural creatures. Kali has no idea why she is the way she is, but she gives in to instinct anyway. Even though the government considers it environmental terrorism.

When Kali notices a mark on the lower back of a popular girl at school, she knows instantly that the girl is marked for death by one of these creatures. Kali has twenty-four hours to save her and, unfortunately, she'll have to do it as a human. With the help of a few new friends, Kali takes a risk that her human body might not survive... and learns the secrets of her mysterious condition in the process.

My Thoughts: What an awesome book – seriously, I hope Ms. Barnes makes a series out of this! Kali is a terrific character – human, vulnerable and alone every other day, and every other day she’s a killing machine, set to take out preternatural creatures of all kinds. She is deeply haunted, emotionally broken, but willing to open herself up when it matters. The characters that surround her are complex and twists abound – people are never exactly what they seem. The action is fast – like the last book, I read this one straight through in about 5 hours. I loved it - I highly recommend it!

"Morgue Drawer Four" by Jutta Profijt review

5 out of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a complimentary galley of this book from the Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Shy, but scrupulous, he is happy working as a coroner in the Cologne morgue–until one of his usually taciturn “clients” starts talking to him. It seems the ghost of a recently deceased (and surprisingly chatty) small-time car thief named Pascha is lingering near his lifeless body in drawer number four of Martin's morgue. He remains for one reason: his accidental death was actually murder. Pascha isn’t too keen on the good doctor, considering the tidy manner in which his body was dissected upon the autopsy table. But Martin is the only person Pascha can communicate with, and the only person who can do the detective work required to smoke out his killer. Desperate to reclaim his quiet life, Martin grudgingly agrees to help the ghost, setting off on a wild adventure through the city's red-light district and the dark world of German car smuggling. Witty and unexpected, Morgue Drawer Four introduces a memorable (and reluctant) detective unlike any other in fiction today.

My Thoughts: What a wonderfully fun book! That the narrator is dead through most of the story is just an added bonus – that it creates such a wonderful odd-couple pairing between Pascha and Martin is even better. I must say I read through it straight over the course of 6 hours, wanting to find out what happened, whodunit and what hilarious mix-up would occur next. Highly recommended!

"Magnus Opum" by Jonathan Gould review

Magnus Opum review
Author: Jonathan Gould
5 out of 5 stars
Read from 3/14/12 – 3/16/12

Disclosure: I received a complimentary eBook version of this text from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Tolkien meets Dr. Seuss in this new fantasy from Jonathan Gould.

Magnus Mandalora lives in Lower Kertoob in a kertottage, where he, along with the other members of his village, grows pflugberries. The Kertoobians are a simple people, who enjoy growing, harvesting and eating pflugberries, and talking to tourists who arrive in their village. But the one thing they like best is staying in their village, and if ever one of them develops the feeling that they need to travel, it is said they have developed the Grompets. And, unfortunately, Magnus’ brother Jangos has the Grompets.

After Jangos leaves the village, at first all is well as letters come in; however, the letters suddenly stop, and a rumor reaches Lower Kertoob – Jangos may have been murdered by the terrible Glurgs. So, Magnus decides to find out what happened to his brother, and avenge him if necessary. Joining forces on his way with the Cherine warrior Shaindor, Magnus does what very few Kertoobians have done – he has an adventure.

My Thoughts: This is Gould’s first full-length novel, and it was worth the wait! It has the whimsical qualities that those of us who have read his short stories and novellas have come to expect and love, and exactly fulfills the “Tolkien meets Dr. Seuss” promise he gives. The Kertoobians are, of course, like the hobbits, and there are monsters and beasties galore, along with the noble and beautiful Cherines, and the ugly and beastly Glurgs... or are they really so bad? Maybe looks can be deceiving? At any rate, this is an enjoyable romp and one you need to keep your eyes open for – it is scheduled for release April, 2012. Highly recommended!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review: Christ's Ventriloquists: The Event that Created Christianity

Christ's Ventriloquists: The Event that Created Christianity
Christ's Ventriloquists: The Event that Created Christianity by Eric Zuesse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a complimentary eBook version of this text from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from the author: Christ’s Ventriloquists is a work of investigative history. It documents and describes Christianity’s creation-event, in the year 49 or 50, in Antioch (present-day Antakya, Turkey), 20 years after Jesus had been crucified in Jerusalem for sedition against Roman rule. On this occasion, Paul broke away from the Jewish sect that Jesus had begun, and he took with him the majority of this sect’s members; he convinced these people that Jesus had been a god, and that the way to win eternal salvation in heaven is to worship him as such. Paul here explicitly introduced, for the first time anywhere, the duality of the previously unitary Jewish God, a duality consisting of the Father and the Son; and he implicitly introduced also the third element of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost.

