Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book Review: Pocket Apocalypse

Pocket Apocalypse (InCryptid #4) 
By Seanan McGuire
****
“Hello,” she said. “Have you heard the good word of Wadjet, Protector of Egypt and great snake of the Milky Way?” 
― Seanan McGuirePocket Apocalypse
The fourth book in the InCryptid series had me on edge! The danger-level in this particular book seemed more intense than in previous installments. Normally I'd pick up a book in this series with the general assumption that the leads would live and there'd be a standard, if open (due to it being a series), HEA. I did not have that assurance as I read this story! Alex and Shelby head to Shelby's home in Australia after learning about a werewolf outbreak. In McGuire's world, werewolves are diseased - with a rabies-like virus - that makes them crazed killing machines. There will be no romantic interludes with these creatures. As they investigate the beastly menace, Alex also has to deal with Shelby's family, who pretty much hate him on sight as he's 1) an outsider, 2) a Price, 3) a grandson and cousin to a cuckoo, and 4) dating their daughter/sister.

The Aeslin mice, my favorite anthropomorphized characters since...ok, maybe ever, provide much needed levity, as everything else was stressing me out! They are basically the best. Despite the levity and all the madness and mayhem, there's one particular death that I'm still bitter about. Seanan, you know what you did!

I loved this book and I love this series. I can't wait to see what Verity's been up to in the next installment! We're going to a TV dance competition! HAIL!

Artwork by Kory Bing. Image taken from http://seananmcguire.com/fgaeslinmice.php

Monday, March 30, 2015

Book Review: Dead But Not Forgotten

Dead But Not Forgotten: Stories from the World of Sookie Stackhouse
Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner
****
“Not since the dark days of the Twilight franchise had it been so trendy to be dead.”
― Charlaine HarrisDead But Not Forgotten: Stories from the World of Sookie Stackhouse
The premise of this short story series kinda blew my mind. A collection of urban fantasy, paranormal, mystery, etc. writers got together and picked a character from Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series and wrote a new story based on said characters. These weren't stories on a common theme built around their own characters; they were actually writing stories within Sookie's world, up to and including origin stories! The idea of someone writing stories like that who weren't the original author (or taking over a series postmortem) was a little bizarre. I kept thinking WWCD: What Would *Charlaine* Do?? 

That being said, it totally works! I don't know how they did it, but the short stories all found the right voice and felt like they belonged to the whole. Highlights for me include Leigh Perry's "The Real Santa Clause," her take on Diantha (one of my favorite minor characters) in a post Dead Ever After world. There's a mystery to solve and Diantha is up to the challenge, "suresuresure." Seanan McGuire's "Knit a Sweater Out of Sky" had my favorite title and I loved the magical whimsy mixed in with the danger and comeuppance in Amelia's story. One of my favorite characters from the series is Pam, and I loved learning more about her origins from Dana Cameron's short story "The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars." I had to take a beat or two to divorce myself from the True Blood Pam and find the Sookie Stackhouse Pam - which can be difficult since Kristin Bauer van Straten is such a powerhouse that it's hard NOT to think of her. Once I got my character incarnations straight, I was completely enthralled by Pam's passion and fire, as well as her sass in the face of danger (the bit with the photo-op was a delight).

A great book for anyone who's still not quite ready to let go of the series. Recommended.


Story List:
"Nobody's Business" by Rachel Caine (featuring Kevin Pryor & Kenya Jones)
"Tyger, Tyger" by Christopher Golden (featuring Quinn)
"The Real Santa Claus" by Leigh Perry (featuring Diantha)
"Taproot" by Jeffrey J. Mariotte (featuring Andy Bellefleur)
"Knit a Sweater Out of Sky" by Seanan McGuire (featuring Amelia)
"Love Story" by Jeanne C. Stein (featuring Adele Hale Stackhouse)
"The Million-Dollar Hunt" by Jonathan Maberry (featuring Mustapha Khan)
"Borderline Dead" by Nicole Peeler (featuring Desiree Dumas)
"Extreme Makeover Vamp Edition" by Leigh Evans (featuring Bev & Todd)
"Don't Be Cruel" by Bill Crider (featuring Bubba)
"What a Dream I Had" by Nancy Holder (featuring Alcide Herveaux)
"Another Dead Fairy" by Miranda James (featuring Claude & Claudia Crane)
"The Bat-Signal" by Suzanne McLeod (featuring Luna)
"The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars" by Dana Cameron (featuring Pam Ravenscroft)
"Widower's Walk" by MaryJanice Davidson (featuring Eric Northman)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: Prudence

