Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waiting on Wednesdays: Gunmetal Magic

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

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Gunmetal Magic (Kate Daniels #5.5)
By: Ilona Andrews
Publication Date: 7/31/2012

From Goodreads:

Some people have everything figured out — Andrea Nash is not one of those people. After being kicked out of the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid, Andrea's whole existence is in shambles. All she can do is try to put herself back together, something made easier by working for Cutting Edge, a small investigative firm owned by her best friend, Kate Daniels.

When several shapeshifters working for Raphael Medrano — the male alpha of Clan Bouda and Andrea's former lover — die unexpectedly at a dig site, Andrea is assigned to investigate ... and must work with Raphael. As her search for the killer leads her into the secret underbelly of supernatural Atlanta, Andrea knows that dealing with her feelings for Raphael might have to take a backseat to saving the world...

I'm so excited! I love the Kate Daniels urban fantasy series! This is a sort of spin-off title focusing on Kate's BFF, Andrea.

Can't. Wait.

Book Review: Silence

Silence (The Queen of the Dead #1)
By: Michelle Sagara
"'Eric, why is it important to you that I--that I stop seeing the dead?'
'Because,' he replied slowly, 'then I won't have to kill you.'"

Description from Goodreads:

"It began in the graveyard... "

Ever since her boyfriend Nathan had died in a tragic accident, Emma had been coming to the graveyard at night. During the day she went through the motions at her prep school, in class, with her friends, but that's all it was. For Emma, life had stopped with Nathan's death. But tonight was different. Tonight Emma and her dog were not alone in the cemetery. There were two others there--Eric, who had just started at her school, and an ancient woman who looked as though she were made of rags. And when they saw Emma there, the old woman reached out to her with a grip as chilling as death....

Emma was not quite like others teenagers. It was true that other girls had experienced grief. Other girls had also lost their fathers, or had their boyfriends die in a senseless accident. But though she hadn't known it till that night in the graveyard, unlike those other girls, she could see, touch, and speak with the dead. In fact, Emma could draw upon the essence of the dead to work magic. That was what Necromancers did. But Emma had no desire to be a Necromancer. She just wanted to help the ghosts who walked the streets of Toronto, unable to escape from the land of the living. And that was just as well, because had she chosen the path of the Necromancer, Eric would have had to kill her.

Instead, Eric and his fellow Necromancer hunter Chase found themselves violating every rule they were sworn to follow, becoming part of Emma's group, helping her to stand against those who preyed upon the dead. But whether Emma and her friends could survive such a battle was anyone's guess. And whether Emma could learn to use the magic of the dead against her enemies without herself falling victim to the lure of such power remained to be seen. Eric seemed to think she could, and her living friends would never abandon her. But only time would tell what Emma's true destiny was....

My review:

I'm a big fan of Michelle Sagara; her fantasy series, The Chronicles of Elantra, are some of my favorite books. So when I found out that she was writing a YA novel, I got super-excited and had that sucker ordered for our library. Unlike Elantra, this book takes place in the present-day real world. Or as real as you can get when the heroine sees dead people.

This is a cool story of a girl coming to grips with the impossible. Emma understands death and grief after losing her father at a young age and losing her boyfriend within the year. She finds peace and quiet walking her dog (an overweight rottweiler named Petal) in the local cemetary at night, where she just sits at her boyfriend's grave. That peace is forever altered when she meets a boy named Eric in the graveyard and an ancient woman with a strang lantern. I'm not entirely sure if she's given the "gift" of seeing the dead, or if it's just awakened at this point, but this ability immediately puts Emma in danger. It makes Emma a necromancer and it's Eric's job to hunt and kill them.

In this world, necromancer's are BAD. They steal energy from the dead to create their magic, and generally they use that power for evil. Emma, though, has no desire to turn evil or use others for her own means; instead, she wants to help the dead move on. Figuring out how to do that whilst hanging out with the guy who may have to kill her is not exactly easy thing, but she somehow manages to do so, leading to a cool ending and an intriguing cliff hanger.

I really enjoyed this book. Michelle writes heroines that have a great depth of conviction and desire to help her fellow man. The story rolls along at a good pace and the characters are interesting and relatable. There is some language in this book, and though the book isn't flooded with cursing, if that's something you don't like, please be aware that it's there. This is a great addition to the paranormal genre and I highly recommend it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

It's Monday: What are you reading?

It's Monday: What are you reading? is a weekly meme from Book Journey.

I recently finished the latest Sookie Stackhouse novel, Deadlocked, and loved it! But then again, I'm completely hooked on this world and I probably would have loved it no matter what. I recently heard a rumor that Charlaine will be finishing up the series with the next installment. Kudos to her for not dragging the series on for.e.ver, but I'm still heartbroken by the fact that it may be concluding. Man I hope Sookie gets a nice "happily ever after" - one that's pretty boring...that poor girl could use some boring.

