Thursday, November 6, 2014

Wasn't it just March? Time flies. #CancerJourney

So, yeah, I've been incommunicado via e-mail and Facebook and online generally since July. Prior to that I had been off about a month. And it really does feel like this year has gone by in an eyeblink without me even noticing...

So, what have I been doing (other than worrying people)? I have been obsessively reading if I wasn't sleeping. I read all the Honorverse novels, most of the Grimspace books, several Vine books, a couple old "medical curiosities" books, a few short story anthologies, a few random short stories... When it comes time to update all that, it'll be a long day for me on Goodreads. And Shelfari. And LibraryThing. I have taken extensive notes on most of the books I've read, but I still may or may not actually write reviews for all of them, because damn... that's a lot of reviews to write.

Each fortnight I trundle myself off to my oncologist and have poison medication put into my veins through the port in my arm, then go to the hospital to be hooked up to a home infusion unit for a couple more days of chemical fun. Thank goodness I don't have some of the sorts of side effects that are mentioned by characters in the short story anthology Let's Scare Cancer to Death, which I read a couple weeks ago. I have not had a lot of nausea and zero throwing up, about which I am most happy because I really do hate throwing up. Since coming off the oxaliplatin I don't have problems with cold things, nor do I have muscle spasms, which is wonderful. Mostly my digestive system is out of balance, and I tend to be very tired, and wear out very quickly when I do much of anything. However, the treatment is helping, the tumors and liver lesions are shrinking, so we'll be continuing this treatment until a) it stops working and needs to be changed or b) the liver lesions are gone, at which point we can do surgery to remove the big tumors in my abdomen. I've regained all the weight I lost, so am back to where I was in 2012. Which, as it turns out, is too much, because it is negatively affecting the fit of my colostomy wafer. So now I have to try to lose some of that weight again. I just can't win! But such minor annoyances are nothing compared to what others have gone through, and what others ARE going through.

Speaking of Let's Scare Cancer to Death, it is a charity anthology. All monies raised will go to cancer research, so go ye forth and buy.

Meanwhile, know I am so grateful to my friends who have texted me on occasion to let me know they're thinking of me, and I found a lot of similar messages on Facebook as well. This means a lot to me. I am going to try to catch up with my e-mail, but likely I will be quiet for a long time while I'm doing that due to the volume of it. So, be patient with me! Meanwhile, know I love you all, and here's a big ol' hug for you!

Word Crimes

For my writer, editor, and general grammatically oriented friends...


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Review: On Basilisk Station

On Basilisk Station
On Basilisk Station by David Weber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Sci-Fi/Military Sci Fi/Space Opera
Reading Level: Adult
Diversity: multicultural, women as leaders
Tense, Person, POV: Past tense, third person, POV varies
Recommended for: fans of sci-fi, military or space opera
Trigger Warnings: violence, attempted and actual murder, historical mention of rape attempt, drug pushing, dueling
Offensive Wording: offensive wording used to label the Medusans; on character calls another “faggot” as an insult

My Thoughts: This is my 3rd time reading this excellent book; I've just never reviewed it before. It is the first book in the Honor Harrington series, of which I believe there are now 14 books, plus several books in spin-off series and anthologies. Needless to say I won't be listing the series information on these reviews, as it would just take up too much time.

Meet Honor Harrington. Her catchphrase is “Let's be about it, people.” She has a wonderful way of inspiring people to follow her example and give their fullest efforts. We meet a lot of great people in this book, people who we will see again, people we will grow to care for... people who David Weber might kill. Be prepared for a body count, this is as much military sci-fi as it is space opera. I found it bittersweet. There is a good bit of humor, however, such as:
McKeon says: “You know Hauptman is going to deny they had anything to do with it [smuggling].”

“Forty-three million in illegal peltries? Of course they will, just as
Mondragon's captain insists the space fairies must have brought them,” Honor said ironically.

Or this:
WAGs... That's a technical term we engineers use. It means 'Wild-Assed Guess'.”
If you enjoy sci-fi, whether it be military or space opera, definitely check this out. Also, those who (like me) love the idea of sentient cats (the treecats) will really enjoy meeting Nimitz! I hope you will enjoy this book as much as I did!

Disclosure: This book was owned by my husband before we met. I've also acquired an e-book version. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Having made Sonja Hemphill look a fool, she's been exiled to Basilisk Station in disgrace and set up for ruin by a superior who hates her.

Her demoralized crew blames her for their ship's humiliating posting to an out-of-the-way picket station.

The aborigines of the system's only habitable planet are smoking homicide-inducing hallucinogens.

Parliament isn't sure it wants to keep the place; the major local industry is smuggling; the merchant cartels want her head; the star-conquering, so-called "Republic" of Haven is Up To Something; and Honor Harrington has a single, over-age light cruiser with an armament that doesn't work to police the entire star system.

But the people out to get her have made one mistake. They've made her mad.

View all my reviews

Thursday, June 26, 2014

@AuthorRSBelcher #Review of #ARC THE SHOTGUN ARCANA by R.S. Belcher

The Shotgun Arcana by R.S. Belcher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Weird Western
Reading Level: Adult
Diversity: GLBTQ characters, various religions, interracial relationships
Tense, Person, POV: Past tense, third person, limited POV
Recommended for: Fans of Weird Westerns, Lovecraftian books, steampunk
Book Available: October 7, 2014 in Hardcover and Kindle formats
Trigger Warnings: murder, mutilation, torture, mention of necrophilia, cannibalism
Animals: at least one horse killed

My Thoughts: These are listed as steampunk, but thus far there is limited steampunkery. To me, this is mostly a Weird Western with strong Lovecraftian influences. There are also very many stretches of interesting philosophical discussion between the various characters that I quite enjoyed. For instance:
God simply is,” Bick said. “Humanity embraced It. They gave It color and gender, shape and form. They put words in Its mouth. They always have, and they still do, perhaps they always will. I always experience God as a 'He,' but God is too vast to be held prisoner by language or biology.

...What things do you think the Almighty was whispering in my ear all those countless eons? Words of endearment? Of joy and peace and love? No. He dipped his tongue in the blackest blood and he whispered to me of slaughter, of death of torture and atrocity. That is your creator, Biqa. He built this entire lovely, lovely playground so that he could tear it apart, abuse and neglect his toys and listen to the terrified screams of the monkeys as they tried to understand.

Where did payback end exactly? Charlie Upton had murdered Jim's Pa. Jim killed Charlie. One day Jim might get shot or hanged for what he did to Charlie and sometone like Mutt or Jon Highfather might seek revenge in his name. How far back did the blood flow? When was it enough? Could anything ever get square?
I'm enjoying the character development in these books. Mutt, for example, has really loosened up, and he's quite funny in this book. Jon is off a lot, leaving Mutt and Jim to take care of business in the town. Doc Tumblety is such a creeper, and of course incompetent to boot. As Jon Highfather states: “And that's our first-rate medical care here in sunny Golgotha. He may seem pretty horrible at first, but after awhile you come to realize that deep down inside, he's much worse than that.” He's very misogynistic, saying at one point to Kate, “Hush now... Men are talking.” As for Kate, she makes a great addition to the cast and to the town; I hope we'll see her again! I enjoyed the bits and pieces of Chinese history and legends that Ch'eng Huang provides to Jim as he is instructing him on how to use the jade eye. I was more than a bit troubled by the inclusion of the Thuggee, as their worship of Kali Ma is a perversion. It is true Kali Ma is the Mother-Destroyer, the one who must destroy the world so it can be remade anew, but that doesn't mean that people should be going around randomly murdering in her name.