This work also explains and documents the tortuous 14-year-long conflict Paul had had with this sect’s leader, Jesus’s brother James, a conflict that caused Paul, in about the year 50, to perpetrate his coup d’état against James, and to start his own new religion: Christianity.

Then, this historical probe documents that the four canonical Gospel accounts of the words and actions of “Jesus” were written decades after Jesus, by followers of Paul, not by followers of Jesus; and that these writings placed into the mouth of “Jesus” the agenda of Paul. Paul thus effectively became, via his followers, Christ’s ventriloquist.

A work such as this can be documented and produced only now, after the development (during the past 70 years) of modern legal/forensic methodology. Previously, the only available methods, which scholars have used, simply assumed the honesty-of-intent of all classical documents, especially of canonical religious ones, such as Paul’s epistles, and the Four Gospels. Only now is it finally possible to penetrate deeper than that, to reach the writer’s intent, and not merely his assertions, and to identify when this intent is to deceive instead of to inform. Whereas scholars have been able to discuss only the truth or falsity of particular canonical statements, it is now possible to discuss also the honesty or deceptiveness of individual statements. This opens up an unprecedented new research tool for historians, and Christ’s Ventriloquists is the first work to use these new methods to reconstruct, on this legal/forensic basis, not just how crimes took place, but how and why major historical events (criminal or not), such as the start of Christianity, actually occurred.

The author explains: “What I am doing in this work is to reconstruct from the New Testament the crucial events that produced it, without assuming whether what the NT says in any given passage is necessarily true or even honest. Instead of treating the NT as a work that ‘reports history,’ the NT is treated as a work whose history is itself being investigated and reported. Its origin goes back to this coup d’état that Paul perpetrated in Antioch in the year 49 or 50 against Jesus’s brother James in Jerusalem, whom Jesus in Jerusalem had appointed in the year 30 as his successor to lead the Jewish sect that Jesus had started. The Gospel accounts of ‘Jesus’ reflected Paul’s coup d’état – not actually Jesus, who would be appalled at the Christian concept of ‘Christ.’ That concept was radically different from the Jewish concept of the messiah, and Paul knew this when he created it.”

My Thoughts: Zuesse first contacted me about 2 ½ years ago to ask me to beta-read this book; unfortunately, I had a health crisis and forgot about it until recently, when I heard from him again that this book is due to be released soon. After apologizing for my oversight, I set out to read this book. In many ways, this book reminded me of The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity by Hyam Maccoby, a book where the author sets out to show that it was Paul who invented Christianity, not Jesus. However, Zuesse goes beyond this, to show how Christianity is nothing like what Jesus himself taught, nor it is anything like Jesus would desire; Zuesse shows that Jesus’ message has been twisted, changed and corrupted into a completely different religion.

I was impressed by the work that went into this book, and think is will be an important step in helping people to realize that Paul is not the have-all and be-all answer to religion. Unfortunately, I think that the people who would most benefit from reading this book will likely refuse to do so, as it will threaten their faith and belief systems, and since their faith and belief systems are so weak as to not be able to stand up to any threats, they will therefore refuse to even acknowledge the existence of said threats, due to their fear. Or, at least, that is the only reason I can come up with for so many people refusing to read works that threaten their point-of-view. However, Zuesse had an interesting point to make in the book – are people worshiping Jesus, or are they worshiping the Roman Catholic church (which is the entity to have canonized the scriptures) and the scriptures they put together? If a person claims to be worshiping Jesus, then they owe it to Jesus to read this book and discover how his message has been corrupted. But I digress....