I also finished the YA book, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman. This was a really cool ancient-relic-mystery-adventure type of story. Basically, there are some teens that read latin who help out a professor with some transcriptions. He's obsessed with this unbreakable code (that part is actually real - the code, not the professor's obsession), which after 400 years of nobody being able to crack it (also true), our heroine discovers the way to break it. Death and mayhem ensue, mostly in Prague. The story has a definite Da Vinci Code feel to it - the mysterious relic has religious implications, and the religious tone may or may not turn off readers. Still, the book was fascinating and I'd definitely recommend it.

See my full reviews for these titles in previous posts.

What I'm reading now: I'm currently trying to get through another YA novel, The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry. It's slow going; I haven't been able to get into the story, and there are several things about it that bug me. I'm determined to finish it, but I'm sure (unless it totally turns around at this point) this book won't be a favorite. I'm pretty sure the cover art and title will be superior to the actual story, which is a shame.

What I'm going to read: Oh good heavens, I have no idea. So many books, so little time! And whatever I type here I'll mysteriously not be in the mood for when it comes time to pick up something new, so I won't even bother.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Review: The Book of Blood and Shadow

The Book of Blood and Shadow
By: Robin Wasserman

“I should probably start with the blood.”

From Goodreads:

It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up. When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love. When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark.

But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead. His girlfriend Adriane, Nora's best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora's sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.

Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.

From Me:

The Book of Blood and Shadow is like two books in one: first, you have Nora and her friends, their lives, how they deal with school and relationships. Then you have a mad dash through the streets of Prague searching for mysterious clues to an ancient puzzle, which once solved, can give a glimpse into the divine.

Nora's past involves a tragedy that she keeps to herself. Her parents are lost in themselves, leaving Nora as an afterthought. Nora, a bit of a Latin prodigy, was admitted to a prestigious school on the other side of town, disconnected enough from her world that no one knows about her past. There she becomes best friends with Chris and his girlfriend, Adriane. Fast forward to Nora's senior year, where she is interning at the local university where Chris is attending, and they both assist a professor in translating and transcribing 400 year old Latin texts, along with Chris's roommate, Max. They're attempting to break a code that has puzzled the best mathematicians and code breakers for four centuries. Nora finds the key to breaking the code, and the wrong people notice, leading to the death of her best friend. To avenge Chris's murder and clear Max's name, Nora and Adriane head to Prague, where the Latin texts were originally written. There, they stumble through clues that lead to an unexpected ending.

The first half of the book feels like a typical real-life-issues young adult novel. The characters struggle through evolving relationships, family issues, and the question of their future. You get to know them and connect to them, the whole time knowing that one of them will shortly die while another is blamed for that murder. The first page opens with these bombshells, quickly followed by a flash-back that leads up to this big moment. After that, we get to the mystery in Prague, where Nora and Adriane search for Max and hide from more than one secret society that wants to hinder or hurt them.

The mystery and historical portions of the story were fascinating. Wasserman does a great job of describing a scene and really getting you attached to the characters. The only thing I wasn't terribly fond of was the religion angle; at times it felt like Wasserman was getting a bit heavy handed with the atheism, while at other times she provided an interesting focus on historical and current Judaism and the mysticism tied to the ancient relic they were searching for in Prague. Like The Da Vinci Code and The Golden Compass, the religious aspect of the book could potentially turn off readers.

I really enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to anyone who loves a good mystery or treasure hunt. Wasserman included a lot of real historical information about Prague, plus the impossible code they were trying to break is actually real - and still unbroken; this will appeal to historical fiction fans. It was great learning about a part of the world and a part of history that I wasn't familiar with, that of Prague during the Renaissance. The Book of Blood and Shadow is a very cool book and a great read.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Book Review: Deadlocked

Deadlocked (Sookie Stackhouse #12)  (*****)
by Charlaine Harris

From Goodreads:
With Felipe de Castro, the Vampire King of Louisiana (and Arkansas and Nevada), in town, it’s the worst possible time for a body to show up in Eric Northman’s front yard—especially the body of a woman whose blood he just drank.

Now, it’s up to Sookie and Bill, the official Area Five investigator, to solve the murder. Sookie thinks that, at least this time, the dead girl’s fate has nothing to do with her. But she is wrong. She has an enemy, one far more devious than she would ever suspect, who’s out to make Sookie’s world come crashing down.

From me:
Poor Sookie can't catch a break! She's attempting to make her relationship work with Eric, despite the unusual issues they face as a couple. She's trying to keep her house in order, despite her two fairy roommates. And then someone dies and she's dragged into another murder mystery.

I love these books, and I'll continue to read them until Harris ends the series (and then I'll mourn), but I'd love it if she'd write a short story where Sookie goes on vacation somewhere and nothing happens. (She kinda did this once, and something did happen, but still...Sookie's life is rough.) Is that weird? Anyway, this installment in the series stays true to form: there's a mystery; there are relationship issues; Sookie has to worry about herself, her friends, and her family; and the reader delves deeper into Harris' world. If you love the series, you'll love this book, too.