Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sorry For My Absence

I have been trying to write reviews of a couple of non-fiction books this past week. I can't write a decent-length review of either, so I will be doing a single post with short reviews of both books. Then I can move on to all of the other reviews I have to write.

My next review will be of The Black Widow Trainer by Craig Odanovich. He sent me a copy of the book for review, so I need to get the review done. Hopefully it will go up later today. I'll be using my new (experimental) format for this review.

THEN I can do reviews of all the other titles I've read:
  • Lament - Maggie Stiefvater

  • Beautiful Darkness - Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

  • Kiss at Your Own Risk - Stephanie Rowe

  • A Victorian Rose - Catherine Palmer

  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahame-Smith

  • Amazonia - James Rollins

  • The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie - Jennifer Ashley

  • Inside Out - Maria V. Snyder

I really need to update my Recently Finished and Currently Reading sections at right, as Amazonia is listed under Currently Reading. I've read two whole books since finishing that one! And started on a third.

Once I get those sections updated, I'm going to add a poll for preferred review format: either the overview and opinion I've done all along or the new format where I break down what I liked/didn't like/etc.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fickle Memory

Make Me Remember
Emma Petersen

Release Date:
Summer (?) 2010
Genre: Erotic Paranormal Romance
Rating: 9/10
Source: I received a copy of this novella from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Buy the Book: Borders ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Ellora's Cave
Content Warning: Cussing, Explicit Sex

Hannah Bryant has always been different. Since she was a child, she's had vivid dreams of death and loss. Years later, Hannah is a successful doctor who's gotten past the terrors that used to plague her. In a flash, everything she has worked so hard for is in danger when the dreams return with a vengeance.

But the dreams haunting Hannah's sleep now are nothing like the ones from her childhood. No longer does she dream of death and destruction-now her dreams are of a man who elicits a reaction from Hannah's body that's strangely familiar and startlingly brand new at the same time.

Book blurb from Goodreads.

I wasn't sure what I was getting into when I volunteered to review a book for Miss Petersen. It's been a while since I read an erotic romance.

I needn't have worried; Make Me Remember is a sweet and fulfilling romance. The sex scenes - both in Hannah's dreams and in her life - are real scorchers. I needed a fan and a cold drink after each.

And I read the book in the middle of January, when it was freezing cold outside!

What I Liked:

  • Hannah. She's complex. She's not perfect. She's real.

  • Gabe, the leading man. Wow. Just wow.

  • The mixture of the real world and the dream world. Her dreams are vivid, realistic. One even made me cry.

  • The 'magic' (or whatever it is!) that allows Hannah to speak a language she's never learned.

What I Didn't Like:

  • The length! A full-length novel would have allowed us to get to know the characters better.

  • Hannah and Gabe's relationship developed too fast. However, I believe this is due to the length restriction of a novella. So this point just goes back to the first one: a longer version would be better. ^_^

Knowing What I Know Now, Would I Read This Book?

YES! At roughly 70 pages, it's a quick read. Well worth the hour or so it took me to read the first time.

I'll probably re-read it several times. Yeah, it's that good.

Should You Read This Book?

If you like romances, especially with an element of the paranormal, yes.

Maybe not if you don't like to read sex scenes, as there are several. They're short but hot.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Life, Virtually

The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans
David A. Ross

Release Date:
January 2011
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Rating: 4/10
Source: I received a review copy from the publisher. This did not influence my review in any way.
Buy the Book: Smashwords ~ OpenBooks
Content Warning: Some cussing, Explicit Sex (One fairly short scene.)

Meet Fizzy Oceans—archivist, researcher, environmentalist and adventurer. On her travels she witnesses The Exodus, the Battle of Gettysburg and Hurricane Katrina, as well as many other historical and real time events. She meets notable individuals including Gandhi, Mark Twain, Jacques Cousteau, The Dalai Lama, Saddam Hussein and even a new species called the Quinngen.

Such unique experiences and encounters spanning the world and time as we know them would not be possible for a single individual—especially not for a woman named Amy Birkenstock who works as a medical clerk in Seattle, Washington—but Fizzy Oceans, Amy’s digital alter ego, is not in Physical Life. She lives, works and travels in the virtual world where the dead are very much alive, places like ancient Babylon and Pompeii have been reconstructed, and with the click of a button—WHOOSH!—one is transported throughout the Ages to events and destinations that make up our human history.

Even as Amy’s physical life existence is challenged by encroaching environmental disaster, economic instability, and societal breakdown, Fizzy’s virtual world offers instant realization of vision and inspiration. The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans imagines the bridging of two worlds—the literal and the metaphorical—and questions what it is we have created, what has been lost, and what might be possible for us as individuals and for the Human Race.

Book blurb provided by publisher.

