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.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Halloween Book Review: Shutter

Shutter
By Courtney Alameda
***
“My people are condemned to wander this eternal twilight” 
― Courtney AlamedaShutter
I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this book. There were a few things the characters did that bugged me (Why do characters always keep vital information to themselves? SHARE WITH THE CLASS, PLEASE.). Mostly I think this would fit into horror-lite. It wasn't incredibly scary, but there was plenty of gore. I honestly think if this was made into a movie, I would have been unable to watch it. As it was, I had no problem reading the story...well, I wasn't keen on reading it right before bed, mostly because it was just a dark story, not because it needed to be put in the freezer.

My biggest problem with this book was that I just wasn't in the mood for it. October has been a very finicky reading month for me, and I've picked up and put down several books. So I probably would have enjoyed this more if I hadn't been in such a reading funk.

Pros - no love triangles, cool friend relationships, and a romance that began before the book (so there's some element of history there - no instalove). Also, cool world-building.

Cons - occasional teenage obnoxiousness (see above re: sharing vital information), bad-dad, and partial open-ending without confirmation of a sequel.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Book Review: Cast In Honor

Cast in Honor (Chronicles of Elantra #11) 
By Michelle Sagara
*****
"Do these cracks look strange to you" she asked. "What cracks?" Which answered that first question. "You know, when I first started training with the two of you, we had normal cases." Michelle Sagara, Cast in Honor
When our story opens, Kaylin and Crew are trying to get to the point where they can go on the hunt for Nightshade, who disappeared in the last book. But an investigation changes everything; and it turns out the investigation has more than a little to do with Nightshade.

We get to see more of some old characters, like Ybelline and Moran, and we're introduced to new characters Gilbert and Kattea, both of whom are pivotal to the investigation. And in the process, we learn just a bit more about Ravellon and the Shadows that abide there. Because of these new characters, and the mystery at the heart of this story, this entry in the Chronicles of Elantra felt a little different than the previous books. It added to the world building of the series, but it felt more removed from the overall story arc than the the last few books. 

The build up with Moran at the beginning of the book didn't really take off, as I expected it to. I have to assume that Moran's story will be coming up in the next book or two. As we haven't delved into the Aerian culture the way we have with other Elantran races, I'm anxiously awaiting that story line. 

As always, I loved this book and I can't wait to get my hands on the next!

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

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Book Review: Indexing

Indexing (Indexing #1) 
By Seanan McGuire
****
“When you’re late in a fairy tale, people wind up dead. And not true-love’s-kiss, glass-coffin-nap-time dead. Really dead, the kind of dead you don’t recover from.” 
― Seanan McGuireIndexing
Police procedural meets Grimm Brothers. In the fairy tale justice system, memetic incursions are considered especially dangerous. In the Real World, the dedicated detectives who defend Happily Ever After are members of an elite squad called the ATI Management Bureau. Beware of their stories. Chung Chung.

Indexing is the story of a team of agents who investigate memetic incursions - where fairy tales invade the real world. Seems it happens more often that you'd think. Nice girl with a dead mom, stepmother and two stepsisters? She's ripe to turn into a 510A "Cinderella." Despite Disney's best efforts to subvert the grimmer aspects of the original tales (pun intended), fairy tale incursions rarely have an HEA. 

It took me a while to get into the story, but it wasn't long before I became *involved*. This story was written as a serial - new chapters added on a regular basis, rather than a full book offered all at once. I didn't read it in installments, thank heavens, as I'm not sure I could have handled that. But the story definitely would have worked in that format. I just have no patience. 

This was a cool story and a new twist on old fairy tales. Recommended.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review: Beastly Bones

Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2) 
By William Ritter
****
“I’ve found very little about private detective R. F. Jackaby to be standard in the time I’ve known him. Working as his assistant tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality.”
Another great novel by William Ritter. Beastly Bones was a lot of fun to read and the beast in the title was particularly cool. Abigail Rook and R.F. Jackaby are great characters and I loved that Abigail got a chance to explore a dream of hers in this book. 

As much as I loved the first book in this series, my main issue with it was the weak-ish mystery. It was fairly obvious who-dun-it, though the why and what of it all remained unknown until the end. In Beastly Bones, the mystery was much more solid and a bigger puzzle began to unfold towards the end that I can't wait to dig in to. 

I'm totally loving this series and highly recommend it. 

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Graphic Novel Review: Nimona

Nimona
Story and art by Noelle Stevenson
*****

“Halt you villains! Unhand that science!”
― Noelle Stevenson


From Goodreads:
The graphic novel debut from rising star Noelle Stevenson, based on her beloved and critically acclaimed web comic, which Slate awarded its Cartoonist Studio Prize, calling it "a deadpan epic."

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.
 

From Me:
Oh my word I loved this book! The story takes place in a sort of medieval, magical land that has refrigerators and pizza delivery and dragons. The story is heartfelt and I may have teared up once or twice, while at other times I struggled to hold in my giggles since I was reading it over lunch at work.


The art is fantastic and the story is lovely. I read a library copy, but this one is going to have to go permanently on my shelf.
Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Book Review: Day Shift

Day Shift (Midnight, Texas #2) 
By Charlaine Harris
****

A fun follow up to Harris's Midnight Crossroad. This time around the focus is on Manfred and Olivia as the primary voices, and Joe as a secondary voice. (I kinda love that there's no single main character in this series - Manfred takes the lead, but the other characters seem to be getting their own chance to take focus from book to book.) 