Also, it is mentioned off-hand that Baba Yaga came to Golgotha, albeit briefly. She is not mentioned by name, but a house on chicken legs is a dead giveaway. I do hope that this story will be told in full; maybe the author has a number of these little anecdotes that he could use to put together an anthology of short stories set in Golgotha?

Toward the end, Clay and a Professor Zenith have a “science showdown” that is wonderfully fun as they shout at one another, using very civilized language and high-toned insults. It struck my funny bone and hopefully I won't be the only one amused by it. At the end, Clay says, “I swear... anyone with a little copper tubing and a dynamo thinks they're a scientist these days.

This is an excellent follow-up and I'm grateful to the author for sending me this ARC so I didn't have to wait until October to read it! I haven't commented on editing because this is an uncorrected proof, so any errors I spotted will likely be cleaned up by the final draft. Definitely check this out if it sounds like the sort of book you'd like!

Series Information: The Golgotha series
Book 1: The Six-Gun Tarot, review linked here where formatting allowed
Book 2: The Shotgun Arcana

Disclosure: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: 1870. A haven for the blessed and the damned, including a fallen angel, a mad scientist, a pirate queen, and a deputy who is kin to coyotes, Golgotha has come through many nightmarish trials, but now an army of thirty-two outlaws, lunatics, serial killers, and cannibals are converging on the town, drawn by a grisly relic that dates back to the Donner Party… and the dawn of humanity.

Sheriff Jon Highfather and his deputies already have their hands full dealing with train robbers, a mysterious series of brutal murders, and the usual outbreaks of weirdness.  But with thirty-two of the most vicious killers on Earth riding into Golgotha in just a few day’s time, the town and its people will be tested as never before—and some of them will never be the same.

View all my reviews

Review: The Science of Vampires

The Science of Vampires
The Science of Vampires by Katherine Ramsland

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Non-fiction, exploration of mythology/legends/lore
Reading Level: Adults
Recommended for: The vampire obsessed

My Thoughts: Honestly, I was a bit disappointed in this book. Oh, there's a lot of information, and lots of other books that are referenced, but I wanted something more scientific, and this was more the exploration of the myths and legends with a sort of “what if?” theme, and the cultural phenomenon of vampires and those trying to emulate them. If you're vampire obsessed and want to read everything about vampires you can put your hands upon, then you will likely find something of interest in this book.

Disclosure: This book was given to me as a gift. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Are any vampire myths based on fact?

Bloodsucking villain to guilt-ridden loner—what has inspired the redemption of the vampire in fiction and film?

What is Vampire Personality Disorder? What causes a physical addiction to another person’s blood?

Are there any boundaries in the polysexual world of vampires?

How could a vampire hide in today’s world of advanced forensic science?

What is the psychopathology of the vampire?

What happens in the brain of a vampire’s victim?

View all my reviews

Review: Death by Zamboni

Death by Zamboni
Death by Zamboni by David David Katzman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Satire/Parody of PI Noir
Reading Level: Adult
Tense, Person, POV: Past tense, first person, POV of narrator
Recommended for: people who like bizarro and satire/parodies

My Thoughts: This book is... I don't even know what to say about it. Bizarre. Crazy. Disheveled. And I quite enjoyed reading it. Be sure to check out the "sponsored by..." located next to each chapter number. Honestly, there are times this book reminds me of a short parody of a PI novel that I wrote back in high school, but much better done, of course. Some examples to give you a taste for the book (in which there are no zambonis, by the way):
Remember when you were a kid letting Elmer's® Glue dry on your fingertips or making hand casts out of Elmer's® and then peeling them off? Remember trying to plug your butt-hole with Elmer's® because you were afraid the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were going to come riding out of your rear and this world was going to end? Don't worry, we've all done that at one time or another. Her perfume reminded me of those times.

I smelled danger, so I decided to pack some serious artillery. While working on my last case—The Case of the Juggler's Jugular—I unfortunately allowed myself to be dangerously unprepared. I was in a bathroom stall taking a dump when I was surrounded by two Doberman pinschers, four gang-bangers, five dirty cops, six ninja assassins, twenty members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and a partridge in a pear tree. All trying to kill me. The only weapons I had on me were a rubber band and a Pez® dispenser. Fortunately, I'm a master of Pez® Fu, but it was still a tough fight for the first twenty-two minutes.
Basically, I laughed a lot. And that, for me, is a highly successful read. If you like bizarro, parodies or satire of PI novels, or just something really strange, then check this book out.

Disclosure: I won this book in a giveaway. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: A sweeping American romance spanning five American generations in America. 

Oh, wait, that's some other crappy novel. In “Death by Zamboni”, you'll follow our anti-hero Satan Donut through a world of mimes, TV stars, zombies, blockheads, mad scientists, riot girls, and werewolves. This genre-busting satire shish-kabobs the commercial-entertainment state which degrades our lives and makes everyone stupid. But on a happy note, at least you've got your health.

View all my reviews

#Review: "The Miniaturist" by Jessie Burton

The MiniaturistThe Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Historical Literary Fiction
Reading Level: Adult
Tense, Person, POV: third person, present tense, limited omniscient POV
Diversity: GLBTQ, interracial relationship
Recommended for: Fans of historical literary fiction, interested in 17th century Amsterdam
Book Available: August 26, 2014 in Hardcover, Kindle, Large Print paperback, and August 15 in a prerecorded Digital Audio Player.
Trigger Warnings: torture, capital punishment—those sentenced to execution are thrown into the sea with a weight around their neck to drown
Animals: someone opens a window and lets out a parakeet; kittens and puppies left in bags to die, or thrown into river to drown, dog is murdered

My Thoughts: Amsterdam: “Where the pendulum swings from God to a guilder.” 17th century Amsterdam, to put it mildly, is not a place I would want to spend my time. This book is hard to define, but to me it is about hypocrisy, greed, religion, mob mentality, life and death, beginnings and endings. There is a lot going on in this book, and the thing with the miniaturist is very strange. Is she just able to put together information due to intuition, or does she has a psychic gift? It is never answered, and we never catch more than a glimpse of her. I think the cabinet is a metaphor for Nella's life in general, and how she feels trapped. There is a great deal of emphasis placed upon the roles of women and men, as well as the repressive nature of religion at the time. The sense of fear and paranoia soaks this book.

There are a lot of things that I found quite interesting, and don't forget the excellent glossary and appendix in the back of the book. I had a really hard time with the offhand way that people treated animals, so be aware of that if you are sensitive to that; it was, however, sadly a part of the society of the time, and historically accurate, so it was necessary. If this sounds like an interesting book for you, definitely check it out. It's not the sort of thing I would ordinarily read, but despite the rating I would be comfortable recommending this book.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office-leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella's world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist—an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes' gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand-and fear-the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

View all my reviews

@MercedesLackey #Review "Reboots" by Cody Martin and Mercedes Lackey

RebootsReboots by Mercedes Lackey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Science Fiction/fantasy cross-genre. Monsters in Space, essentially
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: fans of cross-genre stories, sci-fi, urban fantasy
Trigger Warnings: violence

My Thoughts: I ran across Mercedes Lackey signing books at Dragon Con quite by accident. What a happy accident!