Prudence (The Custard Protocol #1) 
By Gail Carriger
*****
“If that Alpha wanted to dash off into the jungle with a mysterious goddess on her back on a whimsical evening run in the middle of a prospective battle, they would go with her.” 
― Gail CarrigerPrudence
Another great lark from the amazing Gail Carriger! Fast forward from the Parasol Protectorate series about 20 years, and join the offspring of several of its main characters in this new series. Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama is the daughter of a werewolf and a preternatural (a "soulless" able to cancel-out the super in the supernaturals), making her the first metanatural (being able to "steal" the super from the supernaturals) in hundreds of years. She was also adopted and raised by a fashion-forward vampire and his pretty-boy drones. This combination of parentage has lead young Rue (she hates her name), to be rather daring and fearless, particularly in terms of undergarments, much to the dismay of her family.

Lord Akeldama, Rue's adopted father, sends her to India on a mission: someone has stolen the tea he was intending for an importing venture. Armed with a dirigible decorated like a ladybug, the twin offspring of the London vampire queen, the son of a brilliant inventor, and relatives stationed at her destination, and Rue dives full steam ahead into adventure. 

The first book in the Custard Protocol series is light and frothy and full of fun. There is certainly a mystery and the occasional daring-do, but the story never loses its sense of humor. Old characters grace the pages occasionally, and I was delighted to see them again. And the new characters were equally lovely. Miss Sekmet became an instant favorite. In addition, Carriger expanded her world building, introducing not only new characters, but new creatures as well. That was unexpected, but completely delightful! I can't wait to see what  else she has in store for her readers in future books.

This book can certainly stand on its own, but I'd recommend starting with the Parasol Protectorate series and possibly even the Finishing School series first, if you're new to the author. Her characters float between the series, and I find certain scenes more meaningful when I know the backstory. Either way, I highly recommend this book if you're looking for a clever romp with a healthy dollop of silliness.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Book Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before #1) 
By Jenny Han
****
“Do you know what it’s like to like someone so much you can’t stand it and know that they’ll never feel the same way?” 
― Jenny HanTo All the Boys I've Loved Before
To All the Boys I've Loved Before is the story of Laura Jean Song Covey, who is about to begin her junior year in high school. The three Song girls - Margot, Laura Jean, and Kitty - have been extraordinarily tight since their mother died years ago. Margo, the eldest, is about to leave for her freshman year of college at Saint Andrews in Scotland, leaving Laura Jean to take over the big sister role. 

The year starts off with a bang for Laura Jean. Over the years she wrote love letters/goodbye letters to the boys she's loved to provide herself with closure. Once she wrote the letters to the boys, she sealed them up, addresses them, then sticks them in a hat box in her closet. They were never supposed to be seen. But on the first day of school, Laura Jean finds out that her former crushes have received their letters.

I had some trouble with this book initially - I really don't handle embarrassing situations well (be they fictional, real life, or my own), and boy howdy does this story start off with a doozy. But after getting over that hump, the story was touching and sweet and funny. I really enjoyed the characters and their growth. 

Laura Jean discovers a lot about herself, as well as a few of the boys, and I liked how much she grew. I know some people have been a bit shocked by the ending (no spoilers here!), but I liked where it left off. Also, it doesn't hurt knowing there's a sequel. I can't wait to see these characters again and find out what happens next!

