Archive | October 2013

Review – Something Wicked by Angela Campbell

something wickedSomething Wicked caught my eye as soon as I realized it was a paranormal novel based in Charleston, SC.  I am so glad that I clicked that “Request” button!

Alexandra King is a psychic medium who visits Charleston to track down the estranged brother of her boss.  She soon learns that all of the ghosts in this historic town can quickly overwhelm her defenses and there are strong spirits that want her out of the way.

This was a fun book that was easy to read.  Alexandra is a fairly strong heroine and I especially appreciated that she wasn’t a doormat to gain the affection of our hero, Dylan.  While he is an alpha male, he doesn’t overdo it with the “she’s mine” mentality that can be frustrating in some PNR.

There are no big surprises here – girl meets boy, they fall into bed together, conflict ensues, etc., etc., etc.  But, sometimes it’s okay to be a little predictable.  The author kept it interesting with the banter and flirtation between the main characters  and the supporting cast (specifically the Charleston ghosts) was also very entertaining.  It wasn’t too dark, was steamy but not raunchy and had a good amount of action.  Charleston was a great back-drop to the story and it was nice to see restaurants and other locations mentioned that we all know and love.

I would recommend this for anyone looking for a good paranormal romance with a little mystery.  4/5 stars.

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

Mixed-Up Monday – 10 signs I have read too many post-apocalyptic novels

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10 – When I look in my pantry, the first thing I notice is how few bottled waters I have available.

9 – I’ve planned a back-roads route to my parent’s land in NC in case the interstates are blocked with abandoned cars.

8 – To ensure I maximize fuel efficiency and storage capacity, I have compared cars, SUVs and trucks.  I don’t want to have to stop too often to siphon gas and fill the tank but I want to be able to carry all of my supplies.  (There is actually a list someone has posted for this. )

7 – Making my own penicillin seems like a natural thing to do.

6 – In a sporting goods store, I look around to make a mental shopping list of what I will need for the apocalypse.

5 – In the grocery store, I consider which canned goods I would want to take and if I would need a mask to block the smell of the food that has gone bad.

4 – Even though I’m not in school, a backpack seems like something you have to keep handy for those times you may need to be on the run.

3 – I keep hand sanitizer everywhere.  You never know when that super-flu (a la “The Stand”) is going to be set loose in the world.

2 – I’ve asked all of my family if they have a preparedness plan and I’m pretty sure they are ready to have me committed.

1 – I have to buy printed novels from my favorite authors so that I will have them when the power grid fails.

What do you think?  Maybe I need to read a little more mystery and romance.

Freaky Friday – The Heavens Rise by Christopher Rice

the heavens riseWell, that was interesting.  And, sad.  And, entertaining.  And, FREAKY!

The Heavens Rise is my first Christopher Rice novel.  Going in, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but, in most ways, the author has exceeded my expectations.  THR is equal parts crime drama, thriller, romance, paranormal and more.  You can read the synopsis on Goodreads or Amazon but it doesn’t really do the book justice.

What I really liked:

  • Character Development – the reader gets to know Niquette, Anthem, Ben, Marissa and Marshall.  In some cases, we know more than is comfortable.  Who really wants to be in the mind of a sociopath like Marshall?  A good writer allows you to enter that mind, no matter how disturbing, and exit the other side without too many scars.  Christopher Rice did this.
  • Love of New Orleans – of course Rice loves New Orleans…his mom is Anne Rice, famous for her stories based in that city.  I appreciated that Christopher not only talked about the beauty and the strong people.  He also dipped into the underside and some of the not so pretty things that live there.
  • Using timeline to build tension – For most of THR, the author goes back and forth through time.  While Niquette’s journals begin the story, we are quickly taken to Marshall’s hospital room.  He clearly is not a stable person (understatement of the year).  As the novel progresses, we are shown the past events that put him in the hospital and ultimately led to the final showdown between the main characters.
  • Marissa – probably my favorite character – a tough, smart African-American woman who has dealt with racism and sexism throughout her life but doesn’t allow it to bring her down.  She fights for her career and for what she believes in.