This consists of two novellas. It is part of the Stellar Guild series, novellas written by a well-known author and a new author that is being mentored by him or her. The first novella (“Bad Moon Rising” by Cody Martin) is a space opera with monsters, and the second (“Bullets” by Mercedes Lackey) is more PI/noir. They are both very fun stories! I do recommend that readers pay very close attention in “Bad Moon Rising,” because every time there is a break in the text, one is being sent to a new narrator, which can be a bit confusing at first. Still, I enjoyed the stories and now I want the rest...

Series Information: The Stellar Guide series
Book 1: Reboots
Book 2: Tau Ceti
Book 3: On the Train
Book 4: When the Blue Shift Comes
Book 5: New Under the Sun
Book 6: The Aethers of Mars

Disclosure: I bought this book for myself at Dragon Con. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Space travel is tough. No air, cosmic radiation, absolute lack of other life-sustaining essentials.

What better way to deal with space travel than to man ships with creatures that regenerate or don’t need air, or are immune to various maladies?

In a future world where zombies, vampires and werewolves co-exist with ‘normal’ humans on Earth, these ships are staffed by a motley crew of various types of undead or near-dead creatures.

Of course no one really knows what happens when zombies and vampires are squeezed together in the close confines of a spaceship.

Don’t you love surprises?

View all my reviews

Friday, June 6, 2014

Review: The Dark World

The Dark World
The Dark World by Cara Lynn Shultz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Recommended for: fans of YA that are tired of love triangles, heroes that try to protect the heroine by hiding her away, and heroines that are annoying. Those who enjoy a good story with quirky and fun characters.
Trigger Warnings: violence, killing

My Thoughts: Holy cliffhangers, Batman! If you have a problem with cliffhangers, you will probably be enraged by this book, which ends on a significant cliffhanger, with no news as to when the next book in the series will be available, only that there will be another book. All I can say is that I hope it is written and released soon, because I desperately want to know what happens next.

Oh, yeah, I really enjoyed this book overall. There were a few problems—for example, “whom” is misused every single time it is used, and “mere” is seriously overused (such as “mere moments” or “mere inches” etc.). However, I really liked the characters. Ajax is just a hoot, and Paige's “I'm the weird girl and that's the way it is” attitude is so very similar to my attitude at that age, so I was really able to relate to her. It was really nice to have a heroine that was quirky and a bit strange; some of the things she came up with were hilarious. For example:
...there was the little matter of me talking to people in the hospital that no one else could see. I went for brain scan after brain scan, tried little white pills, big blue pills, yellow pills—I tasted the rainbow when it came to pills—but the doctors couldn't find anything medically wrong with me.

A tall, dark-haired boy... stared after me curiously. He gave me a slow smile before turning his attention back to Miller. That smile sent chills racing down my arms, leaving gooseflesh in their wake, but not in a good way. It was less Mr. Sexypants and more Mr. Windowless Van.
I also loved that she was so willing to make fun of herself over Logan. It wasn't all drama-drama, weeping and moaning; she was willing to have fun with things and laugh at her own nonsense. For example:
He [Logan] wasn't wearing his baseball cap for once, and the day was bright, almost warm, so his face was bathed in a soft glow from the winter sun. Logan's normally shaded eyes looked a much lighter brown in the sun, and they crinkled up at the corners as he gave me an easy smile.

Are you deliberately screwing with me, sun? What's next? Is his smile going to sparkle as a bell-like “ding” chimes in the distance? Is a butterfly going to land on his shoulder? Give the boy a white horse and it's a wrap for poor Paige's heart.

I reached for my bag but Logan refused, insisting on carrying it. Because he just had to do perfect gentlemanly things that made me like him even more. That bastard.
I enjoyed Paige's relationship with her dad, despite his belief that she was crazy and talked to people who weren't there. His over protectiveness is on display in this scene:
Sure enough, a minute later my dad poked his head in just to check and see if we needed anything. Then he made sure the door was as wide open as possible. And tested the lock. And studied the hinges, possibly contemplating removing the door from the frame. And then he left. Probably to go collect his award for Most Embarrassing Dad of All Time That Ever Existed in the History of Everything.
I also liked that Logan didn't just try to keep Paige safe by hiding her away and protecting her, but actually was willing to help her learn how to defend herself. And it was really refreshing to have a young adult book without a love triangle. See, it can be done!

So, despite any faults, an enjoyable book, and the first book in a new series that I will definitely be following. Keep in mind the cliffhanger ending; if that sort of thing bothers you, you might want to wait until the next book is at least announced so you aren't left hanging! But if this sounds like your cup of tea, I definitely recommend it.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Paige Kelly is used to weird--in fact, she probably corners the market on weird, considering that her best friend, Dottie, has been dead since the 1950s. But when a fire demon attacks Paige in detention, she has to admit that things have gotten out of her league. Luckily, the cute new boy in school, Logan Bradley, is a practiced demon slayer—and he isn't fazed by Paige's propensity to chat with the dead. Suddenly, Paige is smack in the middle of a centuries-old battle between warlocks and demons, learning to fight with a magic sword so that she can defend herself. And if she makes one wrong move, she'll be pulled into the Dark World, an alternate version of our world that's overrun by demons—and she might never make it home.

View all my reviews

Review: City of Stairs

City of Stairs
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Mystery/fantasy
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Folks who like to think deep thoughts, enjoy a good story
Book Available: September 9, 2014 in paperback and Kindle formats
Trigger Warnings: murder, slavery (historically), religious persecution

My Thoughts: I really enjoy cross-genre stories, and this one hits a few of my favorite buttons: a mystery in a fantasy world. To make things even better, it is a multi-layered story that brings up issues of slavery, personal and religious freedom, and the abuse of power. It was a really excellent story. This little segment, which is before the first page of the first chapter, really encapsulates some of the ideas that are explored in the story, and also express my thoughts on organized religion pretty well.
And Olvos said to them: “Why have you done this, my children? Why is the sky wreathed with smoke? Why have you made war in far places, and shed blood in strange lands?

And they said to Her: “You blessed us as Your people, and we rejoiced, and were happy. But we found those who were not Your people, and they would not become Your people, and they were willful and ignorant of You. They would not open their ears to Your songs, or lay Your words upon their tongues. So we dashed them upon the rocks and threw down their houses and shed their blood and scattered them to the winds, and we were right to do so. For we are Your people. We carry Your blessings. We are Yours, and so we are right. Is this not what You said?”

And Olvos was silent.
I was very amused by the anti-bureaucracy sentiments expressed in the book, too, as shown in these segments:
There is no crueler hells then committee work.

Shara now sits on committees that decide who shall be nominated to be committee chairs for other committees, then, after these meetings, she sits on committee meetings to formulate agendas for future meetings, and after them, she attends committee meetings deciding who shall be appointed to appoint appointments to committees.

These meetings, they're like thieves—they follow you around, wait until you're not looking, and pounce.
I really liked the characters, and the development of those characters. The changes are slow and subtle, just like in life, but end up being life-altering in the end. It was very well done. I was left with a lot of lingering thoughts about power and powerlessness and how those who initially lacked power will often abuse it once they have it. The Saypuri were treated as slaves under the control of the Continentals, and when they finally rose up and overthrew them, the Saypuri persecuted the Continentals, refusing to allow them to so much as mention their gods (or Divinities), forbidding “miracles” (essentially magic spells), and denying the Continentals their own history or access to their own texts from the past. One would think that it would be common sense to not do something like that, as it just leads to more conflict, but then again, the lust for power rarely bows to common sense or logic.

