Monday, November 28, 2011

Miscellaneous Mondays: Thanksgiving and The Muppets

In this week's Misc. Monday I'm going to share with you some of the things I did/watched over break, when I wasn't doing family things. I hope everyone's week was as relaxing as mine!

The Muppets

 Josh had been looking forward to this new Muppet movie for months. The Muppets were a huge part of his childhood, so the nostalgic value was up there with how I feel for Beauty and the Beast. For me, I didn't see most of the movies until a bit later in my life, with the exception of The Muppet Christmas Carol which I love. I enjoy them, but I'm not the fan that Josh is. So I went in expecting to feel pretty apathetic. Well...I cried. It was the Rainbow Connection number that did me in, and I'm a weepy person in general. Nonetheless, I cried at a Muppet movie, and I laughed a lot too. Overall, it's about as good as you can ask for from a family movie, so I highly recommend it.

How to Train Your Dragon

I rented a ton of movies, and this was probably the one I enjoyed the most. Obviously I love fantasy books and movies. And, damn it, there just aren't enough dragons in movies these days. It has a cliched plot with a geeky son who's warlord father can't accept him. The son befriends a dragon that he's supposed to kill...it's pretty predictable. But it's also funny and clever in some respects, and it gave me my dragon fix so it was a winner in my book.

Beastly

This was the other notable rental for the week. I've been on this whole fairy tale kick, so I picked this one up even though I sort of knew it wouldn't be very good. And it was pretty awful. The dialogue was awkward, the acting was terrible for the most part, and the romance felt lukewarm. There were some cool or at least interesting ideas, like the tree tattoo on Kyle/Hunter that changes with the seasons. There were moments where I really wanted to like it. I really think that modernizations or re-imaginings of fairy tales can work, but it has to be done with thought as subtly. This movie is anything but subtle about everything from it's character personalities to it's overall message, and that more than anything is why it was a fail for me.

Lego Harry Potter (Part 2)

Yet another indulgence for my inner child. Josh and I played the first game and loved it, so I went ahead and got him the second one for his birthday. The Lego games are great for me because they're fun, easy, and low pressure. When you die, you lose coins, but you pop right back up on the screen. That's good because in video games I'm extremely death prone. I didn't play any when I was growing up, so it just isn't a skill that I've acquired. In any case, I really enjoy playing as my favorite Harry Potter characters--Tonks! Luna! Snape!




Poll Results!


Time Machine was the favorite of the mad scientist inventions. I think it's best, however, that this one never be invented. Think of all of the paradoxes we'd cause just trying to go back in time to kill Hitler or forward in time to memorize lottery numbers. The world would be a mess! It's a lovely thought though.



This week, since I shared with you my love of dragons, I'm asking what classic fantasy creature is your favorite! Take a second to vote in the poll on the right side of your screen! Thanks a bunch, and Happy Reading!
















Saturday, November 26, 2011

On Alien Erotica: A Review of Brianna by Judy Mays

As most of my followers are no doubt aware, I don't review erotica very often. I have several reasons--1) I don't read it very frequently 2) When I do read it, I usually go for the shorties and novellas which don't give me much to talk about 3) Reader reactions to erotica are really subjective, and consequently the books are hard to grade. But when I found Brianna on my "read eventually" shelf at home, picked it up, and started reading, I felt like this one might just give me something to talk about.

Because of the content of the book, the following discussion is meant for readers 18 and over only. Thanks for your discretion.


200 Followers Giveaway WINNER!

First of all, I want to thank all of you for following, commenting, and making this giveaway such a success! Second, our winner, selected by the magic of Rafflecopter, is....

Avon Bernabe! Avon will be receiving a copy of Mine Til Midnight by Lisa Kleypas, which is one of my favorite historical books (so far). Avon, you should receive an email shortly requesting your information. Congratulations and Happy Reading!

To those of you who did not win, don't despair! Another giveaway will be just around the corner, when we hit 300 followers! So keep spreading the word about Reading to Penguins and check back here often!

