Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review: Cast in Flame

Cast in Flame (Chronicles of Elantra #10)
By Michelle Sagara
*****
eGalley provided by NetGalley

"On the second day after her return to Elantra, the city she policed as a groundhawk, Private Kaylin Neya fell out of bed, daggers in hands, knees bent. After one confused moment, she sheathed her daggers, took a brief look around the otherwise empty royal guest champers that served as her temporary home, and let loose a volley of Leontine curses." --Cast in Flame, Michelle Sagara

I really, truly love this series. Every time I pick up a new book in The Chronicles of Elantra, I think that I should re-read the previous titles to refresh the story (these books are dense and a refresher would be helpful), but I can never put off reading the newest book! And after a chapter or so I'm so deep in the world that it doesn't matter anymore.

In every fantasy world there are rules for how the world works, and generally those rules center around some kind of magic. In Sagara's world, there's plenty of magic, but the power in the magic is in "true words." I love that there's a whole fictional world built on the power of words. I also love that Kaylin (our heroine), though armed, generally saves the day by compassion and hope, rather than epic sword-fighting or laser-beam eyes.

In Cast in Flame, Kaylin has just arrived back in Elantra after her eventful trip to the West March. She's still homeless and living (uncomfortably) in the Palace. Her dragon roommate is having issues with the Dragon Court, and the Barrani that returned from the Green are causing trouble, too. Kaylin has to sort out a new threat AND find lodging that will accept a dragon and the Dragon Court's intrusion, and she's not sure which job will be more difficult.

A great addition to a great series!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Book Review: Fangirl

Fangirl 
By Rainbow Rowell
*****
“To really be a nerd, she'd decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one.” ― Rainbow RowellFangirl
I'm not sure I know how to put into words the love I have for this book and the joy I took in reading it. I devoured it the way that Magicath's fans devoured her entries of Carry On, Simon. I felt connected to Cath in a way that I haven't felt connected to a character in...well, maybe ever. 

I don't want to go into too many details, since so many of the situations that affected Cath and who she was and how she related to the reader felt more powerful for me not knowing about them in advance. But a quick rundown: Cath, full name Cather Avery, is an identical twin (her sister is Wren), a freshman in college, and a majorly popular fan-fiction author of Carry On, Simon (fic for Rowell's fictional story-within-a-story creation similar in feel and popularity to the world of Harry Potter).

Fangirl follows Cath as she struggles through her freshman year. The story sucked me back into my college years (which aren't terribly far removed, but still pre-YouTube) and the excitement and anxieties (especially those) related to that time in my life. And if I had known that fan-fiction was a thing, I totally would have been involved in it; maybe not as a writer, but definitely as a reader. So while my experiences weren't like Cath's, I feel like we're almost a little kindred. 

I don't feel like I'm doing this review justice; it may be too close still for me to coherently express my feelings, other than grunt "unngg, LOVE." But I will add this: Levi is my new book boyfriend. He rates right up there with Gilbert Blythe and Forney. No, actually, he wins. 

This book completes me.

P.S. I love the fact that this is a stand-alone novel, that the story is complete and I don't have to wait for the next installment, but I do wish it could go on (I guess that's what fan-fiction is for).

P.P.S. Isn't that the best cover ever? I think it's the best cover ever.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Book Review: Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet

Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet (Charley Davidson #4) 
By Darynda Jones
*****

“I lowered the gun but didn’t holster it. Not just yet. She could turn out to be psychotic. Or a door-to-door salesperson.” 
― Darynda JonesFourth Grave Beneath My Feet

A little background on the series: Charley Davidson is a PI and helps out the cops as a consultant, namely her dad as she was growing up and now her uncle. It turns out it's a lot easier solving homicides when you can talk to the murdered folks. Charley not only sees dead people, but she's the grim reaper -- she helps the dead with their unfinished business and they can pass through her to the other side. She's also incredibly sassy, which I love. Oh, and she's kinda dating the son of Satan (literally, not figuratively).

Back to Book #4. In most urban fantasies, the main character goes through a lot -- much of it violent and bloody -- but generally they bounce back from horrible events pretty quick. In Third, Charley was tortured. In Fourth, there are actual ramifications for that torture. One thing I really liked about this book is that Charley suffers from PTSD; she's afraid of leaving her apartment and feels fear with the slightest provocation. It brought more reality to the fantasy.