So, a really good book. It made me think and ponder on various topics, many of them quite weighty, while at the same time providing an entertaining story. I recommend this to anyone who likes deep thoughts, a good story, and a cross-genre tale. This book won't be available until September, but you can pre-order it if it sounds like your thing.

Disclosure: I received an ARC/proof copy from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Years ago, the city of Bulikov wielded the powers of the Gods to conquer the world. But after its divine protectors were mysteriously killed, the conqueror has become the conquered; the city's proud history has been erased and censored, progress has left it behind, and it is just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power. Into this musty, backward city steps Shara Divani. Officially, the quiet, mousy woman is just another lowly diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, Shara is one of her country's most accomplished spymasters—dispatched to investigate the brutal murder of a seemingly harmless historian. As Shara pursues the mystery through the ever-shifting physical and political geography of the city, she begins to suspect that the beings who once protected Bulikov may not be as dead as they seem—and that her own abilities might be touched by the divine as well.

View all my reviews

Monday, June 2, 2014

Review: The Night Angel Trilogy

The Night Angel Trilogy
The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Actual rating: 3.5

Book Info: Genre: Dark epic fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult to Adult
Recommended for:
Trigger Warnings: murder, killing, assassination, violence, rape (M/M and M/F), torture, mutilation, stealing, slavery, infidelity, sexual assault, cannibalism, danger to child/kidnapping

My Thoughts: This is a general review of the overall series. To read the reviews of the books in the trilogy, go to the individual reviews on each book's page.

This is a dark, gritty epic fantasy. The first book of the series feels oriented toward young adult readers, having the typical fantasy coming-of-age tropes. However, by book two the writing is more oriented to adults and the sorts of problems inherent in ruling and judging and generally being adult and taking responsibility for your own actions. While many of the themes remain dark, by the end of the third book in the trilogy there is a strong feeling of hope and redemption.

The first book in the trilogy is rife with editing errors, and the third book also has a number of them. Only the second book in the series shows decent editing. I'm not sure why this is. The first book also relied strongly on tropes, but as the trilogy continues you can see the author's vision of the story opening up and also see the author's craft improving. All in all, a satisfying and interesting trilogy, and one I'd recommend to fans of dark epic fantasy.

Series Information: The Night Angel Trilogy
Book 1: The Way of Shadows, review linked here
Book 2: Shadow's Edge, review linked here
Book 3: Beyond the Shadows, review linked here

Disclosure: I purchased the omnibus edition of the trilogy for myself. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: 3 volumes in one giant omnibus edition.
"Way of Shadows", "Shadow's Edge", "Beyond the Shadows": all in one beautiful hardcover edition

View all my reviews

Review: Beyond the Shadows

Beyond the Shadows
Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Dark epic fantasy
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: fans of dark epic fantasy
Trigger Warnings: murder, killing, assassination, violence, rape (mentioned but not seen), torture, mutilation, stealing, slavery

My Thoughts: After the first book in this series, it turns more into adult fare. I neglected to mention this in the review for book 2. Also, although not as bad as the first book, this one again has a number of editing errors, including misused words and many missing words. I just can't fathom how this happened; aren't publishing houses supposed to have superior editing staff?

However, all in all, this is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. The ending is a bit abrupt after all the build-up, incorporating a certain element of deus ex machina, but at the same time it makes sense based on the hints that are dropped over the course of books 2 and 3. The author has said he plans to write further books in this universe, set at a point some years in the future, and I will definitely be watching for those. Many of my problems with the first book, such as overuse of tropes, is cleaned up by the end of the series; you can see how the author has grown in writing. I will, in fact, be seeking out more works by this talented author. If you enjoy dark, gritty fantasy that has elements of redemption and hope, then definitely check this trilogy out.

Series Information: The Night Angel Trilogy
Book 1: The Way of Shadows, review linked here
Book 2: Shadow's Edge, review linked here
Book 3: Beyond the Shadows

Disclosure: I purchased the omnibus edition of the trilogy for myself. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Logan Gyre is king of Cenaria, a country under siege, with a threadbare army and little hope. He has one chance—a desperate gamble, but one that could destroy his kingdom.

In the north, the new Godking has a plan. If it comes to fruition, no one will have the power to stop him.

Kylar Stern has no choice. To save his friends—and perhaps his enemies—he must accomplish the impossible: assassinate a goddess.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 30, 2014

Review: Shadow's Edge

Shadow's Edge
Shadow's Edge by Brent Weeks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Dark epic fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Recommended for: fans of dark epic fantasy
Trigger Warnings: murder, killing, assassination, violence, rape, torture, mutilation, stealing, slavery, cannibalism, danger to child/kidnapping, sexual assault

My Thoughts: This second book in the Night Angel trilogy is much better edited than the first book, which is very strange; I guess maybe there was a different editor? Why they wouldn't have had an editor go through the omnibus edition to check for consistency I don't know but there it is.

Things move along very quickly in this book. Kylar learns more about his abilities and Talent, as well as the “extras” that the ka'kari provides him. I was very happy about some of the people who are disposed of in this book, and also intrigued by some of the new characters that show up. One this this author is very good at is creating characters that will cause a reaction in the reader, be it good or bad. There is a great deal of gray in the series, where the bad guys aren't really evil so much as twisted, and the heroes are often damaged in ways that make them less than perfect. I like this sort of thing.

If you like dark epic fantasy, with an antihero and lots of violence, check out this trilogy. Don't let the problems with the first book put you off; this one is better.

Series Information: The Night Angel Trilogy
Book 1: The Way of Shadows, review linked here
Book 2: Shadow's Edge
Book 3: Beyond the Shadows

Disclosure: I purchased the omnibus edition of the trilogy for myself. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Kylar Stern has rejected the assassin's life. The Godking's successful coup has left Kylar's master, Durzo, and his best friend, Logan, dead. He is starting over: new city, new friends, and new profession. 

But when he learns that Logan might actually be alive and in hiding, Kylar is faced with an agonizing choice: will he give up the way of shadows forever and live in peace with his new family, or will he risk everything by taking on the ultimate hit?

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review: The Way of Shadows

The Way of Shadows
The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Dark epic fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Recommended for: older YA, fans of dark epic fantasy who don't mind typical tropes
Trigger Warnings: murder, killing, assassination, violence, rape (mostly M/M), torture, mutilation, stealing, slavery, cannibalism, infidelity

My Thoughts: The beginning of this book is pretty typical epic fantasy fare, other than the fact that our hero is an antihero. But Azoth is an orphan, he's taken in against the odds by a powerful man who learns that Azoth is more than he appears, rising up from his poverty-stricken roots, etc. And, of course, the love interest that is forbidden. Still, once Kylar is on the scene, things heat up and I found myself tearing through the pages to find out what happened next. So don't let the typical trope throw you off from reading this book if it sounds like something in which you are interested.

However, I was astounded by the sloppy editing on this book. It was released through one of Hatchett's publishing groups, and editing errors were heavily scattered through the book. There is a part where Azoth calls another character by his first name in a familiar manner, even though he has not yet met that character and really doesn't know much about him. And there are a lot of missing words from sentences. I'm amazed that a professional editor working for a major publisher would be so sloppy. If that will bother you, keep it in mind.