Friday, November 25, 2011

On Coyotes: A Review of Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs

So, first of all, this review is going to contain spoilers form Iron Kissed, the previous book in the series (you can find a spoiler free review of that one HERE).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ten Things Every Heroine Should be Thankful For

10. Hair Worthy of a Shampoo Ad







9. A Kick Ass Wardrobe










8. Those Little Supernatural Beauty Enhancements



7. Traveling to Exotic Locations







6. Access to POWER!







5. Intriguing Job Opportunities







4. Really, really big...Swords







3. Animal Sidekicks






2. Loving Families


And Finally, the #1 Thing Every Heroine Is Thankful For....Her Hero!


 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Miscellaneous Mondays: Post Insanity Edition

My original goal in starting this whole Misc. Monday weekly post was to make sure I got on here at least once a week to touch base with my followers. It's secondary purpose is to talk about things that have nothing to do with reading. For the most part that has meant discussing my favorite TV shows and movies I've been watching, and other random tidbits. Well, this week has been so full of work that I have missed most of my TV shows, have failed to see any interesting movies, and this is the first day that I've even peaked at any blogs in over a week. AH! Don't worry, I still have some things to share, but if you find it more boring that usual blame my cancer bio test and mycology projects.


My artistic side

This is one of my more eccentric habits. At least, I've never met anyone else that does this. I've had long, fast growing nails since I was six or seven (they came with the thicker hair, which I can tell you is much less desirable). I've been an enthusiastic nail polish collector for almost as long, and I've gotten pretty good at the whole manicure process. This is where the story turns geeky--I really like choosing patterns to match my book covers. This weeks isn't the best example (I was feeling lazy, and stripes are easy), but in general this is what I do to express my dubious artistic side. I often paint my nails while a watch TV or listen to a book--multitasking is key! I don't use anything fancy, just toothpicks soaked in acetone and ordinary nail polish does the trick. They get destroyed over a weeks worth of lab work and library work, so I get to try something new every 5 days or so. I've gotten compliments, and a few less friendly reactions, but they make me happy, and that's all that matters.

Why Mushrooms Are Awesome

I mentioned above that this semester I'm taking Mycology. The big project for the class was trapping and identifying molds, which is even less interesting than it sounds. Pretty early on, however, our class went out and collected mushrooms and other fungi from the gorge adjacent to the campus. The first thing I found was one of these cute little red things. My professor's response to this was "Just don't don't your face--those things are hallucinogenic."

When I shared this story with Josh, he was surprisingly knowledgeable on this subject. He proceeded to tell me that these are the mushrooms that inspired Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland, which subsequently inspired the mushrooms used in the Mario games. Normally I'm the one that knows all of the useless trivia! I do love Alice in Wonderland, and in fact I just watched the Disney animated version for the first time ever.

In any case, mushrooms are pretty much the weirdest things you'll see growing on land, and aside from their medicinal properties and recreational drug use, they happen to be tasty on pizza. All in all, it doesn't surprise me that they play such interesting roles in fantasy and mythology--ever heard of the fairy ring legend?

Pie Poll Is Tragically Inconclusive!

The pie poll ended with a tie between Apple and Pumpkin--both traditional Thanksgiving pies for those of us in the US! I think something went a bit wrong with the poll though, because it wasn't showing as many votes as I thought there were. Hopefully this won't continue to happen.

Pie is absolutely my favorite dessert, and it's up there on the list of favorite foods in general. I'm still working out how to make perfect flaky crust for my homemade pies, and right now I don't have a really good kitchen to practice in. But even store bought pie crust makes a pretty enjoyable pie. I know a few of you are probably more brownie or cookie people, so perhaps later on we'll do a more general dessert question.

This week's poll is part of an ongoing joke between my room mate and I. She believes that, as a scientist, I should be dedicating my time to making devices that will enable her laziness or otherwise improve her life. Those in the poll are the highlights of her wishlist. Please vote for the Best Mad Scientist Invention on the right side of your screen. Just in case I ever do become mad with genius.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Following Friday (12)

Q: Letter to Santa: Tell Santa what books you want for Christmas!

