Mini-Review – Shutter by Courtney Alameda

shutterHappy Halloween, fellow readers.

Shutter will be published in February 2015 and I usually wait to post reviews of ARCs until about 30 days before they come out.  But, come on, this is the perfect book for me to tell you about on Halloween.  So, I’ve decided to do a mini-review to whet your appetite.  You need to mark your calendars so you can get this the day it is available!

From Goodreads: “Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She’s aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera’s technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.  When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn’t exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she’s faced.”

Who would’ve thought that a YA horror novel written by a first time (published) author would be so successful?  Alameda does a great job with the world building, character development and storyline.  She took something we know (Dracula, Van Helsing, etc.) and made it fresh.  The powers that these kids have are not your standard fare.  I loved that Micheline uses a type of photography to fight ghosts.

Some readers have tired of YA because of the love triangles and Mary Sue female characters.  While there is a small love story, no triangles are to be found.  And, Micheline is far from a Mary Sue.  She would kick Mary Sue’s butt.

A great debut novel and I highly recommend.  5/5 stars.  February 3, 2015.  Don’t forget.

Thank you to the publisher for providing an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review – White Trash Zombie Apocalypse (White Trash Zombie #3) by Diana Rowland

wtzaAngel Crawford is back for a third installment of this urban fantasy series.

From Goodreads: Our favorite white trash zombie, Angel Crawford, has enough problems of her own, what with dealing with her alcoholic, deadbeat dad, issues with her not-quite boyfriend, the zombie mafia, industrial espionage and evil corporations. Oh, and it’s raining, and won’t let up.  But things get even crazier when a zombie movie starts filming in town, and Angel begins to suspect that it’s not just the plot of the movie that’s rotten. Soon she’s fighting her way through mud, blood, bullets and intrigue, even as zombies, both real and fake, prowl the streets.  Angel’s been through more than her share of crap, but this time she’s in way over her head. She’ll need plenty of brainpower to fit all the pieces—and body parts—together in order to save herself, her town, and quite possibly the human race.”

When I started this series I was impressed with how the writer portrayed Angel.  She had a tough life and not much going for her but was able to start turning things around.  And, oh yeah, reading it was a hoot.

Part of my disappointment with this installment is that Angel isn’t showing some of the same spunk that she did in books one and two.  She puts up with way too much from her pseudo-boyfriend and blames herself for things that are out of her control.  I hoped for more from her and there are moments when I was able to do that.  But, they were too few and too far between.

The supporting cast was pretty good but they felt almost two-dimensional.  We need more details on Pietro, Brian, Derrell, Nick, etc. They are an important part of Angel’s life and we don’t get to know enough about them to care.

Lastly, the story felt a little worn out and didn’t have enough action to keep the pages turning.  For the last 50%, I was looking forward to finishing.  Not to find out what happened but to mark it as read and move on.

2.5/5 stars and I will have to think for a while to see if book four is in my future.

Review – V-Wars Volume 1: Crimson Queen by Jonathan Maberry

vwars

The truth is that I am not the target audience for this format.  But, I love Jonathan Maberry and can’t resist anything with his name attached.

This graphic novel tells us the story of the beginning of the Vampire Wars.  Humans and Vamps can’t live together peacefully and mayhem ensues.

As always the story is captivating.  One of Maberry’s strengths is writing well-rounded characters.  Some of them just happen to be zombies or vampires.  They are good, bad, confused, frustrated, angry, violent, loving.  In other words, they are realistic and relatable.

For fans of well-written and thought-provoking horror, Jonathan Maberry should be at the top of your list.  And, if you can allow your mind to be open to a graphic novel, then this one is a no-brainer.

4/5 stars.  Thank you to the publisher for providing an e-copy through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review – You Slay Me (Aisling Grey: Guardian #1)

you slay meYou Slay Me is the first installment in the Aisling Grey urban fantasy / paranormal romance series.  I found my copy at the Friends of the Library sale for 25 cents.  Score.

From Goodreads: “In her job as courier, Aisling is to deliver a precious demonic artifact to a Mme. Deauxville in Paris, but she finds Madame freshly dead, surrounded by a circle of ash. The artifact is then stolen by the fast-talking Drake, who claims that Aisling is no mere courier but in fact a demon lord and his destined mate. Determined to play detective, Aisling summons up a demon only to find herself saddled with one, in the form of a slobbering Newfoundland who wants to go walkies. Drake wants to show her the way dragons mate, and then bodies seem to pile up all over Paris, making Aisling a corpse magnet and top suspect. It’s going to take every screwy new ally she’s got to solve this murder and adjust to her new life in a strange new world.”

When I read this yesterday I hoped for a fun, lighthearted read.  You Slay Me delivered that…sort of.

I have to say I am surprised by the high rating this has on Goodreads.  While entertaining, you do have to turn off some parts of your brain if you want to enjoy the story.  Especially if you are a woman.  My biggest issue is that Aisling is portrayed as, well, an idiot who is easily swayed by a handsome face.  My favorite UF/PNR series are anchored by smart, tough women.  Aisling could be those things but just isn’t.  She doesn’t believe in demons yet tries to summon one with bargain basement ingredients.  While she says she doesn’t want to be mated to Drake, she sure does jump his bones anytime she gets the chance.