Still I did enjoy the book, despite how dark it often is. If you like dark epic fantasy, antiheroes, and don't mind the typical tropes and editing problems, then check this one out.

Series Information: The Night Angel Trilogy
Book 1: The Way of Shadows
Book 2: Shadow's Edge
Book 3: Beyond the Shadows

Disclosure: I purchased the omnibus edition of the trilogy for myself. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art-and he is the city's most accomplished artist. 

For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he's grown up in the slums, and learned to judge people quickly—and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins' world of dangerous politics and strange magics—and cultivate a flair for death.

View all my reviews

Monday, May 26, 2014

Review: The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities
The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities by Ann VanderMeer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Satire/speculative shorts
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Those who enjoy speculative fiction and clever storytelling

My Thoughts: I learned about cabinets of curiosities from reading the Pendergast novels by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. One of the novels is actually titled The Cabinet of Curiosities and it explains what these are. Basically, a cabinet of curiosities is a private collection of interesting and odd things, which were quite popular in the 19th century. Whatever the person putting it together is interested in would be collected. In this collection of short, speculative, essay-type stories, the various writers describe the stories behind the items in Thackery T. Lambshead's cabinet of curiosities.

This book is not as funny as the book of fake diseases I just read, but it is still wonderfully well done. The various authors have written of their assigned objects so convincingly that I often found myself thinking that I should look up more information on one thing or another, but of course the chances are that they were just making things up. However, there were some fairly funny stories, such as the story “Diminutions” by Michael Moorcock, in which some men decide to bring the Gospel to germs, and to receive some extra funding:
Bannister... persuaded the governors that, if a will to do evil motivated these microns, then the influence of the Christian religion was bound to have an influence for good. This meant, logically, that fewer boys would be in the infirmary and that, ultimately, shamed by the consequences of their actions, the germs causing, say, tuberculosis would cease to spread.” [p. 169]
I enjoyed the stories by Charles Yu and Garth Nix so much that I plan to look through their available works to find new books for my wishlist. So, yeah, I really enjoyed this one, too.

If you are interested in this book, or if you read and enjoyed it, then you should check out the earlier anthology, The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases (review linked here). And if you haven't read this one yet, definitely check it out; it's really fascinating and the stories are very well done.

Disclosure: I bought this book for myself. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: The death of Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead in 2003 at his house in Wimpering-on-the-Brook, England, revealed an astonishing discovery: the remains of a remarkable cabinet of curiosities.

A carefully selected group of popular artists and acclaimed, bestselling fantasy authors has been assembled to bring Dr. Lambshead’s cabinet of curiosities to life. Including contributions from Alan Moore, Lev Grossman, Mike Mignola, China Miéville, Cherie Priest, Carrie Vaughn, Greg Broadmore, Naomi Novik, Garth Nix, Michael Moorcock, Holly Black, Jeffrey Ford, Ted Chiang, and many more.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 23, 2014

Review: The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases

The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases
The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases by Mark Roberts

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Medical Guide Satire/Speculative fiction shorts
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Anyone who likes a laugh

My Thoughts: If you want to know what sort of lunacy to expect from this book, here is just a tiny taste.
Discussing Ballistic Organ Syndrome: “In rare cases, the Ballistitis virus infects the patient's entire body. Eventually, some event causes one or more cells to rupture, after which the patient's body is disrupted in an explosive ejection of all bodily organs. This manifestation of the syndrome frequently occasions the death of the patient; at best, the loss of all bodily organs will cause considerable inconvenience and distress (as set out in Doctor Buckhead Mudthumper's Encyclopedia of Forgotten Oriental Diseases).” [pg. 4]

Letter to Dr. Wexler, of whom the writers are not fond: “Dear Sir: Kindly send your anthrax-soaked missives elsewhere. And if you want to get serious about contagious letters, then invest in some smallpox like a normal person.” [pg. 286]
There are also a couple cookbooks mentioned that sound interesting: “French Cuisine with Codeine” and “Mousses with Morphine”.

I will point out that I would not say this book is lavishly illustrated. Each entry generally has only a single illustration; sometimes there is a second at the end of the section. Now, The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, which I'll be reading and reviewing next, does have a lot of pictures. But this one, not so much.

Still, if you like a laugh, you'll enjoy the clever way each author creates a “character” for themselves, and the creative uses of real information mixed with their own creations that fill this satirical book. I enjoyed it a lot.

Disclosure: I bought this book for myself. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: “Imagine if Monty Python wrote the Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, and you sort of get the idea. Afraid you’re afflicted with an unknown malady? Finally you have a place to turn!” —Book Sense

You hold in your hands the most complete and official guide to imaginary ailments ever assembled—each disease carefully documented by the most stellar collection of speculative fiction writers ever to play doctor. Detailed within for your reading and diagnostic pleasure are the frightening, ridiculous, and downright absurdly hilarious symptoms, histories, and possible cures to all the ills human flesh isn’t heir to, including Ballistic Organ Disease, Delusions of Universal Grandeur, and Reverse Pinocchio Syndrome.

Lavishly illustrated with cunning examples of everything that can’t go wrong with you, the Lambshead Guide provides a healthy dose of good humor and relief for hypochondriacs, pessimists, and lovers of imaginative fiction everywhere. Even if you don’t have Pentzler’s Lubriciousness or Tian Shan-Gobi Assimilation, the cure for whatever seriousness may ail you is in this remarkable collection.

View all my reviews

@RealJonLister @JTaylorPub #Giveaway BULLET ARC Giveaway

J. Taylor Publishing is giving away FIVE ARCs of Bullet by Jonathan Lister!

Check it out!

A father’s love doesn’t bend, so what happens when it breaks?
Corruption, dark truths, and a new Alpha mean Leon Gray’s days of running without a pack are over. At least, that’s what everyone but him believes.

He’d rather be helping his teenage daughter navigate the landmine life of a full werewolf, finish out his servitude as bodyguard to a former Demos City reporter and, in all honesty, not be taken advantage of by a beautiful woman who really only wants him for his body—figuratively and metaphorically.

Of course, the only way any of that might happen is if he’s dead. That’s likely given the information the reporter has unearthed and the territorial battles already underway between packs. If only Demos City’s corruption didn’t have such deep roots—older than the bones of the city or any of the werewolves who’ve decided to claim it. A city can only take so many power hungry mongrels invading it at one time, and Leon can only take so much knowing his daughter lives within its boundaries.

War has come to Demos City.

It’s up to Leon to fix … what’s most important to him.
Ready to see what trouble Leon Gray's getting into next? If you love werewolf goodness at its urban fantasy finest, then you are going to love this next addition to the Demos City Novels.
And J. Taylor Publishing is giving away FIVE ARC copies.
You don’t even have to be a book blogger!
Nope, so long as you are willing to leave an honest review* by June 16th 2014, you are eligible to enter.
Then just fill out the form and keep your fingers crossed.
You have until midnight of May 28th, 2014 to enter.
*A review should consist of your honest thoughts regarding a book, usually a few paragraphs long and around 150 - 500 (or more, if desired) words in length.