All I really want is to spend a quiet, happy Christmas with Josh (my almost husband), as we have for the past 5 Christmases. Second to that, I've got a list of books a mile long on my Amazon wishlist, so get crackin Santa!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On Cat and Bones: A Review of At Graves End by Jeaniene Frost


These days the market is flooded with so many vampire series that no one can possibly keep up with all of them, and frankly, I have no interest in trying to. There is a short list of series I actually think are worthwhile, and The Night Huntress series is on it. It isn't so much because they are unique and original (because they aren't), it's more that they manage to deliver what I want in a vampire book: action, gore, creepiness, a touch of romance, and some vamp politics--in just the right doses and without a lot of filler. At Graves End is book 3 in this series (see my review of book 2 HERE). There may be some book 1 and 2 SPOILERS from here on: you have been warned.

The better part of this book is devoted to a so-called war that has sprung up between two vampire lines: one which Bones is leader of, and one that belongs to an ancient Egyptian princess vampire. It seems like no vampire author can resist making a few historical royalty into vamps. In any case, Cat is currently a full time bad vamp slayer, but she is also Bones' wife. That both makes her a target and makes her partly responsible for taking out the murderous vampire princess.


Positive Comments

When it comes to main characters, Cat and Bones are pretty much everything that I could ask for. Cat is loyal, tough, and smart. Bones is powerful, devoted, and sexy as hell. I like both characters as individuals and I like them as a couple, and to me that's the most important aspect of a book like this.

The cast of secondary and background characters keeps growing, but it still doesn't feel too crowded (I'll admit that it comes close sometimes). For the most part, everyone fills a role and helps the story to feel more complete. I'm intrigued by many of them and eager to learn more about them.

Critical Comments

The plot, while fairly engaging, is not what you would call concise and to the point. In fact, it gets off track quite a bit, especially early on. I'm not saying that there is a lot of filler, because most of the details seem at least somewhat important. It's more a matter of organization, which could have been fixed with a bit of tighter editing.

This book was sufficiently satisfying for my vampire mood. There is a lot to love about it, and while none of The Night Huntress books (so far) have been 5 star read in my opinion, they are still worth a try. 4 stars.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Miscellaneous Mondays: Evening Edition

Those of you who have checked in for previous editions of MM probably know that I'm late today! Between tests, presentations, and papers I am absolutely swamped this week as we prepare for Thanksgiving break next week. I hope you'll forgive me if I'm not able to visit as many blogs as I normally do, but I promise to make up for it soon.

TV Talk

Really hilarious Supernatural this week! I always like the ones with a lighter, comical feel, and this one definitely delivered. I was amused by the addition of Garth to this episode, a character that I believe had been mentioned in passing but not previously seen.

I'm still keeping up with Grimm as best I can. It has the potential to be such a good show. This particular episode, though enjoyable, had it's issues. For one thing, it features bees that look so fake they are hard to take seriously. I know it's just a TV show, and budgets are limited and effects are tough. But yeah, it was a tough thing to look past. I also thought that the writers placed Nick in a pretty contrived situation and then had him make some remarkably questionable decisions. I'm not too upset though, the show still has a lot of room to grow in.

Once Upon a Time, on the other hand, still has me totally captivated. There are so many interesting stories to be told in the world that the show has set up. The one problem is, as Josh has pointed out to me repeatedly, the premise comes with an end date of sorts. The whole point is that eventually, all of the people who have forgotten their fairy tale origins will realize or remember them. At least, that's where I thought it was going. If/when that happens, the show can't really continue on in the same way. But, it's early in the running and who knows what will happen.

Lion King...In 3D!

We caved and went to see the Lion King at our local discount theater. For people my age this movie is extremely nostalgic, and being able to sit through it in a theater again brought back such awesome memories. Yeah, I know, it's a gimmick on Disney's part. And no, the 3D doesn't add anything. But it kept me entertained for an hour and change, so for me it was worth it.

Who Wants Superpowers?

Here are the results from last weeks poll! I'm a bit surprised at this one, because I would not have predicted telekinesis to win. Is it that people don't want to get up to retrieve the remote control across the room? I guess manipulating objects with your mind is pretty cool. If you got really good at it, you might be able to unlock vaults or make yourself levitate.