As you can tell from my rating, I didn't love this book. It was alright, but not great.

From reading the blurb, I had high hopes. The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans did not live up to those hopes. Not even close.

What I Liked:

  • Amy Birkenstock (A.K.A. Fizzy Oceans) made a great character. Well-developed and realistic.

  • The world of 'Virtual Life' (VL) captured my imagination. There are virtual reality programs out there, several in fact, but none (in my experience) that quite measure up to the fictional one presented in this book.

  • The supporting characters - all several dozen of them - were well-rounded and entertaining.

  • Character interactions. So many characters, so many interactions. Nearly all of them felt real.

  • The so-called Real Life (RL) world in the book. This world shares much with our own - is pretty much an exact copy even - but is not quite ours. Just a few minor differences separate the two. Until very near the end of the book, when RL goes down a steep slope of ecological degradation that sounds possible in our own world. A bit of a scary thought, actually.

What I Didn't Like:

  • Disjointed writing in places. Some parts of the book were great, other parts had me setting down the e-reader in disgust. I came close to giving up multiple times. (Just ask my husband or pretty much anyone at Hillside Games in Asheville, NC. The Saturday I tried to read while there, I think everyone heard my opinion on the editing - or lack thereof. Heh.)
    This is something that could have been fixed in editing. SHOULD have been fixed in editing.

  • The random paragraph in French. Yes, it was dialogue from a French character. It still should have been at least partially translated. If not for one of the characters, then for the reader. Amy/Fizzy should have had to do some rough translation in her head. The reader should have been privy to that. If not for Google Translator, I would have been lost.

  • Inconsistent RL identification of one of the minor characters. I'm assuming the first identification of this particular Virtual Lifer was supposed to be a wrong guess by the other characters. But, for this one scene in the middle of the book - the same one with the random paragraph in French as it happens - the VLers identity is given as one RL person. For this scene, the VL avatar speaks and acts as one would expect it's RL counterpart to do so. Hell, the VL avatar is identified as the RL person at least once when speaking. To find out several pages later that this avatar was controlled by someone completely different was jarring, to say the least. (I was rather tempted to call this a plot hole.)

Knowing What I Know Now, Would I Read This Book?

No. I spent the first half-to-three-quarters of it frustrated. I would not do that to myself intentionally.

Should You Read This Book?

If you have read the author's other books and liked them, you'll probably like this one.

I liked the last half or so of it. Not enough to reread it, though. I also seriously doubt I will pick up another of Mr. Ross's books.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Witch Song

I shall have another review up tomorrow. I haven't quite finished the one I was planning to post at noon today.

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

My choice for the week:

Witch Song
Amber Argyle

Miss Argyle's debut novel sounds utterly fascinating...

The world is changing.

For thousands of years, witch song has controlled everything from the winds to the shifting of the seasons. But not anymore. All the Witches are gone, taken captive by the dark Witch, Espen.

As the last echoes of witch song fade, Espen grows stronger as winter and summer come within the space of a day. Now she’s coming for the one she missed—a shy, untrained girl of fifteen named Brusenna.

Somehow, Brusenna has to succeed where every other Witch has failed. Find Espen. Fight her. Defeat her.

Or there won’t be anything left to save.

Book blurb from Goodreads.

The cover is just gorgeous, isn't it? ^_^

Release Date: 1 September 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Want to Live There...

in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory! ^_^

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Roald Dahl

Release Date:
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Rating: 10/10
Source: Owned
Buy the Book: Borders ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Books-A-Million ~ IndieBound
Content Warning: None!

For the first time in a decade, Willy Wonka, the reclusive and eccentric chocolate maker, is opening his doors to the public--well, five members of the public to be exact. The lucky five who find a Golden Ticket in their Wonka chocolate bars will receive a private tour of the factory, given by Mr. Wonka himself.

For young Charlie Bucket, this a dream come true. And, when he finds a dollar bill in the street, he can't help but buy two Wonka's Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delights--even though his impoverished family could certainly use the extra dollar for food. But as Charlie unwraps the second chocolate bar, he sees the glimmer of gold just under the wrapper!

The very next day, Charlie, along with his unworthy fellow winners Mike Teavee, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, and Augustus Gloop, steps through the factory gates to discover whether or not the rumors surrounding the Chocolate Factory and its mysterious owner are true. What they find is that the gossip can't compare to the extraordinary truth, and for Charlie, life will never be the same again.

Book blurb from Goodreads.

I am not sure why I waited so long to read this book. I loved it! The book is every bit as magical as the 1971 musical (titled Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), possibly even more so. (I have not seen the 2005 film adaptation, so I can not make comparisons with it.)

The book is a bit darker than the musical, and the Oompa-Loompas less silly.

