Thursday, August 30, 2012

Follow Friday 8/31/12

FF 2012 Feature & Follow #112 

Q: Best Cover? What is the best cover of a book that you’ve read and didn’t like?

Oh dear...


Carrier of the Mark (Carrier Trilogy, #1)

...Those of you that have been with me for awhile probably remember when I read this book, because it was one of few times that I had nothing nice to say about the book. Except that I like the cover. (Review HERE)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On Pregnancy: A Review of Broken by Kelley Armstrong

Broken (Women of the Otherworld, # 6)When I picked this book out of my TBR pile, I remembered only one fact with any clarity: this is the one where Elena is pregnant. And, I'm not going to lie, that was what intrigued me. I really wanted to see how this strong character, so familiar and beloved to me, would cope with impending motherhood.

The meat of the plot, however, deals with Elena unwittingly unleashing the soul of Jack the Ripper from a stolen letter. As a result, she and the gang have a zombie hunt to deal with.

Positive Comments

I really enjoy these characters, and I find that any chance to visit them is a treat. I like the fact that Clay and Elena have clearly grown as a couple. The relationship has continued to mature and develop, as good relationships do in real life. Their willingness to take the risk to try to become parents is evidence of that maturity.

I really appreciated the fact that the core plot was not about the baby. We were blessedly NOT victimized with the mystical pregnancy trope, so common to the fantasy and paranormal romance genre. Instead, it's a relatively normal pregnancy that causes normal conflicts and ends happily. Armstrong could have easily made Elena's baby have the spirit of Jack the Ripper or Satan, or be the werewolf chosen one. Nothing so ridiculous happens here.

Critical Comments

To be honest, I really found the Jack the Ripper plot to be entirely uninteresting. I'm not big on serial killers and old mysteries and so forth. I admit that it made for a few suspenseful moments, but for the most part it just felt like something I had to read through.


Six books it still a great series? Admittedly, I don't think I've enjoyed any of these books as much as I did Bitten. Broken may actually be the weakest in terms of plot. This is partially balanced out by the fact that I really like the primary and secondary characters, and I enjoyed seeing them interact in new ways. So, yes, if you've liked the series up to this point, I suggest you keep reading. 3.5 stars.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Misc. Monday: Sometimes I Make Things

I'm a notorious multitasker.  I watch TV or listen to books while I make things. Right now I'm making stuff to make our apartment cozier. Look, I made birds and bees pillows! Apparently, I can sew.

What have you been up to with your free time?

Friday, August 24, 2012

On Hostages: A Review of Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Spark (Sky Chasers, #2)I actually finished this a day or two ago, but I got a bit busy. I also felt in this one case that it was a good idea to let myself digest the book a bit before I try to talk about it. I was a little underwhelmed initially, but now that I've thought about it, I did still like the book.

This is the second book in the Sky Chasers trilogy, and in many ways it suffers from what we call "Second Book Syndrome". Because it has to bridge the gap between the exposition of book one and the climax of book three, it's own story is somewhat weak. In the first book, we had members of the Empyrean kidnapped and used by the members of the New Horizon. Glow touched on issues like religion, leadership, reproduction, and human nature. It wasn't a perfect book, but because it raised these issues, it set the bar high for what Spark might have to say philosophically. In reality, though, Spark is mostly about the kids on the Empyrean trying to run the ship and get their parents back. There's a great deal of politics and a lot of arguing. Waverly is torn between supporting Kieran, though she disagrees with his leadership style, and helping Seth, though she finds his dark side distasteful. Then circumstances force Waverly to see her own darker side.

Positive Comments

The book creates an effectively anxious tone, with kids trying to run a massive ship that is their only home. I liked that desperate, claustrophobic feeling.

I like that the characters are boldly imperfect. We see Seth's cruelty, but also his humanity. We know that Kieran means well, but we also see his unhealthy arrogance and lust for power. Waverly's experiences on the Empyrean gave her a bit of wisdom, even as they broke her in many ways. The character building is rich and realistic.

I like that the romance (and more importantly, the love triangle), is very much downplayed. We know how the characters feel, but we aren't made to linger on it.

Critical Comments

The plot itself is, as mentioned above, really underwhelming. In terms of action, there is some, but it doesn't last long. It's resolved quickly and predictably. In terms of social and political conflict...again, it's there, but there isn't enough tension to any of it.

The character behavior goes way off the rails more than once, and it's hard to read. Even when it's understandable, its infuriating. They make stupid choices, arrogant choices, mean choices, and it's a bit like watching a train wreck.