When it comes to reading, I love a character with superpowers. My philosophy toward it, though, has always been less is more. I think it's really interesting to take an otherwise ordinary character, give them one extraordinary power, and watch what they do with it. Jennifer Estep is doing a good job of this with Gwen from the Mythos Academy series: Gwen is psychometric. Everyone around her has crazy fighting skills, but she has only this unique psychic gift, and that puts her in some pretty interesting situations. Another good example is Mercy, from Patricia Brigg's series. She's just a shape-shifter, which is kind of rare but in no way makes her invincible or super special. Yet she accomplishes a lot with the abilities she has.

Does anyone want to share why their favorite superpower is the best? Leave a comment!

This week's poll is favorite pie flavor, because I love pie. Vote on the right side of your screen!

Don't forget to enter the 200 followers giveaway: Extra entries can be earned by tweeting or posting about it, so make sure you take advantage of that!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Start of Something Good Giveaway! (200 Followers)


I'm very excited to announce that we have reached 200 followers!  You guys rock! And to show my appreciation, I'm hosting a giveaway! The theme this time around is The Start of Something Good: One lucky winner will get to choose a book from the list bellow. All of the options are the the first books from series that I love, and I hope you will too!

Sea Swept by Nora Roberts
Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas
Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
Angel's Blood by Nalini Singh
Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione
Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas

All you need to do to enter is fill out the form bellow, and be sure to follow the instructions! This giveaway is open to all followers, US and International! Giveaway ends Saturday November 26th, and a winner will be announced shortly thereafter! Good luck, and Happy Reading!





Thursday, November 10, 2011

Following Friday (11)


Q: In light of 11.11.11 and Veteran’s Day tell us about your favorite solider and how he or she is saving the world. Fictional or real life.

My real life choice would be my big brother, Terry! He's served in the US Navy for as long as I can remember (18 years?) and apart from being a genius, he's an excellent leader.

In the world of fiction, I'd have to go with all the guys and gals from Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooters books. Such an incredibly loyal group of people who absolutely manage to kick ass at every turn.

Welcome, new and old followers! Don't forget to comment so that I know to visit you back! Also, please take a second to participate in my weekly poll--Your favorite super power--on the right side of your screen. Thanks a bunch, and Happy Reading!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

On Frost: A Review of Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep

I happened to win an ARC of this book back in October. It's the second book in the Mythos Academy (see my review of book one HERE). I had mixed feelings about the first one. This one, on the other hand, left me feeling pleasantly surprised.

In Kiss of Frost, Gwen is convinced that a Reaper is out to kill her because of the events of the first novel (which is all I can say, and still try to be spoiler free here). Gwen is still relatively unskilled when it comes to weapons and self-defense, but she does have a talent for investigation. Thus, wanting to prove herself and uncover her would-be killer, Gwen uses her psycometry powers to sift through her classmates' secrets.


Positive Comments:

I liked the winter setting and themes. I fully expected this book to be set entirely at the academy, which would have been fine. Instead, most of the story takes place at a ski resort where the Academy hosts a Winter Carnival. The change of scenery makes the story seem fresh.

As I said in my first review, the characters are quite interesting and thoughtfully written. In this book Gwen has finally started to come out of her shell socially, but she's still a fairly geeky and introverted character. I love Daphne, Gwen's best friend, who is the perfect blend of cheerleader and warrior princess, with a dash of computer nerd on top. Logan, the obvious love interest, is still hot and intriguing, and his character is finally beginning to show some depth. I also liked how the background characters were handled; Oliver, Carson, Preston, and so forth. The author manages to give them distinct and interesting personalities in very few pages.

As an aside, yes, there is actual kissing in Kiss of Frost. But I'm not telling you who kisses whom, because that would be a spoiler.

The overarching plot of the series seems to be headed in an interesting direction. This story by itself is pretty small and not overly exciting, but it does feel like it's building to something epic.