Zuesse spends the majority of the work dissecting the book of Galatians in the New Testament, showing internal inconsistencies, as well as inconsistencies between what Paul says here and what he says elsewhere, as well as showing how he deliberately misrepresents passages in the Old Testament in order to fool Gentiles into joining his cult. Paul carefully constructs his argument, and then claims that the Laws put forth in the Old Testament – which were very clearly stated to be eternal and never to be added to or removed from – were now null and void by misrepresenting what, exactly, the Messiah of the Jews was and was meant to be. It’s fascinating to watch the way that Paul twists and bends words and meanings. The argument that Zuesse puts forth is quite well-done, although I ended up wondering if all those who seek to worship Yahweh are going to have to radically change their lifestyles, as it seems the true way to worship Yahweh is through the laws and covenants of the Old Testament. Well, but you’ll see what I mean if you have the courage or curiosity to read this book.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: Pazuzu's Girl

Pazuzu's Girl
Pazuzu's Girl by Rachel Coles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a free e-book copy from JournalStone via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer’s giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from NetGalley: Morpho Wilson thought her life was difficult enough. Her father is Pazuzu, the Mesopotamian demon of plague and the Southwest wind. As a teenager Morpho struggles against her father, while trying to adjust to high school in a new neighborhood. The family is constantly moving in an attempt to elude Pazuzu’s murderous ex-wife, a demoness known for killing children. 

Then something unique happens. A socially-impaired classmate becomes so intrigued by Morpho that he pursues her, despite the mystery surrounding her family and the danger that accompanies it. 

But before their romance can grow the demoness tracks Morpho down, and now only needs an ancient artifact called the Tablet of Destiny to complete the destruction of the world. The tablet confers on its owner the ability to control the fate of everything and everyone on earth. 

Once the tablet is discovered in the Middle East, the oldest and most powerful gods begin a battle for its possession, with the human population caught in the middle. Morpho, her family, and her new friend must decide, do they escape from the horrifying demoness or fight for their own destiny. How far will Pazuzu go to save his daughter from a hellish fate? Will his banishment from Heaven so many millennia ago end up being a curse...or a blessing?

My Thoughts: I’ve been interested in Sumerian mythology for some time now, so as soon as I heard about this book, I wanted to read it. I was not disappointed. It was obvious that the author spent some time researching the myths, legends and stories of Mesopotamia, and then wove them into this wonderful story. The characters are fascinating, the story paced wonderfully, and it is highly engaging and readable. Highly recommended, especially to those who enjoy stories woven among the ancient legends.

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Review: Erebos

Erebos by Ursula Poznanski

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a free e-ARC galley from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from NetGalley: An intelligent computer game with a disturbing agenda.

When 16-year-old Nick receives a package containing the mysterious computer game Erebos, he wonders if it will explain the behavior of his classmates, who have been secretive lately. Players of the game must obey strict rules: always play alone, never talk about the game, and never tell anyone your nickname.

Curious, Nick joins the game and quickly becomes addicted. But Erebos knows a lot about the players and begins to manipulate their lives. When it sends Nick on a deadly assignment, he refuses and is banished from the game.

Now unable to play, Nick turns to a friend for help in finding out who controls the game. The two set off on a dangerous mission in which the border between reality and the virtual world begins to blur. This utterly convincing and suspenseful thriller originated in Germany, where it has become a runaway bestseller.

My Thoughts: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It was very engaging and I read through it during the course of a morning. The characters are quite realistic and the game was described in such detail that it almost made me want to play it, despite everything – especially despite the fact that I don’t like computer games! It definitely showed the dangers of addiction to video games, too, and how people can take such things way too seriously. I would recommend this to pretty much anyone who enjoys a good story – check it out!

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Review: Katja from the Punk Band

Katja from the Punk Band
Katja from the Punk Band by Simon Logan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a free eBook ARC galley from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis from NetGalley: Katja, like everyone else stuck on the work island they call home, wants to get to the mainland by any means necessary.

Shooting her boyfriend and stealing a chemical vial is one way to ensure her safe passage: the only problem is, she's not the only one who wants it, and the freedom it will bring: There's Nikolai the joystick junkie; Aleksakhina, Katja's parole officer; Vladimir Kohl, the small-time chemical dealer, and his boss Szerynski; the rival chemical lord Dracyev, and his lover, Ylena.

And there's the Man In Red, ready and waiting for whoever is (un)lucky enough to end up with the vial.

Jackie Brown meets the Sex Pistols in this fast-paced industrial crime-thriller that weaves multiple storylines and time frames.

