Friday, April 22, 2016

Audio Book Review: Trouble is a Friend of Mine

By Stephanie Tromly
“Who brings a picnic to a break-in?” 
― Stephanie TromlyTrouble is a Friend of Mine
Ok, that was pretty fun. Zoe made a relatable character and was often the voice of reason (a voice that mainly went unheard, but still). Digby had some definite Sherlock vibes, but while he clearly had boundary issues, he wasn't a BBC Sherlock or Sheldon Cooper caricature - he may have been brainy and weird, but he was still a teenage boy. Even the mean girl wasn't quite as terrible as she could have been. I mean, she was pretty terrible, but not 100% irredeemable. 

That being said, I honestly can't figure out why Henry was with Sloan, though. Like I said, she was terrible, while he seemed like a genuinely good person. I do not believe his mama would put up with her. Man, I hope that scene happens in the next book!

Oh, and Felix may have been my favorite. And his dad was pretty awesome, too.

I listened to the audio version of the book and the narrator was great. So many YA narrators go for the breathy, angsty voice, which makes me gag. Thankfully Kathleen McInerney did not do that; her voice was realistic to the characters and emotions without going into whispy voice of teen melodrama. 

The mystery itself was solid. Frankly, I didn't expect any of the twists and turns that took place throughout the book. I also like how the mystery built; first they're looking for a missing person, then there's the weird cult and all kinds of criminality going on around them. By the time the story ends, the mystery is wrapped up neatly and, for the most part, satisfyingly, while a new mystery is planted for another book. This new mystery: I'm not sure if it will be the main mystery of the next book, or a series arc, but it looks like it will be a good one.

All in all, Trouble is a Friend of Mine was a fun read and a nice change-up from the more drama- and dark-filled YA novels I've been reading. And the characters were pretty great - I'd want to be friends with most of them.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Book Review: The Colorado Kid

The Colorado Kid
By Stephen King
Well then, I'm going to tell you a secret almost every newspaper man and woman who's been at it awhile knows: in real life, the number of actual stories - those with beginnings, middles, and ends - are slim and none. But if you can give your readers just one unknown thing (two at the very outside) and then kick in what Dave Bowie there calls a musta-been, your reader will tell himself a story.” 
― Stephen KingThe Colorado Kid
I read this book after watching the SYFY show, Haven, which is loosely based off The Colorado Kid. I needed - NEEDED - to know how the two compared and how closely the TV show followed the original book. The answer is "barely." There are few similarities between the two, namely the setting in a small town in coastal Maine; the two newspapermen, Vince and Dave; and a mystery around a body discovered in the 80s of a John Doe nicknamed the Colorado Kid. Everything else, including the heart of the mystery of the Kid, differ.

This was my first Stephen King - I'm a big weeny, so the scary stuff just ain't gonna happen - and I really enjoyed it. There's a mystery, but you're not living in it; the reader, like Stephanie, is listening to a tale from over 20 years ago told by the only two people who are still interested in the story. In other words, it was a low-stress read. Also a quick one; it only took me a couple of hours to finish.

There are some things about this story that will frustrate readers, and normally I would count myself among the frustrated, but I appreciated how the story evolved. It was a couple of hours reading well spent.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Book List: Books With Bite

Books With Bite

One of the many libraries in our system still has a number of folks asking for books "like Twilight." Enough so that I decided it was time to create another book list. And so Books With Bite was born:

Twilight Read Alikes - YA books with Vamps and Romance:
Title Author
Vampire Academy series Mead, Richelle
Marked series Cast, P. C.
Blue Bloods series de la Cruz, Melissa
Bloodlines series Mead, Richelle
Morganville Vampire series Caine, Rachel
Evernight series Gray, Claudia
Blood of Eden series Kagawa, Julie
Night World series Smith, L.J.
Vampire Diaries series Smith, L.J.
Interwined series Showalter, Gena
Dead Is series Perez, Marlene
Coldest Girl in Coldtown Black, Holly
Vamped series Lucienne Diver
The Immortals series Noel, Alyson
Chronicles of Nick series Kenyon, Sherrilyn