The supporting cast works well and I can see a lot of potential here so I’m giving this one 3/5 stars even with its’ faults.  It’s a decent start to the series and I hope that the author worked out some of Aisling’s issues in future installments.

Review – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

gone girlBy now you’ve all seen the advertisements for the movie so you know the gist of the plot.  Wife goes missing and husband is prime suspect.

I held off on reading Gone Girl as long as I could.  It was a little too popular and I’m not one to read books that are water cooler topics.  I knew that one day I would read it and I finally gave in when the movie came out.

This is my second Gillian Flynn read – I gave Dark Places four-stars.  Honestly, I don’t want to give Gone Girl 5 stars but I don’t have a choice.

 

Reasons GG should be avoided:

- Every single major character is unlikable.  Most aren’t just unlikable but awful people who probably shouldn’t be out in the general population.

- Some of these people will do things that would have been unimaginable to you before reading and you will wish you could erase these acts from your memory so that you don’t have to believe that a human being could act this way.

- Most importantly, if you are getting married or thinking of getting married you should avoid this like the plague.  It doesn’t paint a pretty picture of wedded bliss.

 

Reasons you have to read GG:

- It’s so dang well-written.  The use of Nick’s POV in the present day alternated with Amy’s diary entries just works.

- The twists and turns will keep you guessing.  Even if you figure out one piece of the puzzle, Flynn surprises you by moving one you already had in place.

- You don’t want to be the one loser at a dinner party that doesn’t know how it ends.

 

5/5 begrudged stars.

 

Review – The Iron Wyrm Affair (Bannon & Clare #1) by Lilith Saintcrow

iron wyrm affairSince I haven’t read much steampunk and I saw The Iron Wyrm Affair at the used bookstore, I knew I needed to snatch it up.

From Goodreads: Emma Bannon, forensic sorceress in the service of the Empire, has a mission: to protect Archibald Clare, a failed, unregistered mentath. His skills of deduction are legendary, and her own sorcery is not inconsiderable. It doesn’t help much that they barely tolerate each other, or that Bannon’s Shield, Mikal, might just be a traitor himself. Or that the conspiracy killing registered mentaths and sorcerers alike will just as likely kill them as seduce them into treachery toward their Queen.”

When I finished TIWA, I stared at the cover for a few minutes trying to decide how I felt.  There were things I loved and others that irked the heck out of me.  Rating it seemed almost impossible.

So, I’ve decided to use a little math.  Let’s start with 3-stars and go from there:

Plus 1/2 star: Steampunk element was well done.  I like the mix of magic and technology.

Plus 1/2 star: Some good world building and characterization.  Victorian England elements worked within the story.  The explanations of the different types of people – sorcerers (some prime or super special like Bannon), mentaths (extra smart geniuses like Clare) and shields (protectors like Mikal) – was fascinating.  By the way, I would be a mentath if you care.

Minus 1/2 star: Taking the convenient route when world building.  It’s not a problem that we recognize Victorian England but I don’t think an author should take the easy way out and leave too much of the real world in place.  There were scenes where it was a little too close to reality.

Minus 1 star (and probably should be more): Characterization of women.  How can you have a strong, smart female lead like Emma Bannon and still leave the reader feeling like you dislike women? Clare alludes to Bannon being too hard or straight-forward.  Ok, I could accept that as part of his character.  But, you made Emma question herself constantly saying that she wasn’t feminine enough or was too outspoken.  And, why, every time she said a curse word was it blanked out?  Other, male characters, were allowed to curse freely.  Don’t get me started on the attitude Clare had about Bannon’s intimate relationship.  MYOB, buddy.

Minus 1/2 star: This reduction is simply due to Clare’s obsession with Bannon’s child-like face and curly hair.  It was creepy.

Plus 1 star: When you can’t wait to read the next installment, the book deserves an extra star.

Overall, 3/5 stars.  Now, can someone send me the next one?

Review – Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad #4) by Tana French

broken harborI have decided that Tana French is a sorceress.  She has special powers that cannot be explained.  Broken Harbor is even better than previous installments in the Dublin Murder Squad series.

From Goodreads: “Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy always brings in the killer. Always. That’s why he’s landed this high-profile triple homicide. At first, he thinks it’s going to be simple, but the murder scene holds terrifying memories for Scorcher. Memories of something that happened there back when he was a boy.”

We first met Mick Kennedy as one of the detectives in Faithful Place.  He was kind of a d-bag and was so by the book that you couldn’t like him.  When I saw that he was the main character here, I was concerned.  Was this going to be one of those books where I dislike the MC so much that I can’t really enjoy the story?  So little faith.  I should know that Tana French writes about real characters with real flaws.  Learning some of his back story completely changed the dynamic.

What is so great about Broken Harbor?  I could say everything but that would be too simplistic.  There is a great story here with a mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat.  Characters are so well-developed that you truly do feel that you are in the room with them.  And, the way French portrays mental illness is just…something that sticks with you.

Just plain wonderful.  That’s all I can say.  Seriously, if you are a mystery or thriller reader and haven’t found this series you need to go to the bookstore today.

5/5 stars.  It doesn’t get much better than this.