My Thoughts: It is sometimes a bit difficult, on an e-reader, to tell when the scene is changing. In a p-book, there will often be a space or some other form of “tell” to let you know, while on an e-reader, often the sections run together. That said, once I’ve figured out we’ve changed to a different point-of-view, it is then a bit difficult to tell when this is taking place. So you have to really be paying attention while you’re reading this book, because the scene will change to a new point-of-view at a different time and you need to be aware all the time of these sorts of things, in order to keep the overall plot in your brain. However, as long as you are paying attention, things work out and you can quickly follow the trail of the story.

One thing that really bothers me – the main character, Katja, has a tracheostomy tube, yet can speak, sing, yell – the whole works. This, while not impossible, is very unlikely. In most cases, after a tracheostomy, unless you have allowed the hole to heal closed, you cannot speak in a normal fashion because the air is coming out of the hole and not going past the vocal cords in order to vibrate them and allow you to make sounds. I suppose if the hole were above the vocal cords, one could make sounds, but since the air comes out through the tube, and not your mouth (therefore you cannot shape certain sounds), again it is very unlikely that you would be able to speak, let alone sing or yell; not only that, but since the vocal cords are, technically, above the trachea, this placement itself is very unlikely. It seems that the author decided it would be cool to have a punk singer have a tracheostomy tube, but didn’t bother to do any research on the situation.

However, I did really enjoy the story. It really is like a Tarantino flick – fast-paced, quick scene changes, quirky characters, ultra-violence, sudden and unexpected twists – it’s all there. If you can move past the problem with the tracheostomy tube, and enjoy this sort of story, you should enjoy Katja From the Punk Band.

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Review: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 6

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 6
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 6 by Jonathan Strahan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Vol. 6 from Nightshade Books review
Edited by: Jonathan Strahan
4 out of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a free eBook ARC galley from in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis from Goodreads: The science fiction and fantasy fields continue to evolve, setting new marks with each passing year. For the sixth year in a row, master anthologist Jonathan Strahan has collected stories to captivate, entertain, and showcase the very best the genre has to offer. Critically acclaimed, and with a reputation for including award-winning speculative fiction, The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year is the only major "best of" anthology to collect both fantasy and science fiction under one cover. Jonathan Strahan has edited more than thirty anthologies and collections, including The Locus Awards (with Charles N. Brown), The New Space Opera (with Gardner Dozois), and Swords and Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery

Introduction, Jonathan Strahan 
The Case of Death and Honey, Neil Gaiman, (A Study in Sherlock) 
The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees, E. Lily Yu, (Clarkesworld, 4/11) 
Tidal Forces, Caitlín R Kiernan, (Eclipse Four) 
Younger Women, Karen Joy Fowler, (Subterranean, Summer 2011) 
White Lines on a Green Field , Catherynne M. Valente, (Subterranean, Fall 2011) 
All That Touches The Air, An Owomoyela, (Lightspeed Magazine, 4/11) 
What We Found, Geoff Ryman, (F&SF, 9-10/11) 
The Server and the Dragon, Hannu Rajaniemi, (Engineering Infinity) 
The Choice, Paul McAuley, (Asimov‘s, 1/11) 
Malak, Peter Watts, (Engineering Infinity) 
Old Habits, Nalo Hopkinson, (Eclipse Four) 
A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong, K. J. Parker, (Subterranean, Winter 2011. ) 
Valley of the Girls, Kelly Link, (Subterranean, Spring 2011) 
Brave Little Toaster, Cory Doctorow, (TRSF) 
The Dala Horse, Michael Swanwick, (, 7/11) 
The Corpse Painter’s Masterpiece, M Rickert, (F&SF, 9-10/11) 
The Paper Menagerie, Ken Liu, (F&SF, March/April 2011) 
Steam Girl, Dylan Horrocks, (Steampunk!) 
After the Apocalypse, Maureen F. McHugh, (After the Apocalypse) 
Underbridge, Peter S. Beagle, (Naked City) 
Relic, Jeffrey Ford, (The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities) 
The Invasion of Venus, Stephen Baxter, (Engineering Infinity) 
Woman Leaves Room, Robert Reed, (Lightspeed Magazine, 3/11) 
Restoration, Robert Shearman, (Everyone’s Just So So Special) 
The Onset of a Paranormal Romance, Bruce Sterling, (Flurb, Fall-Winter 2011) 
Catastrophic Disruption of the Head, Margo Lanagan, (The Wilful Eye: Tales from the Tower Vol. 1) 
The Last Ride of the Glory Girls, Libba Bray, (Steampunk!) 
The Book of Phoenix (Excerpted from The Great Book) , Nnedi Okorafor, (Clarkesworld, 3/11) 
Digging, Ian McDonald, (Life on Mars) 
The Man Who Bridged the Mist, Kij Johnson, (Asimov’s, 10-11/11) 
Goodnight Moons, Ellen Klages, (Life on Mars)

