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Bite Me (a review, not a statement)


I just finished Bite Me by Parker Blue, the first book in the Demon Underground series. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5058029-bite-me

My Rating: ★★★

I received this book as a free Advanced Reader's Copy from NetGalley to review.

I enjoyed this book, although I've had a hard time deciding why. It's been labeled as a book "in-between" Young Adult and regular adult Urban Fantasy, but it is truly pure Young Adult. The writing style practically screams it. It's also appears to be a homage to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of my favorite TV shows of all time (but without creator Joss Whedon's trade mark humor). In several scenes, the heroine Val is referred to as "the Slayer," even though she did not ask to be.

Pros -

A quick, entertaining read. Like most YA books, it focuses more on the action and dialog than descriptions. Yet it's engaging enough that I flew through it.

The Buffy angle. As a Buffy fan, several parts reminding me so much of the show that I felt nostalgic. The very first scene could have been straight from it.

Cons -

Everything comes to Val a little too easily. The author tries to explain it later, but I like more struggle from my protagonists. For goodness sakes, Val is thrown out of her house, but very quickly lands on her feet: she gets a job perfect for her abilities, she runs into sympathetic side characters, a personal conflict is solved rather quickly then all is forgiven, and let's not forget the final battle. It's almost if the author was afraid to make her suffer too much.

The dog was kind of cute, but I like my non-humans to act like non-humans. He made a few doggish comments, but most of it seemed rather normal. He even called her "Babe" on several occasions. And what's with the caps lock speech? Every time he spoke, the author used all caps.

Unbelievable parts. This ties into the "everything's a little too easy" comment above. There were more than a few moments that just were not realistic. Even in my Urban Fantasy, I like it believable.

No suspense. There was no immediate sense of urgency, where I really worried about any of the characters. Sure, someone close to her is in danger, but it just never felt that compelling.

Blah vampires. They were not interesting, or threatening, or even creepy. Yes, some of them attacked and killed people, but they could have easily been strong humans. Nothing set them apart, made them unique.


Several of the "Cons" above would normally make me put it aside, but despite itself, I enjoyed this one. Are the similarities to Buffy enough to ignore its other flaws? For me, apparently, yes. And everything comes down to the most important aspect of a book; did I enjoy it? I did.
 


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Phoenix Rising

I received Phoenix Rising as an Advanced Readers Copy to review.

My Rating: ★★

I made it almost a third of the way through before I had to stop reading it. I didn't hate it, I just couldn't get into it. It read like an action movie, fighting and an over-the-top protagonist, but no character development. At the part that I quit, the plot was thin and did not engage me at all. There was no urgency to it.

Pros-

The writing sounded authentic for the time period and setting. At the beginning of each chapter there is a blurb that goes like this, "Chapter xxx: In which our hero...". It added a nostalgic feel to the writing. The setting and details drew you into that era.

Cons-

Flat characters. As noted above, one of the protagonists (the female agent) could have been pulled straight from an action movie. She's an expert in weapons and combat, loves to get into trouble, does things her way (read: blows things up, or lets her pistols/fists fly) and, all in all, completely unbelievable. She has no depth, no explanation as to why she has all these skills. By the time I stopped reading, I knew about as much about her as I did in the first chapter. Oh, and she's rich. I was left wondering how/why a well-to-do lady around the Victorian era would be like her? The other main character was more believable, acting like a gentleman of that time period, but still there is very little of his motivations revealed. Neither did any of the few side characters stand out in any way.

The authors tried for a smart-ass, wise cracking heroine. But she came off as mean, bitchy and self-centered. There's a fine line between sarcastic-funny and sarcastic-annoying.

The vocabulary, while authentic sounding, also confused me in several spots. Perhaps the authors are English, and they used words we don't hear in the States, or maybe they assumed that anyone reading steampunk would know those terms, but I had problems following what was happening. I had to re-read several sections, which was very frustrating.

Along with the confusing vocabulary, the writing was disjointed in several scenes. For example, the female agent would raise her weapon, and her target dies. However, at no point do we see her firing the weapon. That lead to more re-reading on my part. Again, frustrating.

I'm not sure who to recommend this book for. If they can get past the frustrating writing, action movie fans might enjoy this. Just don't expect much depth.

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Halo: First Strike

I just finished Halo: First Strike, the third book in the Halo trilogy. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/615921.Halo

My Rating: ★★★★

This book is like candy for anyone who enjoys the Halo games. Being a fan myself, I loved it. It has enough action and plot that even those who don't follow the games can enjoy it (although some parts/descriptions might be confusing for them). This is third book of a trilogy and should be read after the other two. Eric Nylund wrote the first book and this one and they both shine. It's unfortunate you have to wade through the second book to get to this one (my review of Halo: The Flood: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/150781059 ). This one is the best of the three.

Pros-
Constant action and obstacles the characters have to overcome. This is fast-paced, with no extended break in the suspense. The characters are in constant motion. Several situations were so severe I truly had no idea how they would escape. But Nylund pulled it off with flourish.

