Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Book Review: Illuminae

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) 

By Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
“Perhaps bravery is simply the face humanity wraps around its collective madness.” 
― Amie KaufmanIlluminae
A cross between Firefly and BSG, but with more teen breakup drama!

Kady and Ezra have just broken up when an evil tech corporation bombs their little ice planet, killing most of the inhabitants. Our heroes manage to escape to one of three space ships, but not together; Kady ends up on the science ship, Hypatia, while Ezra winds up on the military ship, Alexander. But now they're being chased by the BeiTech dreadnought, Lincoln. As if running for their lives from an evil tech company wasn't bad enough, BeiTech released some kind of chemical weapon on the planet and people are getting sick. And the Alexander took a lot of damage, particularly to its AI. Frying pan, meet fire.

In a departure from most other books I've read, I found myself more drawn to the action and format of this book than the relationships between the main characters. This never happens - I tend to read for the people not the place. But in Illuminae, the format was half the fun - the memos and emails and messaging drew me in to the events instead of distancing me from the characters. 
Alternately, while I was drawn to the characters, I wasn't drawn to Kady and Ezra's relationship. I found the relationships between them and secondary characters far more interesting. I was particularly fascinated with AIDAN's character and the portion of text pulled from its data. So well done!

Pros: detailed space chase, hacker extraordinaire, evil robot
Cons: icky love stuff, that ending (I'm not so sure about that wrap up - 
I liked Kady giving the finger to BeiTech, I like that AIDAN will likely be back, but I'm not so sure that I think Ezra coming back is the right thing. I hate it when lead characters die, but I thought the story was far more interesting with him dead. Almost would say the same for Kady; like for reals, how did she survive that?! ) [Highlight for spoiler]

All in all, Illuminae was a great book and I'd highly recommend it. Great option for reluctant readers and sci-fi nerds of all ages (come on, it has space zombies AND an evil AI!).

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Harry Potter House Book Recommendations

Harry Potter House Book Recommendations

There are a lot of fun aspects to the Harry Potter universe for its die hard fans. Like many of us, I have visited Pottermore and got sorted into a house (Ravenclaw!). I have had detailed discussions about which houses celebrities and various characters would be in, as well as which combo houses I'm suited to (I think I'm actually more of a Huffleclaw). I've walked the streets of Diagon Alley (in Florida) and had a wand pick me. It was made of willow and I've worked magic with it:
Willow wood has powers of protection, especially against natural disasters. Willow people are strong and flexible; they recover quickly from the unexpected. Willow people should face new challenges confident that each encounter only makes them stronger.
Knowing how strongly fans dig into the HP world, I decided to build a Suggested Reads list for each Hogwarts house. The books are all YA or YA-adjacent.

If you haven't officially been sorted into your Hogwarts house, click on the link above for Pottermore to find out where you belong, then peruse the lists below to find a great new read!

Books for Gryffindors:

  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  • Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Read Player One by Ernest Cline
  • The Eye of Minds by James Dashner
  • Front Lines by Michael Grant
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  • Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
  • The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
  • Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
  • Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Books for Hufflepuffs:
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chboskey
  • The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
  • To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
  • Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan
  • Legend by Marie Lu
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  • Winger by Andrew Smith
  • Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
  • Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson

Books for Ravenclaws:
  • A Drop of Night by Stefan Bachmann
  • Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
  • Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
  • A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
  • Illuminae by Amie Kaufman
  • Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • Jackaby by William Ritter
  • Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
  • Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman
  • Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Books for Slytherins: 

Now it's your turn: tell us your Hogwarts House and if you think any of the books above would be better suited for a different House, or if the list is missing a great title for a specific house! 

Book Review: White Cat

White Cat (Curse Workers #1)
By Holly Black
“Pet the cat dude," says Sam. "She brought you a present. She wants you to tell her how badass she is."

"You are a tiny tiny killing machine." Daneca coos.

"What's she doing?" I ask.

"Purring!" says Daneca. She sounds delighted. "Good kitty. Who's an amazing killing machine? That's right. You are! You are a brutal brutal tiny lion! Yes, you are.”

In Cassel's world, some people can do magic and some people can't, but everyone knows it exists. The majority of the non-magic users fear people who do magic, so magic is outlawed. Therefore, the magic users tend to band together in organized magical groups, and since magic is outlawed, these groups participate in organized crime. In other words, a magic mafia.

That's right - a magic mafia!

So Cassel's family are all magic practitioners and are connected to a major crime family. Cassel, though, (if I may steal a term from Harry Potter) is a squib - the only non-magic person in a magic family of con artists. His mother is in prison, his brother is interning at a law firm trying to get her out, and his other brother is an enforcer for the mafia don's heir apparent. Cassel's grandfather does the dirtiest work of all - his touch can bring death.