I love both, but the book has far eclipsed the movie as my favorite of the two. But isn't that how it normally goes? ^_^

A quick and easy read that I can not recommend highly enough.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Win an ARC of Original Sin!

Over at Lisa Desrochers' blog...

Here's how:

It's a "spread the word" contest, so pretty much every way you can think of to spread the word around the internet will earn you a point. Each point = one entry. Each entry is a chance to win!

You can link to the contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog. Add Original Sin to your to-read list/shelf on Goodreads.

There are tons of ways to earn points. For the full list, see the post linked to above.

Yes, this post is earning me an extra entry. More than one, actual with the pre-order links I'm about to give. ^_-

Original Sin (Personal Demons, #2)
Lisa Desrochers

When secrets and old histories come to light, Frannie realizes that nobody is who she thought they were. Hell won't give up and Heaven won't give in. Some are willing to hurt anyone close to Frannie in order to get what they want. It will take everything she has and then some to stay out of Hell's grasp.

And not everyone will get out of it alive.

Pre-order: Borders | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | IndieBound

If I had a job, I would have this book pre-ordered already!

Heaven? Or Hell? Both Can Be Tempting...

Personal Demons
Lisa Desrochers

Release Date:
14 September 2010
Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Rating: 10/10
Source: I won this book in a giveaway on the author's blog. This did not affect my review in any way.
Buy the Book: Borders ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Books-A-Million
Content Warning: Some cussing, Possible theological issues (will cover in review)

Frannie Cavanaugh is a good Catholic girl with a bit of a wicked streak. She's spent years keeping everyone at a distance—even her closest friends—and it seems her senior year will be more of the same...until Luc Cain enrolls in her class. No one knows where he came from, but Frannie can't seem to stay away from him. What she doesn't know is that Luc works in Acquisitions—for Hell—and she possesses a unique skill set that has the king of Hell tingling with anticipation. All Luc has to do is get her to sin, and he’s as tempting as they come. Frannie doesn’t stand a chance.

Unfortunately for Luc, Heaven has other plans, and the angel, Gabe, is going to do whatever it takes to make sure that Luc doesn’t get what he came for. And it isn't long before they find themselves fighting for more than just her soul.

But if Luc fails, there will be Hell to pay…for all of them.

Book blurb from the author's blog.

I loved this book! I think I've been in love with the idea since the first time I heard about it, sometime early in 2010.

Then Miss Lisa posted some excerpts on her blog, and I was hooked.

I had to read the entire story. I had to know what happened. Who - and by extension where - would Frannie choose? Luc - and Hell? Or Gabe - and Heaven?

Both boys are hot, both tempting in their own way. Demons are supposed to be hot, right? I mean, they are demons! *giggle* (I like puns, can you tell?) Angels, though, aren't expected to be hot. Except in romance books. Or, ya know, urban fantasy apparently.

Despite going back and forth between the two guys, Frannie does make her choice by the end of the book. Or so we think. Who does she choose? You'll just have to read the book to find out!

Now for the possible theological issues I mentioned above...

While I loved the book, and had no problems with it personally, I do realize that some people will have problems with it. Those problems would be theological in nature. Miss Desrochers' portrayal of demons and angels is rather different from the biblical one.

Why did I not take issue with this? Simple: no where does the author claim this series to be Christian fiction. Was it inspired by biblical persons? Obviously, as the main demon character's full name is Lucifer Cain.

But she does not claim to be using the Bible as a basis for her demons and angels, her heaven and hell. She brings a unique interpretation of demons, angels, heaven, and hell to young adult fiction.

It's not for everybody - no book is - but I, for one, loved it! I'm anxiously awaiting book two in the series, Original Sin, due out 5 July 2011.

In fact, I shall be posting about an opportunity to win an ARC of Original Sin around noon today. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Weapons and Armor and Research

I couldn't find a blurb for this book, despite searching for a while. I would just type up the inside dust jacket copy, but I returned the book to the library almost a month ago.

Phaidon Guide to Antique Weapons and Armour
Robert Wilkinson-Latham

Release Date:
August 2010
Genre: History
Rating: DNF
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Out of Print
Content Warning: None!

No Blurb found. :(

I checked this book out of my local library to read for research for a historical romance I have in the works. Okay, technically, my husband checked it out. But I always planned to read it.

My first disappointment came in the introduction, when I found the book only covered the period beginning after the fall of the Roman Empire. I wanted it to read about the weapons and armor used during the Roman Empire. Dang.

But I have several other ideas for historical stories, so I continued reading.

The twenty pages I read that first day turned out to be the most I read of it in one sitting.

Drier than the dessert, it nearly put me to sleep. The topic is interesting, the illustrations were outstanding. The presentation, however, left much to be desired...