If you liked the first one: yes, you should read this one. However, if you were not a fan of Glow, I doubt Spark will win you over. It's a decent read, but the plot is a bit of a let down. 3 stars. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Blog Tour: A Guest Post From Justin Ordonez, Author of Sykosa

The blog tour for Sykosa by Justin Ordonez stops here today! May I present a guest post from our esteemed author! 

Best Vacation Ever.

A few years ago, my buddy Jeff and I decided on a road trip from Seattle to his hometown, the silicon palace itself, Los Angeles. The first thing you have to know about Jeff and I is that we’re great friends, but ideologically different. When Jeff was young, his father sat him down and said, “Jeff, in this family, we’re Democrats and we’re atheists.” Conversely, I was raised attending Catholic services every Sunday, attending CCD (Community of Catholic Doctrine) classes, and my parents were about as big a fans of Ronald Reagan as a person can be before crossing over into the completely irrational. In life, I’ve distanced myself from the church, and ended up being politically moderate, but Jeff remained an unapologetic progressive, and he is an atheist.

Knowing this, perhaps you can understand how, shortly after setting off in a too-packed Mazda 3, a harmless five minute conversation about Guns n’ Roses long-awaited release Chinese Democracy morphed into a three-hour intellectual battle-royale over the ethical development and application of stem-cell research. There was shouting, insults, extremely liberal and lengthy use of profanity, which ended in a border city in Oregon, where Jeff had recruited some family members to put us up for the night. As we drove through this pitch black neighborhood, neither of us smart phone owners so we couldn’t GPS our way there, we found our destination, 615 Charlie St. Jeff’s family had promised to stay up until we arrived, so it was a bit odd that all the lights were off, but we hauled our way to the door, knocking loudly three of four times. We then proceeded to argue and joke with each other, then knock some more, and maybe we even shouted, “Open the door! Open the door!” Totally unaware, inside this house was not Jeff’s family, but a frightened old women who had been peeking through her curtains, terrified that these two huge men, one of whom only dresses in black, were about to break down her doors and murder her.

“Don’t you worry about me, dears. IMMA STAND MY GROUND!”

Turns out, there’s two 615 Charlie St addresses in this neighborhood.

Having put the fear of God in an old lady, and in several of the drivers who had to dodge our car when our arguing made our driving erratic, we were tired and happy to find the correct 615 Charlie St. Our next day is spent traveling through northern California, which is a mixture of anti-evolution signs saying, “Is someone trying to make a monkey out of you?” and cow farms that leave a methane stench so thick you’d swear lighting a cigarette would result in nuclear detonation. Reaching the Los Angeles city limits, I joke to Jeff, “You know, I’ve never experienced an earthquake before.” He joked back, “Well, they happen here all the time. You’ll get one, for sure.” Fifteen minutes later, we had lived through four earthquakes. (I kid you not). Slightly freaked, but excited, we turned in for the night, and over the next week, we did the whole of Los Angeles.

We visited the Santa Monica peer and saw its famous Ferris wheel. We stopped off in Studio City, Hollywood, and Brentwood to see the OJ Simpson/Nicole Brown Simpson murder condo. Beverly Hills was when the celebrity sightings started. Sandra Bullock was in a shop wearing big bug glasses, avoiding my gaze with tense shoulders like, “Oh my God, he thinks if he introduces himself I’ll fall in love with him…” and, at lunch, Sarah Jessica Parker walked right by us. We didn’t pay her much mind. She was clearly agitated by it, as she made a point to walk by us again for no good reason. She seemed quite satisfied when our heads turned. One of the most beautiful stop-offs was visiting Jeff’s father in Malibu. He lives at the top of a very large hill overlooking the ocean, (side note: they live above Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, so we drove by the place where Hamill wrecked his Ferrari and his face in the 1977.)

Beneath this backyard, sometime on January 11th, 1977, the force was not with Mark Hamill.

Jeff’s stepmother, Judith, also lives at this Malibu house. She found out that I’m a big Lakers fan. It so happened that the Lakers were about to start the Western Conference Finals, where they would attempt to reach the NBA Finals for the second straight year. Like some kind of dream, Judith, who spent her life doing something in the music industry so a bunch of seedy millionaires owe her favors to stave off the tell-all to end all tell-alls, had comped us tickets to 100 level seats for Game 1.

It was the best surprise a guy like me could get.