YA Vamps Outside the Box:
Title Author
Vladimir Tod series Brewer, Heather
Vampire Knight series Hino, Matsuri
Cirque Du Freak series Shan, Darren
Chibi Vampire series Kagesaki, Yuna
The Reformed Vampire Support Group Jinks, Catherine
Finishing School series Carriger, Gail
Department Nineteen series Hill, Will
The Hunt series Fukuda, Andrew

Paranormal Romance - YA Without Vamps:
Title Author Notes
Mortal Instruments series Clare, Cassandra supernatural
Wicked Lovely series Marr, Melissa fairies
Shiver series Stiefvater, Maggie werewolves
Grisha series Bardugo, Leigh magic
Hush Hush series Fitzpatrick, Becca angels
Fallen series Kate, Lauren supernatural
Lux series Armentrout, Jennifer aliens
Caster Chronicles Garcia, Kami magic
Legion series Garcia, Kami hunters
Strange Angels series St. Crow, Lili hunters
Splintered series Howard, A. G.  Wonderland
Raven Cycle series Stiefvater, Maggie paranormal
Darkest Powers series Armstrong, Kelley ghosts

And now to the Adult Read Alikes:

Vamps in Adult Titles:
Title Author
Jane Jameson series Harper, Molly
Sunshine McKinley, Robin
Jane True series Peeler, Nicole
Vampire Chronicles Rice, Anne
Dark Hunter series Kenyon, Sherrilyn
Black Dagger Brotherhood series Ward, J. R.
Sookie Stackhouse series Harris, Charlaine
Immortals After Dark series Cole, Kresley
Night Huntress series Frost, Jeaniene
Fever series Moning, Karen Marie
Otherworld series Armstrong, Kelley
Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series Hamilton, Laurell
Dark series Feehan, Christine
Undead series Davidson, MaryJanice
Dark Ones series MacAlister, Katie
Parasol Protectorate series Carriger, Gail
The Hollows series Harrison, Kim
Cassandra Palmer series Chance, Karen

Adult Paranormal Romance:
Title Author Notes
Outlander series Gabaldon, Diana time travel
Mercy Thompson series Briggs, Patricia werewolves
Lords of the Underworld series Showalter, Gena demons
Charley Davidson series Jones, Darynda supernatural
Naked Werewolf series Harper, Molly werewolves
GhostWalkers series Feehan, Christine supersoldiers
InCryptid series McGuire, Seanan supernatural
Dark Kings series Grant, Donna dragons
Broken Destiny series Frost, Jeaniene visions/paranormal

Friday, February 5, 2016

Book Review - Feint of Art

Feint of Art (An Art Lover's Mystery #1) 
By Hailey Lind (Pseudonym for Juliet Blackwell and her sister Carolyn)

This cozy was fantastic! It had a little more action than most cozies, enough that I'd totally watch it as a show on USA or TNT. Annie is a struggling artist who had a little run in with the law as a teen when she joined her grandfather in a forgery spree. After quickly learning her lesson and going straight, she tried to make a career in art restoration, only to have her past bite her in the butt as she got booted out personally by the Brocks of the Brock Museum.

Fast forward several years and after a short spurt in ho-hum office drudgery, she was inspired to turn to interior design, with faux-finishes and the like. Until an ex asked her to verify a painting. Chaos, murders, kidnappings, thievery, and shenanigans ensue.

Annie was a great heroine, with a lot of spunk, some moral fiber, and a healthy helping of knowledge about the world of art forgery (her grandfather is one of the greats, after all). In addition, there were a lot of minor characters that I also loved - Inspector Annette was pretty darn awesome (I'm totally picturing Gina Torres), neighbor Pete was endearing, and the X-Man was very Neal Caffrey, and Fender Bender has the potential of joining X as a potential suitor. 

I'm oddly drawn to books about art forgery. I don't know why - it's not like I can draw anything better than a stick figure - but I find it fascinating. Hence, the career background and plot set up for this particular amateur sleuth was a lot of fun. It also made sense that Annie would find herself investigating, considering she has a very distinctive skill set and knowledge base that even experts in the field wouldn't be able to compare to. I prefer my cozy detectives to have a good reason for getting mixed up in the investigations. 