About Jonathan Lister:

Jonathan Lister is a full-time writer with work appearing in outlets of USA Today, The Houston Chronicle and many others. A graduate of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University, he’s waited an unspeakable amount of tables en route to having the career he wants, and the ability to the tell stories he loves. Crossroads is Jonathan’s first book-length work of fiction. He currently lives in the Philadelphia area and continues to drink too much coffee.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Review: A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Greatest Empire

A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Greatest Empire
A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Greatest Empire by J.C. McKeown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Non-fiction, historical anecdotes
Reading Level: Any who can read it can learn some fun facts about Rome
Recommended for: Anyone interested in learning fun and interesting facts about the Romans

My Thoughts: There are a number of quotes from the book in the synopsis, but I just have to add a few of my own that I found funny, such as:
Romans on Dealing with Children:
Pliny states, in “Natural History”, “Putting goat dung in their diapers soothes hyperactive children, especially girls.” [pg. 5]

Romans on Solving Marital Discord:
Livy reports that about 170 women from leading families were convicted in 331 B.C. of poisoning their husbands. Other sources give even larger numbers. [pg. 8]

Romans' Preferred Animal to keep Watch:
Marcus Manlius Capitolinus saved the Capitol from the Gauls in the early 4th century B.C. when he was alerted to their approach by the cackling of Juno's sacred geese. [pg. 19]

Romans Naming Themselves:
Caracalla [ruled A.D. 211—217] called himself Germanicus after victories over the Germans, and it was said that he was mad enough and stupid enough to say that, had he conquered Lucania [a region in southern Italy], he would have claimed the title Lucanicus [which means not only “Lucanian” but also “sausage”]. (Historia Augusta Life of Caracalla 5). [pg. 21]

Romans on Successful Grape Cultivation:
Vines should be freed for a few days from the trees to which they were attached, and allowed to wander and spread themselves, and lie on the ground they have gazed at for the whole year. Just as cattle released from the yoke and the dogs after a hunt enjoy rolling about, so vines also like to stretch their lumbar regions.” (Pliny Natural History 17.209) [p. 60]

Romans on Useful Medical Treatments:
Touching the nostrils of a she-mule with one's lips is said to stop sneezing and hiccups” (Pliny Natural History 28.57).
Sexual intercourse is good for lower back pain, for weakness of the eyes, for derangement, and for depression” (Pliny Natural History 28.58). [p. 73]

Romans on Proper Disposition of Criminals:
A justification for vivisection: “It is not cruel, as most people maintain, that remedies for innocent people's ailments in all future ages should be sought through the sufferings of just a few criminals” (Celsus On Medicine Proem 26). [p. 77]

Romans on Making Friends Through Diplomacy:
Cats were regarded as sacred in Egypt. In the mid-1st century B.C., the historian Diodorus Siculus was an eyewitness when an Egyptian mob lynched a member of a Roman embassy who had accidentally killed a cat (The Library 1.83). [p. 121]

Romans on Treating Alcoholism:
People who drink wine in which eels have been drowned lose their appetite for drinking wine” (St. Isidore Etymologies 12.6.41). [p. 151]

Roman Graffiti:
Apollinaris medicus Titi Imp. hic cacavit bene” (“Apollinaris, physician to the emperor Titus, had a fine shit here”) (Corpus of Latin Inscriptions 4.10619, a graffito in the Casa della Gemma in Herculaneum). [pg 186]

Romans on being Scrooge McDuck:
By the end, Caligula had developed a passion for handling money; he would often walk barefoot over huge heaps of gold coin poured out in a large open space, and sometimes he even lay down and wallowed in them (Suetonius, Life of Caligula 42). [pg. 217]
If that isn't enough to pique your interest in this very entertaining book, then just consider the sorts of interesting things you might learn! Because this book is filled with stuff like I've given above, and the author has provided below. I highly recommend this book, and plan to seek out his other book about the Greeks.

Disclosure: This book was a gift from a friend. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Here is a whimsical and captivating collection of odd facts, strange beliefs, outlandish opinions, and other highly amusing trivia of the ancient Romans. We tend to think of the Romans as a pragmatic people with a ruthlessly efficient army, an exemplary legal system, and a precise and elegant language. A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities shows that the Romans were equally capable of bizarre superstitions, logic-defying customs, and often hilariously derisive views of their fellow Romans and non-Romans.

Classicist J. C. McKeown has organized the entries in this entertaining volume around major themes—The Army, Women, Religion and Superstition, Family Life, Medicine, Slaves, Spectacles—allowing for quick browsing or more deliberate consumption. Among the book's many gems are:
Romans on urban living
The satirist Juvenal lists "fires, falling buildings, and poets reciting in August as hazards to life in Rome." 

On enhanced interrogation
"If we are obliged to take evidence from an arena-fighter or some other such person, his testimony is not to be believed unless given under torture." (Justinian) 

On dreams
Dreaming of eating books "foretells advantage to teachers, lecturers, and anyone who earns his livelihood from books, but for everyone else it means sudden death" 

On food
"When people unwittingly eat human flesh, served by unscrupulous restaurant owners and other such people, the similarity to pork is often noted." (Galen) 

On marriage
In ancient Rome a marriage could be arranged even when the parties were absent, so long as they knew of the arrangement, "or agreed to it subsequently." 

On health care
Pliny caustically described medical bills as a "down payment on death," and Martial quipped that "Diaulus used to be a doctor, now he's a mortician. He does as a mortician what he did as a doctor."
For anyone seeking an inglorious glimpse at the underside of the greatest empire in history, A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities offers endless delights.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Review: Fight Club

Fight Club
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Literary fiction
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: those who liked the movie, those who like very violent stories that are twisty
Trigger Warnings: violence, those with arachnophobia beware, making soap out of human collagen, murder, suicidal ideation

My Thoughts: One of the keywords used to describe this book is “nihilism.” I think this is particularly appropriate. Over and over the narrator repeats things like, “Maybe self-improvement isn't the answer... Maybe self-destruction is the answer.” Or, “At the time, my life just seemed too complete, and maybe we have to break everything to make something better out of ourselves.” Or, “It's only after you've lost everything... that you're free to do anything.” It reminds me of a line in a GWAR song: “Sometimes you have to burn everything down so you can have nothing at all.”
I felt I could finally get my hands on everything in the world that didn't work... Nothing was solved when the fighting was over, but nothing mattered.

Me, with my punched-out eyes and dried blood in big black crusty stains on my pants, I'm saying HELLO to everybody at work. HELLO! Look at me. HELLO! I am so ZEN. This is BLOOD. This is NOTHING. Hello. Everything is nothing and it's so cool to be ENLIGHTENED. Like me.
So, as you can see it is not a subtle message, but indeed one that is pounded into the reader over and over, like punches in the face. It's actually rather brilliant, but ultimately depressing if you take it too much to heart. There is much discourse over the ultimate meaning of this book. To put it out there, I think this book is about modern man's search for his place in the world. Men evolved to hunt and fight, and nowadays are more likely to be hunting for a paperclip and fighting for a good parking spot. It has left them at loose ends (thus the wars), and this book is about men seeking a way to turn the tide back to the times when they were providing more meaningful services to humanity.

I've read a few books by Chuck Palahniuk and enjoyed them all, but this one is the best. Which is ironic, since it's also the first book he had published. I've talked to a lot of people who say his earlier work, such as this book, is brilliant, but that it loses a lot of that brilliance in later books. After having read this one, and considering the other books I've read by him, I can see where that comes from. I should re-read those books and see what I think now, if I can find my copies! Anyway, if you saw and liked the movie, or if you like books that will seriously twist your brain, then check this book out. It's a mind-warper.

Disclosure: This book was a gift from a friend. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: The first rule about fight club is you don't talk about fight club.