Better characterization than the first book (and exponentially better than the second). Almost all the characters had their own traits and quirks. The only exception was some of the other Spartans. Only a couple of them were explored in any depth, the others blurred together. But the other people were strong enough that the weaker ones weren't noticeable.

Clear, concise writing. I was never left wondering, "Wait, what?", nor did I have to re-read a passage to understand what happened. Everything was detailed and flowed naturally.

Did I mention the action?

Cons-
In the first part of the book, there's a lot of scene and time jumping between chapters. One chapter happens in the present, and the next two week before the previous. The headers for each chapter give a date stamp, but if they're overlooked it gets confusing which scene happens when. Thankfully, about a third into the book, all the plots catch up to each other.

Possible inconsistencies with the game. This book happens after the first game, but before the second. <<<SPOILER>>> From the games, I came to understand that John was the last surviving Spartan, but by the end of this one there are four other Spartans still alive.<<<END SPOILER>>> This may have been worked out in later books.

A hanging plot line. <<<SPOILER>>> Dr. Halsey and Kelly, anyone? What happened to them? The last we see, their flying off to parts unknown.<<<END SPOILER>>> Again, this may be tied up later. (I don't remember it mentioned in the games, but maybe I've forgotten it.)

Overall, this is a fast-paced, entertaining read. It's mainly for Halo fans, but read with the other books non-gamers can enjoy this too.

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River Marked

I just finished River Marked by Patricia Briggs. This is the sixth book of the Mercy Thompson series. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8230540-river-marked

My Rating: ★★★

I love the Mercy Thompson books, so I went into this one with high expectations. And it was good; it just wasn't great.

Pros-

It's a Mercy Thompson book. That alone put it on my instant read list. I adore Mercy's world and the characters within. Briggs has created a truly wonderful and enjoyable universe for us to enjoy.

As always in this series, Briggs displays her strength as a great author. I don't remember any scene that I had to re-read or puzzle through. She paints such a vivid picture with her words that I barely noticed that I was reading. It felt like I was there.

Great characters. Really, do I need to say more?

Cons-

River Marked takes Mercy (and one other major character) out of the Tri-Cities and away from the pack, her friends, etc. It's missing (or there was only very brief appearances of) several side characters we've come to love. Her characters are so interesting that I missed them. Their absence lessened my enjoyment of this book. We meet new minor characters, but the rapport I had with the others is not there.

I found one scene unnecessary and particularly disturbing. <<<spoiler>>>Did Briggs need to have the scenes with the children? Yes, I know it was for emotional impact, but I have a personal problem with parents (real or in fiction) killing their children. I understand she was controlled, but it truly disturbed me. Too many times in real life, parents (or people in a position of trust) have murdered children. Before I had my daughters that sort of news saddened me, but now it horrifies me. Thinking about those scenarios bothers me for days sometimes. I did not enjoy reading it, albeit in fiction.<<<end spoiler>>>

I enjoyed River Marked, but it is not the best Mercy Thompson book.

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I am Tama, Lucky Cat (picture book)

I recently received I am Tama, Lucky Cat from www.NetGalley.com to review. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10491212

My Review: ★★★★

Charming. In a word, that sums up this picture book. The underlining message was subtle, but sweet. The illustrations are wonderful and pull the reader in. The beautiful watercolor images are this book's strength. I had never heard of the Beckoning Cat legend before (although I've seen the cat sculptures based on it). This is an enjoyable introduction to it.

Little things keep this from being fantastic. The moral of this legend (karma) is perhaps too subtle. The monk saves Tama (the cat) and cares for it, and for the impoverished worshipers, with no regard for his own needs. In the end, the cat (indirectly) saves the temple. The way it's told (from the Tama's point of view) does not emphasize the monk's poverty, his kind deeds, and how his life improves by sacrificing his immediate needs to help others. I can't help but wonder if this would have been better from the monk's point of view, or from a third person POV. Not all children will understand the underlying message, instead focusing on the cat's actions.

This is a beautifully rendered, but just shy of great, book. I recommend this to picture book lovers, and to those who enjoy myths and legends.


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Halo: The Flood

I just finished Halo:The Flood, the second book in the Halo trilogy and based off the first game. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/797094.Halo

My Review: ★★★

I'm really torn with this book. Some parts I'd like to give only 2 stars, but others were better and deserve at least 3 stars. The basic issue with this one is it's based on a first person shooter, and the author tried to keep it true to the game. I loved the Halo storyline, but the constant enter a room, shoot everyone/thing in sight, then move on, became very tiring. On the other hand, fans probably would have raised hell if it had not stayed true.

The best parts of this book came from scenes not from the game. There are several side stories about other people (and even some of the Covenant). They added fresh content to the story, and better paced action scenes. I was more interested in these subplots than the main storyline.