Except for one: 


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Audio Book Review: Finishing School Series

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1)

By Gail Carriger
Narrated By Moira Quirk
Story: *****
Narration: *****
“It's no good choosing your first husband from a school for evil geniuses. Much too difficult to kill.” 
― Gail CarrigerEtiquette & Espionage
From Goodreads:
It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. 

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.


From Me:
This book is utterly delightful! Our heroine is clever, a Hermione without the wand, and fearless, but not in a "too stupid to live" way. Having read Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, I got a kick out of meeting characters in their youth that I knew as adults from Alexia's story, particularly the nine-year-old french girl who dressed as a boy. My fingers are crossed that Sophronia one day meets Akeldama - I think he'd like her.


Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School #2)
By Gail Carriger
Narrated By Moira Quirk
Story: ****
Narration: *****
“Ah. And how many ways do you know to kill me, while we dance?”
“Only two, but give me time.”  
― Gail CarrigerCurtsies & Conspiracies
Another great story by Gail Carriger! I truly love her Steampunk world and Sophronia's place in it. I had a hard time in the beginning of the book with the way the other students were treating our heroine, but it was explained well and made sense with the plot...I was just glad when that particular part of the story ended. 

Can't wait to find out what happens next!


Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School #3) 
By Gail Carriger
Narrated By Moira Quirk
Story: *****
Narration: *****
“Lady Linette has been teaching us seduction techniques.” She lowered her eyes and then looked off across the gray moor, presenting him with her profile, which was rather a nice one, or so Mademoiselle Geraldine told her.
That statement successfully shocked Felix. He swallowed a few times before saying, his voice almost as high as it had been a year ago, “Really?” 
― Gail CarrigerWaistcoats & Weaponry
Sophronia and company take on another adventure, this time helping Sidheag with family issues (notable background info in the Parasol Protectorate series). The ladies are terribly clever, and not much can stop them. Mixed with the action and a masquerade ball, Carriger deftly weaves in incredible humor - the girls may have started their training in seduction techniques, but it's clear they're still naive about some aspects of the opposite sex. Suffice it to say that these parts of the story brought out the giggles.

Now I need to go back and read the Parasol Protectorate series and get a refresher before diving into the Custard Protocol! Highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Book Review: Bad Blood

Bad Blood (Latter-Day Olympians #1) 
By Lucienne Diver
****
"I needed a shrink and a ladies' room--not necessarily in that order." --Bad Blood, Lucienne Diver
I'm so excited that Lucienne Diver will be one of our featured authors at this year's Lake County Library BookFest! Bad Blood was great fun with a super-sassy P.I. heroine, a la Charley Davidson. But instead of Charley's ghosts and demons, Diver's Tori Karacis is "facing off" against the Greek gods of old! Surly gods, creatures from the sea, two potential beaus, and a prehistoric sloth are just a few of the problems Tori has to deal with, not to mention the supposedly hum-drum case of a woman's missing dog.

I can't wait to see what happens to Tori next! Recommended.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Book Review: Vision in Silver

Vision in Silver (The Others #3) 
By Anne Bishop
****
"Meg Corbyn entered the bathroom in the Human Liaison's Office and laid out the items she'd labeled the tools of prophecy: antiseptic ointment, bandages, and the silver folding razor decorated with pretty leaves and flowers on one side of the handle." --Vision in Silver, by Anne Bishop.
Another great entry in The Others series. The mythology utilized in this series is so great - and so different from any other urban fantasy/paranormal/SFF series I've read. 

After finishing the book, I wondered if it was the end of the series. Honestly, if this *had* been where the series ended, I would have been very happy with the final result. It left you with hope for certain things while wrapping up other things nicely (was that vague enough?). But it looks like there will be at least two more books in the series. Books I will definitely be reading! 

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

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Book Review: Lives in Ruins

Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble 
By Marilyn Johnson
****
“When the Apocalypse comes, you want to know an archaeologist, because we know how to make fire, catch food, and create hill forts” 
― Marilyn JohnsonLives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble
I wanted to be an archaeologist when I was in high school. I'm actually pretty sure that's what I told the year book people when they asked what career I planned to go into. HA! I wouldn't have lasted 5 minutes as an actual archaeologist. I don't like getting dirty, bugs, or the outdoors.