In his debut novel, Chuck Palahniuk showed himself to be his generation's most visionary satirist. Fight Club's estranged narrator leaves his lackluster job when he comes under the thrall of Tyler Durden, an enigmatic young man who holds secret boxing matches in the basement of bars. There two men fight "as long as they have to." A gloriously original work that exposes what is at the core of our modern world.

View all my reviews

Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: Saga, Volume 1

Saga, Volume 1
Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Science fantasy graphic novel
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Those who enjoy graphic novels, those who enjoy this type of story
Trigger Warnings: murder, violence, those with arachnophobia beware, war, slavery, pedophilia

My Thoughts: I was intrigued by this. Having seen other work by Brian Vaughan, I wanted to see more, and this graphic novel looked like it showcased his writing skills well. The illustration did a bang-up job, just beautifully done. It was an interesting choice, I thought, to have the daughter telling the story, especially since it was obvious she was telling it from some point well into the future.

The rich diversity of races in this galaxy is wonderful, and I really like that not all of them look like humans at the base. In fact, humans are few and far between. I was amused in the early part of the first chapter that the grease monkey was, literally, a monkey. And The Stalk is one of the freakiest things I've ever seen. If you suffer from arachnophobia, be aware that she will be a major trigger.

This is an enjoyable read, with wonderful art. I will definitely want to continue this series. It was left on a bit of a cliffhanger. In fact, if those two people are supposed to be Marko's parents, why are his horns so different? I'd like to know more about the Wreathe natives overall. Volumes 2 and 3 are out, taking us up to issue 18, although it appears there have been 20 issues released so far, so it might be awhile before we see Volume 4. Still, I plan to pick up the next two volumes as soon as I can. If this sounds like someone you would like, don't hesitate to do so as well.

Disclosure: This book was a gift from a friend. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. 

This edition collects issues 1 – 6 of the graphic novel series.

View all my reviews

@dbjacksonauthor #Review THIEFTAKER by D.B. Jackson

Thieftaker review
Author: D.B. Jackson
4 out of 5 stars

Picked this one up at Dragon Con (read all about Dragon Con 2013 here), and since the author was there, I was able to have it signed! Check it out.

Book Info: Genre: Historical urban fantasy/mystery
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: those who enjoy historical fiction and urban fantasy
Trigger Warnings: murder, violence, torture
Animals: dog is killed

My Thoughts: This is a wonderfully twisty mystery, set in a fantastical version of history where magic and mayhem combine in an explosive manner. While Ethan didn't necessarily figure things out as quickly as I did, it's probably because I was seeing things from the outside and not being beaten up every few hours. That has to be a bit distracting, I would think.

While I saw complaints that Ethan didn't spend more time trying to track down the conjurer, I thought it was made pretty clear that the attempts he did make showed the conjurer to be too powerful to be tracked by normal means, and therefore probably not someone he wanted to confront before he was completely ready. I also saw complaints about Sephira's apparent lack of follow-through on her threats to kill Ethan, but again I thought it was made fairly plain that despite her attempts in anger, she actually found him to be valuable and preferred to have him around.

I really enjoyed the mixture of historical events with fantastical elements and a juicy mystery to solve. These sort of cross-genre books are always a lot of fun to read. While not perfect, it was all-in-all an entertaining and enjoyable read. If you like historical fiction, urban fantasy, and mysteries, then you should enjoy this blend of the three.

Series Information: The Thieftaker Chronicles
Book 0.5: A Spell of Vengeance
Book 1: Thieftaker
Book 2: Thieves' Quarry
Book 3: A Plunder of Souls, expected publication 7/8/2014 by Tor Books

Disclosure: I purchased this book for myself at Dragon Con 2013 and had it signed there. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Boston, 1767: In D.B. Jackson's "Thieftaker, "revolution is brewing as the British Crown imposes increasingly onerous taxes on the colonies, and intrigue swirls around firebrands like Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty. But for Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker who makes his living by conjuring spells that help him solve crimes, politics is for others... until he is asked to recover a brooch worn by the murdered daughter of a prominent family.

Suddenly, he faces another conjurer of enormous power, someone unknown, who is part of a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of power in the turbulent colony. His adversary has already killed—and not for his own gain, but in the service of his powerful masters, people for whom others are mere pawns in a game of politics and power. Ethan is in way over his head, and he knows it. Already a man with a dark past, he can ill afford to fail, lest his livelihood be forfeit. But he can't stop now, for his magic has marked him, so he must fight the odds, even though he seems hopelessly overmatched, his doom seeming certain at the spectral hands of one he cannot even see.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Review: Retribution

Retribution by A.J. Scudiere

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: fans of suspense/thrillers
Trigger Warnings: murder, violence

My Thoughts: “What does not kill me had better start running.” After five years, just as Sin and Lee are starting to relax into their roles as Diana and Will, it all starts to unravel. Personally, I had trouble with this on a suspension of disbelief level, because Sin and Lee were so deeply buried, I don't know how anyone managed to figure out who they were, let alone find them. However, I didn't have a lot of time to think about it, because...

The story is fast-paced and relentless. There is also a bit of despair evident, especially in Will/Lee.
We aren't clean... We won't ever be clean again. We're as dirty as they come, and our reasoning and our beliefs never changed our willingness to pull the trigger. We were judge and jury on those souls and—while I still think we were in the right—even 'vigilante' is too tame a term for what we were. We'll never truly scrub that off. You have to know that.
The plot is full of twists and turns, and there are a lot of discoveries made regarding family through the story. I have to wonder if the author had planned this from the beginning, or if she decided later to turn this into a trilogy and added in all the wrinkles to help move the pace along.

The editing on this is really quite good. The only spelling error I noticed was the use of “discrete” when “discreet” should have been used. There are some issues with punctuation and capitalization, but nothing the average reader would necessarily catch. I was very happy to see the improvement over earlier books. The only thing that hit my “pet peeve-o-meter” was the use of the phrase “another thing coming.” This should be “another think coming” and is something that just drives me nuts.

This is another fabulous book from A.J. Scudiere, and one which I can recommend to anyone who enjoys thrillers and suspense novels. There is a lot of violence, so keep that in mind, and of course there are murders. There is also an extremely twisty plot and lots of revelations to be seen, so if that sounds like your sort of thing, definitely check this out.

Series Information: The Sin Trilogy
Book 1: Vengeance, review linked here
Book 2: Retribution
Book 3: Justice, release date TBA

Disclosure: I purchased this book for myself as I'm a fan of the author. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Will and Diana Kincaid have left their pasts behind. They've even discarded their identities as Sin and Lee, but the past will never leave them.

When the body of mafia leader Ivan Kurev turns up in her district, Diana is forced to take a hard look at how well she has—or hasn't—covered her tracks. It turns out, no matter what she does, it isn't good enough. A stronger generation of Kurevs is growing out of the wasteland she left behind and the Kurev sons have a memory that is long . . . and angry.

In the past, the fight and the choices that go with it would have been easy. But now there are friends to protect, a home she doesn't want to leave, and a boss she likes, even if she's more than a little suspicious of him.

It's hard to choose sides when Diana can't even determine what the sides are anymore. She can't run, she can't stay and she can't protect what she fought so hard for, not when a newer, more dangerous breed of assassin waits around every corner . . .