How do you make such an interesting topic boring? By not listing developments in weapons and armor side-by-side. By saying, but not showing how, one influenced the other.

Also by sounding like the most boring history professor imaginable. Even worse than the ghost teacher from the Harry Potter series. Seriously.

In conclusion: No matter how fascinating subject, a boring presentation makes it not worth finishing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Love Story

I'm still working on all those reviews I owe you guys. I hope to have another one up tomorrow. Or maybe even later today.

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

My choice for the week:

Love Story
Jennifer Echols

From Goodreads:
Erin Blackwell is headed to college in New York City to study creative writing and earn a living as a romance novelist. Her grandmother has other plans: she approves of the college, but she wants Erin to major in business and then come back home to Kentucky to run the family’s famous racehorse farm. There is no way Erin will agree. Studying in New York and writing her way into a career is her escape from the farm and the family tragedy that happened there. So Erin’s grandmother decides Erin really will live life as a starving artist. She takes Erin’s future job running the farm, her inheritance, even her college tuition, and gives them all to Hunter Allen.

Hunter has lived on the farm for years. He’s Erin’s age, he’s the stable boy, and he’s the romantic dream of every girl in her high school. But he was involved in the family tragedy. Erin has always given him a wide berth. And he’s a slick opportunist. She’s furious that he fooled her grandmother into giving him Erin’s birthright and sending him to Erin’s college.

At least she’s free of him in her creative writing class. So she pens a story that has haunted her lately, in which the horse farm heiress at the very first Kentucky Derby starts a forbidden affair with the lowly stable boy. Unfortunately for her, the day she’s sharing this story with her New York classmates, Hunter walks in. He’s switching to her class. And after reading about himself in Erin’s story, he writes his own sexy assignments that lure Erin into dangerous fantasies about what could have been between them, and what might be.

Okay, so we've got an enemies-to-lovers YA romance about a girl who dreams of being a romance novelist. Cool. Very cool.

Release Date: 19 July 2011

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Review: Doubting Thomas by Stephanie Taylor

I am so far behind... I received this book as an early review copy last August. Heh.

I will not get this far behind again.

Doubting Thomas
Stephanie Taylor

Release Date:
August 7, 2010
Genre: Erotic Romance
Rating: DNF
Source: I received a free review copy from the author. This did not affect my review in any way.
Buy the Book: Borders ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Books-A-Million
Content Warning: Explicit Sex, Cussing

For five years, Thomas has lived without a past. A motorcycle accident left him with permanent amnesia and a lot of anger. But the scars aren’t all on the outside. He knows one day he’ll need to figure out who he used to be, but for now, he’s content in his misery and denial. If his family doesn’t care to find him, the feeling is mutual.

Until the love of a tender-hearted, sassy redhead changes his mind.

Alyssa Morgan vowed to locate her missing husband. She follows every clue, every lead, every hunch, hoping to find him and the reason for his disappearance. But fate has something else in store. Alyssa is determined to get to know the aloof man who has her husband’s voice and the disfigured face of a stranger.

Torn between his past and their future, can they put their doubts aside to let love in?

Book blurb from author website.

Wow, my first DNF review. Fun. (Not really.)

When I first received this book last August, I started reading eagerly. It started off well, easy to read. The writing and editing were are great. I expected to finish it within a day or two.

However, the further I read the more the plot bothered me.

In a historical setting - even one as recent as the 1980s - it could potentially work. But the setting is modern day: every character has a cell phone.

Which also means that fingerprints and DNA (among other things!) can be tracked reliably. So Alyssa's husband disappearing completely five years ago just doesn't work. Now, if he had outside (read: government or mafia) assistance in changing his looks and altering paperwork, etc, maybe.

But Thomas is just a loner with no memory.

Also, the book's blurb mentions him having the voice of her husband. I don't recall that ever having been mentioned in the first third of the book (which is all I managed to read).

Alyssa's husband's best friend was helping her try to find him in the first part of the book. If Thomas had the same voice as Alyssa's lost husband, wouldn't his best friend have noticed?

Yeah. He didn't.

I really wanted to like this book. I wanted to finish it too, since I did get a review copy from the author. But I couldn't. A plot hole that big is just too much.

I said at the top of this post that I was behind, but I'm not really. I just gave this book another chance last night. I had hoped that my time away from it would somehow make it better.

It didn't work. I gave up on it. I seriously doubt I will ever read any of this author's other books.

Her writing is good. Her logic is not.

Just a note for those on Goodreads: This book has 4 five-star ratings - two of which are from the author and publisher - and two one star reviews. One of the one star reviews is mine, the other is the only one (so far) with text. The other two five-star reviews are both from people who are friends with the author.

Makes me wonder how many of those four (other than the author, of course!) actually read it.