Critical Comment:

Gwen makes some questionable judgement calls. There are times when she seems to be willfully refusing to see obvious facts. This is frustrating for the reader, but I will acknowledge that Gwen is new to her role in the Mythos world, so a few mistakes may be excusable.

The only other complaint I have is that these books have a lot of untapped potential. The author has taken the time to build a world where all gods and goddesses and mythological creatures from all cultures exist, but she doesn't do much with them. Instead we get mortals fighting other mortals, with a little help from a giant killer wolf. There is so much more that could be done with this kind of world building, and as much as I enjoyed the story a part of me is disappointed at the wasted opportunity.

In the end, my expectations for this book were met and I dare say exceeded slightly. In the world of YA fantasy novels, these aren't anything special or ground-breaking, but they are enjoyable. I recommend them. 4 stars.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Miscellaneous Mondays: In Honor of Heroines

Kicking off yet another week with Miscellaneous Monday, I want to talk about something a little more specific than usual: heroines. Anyone who reads my reviews has probably noticed that I'm tough on heroines. Not only do I want them to be well written, three-dimensional, and fully developed, but I also want them to be tough, smart, and talented. I'm quick to point out when the leading lady isn't up to snuff. Why am I so tough on heroines? I guess it's because when I read a book, even one written in third person, I tend to "see" everything through the heroine's eyes. She becomes like my tour guide through the story, and if I like her I feel like she's my friend. If she's stupid, whiny, or boring, I end up hating her and the entire book by proxy. The same goes with shows and movies (just look at how I reacted to The Secret Circle). Let's look at some of the heroines in my fictional life.


Once Upon a Time

Emma from Once is a great example of how you can have a likeable heroine who isn't boring. She's a loner, and she's lonely, and her social skills are questionable. She obviously hasn't had an easy life. But she has a lot of heart, and she wants the best for her son. So she stays and fights even when she'd much rather leave. If you've seen the show, than you know what I'm talking about. And if you haven't, than you need to. It's like a family drama and a fantasy show melded together.

Terra Nova

Elizabeth is the "wife/mom" character in Terra Nova. Like everything else about the show, Elizabeth's character is pretty cliched--but cliched does not mean unlikeable. She's a doctor and sometimes researcher (because all scientists know everything there is to know about science), but she also occupies the typical mommy role in a big way. I recall one episode when she works late and asks her husband to handle the kids and make dinner, and of course he fails without her--dads can't do mom things, that's just crazy! I do like her, though, because she's a smart, optimistic, forward thinking character. In the most recent episode she spent a day trying to heal a baby dinosaur so that it would hatch from it's egg healthy--just so her daughter wouldn't be upset. That whole thing was a bit over sweet for my taste, but it did show how much she cares.

Grimm


I'm cheating a bit with this one because Aunt Marie is not the heroine of the show--she isn't even a main character. She's more like the plot device that kicks everything off. But I don't care, I like this show and I want to talk about her. Aunt Marie has apparently had quite and interesting life, fighting the monsters from the old Grimm fairy tales. At one point a nurse comments about her many scars and asks what line of work she was in, and Nick replies that she was a librarian. A librarian who kicks ass--that's simply fantastic! It saddens be that we aren't likely to get much more of her story, but I'm filing her away in my cool fictional characters list.

Disney Heroines

I made this the subject of last weeks poll because I've been on such a fairy tale kick. A lot of people, especially really hard core feminists, like to go on and on about how Disney heroines are not stellar role models. On some level I can see their point, but it's not something I take too seriously. To me they've always been fantasy characters from another time and place, and you can't hold them to the same standards that you would a contemporary character of today. That would be like berating the ladies of Jane Austen's books for not getting jobs.

Anyway, Mulan ended up winning in the poll, which I find exciting because she is an entirely different kind of heroine. Not only is she actually heroic, she has goals that have nothing to do with romance and getting married. Sure, the romance is there, but it's a secondary concern to all of the cross dressing, self discovery, and saving China plot threads. I just watched Mulan over the weekend for the first time in quite a few years. Questionable handling of Chinese culture aside, I really love that movie.