Now, it's a rare event for me to guess the mystery before it's revealed, so it's not strange that the mystery and twist with the PI investigation came as a surprise to me, but I still like it when that happens. And the danger-level (as well as what Charley is able to do with her as yet undiscovered powers) was also raised this time around, so I'm looking forward to where the story goes in book five.

Highly recommended.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Book Review: Half-Off Ragnarok

Half-Off Ragnarok (InCryptid #3) 
By Seanan McGuire
*****
“Let's go commit senseless acts of science.” 
― Seanan McGuireHalf-Off Ragnarok

I've been reading (and loving) Seanan McGuire's InCryptid series. The first two books follow Verity Price as she works to keep the Cryptid population of NYC safe from the Covenant (Cryptids are creatures that aren't scientifically recognized as existing - think Big Foot and chupacabras. The Covenant is an organization that hunts and eliminates monsters, aka cryptids.) while trying to maintain a professional ballroom dance career. In these books, most of the cryptids are vaguely humanoid in appearance, or, at least, can hold a conversation (Aeslin mice are the BEST).

Half-Off Ragnarok took me by surprise. I assumed after reading the first two books that the series was focused on Verity and her adventures. Turns out it's more of a Price Family series. This time around we meet Verity's brother, Alex. He lives in Columbus, Ohio with his cuckoo grandmother, revenant grandfather (Alex's mother, their daughter, was adopted), and his unwell cuckoo cousin. Alex works at the zoo in the reptile house, where he's supposedly doing normal zoo-type research, but he's secretly breeding basilisks in the back room. Suddenly people are being petrified, his girlfriend may know more than she's letting on, and the local gorgons may be involved.

The switch from talking cryptids in the big city, to more animalistic monsters in the Midwest was kinda cool. I wasn't expecting the change, but it made this new book really fresh. But we also got to stick with the family, so the characters were familiar and comfortable. Another great addition to a fantastic series!

And now I really can't wait for Antimony's story.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Audio Book Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot, #1)  
By The Great Agatha Christie
Narration by: Hugh Fraser
Book: ****
Narration: ****
“Sometimes I feel sure he is as mad as a hatter and then, just as he is at his maddest, I find there is a method in his madness.” 
― Agatha ChristieThe Mysterious Affair at Styles

From Goodreads: 
In World War I England, Styles mansion residents awake to find Emily Inglethorpe fatally poisoned. Guest Captain Hastings enlists his old friend, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, of the magnificent mustaches. Although evidence mounts against one family member, Poirot uses the unique deductive technique of his "little grey cells" to find the truth in his first appearance.

From Me: 
This is my first Agatha (who is just as fascinating, if not more so, as her stories) and I really enjoyed it. Her writing is very accessible, even 100 years later, and despite the very particular nature of the mystery and the solution. I completely love Poirot - I found him adorable. Captain Hastings, poor dear, was almost too stupid too live, but since he never actively put himself or his friends/comrades in danger, I'll just label him "doof."

I listened to this audio book in the course of one work day, and it made the time fly. The only thing missing was the giant wasp.


From Doctor Who episode 4.7 The Unicorn and the Wasp

Friday, June 20, 2014

Audio Book Review: Bossypants

Bossypants 
By Tina Fey
Narration by Tina Fey
Book: ****
Narration: *************

“To say I’m an overrated troll, when you have never even seen me guard a bridge, is patently unfair.” 
― Tina FeyBossypants

From Goodreads:
Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon—from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.

(Includes Special, Never-Before-Solicited Opinions on Breastfeeding, Princesses, Photoshop, the Electoral Process, and Italian Rum Cake!)

An unabridged recording on 5 CDs (5.5 Hours).


From Me:
Tina Fey reads the audio book. LISTEN TO THE AUDIO BOOK. You know how a bad narrator can make a good book awful? A kick-ass narrator like Tina Fey READING HER OWN BOOK makes a good book magic. 