We set off for the Staples Center, where the Lakers play. It’s a modern arena surrounded by an ESPN Zone bar, some restaurants and a few shops. It’s also located in downtown Los Angeles, which being a major center city with tons of sky scrapers, my initial conception was that it’s a bit like the New York of the west coast—affluent, multi-cultural, unique. Turns out, it’s the exact opposite. During the day, this busy metropolis houses some of the biggest companies in the world, but at the first sign of dusk, its occupants flee like refugees do a crazed dictator. Downtown Los Angeles after sundown is so crime filled, so violent, and so ludicrously so that Artie Lange, a comedian from Howard Stern fame, once noted in his autobiography, Too Fat Too Fish, “[Downtown Los Angeles] is the kind of place where you can fire a bazooka and the cops wouldn’t know about it for three days.” I was a bit worried, as I wasn’t so confident I could survive a drive-by shooting like I could an earthquake, but the police presence for the game was dense enough to provide that safe, internment camp feel.

The stadium atmosphere was surreal, and informative as to the culture and drive of the area. Los Angeles’s big industry is show business—music, movies, tv, theater. If it involves a stage and an audience, this city has it in spades. It so happens the Lakers are also known as Showtime, so believe me, a Lakers game is more a three ring circus than a sporting event. At any given moment, thirty non-basketball related activities are going on. As well, the place is stuffed with A-list movie stars. When you find your seat, you’re feet away from Justin Timberlake. Denzel Washington gives you the “prepare to die, motherf***er,” look after you cut him off at the urinal. And when you sneeze, Dustin Hoffman says, “God bless you.” Jeff and I didn’t fully understand this, so imagine our surprise to find, when entering the 100 level in our Laker shirts and hats, we totally didn’t fit in. What was before us wasn’t a basketball audience, it was a club. A sea of mega-rich men, in sleek suits with tanned faces, who were trying to forget their wives, and that wasn’t difficult being surrounded by wannabe starlets who were all in five-inch heels with skirts so short it made the Laker Girls dance squad look like prudes. None of these people watched the game, they just mingled and socialized and moved about, and should they incidentally see a big play, they wouldn’t cheer unless it involved Kobe Bryant.
Imagine this, only the guys are scheezier and the women never stop checking their phones.

Speaking of Kobe, he ended the night with 40 points, 4 assists, and 6 rebounds. I left the stadium totally charged up, shouting, “Layyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy-
KERS!” at the top of my lungs, tens of people around me chanting back. That said, Jeff and I didn’t linger. We made sure to be far away before the police packed up and we found ourselves kidnapped and enslaved to one of the city’s sweat shops (a real problem for Los Angeles).

On our final day, Jeff and I made our way to Six Flags Magic Mountain. (Don’t know what Magic Mountain is? Yes, you do! It’s Wally World from Chevy Chase’s Vacation. This is an interesting element to Los Angeles. Literally so many tv shows and movies are shot there that, if we air dropped you into the city with no clue as to where you were, it’d take three blocks before you’d say, “I recognize that from CSI! Am I in Los Angeles?”) Magic Mountain is the Cedar Point of the west coast. It’s got 10 or 12 roller coasters that’ll put the fear of God in you. It’s also way out there in Valencia, and because it was late May, which meant school was still in session, and it was a Wednesday, which meant kids should be there, Jeff and I figured we’d be able to do the rides quick and easy. It turned out to be Senior Day and the place is packed with maybe 40 school buses full of seventeen year old boys and girls. In the case of the girls, based on how underdressed their bodies were in correlation to how much make-up their faces wore, you’d swear they were at least nineteen or twenty year old coeds if they didn’t have braces and walk in that bow-legged way girls do before they finish puberty. If you want to feel like a pervert, try being a guy over twenty-five even standing coincidently near a pack of these girls.


Trust me, they’re not whispering about how cute you are.

We did the park, anyway. Standing in lines, pretending the kiddies weren’t there, and making Viper our first coaster. Like a pro, Jeff kept his video camera on for the whole ride. It had been a while since he’d last been on a coaster, and should you feel like some comedy (warning: if you are offended by the f-bomb, don’t watch the video. We’re not trying to be jerks, we’re terrified), you can watch Jeff and I losing it during the ride ( The day turned out awesome. We got most of the major coasters done, and we were debating heading home when I noticed a huge wall fashioned like a giant rock. I’ve seen it two or three times as we’ve crisscrossed the park, but it wasn’t until we stepped away from it that I saw the massive writing chiseled into it, spelling Goliath. It wasn’t only a big decorative wall, it was a ride, and as I read this, a pack of those teenage girls appeared from behind it. They were clearly shaken, as if their souls had been hollowed out, their perfect hair frazzled, and their pointer fingers frantically wiping under their eyelids, trying desperately not to run their make-up.
Five minutes later, another pack of girls exited like this.

Five after that, another pack.