View all my reviews

Friday, May 16, 2014

@EJStevensAuthor #Cover Reveal + #Giveaway: "Burning Bright" by E.J. Stevens

It's time for a cover reveal!  Feast your eyes on the cover for BURNING BRIGHT, the third full-length novel in the Ivy Granger urban fantasy series by E.J. Stevens.

Keep reading for a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Cover Reveal

Burning Bright (Ivy Granger #3) by E.J. Stevens.

Burning down the house...

Things are not going well at the offices of Private Eye. Jinx is having demon problems, the city is overrun with pyromaniacal imps, and Ivy's wisp powers are burning out of control, attracting the attention of both the Seelie and Unseelie courts.

Along came a faerie queen... It's the worst possible time for the Green Lady to call in a favor, but Ivy's bound by her deal with the glaistig. Too bad there's no wiggle room in faerie bargains.

Ivy must rid the city of imps, keep Jinx from murdering her one solid link to Hell, and fulfill her bargain with the Green Lady--with sidhe assassins hot on her tail.

Just another day's work for Ivy Granger, psychic detective.

Release Date:  June 17, 2014
Genre:  Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Add to Goodreads.

Previous books in this series: Shadow Sight (Ivy Granger #1), Blood and Mistletoe (Ivy Granger #1.5), Ghost Light (Ivy Granger #2), Club Nexus (Ivy Granger #2.5).

Burning Bright Cover Reveal Giveaway

We are giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky winner! 

To enter, please use the easy peasy Rafflecopter form below.  This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL. 

Giveaway ends May 30, 2014.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

E.J. Stevens is the author of the Spirit young adult series and the bestselling Ivy Granger urban fantasy series. When E.J. isn't at her writing desk she enjoys dancing along seaside cliffs, singing in graveyards, and sleeping in faerie circles. E.J. currently resides in a magical forest on the coast of Maine where she finds daily inspiration for her writing.

Connect with E.J. on Twitter, GoodreadsAmazonPinterest, and on her Blog.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: Vengeance by AJ Scudiere

Vengeance by AJ Scudiere
Vengeance by AJ Scudiere by A.J. Scudiere

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Please note: Originally read 9/14-15/2011; I am re-reading the book before I read the 2nd book in the series, Retribution. I received the original file from JKS Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Book information: Genre: Suspense
Reading Age: Adult
Trigger Warnings: torture, murder, rape (not on page, historical), suicide (historical)
Animals: Several guard dogs are killed; deer is killed for food

My Thoughts and synopsis: Vengeance is exactly my kind of story. That is probably the most important thing I can say about it – it is a thriller, very well-written and filled with well-defined characters that are unique and interesting. Essentially the plot revolves around two people who have lived through terrible things and are, as a result, out for vengeance. Thus the catchy title! Each of them has been after people of the same general ilk, removing the scum from society – but they’ve started running across one another and duplicating their efforts. When an attempt to divide and conquer goes awry, they decide to join forces. We also spend some time with an FBI agent who is trying to track them down – while he is sympathetic to their cause and doesn’t mourn the people they’ve taken out, he feels compelled to track them down anyway, due to his need for answers.

Added Thoughts from May 2014 Re-Read: The nice thing about re-reading books is you catch things you might have missed the first time around. In my case, I first read an uncorrected proof/ARC, so I couldn't really comment on editing issues anyway. This copy I'm reading though is the final edition, one which I picked up on Amazon during a sale. I have noticed that the spelling used is inconsistent. It's running about half and half between the correct duffel (bag) and incorrect duffle (which is a type of heavy coat). The correct discreet is used a couple of times, but more often the incorrect form discrete (meaning singular) is used. T-shirt is all over the place, and always incorrect, as tee shirt, tee-shirt, t-shirt... When discussing clothing, it's T-shirt, V-neck, that sort of thing: capitalized. A lot of these wouldn't be noticed by anyone but pedants like me, but... they are there.

Recommendations: This was the 2nd book I read by Scudiere and I continue to be impressed. She has a great style and paces her story well. I truly enjoyed reading this book and look forward to the next one. You should definitely pick this book up if you are a fan of thrillers and suspense.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

#Cancer Journey - Mixed News from Latest Visit

So, my fifth chemotherapy appointment was yesterday.  Last Friday I had new scans done of my chest, abdomen and pelvis to see what was going on in there with the treatments, and yesterday was the day I was supposed to learn about it. However, the doctor who read the scans did a really piss-poor job of writing his report. He didn't say anything about my chest/lungs, no mention of the tumors in my abdomen, around my intestines/bowel/uterus, etc. Nothing! He did mention that my pancreas and spleen looked good. He also said there were three 7 cm, fluid-filled sacs in my abdomen. We aren't really sure what those are, but the doctor said as long as I'm not having any problems, we'll just leave them be for now. I have a small fatty tumor on my kidney, but it's benign; I actually have a couple of those here and there and have for a number of years, so it's nothing to worry about.

What he focused on was my liver, but even then he was unclear. He compared the new scans to the scans made in November when I first went to the ER with complaints and was told it was 'just colitis'. He said he saw the liver tumors in those scans (medical malpractice suit, anyone??) and that they were larger in the new scans, but he didn't say by how much. My doctor said if it was just a few mm then it was nothing to worry about, but if more, then we'd need to make changes. So, she went to call the guy, but couldn't reach him, so she compared the new scans to the MRI we did prior to the liver biopsy and found that between then and now the liver tumors have doubled. That sounds bad, but that is from 1 cm to 2 cm, give or take a few mm. So not a huge change, but enough that the doctor wanted to change one of my medicines to a second-line medicine to see if that will work better.

Now this was a good thing, because the medicine she took me off of was Oxaliplatin. This medication had the potential to cause permanent nerve damage. It caused my hands and feet to cramp and spasm, and also gave me pins and needles in my hands, feet and lower legs. It made me super sensitive to cold. I couldn't even reach into the refrigerator without gloves, and I could not drink anything that was too cold. If I tried, it felt like broken glass sliding down my throat. This kept me away from some of my favorite things: popsicles! So, I was very very happy to be rid of that particular medication. The one added is known as CPT-11. It does have side effects, but they are mostly just more of the same. In fact, if you are interested in learning some of the side effects that people undergo through chemotherapy, just put up a great educational piece about the side effects of chemotherapy, and you can learn more about them by following this link. Obviously not everyone has every side effect, nor will people that are on the same therapies even have the same side effects, but it's a great article and I encourage you to check it out.

The only new side effect I've experienced was extreme hot flashes and sweating. I mean extreme! I had to take off my headscarf; I was just too hot to keep it on! And sweating - wow, I was sweating like a horse. I soaked through two paper towels trying to wipe down my face and head. Fortunately it cleared up during the night and I had a fairly restful sleep.

So, that's where I'm at right now. I'll call up my doctor, probably tomorrow, and see if she managed to talk to the guy who read my scans to find out more information. I think next time I'm in the vicinity of St. Mary's I'll go ask for copies of the scans on CD-ROM or the actual film, whatever they will provide, so I can take them with me when the topics might come up. My doctor gave me a copy of the report yesterday, not that it will be very helpful for anything but a medical malpractice suit for them not picking up the tumors in that scan back in November... I'm still trying to drink two to three quarts of fluids every day to avoid dehydration. All in all I feel okay this week; last week I was not feeling very well at all, so I"m happy to have a good week. Thanks again to everyone for their support, encouragement, and well-wishes, be they prayers, good vibrations, long-distance hugs, what have you. It is all appreciated and much love to you all!