However, very few of these characters had anything resembling depth or unique personality. There were so many side characters, that all the names being thrown around blurred together. Besides the main side characters, I could not keep track of them. There were maybe six people (besides the Spartan) that I recognized their names on sight: four humans and two Covenant. But names were thrown around constantly. Some people were named and only in one scene. It was a literary slop bucket. And, worse, almost no one (including the names I consistently recognized) had any personality or quirks. Even though the banter was entertaining and authentic-military sounding, any line could have been said by anyone without sounding out of place.

During the scenes from the Spartan's POV, the constant fight scenes were tiring and formulaic. Somehow, they slowed the pace. Action should be exciting, not bog the story down. There were so many constant fight scenes that several were begun and finished in a single paragraph, only to have another start on the next page. However, it is based on a first-person shooter, and that's how the game played. It was very true to that storyline. I admit I felt nostalgic reading lines I remembered from the first Halo. Many lines, mainly from Cortana but also some of the marines, came word for word from the game. It was fun remembering each of those scenes.

The writing was done well. The author is a skilled writer. But having to stay true to the game hurt this book in most parts. I'm not sure what he could have changed, and still followed the original storyline. For what it is, this book fulfilled its role, and is well written. If this had been an original novel, and not been based on a game I enjoyed so much, I probably would have given this book 2 stars.


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Tweet stories

Some more Twitter shorts -

3/6/11 - I crept towards my prey. Drool trickled down. I lunged forward, kicking up dirt. It raced up and away. One day, I'll catch that squirel.

3/7/11 - The wind wailed through the tree, rattling the fresh leaves. One clung, stubbornly, against the onslaught. It ripped free, lost in the dark.


Grimspace

Last month, I got my hands on a copy of Grimspace by Ann Aguirre. www.goodreads.com/book/show/1828067.Grimspace

My Review: ★★★★

I really enjoyed this one. It's a very gritty, down and dirty narrative. The author writes as Jax thinks it: incomplete sentences, self-deprecitating comments, smart-ass thoughts. Unlike several "smart-ass" heroines, I really got a sense of Jax. And a huge point in her favor, I never wished she'd just shut up. Some authors try for smart-ass, and only get bitchy or whiney. Ann Aguirre pulls Jax off wonderfully. Jax isn't perfect. Far from it. There are several occasions where she points out how broken she is. It works. Jax is an engaging person to read about, and care for.

I wish Aguirre had added a few more descriptions, especially with the few aliens we're introduced to. One, the Morguts, I didn't have any real mental picture of at all. Other times, the narration lost me and I didn't quite understand how Jax made certain jumps in logic.

The story's not terribly original: big, bad corporation has a nasty secret; good guys (don't realise it for most of the book but) know the secret and are moving to stop the corporation; things go from bad to worse; etc, etc, you know the rest. Yes, it's a great story. I enjoyed reading it. But unfortunately, it's not all that original. I had a real good idea how they were going to win at the end. I was right.

I really liked this book and recommend it, although it's not for hard-core sci-fi readers. Too many little details glossed over. It focuses more on the action, than the science. I will read the rest of the series.


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The Iron King


As part of a "Book of the Month" read, I read The Iron King by Julie Kagawa.
www.goodreads.com/book/show/6644117-the-iron-king

My Review: ★★★★

This is a very entertaining read. I enjoyed the introduction of the Iron Fey. It was a new and unique concept (although I admit I haven't read many fey books). The earlier parts, before the iron fey come in, are similar to other books involving the fey realm. The adventure's different but with similar themes. It doesn't truly grow into its own book until the iron fey show up. They were wonderfully unique.

The characterization was weak. It didn't really take much away from the book, but the chacters (other than Meghan) needed more fleshing out. The rulers of the courts (the Iron King included) had no depth to them. Not a huge loss, except with the Iron King. He was a disappointing antagonist, his goals linear and predictable. He needed more depth. Ash and Robbie had hints of personality, but stayed within their archtypes: one a sexy warrior, the other a prankster. The relationship between Ash and Meghan irked me. I have an old pet peeve about characters falling in love because one is hot. There was no personal chemistry there (just physical). Meghan had a much deeper and stronger history with Robbie. Meghan was believeable, although I never really connected with her I still liked her. By far, Grimalkin was my favorite. Best line ever, "I am a cat." How very cat-like. I laughed at that.

Even with the just-okay characters, this is still worth reading. I'll pick up the next one.

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Full Moon Rising

I read  Full Moon Rising, the first Riley Jenson novel,  by Keri Arthur awhile back. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/172764.Full_Moon_Rising

My Review: ★★

I'm not sure I can give a fair review on this one. It's not my type of book (more sex than story). I got it free, however, so I gave it a try. I had to put it down for several months, and only finished it because I was between library books, waiting for the next one to come in.

This one's for those who enjoy sex, sex and then maybe some more sex. I found the reason for the constant sex scenes (I couldn't call them love scenes) to be thin and manufactured, an obvious excuse to add more body on body action and unnecessary for the storyline.

The world was interesting (except for the constant sex), and the plot was okay. Keri Arthur wrote well, I just didn't enjoy the subject. Normally any book I put down automatically rates one star, but I'm giving this one some leeway because it's not my type of book. I will not be reading any more of this series.

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