My Thoughts: One can’t say a lot about an anthology, not without taking up pages and pages of notes. However, I’ll comment on some of the stories that stuck in my head. Obviously, being as I am a Sherlock Holmes fan, I loved Neil Gaiman’s theory about why Holmes really retired to be a beekeeper in “The Case of Death and Honey.” Catherynne M. Valente has a wickedly sharp sense of humor, which comes through in her story utilizing the Coyote mythos, “White Lines on a Green Field.” “All That Touches The Air,” by An Owomoyela was an interesting take on the whole alien planet/human settler meme, asking the question ,“what if there were already a dominant species on the planet?” Nalo Hopkinson’s “Old Habits,” about ghosts in a mall, left me with goosebumps. “The Last Ride of the Glory Girls” was an excellent example of a Weird West tale, a genre I am finding that I quite like.

I should point out that I didn’t love all the stories. I couldn’t even finish Peter S. Beagle’s story, because of bad things to do with a cat; I just quit reading it right there. “Catastrophic Disruption of the Head” just didn’t make much sense to me. There were a few that didn’t really make an impact on me one way or the other. But overall the stories were good. Taking into account that this was an ARC, the editing started out pretty good but was deteriorating fast by the end, which was sort of strange. I’m guessing that will be fixed by the final edition.

At any rate, for fans of sci-fi and fantasy this anthology will be a must-read – jam-packed full of great stuff.

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Friday, March 9, 2012

RCC Challenge #2 - Cuddle up with a Book

I usually read while sitting in bed, as there really isn't anyplace else inside to sit. Sometimes when the weather is nice I'll sit on the back porch in the sun.

For this challenge, I have, so far, cuddled up with the following books (links to the review):
The Book of Lost Fragrances
Devil of a Ghost Tour
Key to a Haunting
Playing with Fire
Grave Mercy
Staff of Sakatha
Voices of the Dead
Blue Monday
Gods and Fathers

Of course, I've added a number to my To Be Reviewed Shelf, so I've actually gone backwards and now have 539 books to be reviewed ... Pretty sad, huh?

Oh, and I'm 70% finished with my current book: The Best SciFi & Fantasy of the Year Vol. 6, so stay tuned for that review coming up.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review: Gods and Fathers

Gods and Fathers
Gods and Fathers by James LePore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a free eBook ARC from in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis from NetGalley: Matt DeMarco is an accomplished Manhattan attorney with more than his share of emotional baggage. His marriage ended disastrously, his ex-wife has pulled their son away from him, and her remarriage to a hugely successful Arab businessman has created complications for Matt on multiple levels. However, his life shifts from troubled to imperiled when two cops - men he's known for a long time - come into his home and arrest his son as the prime suspect in the murder of the boy's girlfriend. 

Suddenly, the enmity between Matt and his only child is no longer relevant. Matt must do everything he can to clear his son, who he fully believes is innocent. Doing so will require him to quit his job and make enemies of former friends - and it will throw him up against forces he barely knew existed and can only begin to comprehend how to battle. 

Gods and Fathers is at once a powerful mystery and a provocative international thriller, all of it presented with LePore's signature fascinating characters placed in dire circumstances where every choice poses new and potentially fatal challenges.

My Thoughts: This was a wonderfully intricate story. It is full of double- and triple-crosses and you never know who can be trusted, nor who has done what, for absolute certain. Twists keep coming until the very final page – a final twist I never expected. Interestingly, I just finished editing a book that dealt with some of the same themes regarding the Hezbollah, Beirut, Syria, Islamic fundamentalist fanatics and the sorts of terrible things that are done in the name of religion – however, it was set back in the 1980s, during the reign of the Ayatollah. I found this synchronicity fascinating, and it really added to my experience. People who enjoy thrillers and suspense will enjoy this. If you are tired of legal thrillers, then don’t fear – there is very little of the legal thriller here; this is straight suspense. Highly recommended.