Tina Fey is magic.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

 
By Mindy Kaling
*****

“This book will take you two days to read. Did you even see the cover? It’s mostly pink. If you’re reading this book every night for months, something is not right.” 
― Mindy KalingIs Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

This book was such a joy to read. If Mindy Kaling is as charming and lovely in real life as she appears to be in this book, then I totally want her to be my celebrity BFF (along with Cat Deeley). I actually LOL'd several times in my office whilst reading over my lunch break (and I don't LOL). Now, I'm not going to say that I relate to this book - she writes and acts in some seriously funny television shows; there are very few people who can relate to this. But Mindy (and I feel like I can call her Mindy after finishing the book) feels very real and unpretentious, despite her success, and I think we'd have a great time rummaging through Anthro while I listen to all her gossip about her costars.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Audio Book Review: Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer 
By Katie Alender
**** (for book and narration)
“Ce n'est seulement le cou — elle veut briser le coeur.”                 
Translation: "She doesn't only want your neck -- she wants to break your heart." 

Marie Antoinette comes back from beyond to take revenge on the families who betrayed her to the guillotine. Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer was eerie without being creepy, with a dark current running beneath the Parisian setting. I do so love a book that takes place in foreign territory.

Our heroine, Colette, finds herself in the middle of a rash of serial killings where young, posh, self-centered Parisians are mysteriously beheaded. Colette feels oddly connected to the murders, though she doesn't understand why. And then she keeps seeing a woman in 18th century garb drifting through her surroundings, while her reflection is not always her own. Colette has to solve the mystery of these visions if she wants to keep her own neck.

There are mean girls (I hate Hannah, and I'm completely fine with that), and nice girls who are clearly the better choice in friends; there's a super-hot guy who's full of himself and his plans, and an endearingly sweet guy who is clearly the better choice in a love interest. There were characters I loved and characters I hated (though not really characters I loved to hate; I really think I'm going to lump Hannah in with Professor Umbridge), and the setting of the story was DIVINE. Note to self: go to Versailles.

A great book, and a great narrator (I listened to the audio format of this book). Highly recommended.

Read alikes: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins if you're jonesing for the Parisian setting. The Name of the Stars by Maureen Johnson if you're looking for a paranormal murder mystery (this one is set in London).

Monday, June 2, 2014

Audio Book Review: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library
By Chris Grabenstein
Narration by Jesse Bernstein
***** (book)
**** (narration)

"Mrs. G? This is Dr. Z. What is our white Bengal tiger doing in the children's department?"

From Goodreads:
Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library.

Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. And the stakes are very high.

In this cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and A Night in the Museum, Agatha Award winner Chris Grabenstein uses rib-tickling humor to create the perfect tale for his quirky characters. Old fans and new readers will become enthralled with the crafty twists and turns of this ultimate library experience.



From Me:
Charming and utterly delightful. Who wouldn't want to go on a massive scavenger hunt in a library built by the ultimate maker of board and video games. This book was a lot of fun and one of the best depictions of a library (even one as impossible as Lemoncello's) I've ever read. 

I want to work in Mr. Lemoncello's library.

Book Review: Midnight Crossroad

Midnight Crossroad (Midnight, Texas #1) 
By Charlaine Harris
****

"And then Manfred realizes that all morning, throughout the camaraderie of unloading the van, neither of his companions asked the obvious questions. Why are you moving to such a godforsaken place? What brings you here? What do you do? Where did you live before? And Manfred Bernardo realizes he's moved to the right place. In fact, it's just like he belongs here."  

Midnight Crossroad reads like many of Harris's novels - there's a mystery, a quirky cast of characters, and the setting often feels like another character in the story. It was less bloody than the more recent of the Sookie Stackhouse books, though there was still a body count, and like the Sookie Stackhouse books, there was a paranormal element. One thing that was different, though, was that it didn't seem like there was one main protagonist. The focus shifted often between several characters. Manfred Bernardo (from the Harper Connelly series) was maybe slightly more front and center, but Fiji and Bobo also took up a lot of focus, particularly Fiji. And that's another thing - Harris again get's very creative with her characters' names, possibly more in this book than in any other, and that's saying something.

Harris also tied a lot of her series together within this book. There was a reference to the Lily Bard series and the Harper Connelly series, and I even caught one reference to the Aurora Teagarden series. And since Midnight Crossroad has a vampire character that no one seemed particularly surprised about (though he seems a bit different from Eric or Pam), I assume that the story is set in the same universe as Sookie's. I wouldn't be shocked to see a character from that world show up in this new series, though maybe one already has. I caught a lot of references, but it does make me wonder what I missed, since the older books aren't fresh in my memory.

All in all, I really enjoyed Harris's latest. If you enjoy her writing style and world building, this one fits that profile.