So, who is your favorite heroine (Disney or otherwise)? What makes her awesome?

As always, a new poll is up! In keeping with the fantasy theme, this week I'm asking what super-power you would choose. Take a second to vote on the right side of your screen. Thanks a bunch, and Happy Reading!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

On Perils: A Review of The Perils of Pleasure by Julie Ann Long

Perils of Pleasure is one of those rare books I picked up with no prior knowledge of the author, or even any inkling as to what it was about. That isn't something I do often. I like to research books ahead of time and make sure that it's at least being advertised as something that I would like. My experience with this book proves that this careful selection really does make a difference.

The book starts out with Colin Eversea about to hang for murder, rescued at the last possible second. His rescuer turns out to be a woman named Madeleine Greenway. Madeleine wants nothing more than to be rid of Colin, and be given a handsome reward that will allow her to start a new life. Colin needs Mad's help to return to his family in time to stop his brother from marrying the love of his life, Louisa. Naturally, Colin and Mad find themselves succumbing to mutual attraction instead.

Positive Comments:

I liked that Madeleine was such an independent and capable character. She's a mercenary, a clever planner, and a survivor of great tragedy.

There's a kind of mystery to be solved following Colin's rescue, regarding who was behind hiring Madeleine and why someone then tried to have her killed. All of this made for a fairly interesting plot with a few twists I didn't really see coming.

Critical Comments:

I liked Madeleine's character, but I so wish the author had taken more time to delve into her background. Every time I was given a tiny hint as to the things that had happened to her or what she did in her line of work, I thought a huge opportunity had been wasted. There's a great three dimensional character here being kept flat because of a boring story. Colin's character was totally cliched and uninteresting to me, but again he could have been more. Had this book been more character driven, instead of plot driven, it could have been awesome.

I just didn't connect to the romance between Madeleine and Colin. Part of it was that their characters were underdeveloped. Part of it was an inexplicable lack of chemistry. But I think my biggest hang-up with their relationship was the Colin/Louisa conflict. By the I was 80% through the book and Colin was still determined that he wanted to marry Louisa, I was a little very frustrated. Granted, by this point his feelings seem half-hearted. It just seems that, having spent so much time and shared so many intimacies with the book's heroine, he would start to have more open doubts about his marriage plans. Furthermore, since Louisa is used as such an important point of conflict, her character should have been developed more thoroughly. Her relationship with Colin should have been developed more thoroughly. Instead she's just a plot device used to keep the central couple at arms length of one another, and in the end that severely reduced the romance factor of this book.

If you want to read this as a historical suspense novel, or perhaps as a mystery, you might find it enjoyable. If you're looking for a character driven historical romance though, look elsewhere. This isn't a poorly written book, but it isn't at all to my liking. 2.5 stars.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Following Friday (10)

Q: Today’s Question is something new, an activity. We want to see what you look like! Take a pic with you and your current read! Too shy? Boo! Just post a fun pic you want to share.


Here's a picture of me and Zippy, my Kindle.
New followers are welcome! Make sure to leave a comment so that I know to follow you back!

Don't forget to take a second to participate in the weekly poll--Favorite Disney Heroine--on the right side of your screen. Thanks! Happy Reading!

Crazy Covers: Wardrobe Edition

There's a growing problem in the romance world (and no, I don't mean the hero's "growing problem"). I'm referring to the ongoing epidemic of shirtlessness. It seems these poor, defenseless, highly muscled men are tragically unable to find proper clothing. Whether this crisis is a result of cotton shortages or the revenge of disgruntled laundry women, this problem must be stopped. Let's take a look at some of the shocking evidence.

Go ahead and look up the premise of this book. Erotica is so ridiculous.
Right there, we have a shirt theft in progress! And the poor guy is so distracted by the random blue crap in her hair that he's paralyzed! Wake up dude! Fight back!
What, the Lord of the Abyss can't afford a shirt?
WHY? WHY would you put on a cape without a freaking shirt? This is the second time I've seen this! Maybe there's a club. The Shirtless Cape Wearing Club. I can only assume it's boys only...