About the Author: Nationally bestselling author James LePore has established a reputation as a writer whose vividly drawn characters and morally complex plots have kept readers up to all hours turning pages. His new novel promises more sleepless nights and more nonstop thrills.

James LePore is an attorney who has practiced law for more than two decades, and an accomplished photographer. He is the author of three previous novels, A World I Never MadeBlood of My Brother, and Sons and Princes, as well as the story collection,Anyone Can Die. He lives in Westchester County, NY with his wife, artist Karen Chandler.

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Angels on Sunset Boulevard graphic novel released

Melissa de la Cruz's Angels on Sunset Boulevard graphic novel is now available. Please follow this link to view the press release!

Q&A With Nicci French

You can visit Nicci French here to get more info on her upcoming book Blue Monday, and see my review.

Q&A with Nicci Gerrard and Sean French,
AKA Nicci French, author of
(On sale 3/5/12 from Pamela Dorman Books/Viking; 978-0-670-02336-3/0-670-02336-1)

BLUE MONDAY is your thirteenth book and the first book in a new series of psychological thrillers, introducing Frieda a psychotherapist. It’s also the first series you’ve ever written. What was the inspiration for this new series?

Frieda came along before the idea of writing a series did. We had always said we wrote stand-alone thrillers, but then we thought about a central character who is a therapist, someone who believes you can’t solve the mess in the world but you can try to address the mess in your own head, the pain and fear and anxiety inside of you. We thought of her as a different kind of detective, a detective of the mind, who is unwillingly dragged by the events that unfurl in the novel out into the real world.

Once we had imagined Frieda—solitary, insomniac, prickly, difficult, honorable, trustworthy, fiercely private—we knew she needed more than one book. She has to be discovered over time. And from that the octet gradually emerged. The books will cover a decade in Frieda’s life and the lives of the cast that she assembles around her; we want to see how time marks them, how they are changed by the experiences they live through together.

Also, we became excited by the idea of writing eight books that could stand as gripping thrillers in their own right, but which are also connected by one over-arching story. In BLUE MONDAY a fuse is lit that then will burn its way through the remaining seven books, coming to a climax in the final novel.

Where did the title BLUE MONDAY come from?

This is the first book of a planned series of dark thrillers that will be named after the days of the week. The title BLUE MONDAY seemed perfect to us because it is both about beginnings but also about the difficulty of beginning, its pains and regrets and fears. It also happens to be the title of not just one but two (very different) great songs – by Fats Domino and New Order.

Set against a backdrop of a dark, tangled London, BLUE MONDAY illustrates your power over a sense of place. As Frieda navigates its streets one can almost feel the damp chill of London’s foggy night air. What is your writing process? What are some things about the London you depict in your books that those of us in the US might not know?

As regards London, our writing process is to do what we have always done, which is to spend a lot of our time walking, cycling—and sometimes running—around the city, exploring its hidden alleys, squares, canals. We have both spent many years living in the city and every time we go out we see something completely new. Much of BLUE MONDAY came out of those walks.

A few things you need to know about London:

It’s big; really big. Greater London is about thirty-five miles across.

It’s really old. It’s been a continuously functioning (and dis-functioning) city since the Romans and it has been built on, burnt down, bombed, demolished, built on, over and over again.

London is really a collection of villages that used to be separated by fields and meadows and woodlands and orchards that gradually got filled up but they still hang on to their identity. In good ways and bad, London is a jangling mess. North Londoners don’t like South London, East Enders feel persecuted by everybody, West Kensington isn’t really in Kensington, and wherever you’re from anywhere in the world, you’ll find a community somewhere in London.

London is a landscape as much as a city, one of the oldest and most complicated landscapes in England.

And still, there’s so much that we don’t understand about London. For example, why do tourists always go to Madame Tussaud’s?

What are some things about you that might be a surprise to those of us in the US?

Sean: My mother is Swedish and we spend every New Year in central Sweden. On New Year’s Eve we have a sauna and jump through a hole in the ice.

Nicci and I studied the same subject (English literature) at the same university (Oxford) but we didn’t meet until ten years later.

In 2005, we ran the London Marathon together. Literally—we crossed the line at the same time.