Highly recommended. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Book Review: It Takes A Witch

It Takes A Witch (A Wishcraft Mystery #1) 
By Heather Blake
*** 1/2 stars
“He does manage the bookstore, which is currently my favorite place on earth." Her eyes glazed over. "All those books. If I married him, I could probably work there the rest of my life. Nothing would make me happier."

"What about love?" Ve asked.

"Oh," Harper said solemnly. "I love books.” 

― Heather BlakeIt Takes a Witch
After reading a bunch of duds, this cozy actually had characters that didn't suck and a plot that made sense.  I was getting really tired of heroines that were too stupid to live, but Darcy had believable issues (ok, there are magic powers involved as well, but that didn't make anything less believable), and her attempts to solve the mystery actually made sense. For one, she actually *wanted* to get the police involved. And when that didn't turn out to be a viable option, she turned to the hunky former-cop. See, things making sense and characters acting reasonably. Was that really so hard?! 

Darcy wasn't the most engaging protagonist I've ever read, but she wasn't "screw-up-cute" or "clumsy-adorable" and I don't think there were any occasions where she made me want to throw the book in frustration. (Man, I've really read some losers lately.) She seemed like a real person, and I appreciate that. And the supporting characters were also interesting and well-developed. Even the the character who everyone kinda hates was redeemed by the end. I loved that.

The town itself seemed like a magical Stars Hollow. It's a magic-themed town, but only some of the townsfolk know that real magic exists. Those with magic are called Crafters, and each Crafter family has a different ability. Darcy, her sister, and her aunt are Wishcrafters. When someone makes a wish out loud, and they're pure of heart, the Wishcrafter must grant the wish. The world building here was pretty cool, and the first I've read like that.  

But the best part, bar none, are the familiars. If you don't love Pepe, you're wrong.


Ok, now my brain is busy imagining that Stars Hollow, like Enchanted Village (the name of the town in It Takes A Witch), has folks secretly hiding magic abilities, while other townsfolk know nothing about it. Miss Patty and Babette definitely have magic. Taylor Doose definitely doesn't. And he's constantly frustrated because he knows that Something Is Up, but can't figure out what. Kirk is totally a squib. Luke has magic, but is curmudgeonly about it, like everything else. Suki, yes. Jackson, probably not. Lorelai and Rory are No's, but they are completely enchanted by the magic, even though they don't know it's there.

I would totally watch that show. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Book Review: Winter

Winter (Lunar Chronicles #4) 
By Marissa Meyer
**** 1/2
“She was prettier than a bouquet of roses and crazier than a headless chicken. Fitting in was not an option.” 
― Marissa MeyerWinter
I finished it! Man that was a long book! And STRESSFUL. Even knowing that HEAs were assured, this book kept me in a constant state of worry. 

While the cover and title are given to our fourth heroine, Winter, I didn't feel like this was necessarily her book - all the stories entwined perfectly and felt very balanced as the changes in viewpoints progressed the plot. It didn't feel like Winter was the major focus; that being said, I still felt like I really got to know her and Jacin. Like I said, everything was really well balanced. 

This series was fantastic - I connected to all the characters and loved them all, Iko in particular. I sort of find myself shipping Iko and Kinney...

Now can we get an epilogue? I'd like to hear more about those Happily Ever Afters...

Monday, December 7, 2015

Book Review: The Dirt on Ninth Grave

The Dirt on Ninth Grave (Charley Davidson #9) 
By Darynda Jones
"I took a quick sip of my coffee before explaining. "I'm, like, stupid smart. I'm probably a prodigy of some kind."" --The Dirt on Ninth Grave, Darynda Jones
I love this series so much. There was a major twist that occurred at the end of book #8 that sends Charley to Sleepy Hollow, New York, where of course she meets the headless horseman. 

I won't go into what the twist is, but it changed Charley's circumstances. Despite what was a pretty big change, the book itself didn't really differ in tone or structure from previous books. If you're anticipating a major change, the way I was, you're not going to get it. That being said, I've enjoyed the tone and structure for the last 8 books, so I'm not too disappointed in the way this one played out.

Charley remains our snarky heroine, Reyes still steams up any room he enters (good thing since the story takes place during a New England winter), and Cookie is still the best friend we all wish we had. We have various threats of natural and supernatural natures and the story arc progresses further. All in all, this series still ranks among my favorites, and Ninth was another great addition to it.