Oh great, a present I can't return for store credit.
I can just imagine the focus group that came up with this cover. "Ok, what festive item can we use to cover his penis? Candy cane? Too small...Christmas tree? Too big...Jaunty red ribbon? Perfect!"

Good effort, dude, but a kitchen towel does not count as a shirt.
I think this book is about a pastry chef. Pretty sure shirtless cooking is against health code. But I guess kitchens get hot and...stuff happens. What if that was acceptable in any job? Suppose they started making covers with shirtless doctors? Who wouldn't want to be treated by a model wearing a lab coat...and nothing else?

That's a pretty big gun...Think he's over-compensating?
Yet another job where going shirtless makes no real sense. As a SEAL or a special ops person or whatever he is, shouldn't he be in a Kevlar? I guess Kevlar isn't sexy. You know what else in not sexy...BULLET WOUNDS! Just a thought.

All kidding aside, dear cover artists, please lay off the shirtless dudes, ok? I can't carry these books around without attracting "looks". Let the poor men wear some clothes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

On Cabals: A Review of Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong

I'm sure this happens to every serious reader now and then: You come across a book that has nothing really wrong with it, but that for you personally is like pulling teeth to get through. For me, this was one such book. After close to two weeks of struggling, I finally gave up and started skimming. So I want to warn you to take my opinions on this with a grain of salt, since I didn't read very closely. At the same time, I feel obligated to share my less then stellar reading experience in the name of honest reviewing.

This is book four of Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series, but it's the second one with Paige as the narrator/protagonist. In this one, the teenage children of Cabal members (basically the supernatural mafia) are being murdered. Paige and Lucas (who is the black sheep son of a Cabal leader) get roped into solving the murders and catching the killer.

Positive Comments:

I really like Lucas as a character, and there's plenty of him in this book. He's an interesting hero to me, because he isn't a strong brutish alpha as is so typical in fantasy/paranormal. Instead he's an intellectual, somewhat nerdy character who happens to be a sorcerer (and a lawyer). His presence kept me wanting to read through the tedium.

I felt the most engaged in the story when some of the cast from the previous books showed up--Adam, Elena, Clay, etc. Maybe it's a bad sign when you start reading a book for the secondary characters alone, but that's how I felt.

The concept of the story is pretty decent. I thought having Paige forced to work with a Cabal would make for a lot of interesting character interactions and lead to some development on her part. Had the book not gotten bogged down in other stuff, this premise could have made it a winner.

Critical Comments:

In my review of Dime Store Magic I state that it took me a long time to get through the book, but I wrote it off as being my own fault for getting busy and distracted. But I had the same problem with Industrial Magic, so I'm forced to conclude that it's not me...it's the book. Some books are page turners and have to be ripped from my hands so that I'll feed and shower myself now and then. With other books, I have to talk myself into reading. This one was somewhere in the middle, but dangerously close to the latter. I just didn't feel immersed in the story.

This is not a problem that I experienced with Bitten or Stolen, so I'm inclined to think that Paige is a big part of the issue. I don't dislike Paige, but she just isn't very interesting. Her actions are predictable and often stupid. She really doesn't seem like the best person for and investigation job. Dime Store Magic was more believable because Paige was more of a victim fighting against circumstances. In this one she volunteers for a task that, to me, should have gone to another character.

My other complaint is that the plot seems unnecessarily bulky. It's a 500 page book, and about 150 of those pages could easily have been snipped away. For one thing, there are a lot of  "eating breakfast" ,"checking on Savannah","getting on the air plane", "insert mundane task here" paragraphs that really don't need to be included. But more importantly, the central plot is just not as fast paced as I would like it to be.

Lastly, I'm not a person who likes murder mysteries, and I tend to be impatient with them. If you do like murder mysteries, you probably won't mind this book. For me, reading about characters I don't know getting killed is not very motivating or very exciting. That sounds awful, but it's just how I feel.

So, Industrial Magic was really not a winner for me in any sense. I still like Kelley Armstrong, and I'm not ready to give up on the series yet, but this one did not thrill me. 2 stars.
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