We had to know what this ride was about. Come to find out, it’s got a fake wall because it was hiding its super-long line. In fact, it needed several fake walls, each making you think when you pass it, you’ll find yourself close to the ride itself. What felt like four hours later, we were loaded up onto a rather pedestrian appearing ride. I couldn’t understand why all these girls were acting so dramatic. The cart itself was kinda retro, really smoothed out, and the support bar holding you in place didn’t have shoulder restraints. There wasn’t even a place to grip your hands, how scary could it be? Two minutes and 235 feet in the air later, I discovered what terrified these girls. I was about to straight vertically drop, the angle so close to ninety that I couldn’t see any of the carts in front of me, and one-fourth of the way down, I discovered why they didn’t bother with hand grips. The centripetal force was so incredible, my hands were immobilized into my chest, which was probably for the best, as who knows what limbs I might’ve lost trying to stop my face from being ripped off.

It’s okay. The doctors fixed it.

I’d recall the rest of the ride for you, but I either blacked out or totally repressed it.

The next day, we took our satisfied selves back to Seattle, where we went back to work and back to normal life, in general. For the next week, I wrote several drafts of emails resigning my job, then got close to almost sending one while I sat around day-dreaming of running off to LA where I would become a big movie star, or failing that, a scheezy old guy dating gorgeous college drop-outs with no concept of reality. The desire was so intense it took several months for me to stop seriously considering it. It was one hell of a fine vacation, though, and I’d do it again in a heart beat.

In fact, I did.

Jeff and I did repeated whole thing the next year.

Check out Justin's book, Sykosa, HERE!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On Riddles: A Review of Inside Evil by Geoffrey Wakeling

Inside EvilOkay, what can I say about this book? The synopsis is misleadingly intriguing, the idea is great, but the execution is barely adequate. Allow me to explain.

There is a curse that passes from person to person...That takes the life of one person and then infects whoever finds their body (or is there when they die, I guess). When Roberta is cursed, she finds out that she has eight days to solve a riddle that will allow her to cross over to some mysterious land, and thus...not die. She is helped by her good friend Sam, as well as a group of other towns folk who are all unwittingly trying to solve the same mystery.

Positive Comments

 I did like certain aspects of the world building. For example, I really enjoyed the idea of a curse that passes between people like a virus. I liked the idea to trying to solve this supernatural mystery.

I enjoyed the ensemble cast and the shifts in point of view. I felt that this added depth to the story, with each character holding a piece of what is in reality a very simple puzzle.

Critical Comments

In a story where the main threat is that a character might die, you have to be made to care about that character. That character needs a personality, emotions, history, loved ones. Roberta is given very little development, I can't say anything remarkable about her, and so the threat of her dying did not phase me. I was left really not caring what happened to her, and that is a marked failure on the part of the author.

The entire book is more of a prequel than anything, and there is absolutely no resolution to the mystery.


Glancing at Amazon, I notice that this 185 page book is going for $4...That seems high to me. It isn't a terrible book, and it's readable in a pinch, but only if you can get it for a good price. In all reality, though, I can't recommend this book as it stands right now. If the larger series turns out to be better, I'll gladly issue a positive recommendation on this one. All in all, though, is a 2.5 star book.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On Beastkin: A Review of Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews

Gunmetal Magic (Kate Daniels World, #1)Oh, Ilona Andrews. You write the very best and most entertaining urban fantasy on the market. Now, this latest book happens to be a spin-off of the most beloved Kate Daniels series. Was I cranky that we wouldn't be getting another Kate book for well over a year? Yes, a bit. But in the end, if I couldn't have a Kate book, this was a damn good substitute.

This book follows Kate's best friend, Andrea, as she investigates several untimely deaths related to a vault of mysterious ancient artifacts. The case brings her into close contact with her ex, Raphael, whom she is not over yet. As she fights for her life against the latest threat to Atlanta, Andrea must confront her own identity issues and old insecurities. Will she join the Pack of shapeshifters and get Raphael back, or flee and be alone forever?

Positive Comments

I can certainly understand how this book came to be. The Kate Daniels world lends itself to a lot of stories outside what might be going on with Kate herself. Andrea was introduced in book 2 (I think), and has progressively grown on me like a fungus. The side stories of her relationship with Raphael have always been intriguing, so its nice to see some resolution to that as well.

Andrea is an intensely interesting character, in that she has survived some serious shit. Child abuse, rejection, leading to mild self loathing and identity issues, leading to a tenure as a knight in the very prestigious Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid. When The Order kicks her out for being a shapeshifter, her life is shattered. In this book, she has to put the pieces back together and find a new purpose for herself, all while trying to solve this heinous crime. The emotional story is fascinating.