I do like history, and discovering new things, and the idea of lost stories being discovered and told again -- hence my fascination with this field. I'm glad I became a librarian; I can be surrounded by these stories once they're brought into the open and help other people discover them. Without all the dirt and scorpions (though lets not talk about what is occasionally "discovered" in the book drop or children's play area).

Lives in Ruins was a fascinating look into a profession that people think is super cool (thanks Indiana Jones!), but doesn't get the support it needs to keep our pasts from being destroyed. Did you know that most archaeologists have a lot of trouble making ends meet - at work and at home? Archaeology, like Library Science, is not where the money is.

Marilyn Johnson is a very brave woman and a very great writer; she makes you feel like you're bumping along on the road to a pyramid in Peru, digging in the Grecian sunshine at a forgotten temple in the Mediterranean, or walking above a secret military graveyard in the middle of a field in New England. If you're fascinated with Archaeology or history or just enjoy a great non-fiction book, I'd highly recommend Lives in Ruins. Now I can't wait to read Johnson's book about my own profession!

Audio Book Review: Yes Please

Yes Please  
Written by Amy Poehler
Narrated by Amy Poehler, Carol BurnettSeth MeyersMichael SchurEileen PoehlerWilliam PoehlerPatrick StewartKathleen Turner
Book: ****
Narration: *****
“Telling me to relax or smile when I’m angry is like bringing a birthday cake into an ape sanctuary. You’re just asking to get your nose and genitals bitten off.” 
― Amy PoehlerYes Please
Amy Poehler is a delight and a heroine. I'd like to be her when I grow up, except for the acting thing and the comedy thing. 

A lot of people will go into this book thinking it's a comedy book, which it is not. There's plenty of funny in it, but it is definitely more of a memoir, with Poehler's thoughts on life, stories from her childhood, and reflections on the world. Some of the anecdotes are hilarious, but others are touching or uncomfortable, but all are very real. But the comedy is definitely still present, like when Amy describes sitting on Clooney's lap at the Globes or making jokes with Tina.

There are so many ways to read a book anymore: print, digital, audio, holovids, direct-to-brain downloads, and fiction mist (oh wait, those last three haven't quite happened yet). So let me tell you right now the best way to read this particular book: audio, Audio, AUDIO. The book is read by Poehler, and she is a marvel. You can read the text in her voice if you're familiar with her work, but it's far better to HEAR the text in her voice, or sometimes Carol Burnett's voice, or Kathleen Turner's voice, or Patrick Stewart's voice, because they all join her in the narration! At one point Seth Meyers joins Amy in the recording booth and they have a little chat, later Amy reads a chapter to an audience at a comedy club. If you're a Parks and Recs fan, then you'll enjoy the clips from the show interspersed in the chapter dedicated to her time in Pawnee. These are all things you would miss out on if you use your eyes instead of your ears to read Yes Please. Please say YES! to the audio - you won't regret it!

Amy, you deserve all the pudding!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Audio Book Review: Shades of Milk and Honey

Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1) 
By Mary Robinette Kowal
Read by Mary Robinette Kowal
****
“Perfection is different to every viewer.” 
― Mary Robinette KowalShades of Milk and Honey
From Goodreads:
Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.

Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right--and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.


From Me:
A delightful cross between a Jane Austen story of manners and...well, magic. If I had to compare this story to anything, I'd say it's fairly similar in tone to that of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, though Shades is not as dense. 

I loved Jane, she was very Anne Elliot-esque, and Anne is probably my favorite classical heroine. Her sister, Melody, on the other hand, frustrated me to no end (people who act like her generally do). 

I listened to the audio book version of the story, and it was read by the author, who did a wonderful job. I always feel like I'm getting the truest version of the story when it's read by the author, and Kowal did a lovely job with the telling.

I'd recommend this book to fans of Austen, fantasy, and historicals. It'd also work well as a YA crossover.