Things are changing in this unchanging little town and nobody likes it. There are several mysteries for our characters, some of which aren't revealed at the end. What was revealed was more about the characters, namely who and what they are. While I enjoyed the mystery, what I really loved about this installment was getting to know the characters better. I can't wait to find out more about them and see what happens next to their little town, because clearly something is coming.

In my review of Midnight Crossroad, I commented on how various characters and references were made to Harris's other series. The only reference I hadn't caught in the first book was to Sookie Stackhouse's world. Well, Day Shift is chock full of Sookie references, and they aren't even little minor ones. I love that we're getting a new series and a new set of stories, but I also like that I don't have to completely leave those past worlds behind.

Another great book for fans of Charlaine Harris! Recommended.

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Book Review: Seven Kinds of Hell


Seven Kinds of Hell (Fangborn #1) 
By Dana Cameron
*****
“I felt the shame of unleashing the Beast only until I was washed in a flood of righteousness...As I stepped out of my cheap black China-doll shoes, I felt elegant, sleek, graceful. The wind ruffled my fur.”  ― Dana CameronSeven Kinds of Hell
Take everything you know about vampires and werewolves and toss it out the window. Go ahead and toss it, I'll wait.

Dana Cameron's Fangborn world is made up of vampires, werewolves, and oracles, and they are completely different from anything I've read or watched. And they're FASCINATING! I'm particularly intrigued by Dana's vampires - which can turn into giant, colorful snake-creatures. Seriously, how cool is that? (Ok, maybe less cool if you have a snake-phobia. Fortunately for me they didn't turn into giant spiders.)

The story follows Zoe, a young woman pursuing an education in archaeology, who spent her life on the run from her father and his family. Her mother believed they were some kind of mafiosi, and they shuffled from place to place over the years to keep them at bay. Now Zoe is an adult, her mother just passed away, and it looks as though her father's family has finally caught up with her. Oh, and either she's insane, or she can turn into a werewolf. (Spoiler Alert: she's not insane...)

You'd think this would be enough of a story - woman on the run trying to stay a step ahead of her werewolf family, but noooo, Dana turns it up a notch by adding an international artifact hunt, mythology, several baddies of human and non-human nature, and various allies and enemies with Zoe trying to figure out which is which. 

This story subverted ALL of my expectations and gave me a book so far beyond what I could have hoped for! I gave up trying to figure out what could possibly come next after the first few surprise twists. And to top it off, Dana is a real-life archaeologist, so when she gets into aspects of that field, it's truly fascinating (or at least it was to me, who at one point thought I wanted to become an archaeologist - see my review of Lives in Ruins for more info about that). 

Bonus: I haven't traveled much, and what I *have* done took place over 10 years ago, but the characters traveled to places that I've seen in the flesh, and that was awesome for me. I've seen the ruins at Ephesus, and I've shopped the streets of Kusadasi (where I was proposed to...by a random fella outside a shop), and I've wound my way through the twisty alleyways of Mykonos. Luckily my trip didn't involve any murders or vast conspiracies...

Double Bonus: I had the chance to meet Dana last month at my library's annual Book Fest and she is super nice, incredibly funny, and wicked awesome. If you ever have the chance to hear her speak, take it!

Seven Kinds of Hell was such a cool book. There's a lot too it, but it's one helluva ride! Highly recommended.

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 seals 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.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book Review: First Frost

I love the cover art for Allen's books!
First Frost (Waverly Family #2) 
By Sarah Addison Allen
*****
“On the day the tree bloomed in the fall, when its white apple blossoms fell and covered the ground like snow, it was tradition for the Waverleys to gather in the garden like survivors of some great catastrophe, hugging one another, laughing as they touched faces and arms, making sure they were all okay, grateful to have gotten through it.” 
― Sarah Addison AllenFirst Frost
Another beautiful story by the amazing Sarah Addison Allen, who has become one of my all-time favorite authors. Her worlds are so warm and wondrous, and reading one of her books is like cozying up to a fire with something warm and sweet to drink.

This is Allen's first "sequel," though Claire has shown up in another book besides her own, but I like to believe that all of these stories happen in the same fictional universe. Like all of Allen's stories, magic weaves throughout the tale - in this case, characters who through food or hair styling can affect a person's day, a character who has the sudden urge to give some random thing to some random person - a thing that person will need, and a young girl who knows where everything belongs. 

I loved revisiting the Waverly family, seeing their lives after the "happily ever after." Much of this story follows what happens to Bay, now 15 years old, after she gave a letter to Josh, a senior in high school who she knows she belongs with - a knowledge that comes with her Waverly gift. It's nice to see that even though these characters had their HEA at the end of Garden Spells, despite their touch of magic, they're still normal people with normal issues and insecurities. 

A magical story from a magical author. Highly recommended.

I received an eGalley of First Frost from NetGalley.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Graphic Novel Review: In Real Life

In Real Life
Written by Cory Doctorow
Illustrated by Jen Wang
***
“This life is real too. We're communicating aren't we?” 
― Cory DoctorowIn Real Life
In Real Life follows Anda as she gets into gaming and discovers issues within the gaming world, as well as the actual world. It examines girls in games, gaming for money, "gold farming," and differences in how other countries treat their employees.

Frankly, this story was a little too after-school-special-y for me to truly enjoy it. It wasn't bad, not at all, but it may have been improved by more text and back story; in this context there were too many "issues" to care about the characters. That being said, the artwork was gorgeous. Jen Wang did a beautiful job.

Maybe I didn't love the book, but I'd still recommend it to young gamers, particularly girls who think maybe it's not ok for them to like gaming. It's a super fast read, so it's worth the half hour it takes to get through it.