The emotional journey is fascinating, but it never gets in the way of the action (and the violence) of which there is a great deal. Ultimately, Andrea and Raphael go head to head with the Egyptian god Anubis,  taking huge risks to end his existence as best they can. How does one kill a god?

Negative Comments

I did feel that a bit more raw mythology would not have gone amiss in this story. Since we have an Egyptian god as our "villain", why not delve into his back story thoroughly? We are given the bare minimum to serve the purpose of the story, and I'm sure some readers like it that way, but I would have liked a bit more.


Probably the first question you might ask is: Does it stand alone? Umm, hmm, uhh....No. I don't really think it does. I think to understand the world and it's characters and everything Andrea is struggling with, you really need to have read the five Kate Daniels books already available. But trust me, that's no hardship.

If you are already a fan of the Kate series, you'll enjoy this one. The shift in point of view is temporarily refreshing. We do see enough of Kate that you won't miss her too much. And as with all of Andrews' books, there's mythology, violence, horror, and romance in a very nice package. 4 stars.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Misc Monday: This is true love. You think this happens everyday?

It's official! I'm MARRIED now! So, I thought I'd share a handful of snapshots with you guys!

Here's me all dressed up before the ceremony!

Aren't my bridesmaids lovely?

Here's the whole wedding party, making funny faces.

Slow dancing among other couples

Really excited about cake.

Cake in my nose.

Big sugary kiss!

Yanking off that garter...

Our wedding day was a total blast, and simply beautiful, and we could not have asked for more. The biggest compliment that anyone paid us, was when our very good friend and florist (Starr), said to me "If I weren't already in love, you two would make me wish I were." She and her husband are real proof that true love lasts, and I only hope that years from now the same will be said of us.

We made a lot of people cry, but we had a lot of laughs too. If there's one thing I've learned in six years of love, it's that you ride those waves of emotions and come out stronger. I'm so grateful for that. As my father in law/best man said, "Finding your soul mate is not a given; it's a gift."

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Follow Friday 8/9/12

FF 2012 Feature & Follow #109


Q: What would you do over if you were to start your blog again from scratch?

 I love my blog. I might have planned ahead more, with more organization and networking, but that's about it. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

On Saarantras: A Review of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)Wow, okay. This took me over a week to actually finish, but not because it's bad. More because I've been busy and...the pace is honestly a bit slow. But we'll get to that.

The story is about a girl named Seraphina, who possesses and incredible amount of musical talent. She lives in a kingdom where a tenuous peace exists between humans and dragons after years of war. As the anniversary of the peace treaty approaches, Prince Rufus is murdered in such a way that many believe dragons are to blame. Seraphina ends up caught up in the investigation.

Positive Comments

This is, in many ways, a novel about self-acceptance. Seraphina's emotional journey is extremely satisfying. She starts off hating herself and everything she is. Her connection to the dragon world makes her a secret misfit, but also provide her with unique talents and the ability to understand both cultures.

I especially enjoyed being inside Seraphina's head, quite literally, as we explore the psychic world she has built in order to contain visions and maternal memories that plague her. I found this world and it's inhabitants to be the most intriguing part of the book.

I liked Phina's interactions with Kiggs, the captain of the guard and fiance to the prince. It's not precisely a full-on romance, but there is a flirtation and a friendship that I really enjoyed.

The writing is, in itself, beautiful. The author has a real talent for clever syntax, and for building vivid imagery in very few words.

Critical Comments

The only real flaw is the aforementioned pacing issues. There are a lot of slow parts dealing with court drama, solving the murder, and so forth. Not exactly action packed, and so it drags, and so it takes patience to finish. Just be warned of that.


It's technically a YA, but more importantly it is a classic style fantasy novel with a great story. I would recommend it to any fantasy fan. 4.5 stars.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Misc. Monday: I'm alive, and Also I Have a Cat

Just so you guys know, I did not in fact drop off of the face of the Earth. I've been working a series of nine hour days so that I can take time off for my wedding without losing money. I have a couple of books almost finished and ready to be reviewed, so look forward to that!

In the mean time, may I present my kitty:


This is Max. He is the maximum concentration of cat allowed by law. He is three months old, he is small, and he is fuzzy. He's kind of penguin colored. He and his sister were abandoned on an acquaintance's doorstep in a cardboard box. She took them in, of course, but needed homes for them, because she already has a cat of her own. His sister was adopted right away, but Max lingered awhile. The other cat started getting territorial, and she was alarmed. So we rescued him.

Incidentally, this is the second time this particular woman has ended up taking in a group of orphaned kittens. There are a lot of strays in our area, and it's just terribly sad. So here's the deal, people: spay or neuter your pets. It's for the greater good. Seriously. And that's my PSA for the week.
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