In this world, all magic is used through the power of touch; everyone wears gloves to keep from getting "cursed." But for every magic touch the magic wielder uses, he or she get's a whiplash-type effect. So if you are a memory worker, you lose your own memories. If you can kill someone with a touch, a part of your body dies (Cassel's grandfather is missing many fingers). So magic wielding isn't all fun and games, but Cassel still feels like the black sheep in the family because he doesn't have a gift.

To make matters worse, he killed his best friend.

The story follows Cassel as he tries to make a normal life for himself, but is finding that hard to do with his last memory of his best friend, his confusion about why he killed her, and other major family issues. And considering the fact that his best friend is the Don's only child and Cassel's family is keeping the secret that Cassel killed her, the issues are vast and troublesome. The story has a lot of twists and turns, but it is an engaging urban fantasy mystery. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes an edgier read with a supernatural twist!

Audio Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1) 
By Laini Taylor
Narrated by Khristine Hvam
“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.” 
Karou is a teenager who attends a school for the arts in Prague. She has blue hair and tattoos, the most obvious of which are the eyes on each palm and "true" and "story" on each wrist. She's also a brilliant artist and her friends love to look at her sketch book for the fantastic creatures she draws there. In addition to the beautiful drawings, Karou tells stories of the different "characters." What her friends don't know is that these creatures are real, and they're Karou's family.

Karou's family are Chimera - creatures made up of different animal parts (kinda like the Sphinx). Unbeknownst to Karou, her family has been fighting a war for a century: a war against the angels.

Enter Akiva, a beautiful angel who comes to earth to close the portals Karou's family uses to access our world. Akiva meets Karou and the sparks (and flames) fly. They fall in love, but there's far more to their story than either could possibly guess.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a mesmerizing mix of love and hate, peace and war, romance and tragedy. Taylor has fused together two worlds in a fascinating and believable way and Hvam narrates it beautifully. And just when you have hope that everything will work out for our star-crossed lovers, Taylor comes along and sucker punches you. Thank heaven's there's a sequel!

This is a great story for anyone who enjoys paranormal romance, mythology, or stories that take place in foreign locales. Highly recommended.

P.S. Check out this book trailer I did for Daughter of Smoke and Bone!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Manga Review: Behind the Scenes!!

Behind the Scenes!! Vol. 1 
By Bisco Hatori
"I prefer shade to sunlight." -Bisco Hatori, Behind the Scenes!! Vol. 1
This series has a lot of promise - a college "art squad" who creates the costumes, set designs, etc. for the campus film groups. The squad has a fun variety of characters and I think it'll be interesting to see where their stories go. 

The only draw back (and the reason I didn't give this a higher rating), and one I felt happened with the Ouran series, too, is that it feels like too much is jammed into the first volume. Not just story-wise - Hatori does have a lot of characters to introduce in this ensemble - but even visually. There are a few pages and frames that have so much going on that I can't really tell what's happening in the picture. In Ouran, this settled down after a bit, and then I was fully immersed, and I hope that's the case here as well. 

So far this series is starting out pretty tame, even though it takes place in a college setting. It looks like it will be a good fit for artistic types, particularly high school students. I'd recommend the series for anyone who's interested in film making, particularly the "Behind the Scenes!!" work it takes to get the film made.

Looking forward to finding out what happens next and excited to start a new series by the only manga artist/writer I've really gotten into. 

Bonus Factors: Steampunk elements, art/design

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Book Review: The Curse of the Tenth Grave

The Curse of the Tenth Grave (Charley Davidson #10) 
By Darynda Jones
"There are those in this world who, when they have to get up in the middle of the night to pee, turn on the light. And there are those who leave it off...I pee in the dark, baby." Darynda Jones, The Curse of the Tenth Grave. 
Review contains mild spoilers for the book and the series. Read at your own risk!

Things have really changed for the characters in the last few books in the series. Charley is back home in Albuquerque and back on a few new cases, all whilst rocking some new major powers, which makes her narrative even more interesting. On the bright side, she manages to solve her cases (per usual) without being beaten and mangled at the end of the book (not per usual). I really appreciated that, and hope that's one side effect of her new celestial powers. But with all that, she's still the same snarky, slightly juvenile character I've grown to love. It really makes me wonder what she was like in her "past life." Was she always like this? Was she once noble and serene? Or was she faking noble and secretly snarky the whole time, and now she's getting to be her true self? I'd read that novella!

The way things are progressing, I'm wondering where this series will lead. Do we have bunches and bunches of books to look forward to until the Big Event? Or will Jones fast forward at some point? Either way, I'm in it for the long haul!

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

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.