**I received an Advanced Review eGalley of this title from NetGalley**

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Book Review: Witches of East End

For once I'm going to use the Media cover
since I liked the show so much better!
Witches of East End (The Beauchamp Family #1) 
By Melissa de la Cruz
“Joanna, like her daughters, was neither old nor young, and yet their physical appearances corresponded to their particular talents. Depending on the situation, Freya could be anywhere from sixteen to twenty-three years of age, the first blush of Love, while Ingrid, keeper of the Hearth, looked and acted anywhere from twenty-seven to thirty-five; and since Wisdom came from experience, even if in her heart she might feel like a schoolgirl, Joanna's features were those of an older woman in her early sixties.” 
― Melissa de la CruzWitches of East End
Another book picked up because I enjoyed the TV show - and another book that was kinda "meh" in comparison. I've never read de la Cruz before, but she's prolific and popular, so I had high hopes. Unfortunately, there wasn't really anything I liked about the book. The plot was spotty; the characters were dull (and occasionally too stupid to live); and the resolution was tied up too neatly and entirely told, not shown. TV-Joanna was a total BAMF and a force to be reckoned with; Book-Joanna, not so much. And Wendy, my favorite character from the show, didn't exist in this book. Maybe she'll show up later. Maybe she was a creation for the show. I don't know, but I missed her. 

I feel like the show took all the weakest points from the book and patched them up. Plus, they had a fantastic cast, so connecting to the characters was easy. I didn't connect to any of the characters in the book, and frankly, sometimes I just didn't like them. The twist was interesting (book twist was different from TV twist), but so quickly revealed and resolved it didn't feel like it mattered. 

This is one of the few times where I'll definitely recommend the TV show over the movie. And wholeheartedly at that.  

Monday, November 9, 2015

Book Review: Cocaine Blues

Cocaine Blues (Phryne Fisher #1) 

By Kerry Greenwood
“Her heart was beating appreciably faster, and she took more rapid breaths, but she was enjoying herself. Adventuresses are born, not made.” 
― Kerry GreenwoodCocaine Blues
I absolutely adore Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries - the show. I'm afraid this is one of those rare times when I can honestly say the book *wasn't* better. 

There was much more detail to the mystery in the book - obvs - though the first episode did follow the plot fairly closely (book #1 = episode #1). The main problem I had with the book was that I never managed to connect to the characters. I made an instant connection with the characters on the show, even immediately shipping various pairings (Dot and Hugh 4eva!). Of all the characters in the book, I felt most drawn, of all people, to Bert. If I could have mustered up enough interest to ship any characters in the book, it would have been Phryne and Bert. For anyone who's watched the show, this sounds like crazy talk. But Hugh didn't exist, Dot was a bit harsher, and Jack was kinda dumb (and barely present). 

So there you have it. Watch the show. If you loved it, learning about its origins is interesting, but a little boring. At least it's a super quick read.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween Book Review: Secondhand Spirits

Secondhand Spirits (A Witchcraft Mystery #1) 
By Juliet Blackwell
*** 1/2
"I don’t want to be seen as a scary freak anymore.” And with that I dropped a freeze-dried bat into the bubbling brew." ― Juliet BlackwellSecondhand Spirits
While not exactly a Halloween title - the story takes place in March - it still seemed like an appropriate book for the season. Secondhand Spirits is an enjoyable cozy mystery with strong paranormal elements. Witch Lily Ivory wants to settle down a bit and make a home for herself, maybe even some friends, and begin a new business selling vintage clothing in San Francisco. But she's not able to keep her witchy ways quiet for long, as she gets involved with what appears to be a supernatural kidnapping AND a murder.

The mystery was strong - I only started to suspect who the Bad Guy was towards the end. I do like a bit more humor/snark in my cozies, but this one had a lot of heart and great supporting characters. Oscar is my clear favorite, obvs: Lily's new gargoyle-esque familiar who turns into a little piggy so the muggles don't freak out. 

Bonus: anyone who enjoys vintage fashion will love the descriptions of the clothes Lily sells in her shop.