Nicci: I broke my back a few years ago (and have sworn never to get on a horse again).

I am trained as a celebrant—I can bury people!

One of my passions is growing chillies—very, very hot chillies. Another is eating them (if you eat burningly hot chillies when they are frozen, you can taste their real flavour and only later do they explode in your chest like a small bomb).

Frieda is a psychotherapist. What kind of research did you do to make her so real?

Sean: Frieda emerged from our fascination with the whole subject of doctors whose job it is to make sense of our lives just by the way we talk about them. We have friends who are therapists, we have a certain experience of therapy, we’ve talked to people who have undergone therapy and we’ve read an awful lot about it.

Nicci: And also, in a way, therapy is a bit like writing itself: you take chaos and put order onto it, a road out of the dark woods.

What are you working on now?

Sean: We’ve just finished the second Frieda Klein and we’re standing nervously by the edge plucking up the nerve to dive into the third one.

You are known as the internationally bestselling author Nicci French, yet really there are two of you: Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, writing partners and husband and wife and you live in England. Why did you decide to start writing fiction together?

Sean: In the first years we were married, we talked about the idea. We knew that people could collaborate in different ways but we were interested in whether two people could write a novel that had one voice, where you were really creating a new person.

Nicci: It was like an experiment. But looking back at it, all these years and fourteen books later, it seems so odd, such a strange thing to do when we were both working flat out anyway, with four tiny children racing around the house. We didn’t do it because we thought we would write a book, get it published, become Nicci French. We did it to see if we could do it, because it seemed like a shared adventure—and it has been a shared adventure, a way of exploring the world together.

How do you manage co-authorship? Do you sit down and write together or do you take it in shifts?

Nicci: When we talk about how we write together we tend to make it sound much neater and better managed than it actually is, it’s a rather chaotic and messy business. The one thing we never do is actually sit down and write together, and the thought of one of us dictating to the other is a kind of madness, it just wouldn’t work. We spend a long time talking about the shape of the novel, the story, the way the plot goes, the development of the characters and above all the voice of the narrator into whom we both have to write, and once we’re satisfied with that then we’ll start to write. The writing will quite often take us away from the plan, but that’s what we do. One of us will write, say, the first chapter and then hand it over to the other who is absolutely free to change it, edit it, erase it, add other words to it, and then they will write the next chapter and pass it back. It’s a question of moving between the two of us. We never decide in advance who’s going to write what chapter, there’s no division.

Sean: We felt that in order for it to work we both have to be responsible for everything, whether we (individually) have written it or not. If there’s any research that needs doing for a book then we both have to do it, we both have to have all of it in our heads.

Nicci: If Sean writes something and I change absolutely nothing about that whole section, but I read it and approve it, then it becomes mine as well. It becomes a kind of Nicci French thing so we both own each word of it.

Why did you choose to write crime novels?

Nicci: I’m interested in crime in the sense that I’m interested in the strange path that people’s lives can go down. I’m not so much interested in the criminal; I’m much more interested in the victim, the effects of the crime and what lies beneath the settled surface. Most people, when you meet them, present themselves as ordered and controlled; they have a self-possessed image. Underneath that everybody is a welter of doubt, grief, loss, nostalgia, love and hate; that’s what I’m interested in. The thrillers that we write are not about fiendishly clever serial killers outwitting the police, they’re about ordinary people who have extraordinary things happening in the middle of their lives, and the way that they change and have to resolve things. I think that attracts us to the thriller genre.

You chose to use a female pseudonym, and almost all your novels so far have been written from a female viewpoint. Is there a reason for this?

Sean: The first idea we had was about recovered memory, and 99% of people recovering memory in therapy are women, so it obviously had to be a woman. Once it was a woman as the main character then it just seemed obvious that if we were going to choose a name, that it should be a female name. Women have achieved a kind of independence and equality, a nominal independence, and yet so many things haven’t changed. There are so many kinds of unexpected pressures that have come along with that, and that seemed an interesting road to go down.

Nicci: It is that sense of there being a cross-current between what modern women are like now; assertive, independent, strong, ambitious, and yet still very physically vulnerable, but also vulnerable to all the things that attack us from the past, all the things we’re conditioned to feel. There’s a kind of emotional vulnerability and intelligence, a particular kind of female intelligence that seems to be a good way of looking at the world.