What didn’t work as well for me:

  • Most of the paranormal elements were well written and made sense.  “Making sense” is important to me as a reader.  I love zombies, vampires, wolves and witches.  But, the who, what, where, when and why have to be there.  There was one piece of this that just didn’t fit for me (no spoilers but basically the effect of having someone control your mind and feel strong emotion.)  For some reason, I felt that this needed to be explained more fully.  Maybe it was just so far-fetched that I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.
  • Some of Niquette’s decisions were a little off.  Based on what I knew of her as a character (friend, girlfriend, daughter), they didn’t seem in line with her personality.  Most of it was pretty minor but I wished these mistakes had been further fleshed out so that I could understand why she chose a certain path.
  • Overall the writing was well done.  There was an example though of the same word (giant) used three times in two sentences.  Just a personal pet peeve of mine.

In honor of Freaky Friday, I’m going to share a personal story.  When I was pretty young (maybe 5-6), my Mom told me about an article she had read about amoebas.  Apparently these gross organisms were in a pond and they decided to enter the brain of an unlucky swimmer.  It caused personality issues and physical pain.  Yes, my Mom told me this as a very young child.  Since then I have had multiple nightmares on the subject and even the word “amoebas” makes me cringe.  Why am I telling you this story in this review?  Well, you have to read the book to find out but it brought this fear back into the forefront of my mind.  Thanks, Mom.  Thanks, Christopher Rice.  Now I’m going to have the nightmares again.

amoebas

4/5 stars for a really great story.  Recommended to everyone!

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

Review – Starry Night by Debbie Macomber

starry nightI wish I had written this review right after I finished reading.  At that time, I rated the book 3 stars and thought that it was pretty good.  Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, though, I reduced it to 2 stars.  What got under my skin and made me change my rating?  Let me tell you…Spoilers ahead.  (But can you really be spoiled with a light romance?  You know they are going to get together in the end.)

Carrie is a go-getter at work.  She’s a reporter and her editor has left her to work the society pages because she is so good at dealing with the rich and famous.  Did I mention she’s also beautiful but she’s self conscious about her “wild dark brown curls”.  Authors – I am sick of being shown perfect women who are irresistible to everyone around them.  And, if you are going to make her drop dead gorgeous, you need to let her OWN IT!

Finn Dalton is a stereotypical man who has been hurt by the women in his life and now he doesn’t trust the fairer sex.  Of course, he is also handsome but not too handsome (“his nose was a bit too large and his mouth a tad too thin.”)

The third star was lost because the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to smack Carrie.  She is successful, beautiful and has everything going for her.  But, once she meets Finn, she is willing to humiliate herself in order to win his affection.  She holds her cell phone in her hands waiting for his call at night.  Her weakness is insulting to me as a woman.  Not only did she basically fall in love with him overnight, she throws herself at him (literally!)  Yes, surprise, they get together in the end.  I have no idea what they saw in each other outside of physical attraction.

From a writing perspective, there is nothing overly offensive.  My one really big pet peeve is that Finn Dalton is called Finn Dalton in almost every sentence in which he is mentioned.  Almost never referred to as “he” or even “Finn”.  Guess what, after a couple of pages, I knew you were talking about him since there wasn’t another Finn in the story.  There were a few other things that might be worked out in final editing – big girl shoes?  sizzled and arched?  “as well” used in back to back sentences.

If you don’t mind a very standard romance and a pretty weak heroine, then give this one a shot.  2/5 stars.

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

Review – Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

patient zeroI am a big fan of Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin YA series.  So I decided to pick up his adult zombie novel featuring Joe Ledger to see how they compare.

Joe is a Baltimore police officer and a former military man.  During a rough encounter with some terrorists, he kills a bad guy.  While taking the required time off for the justified kill, he is pulled in and recruited by a secret government agency (Department of Military Science – DMS) to help fight the same terrorist group.  He learns that they have created a zombie virus and his team has to do everything possible to stop it from destroying the world.

This is a great story that is well thought out.  One of the questions I always have is “WHY”?  Why was the virus created?  Maberry does a good job telling the story of both the terrorists who want to kill us and the greedy billionaire who wants to make money off of the catastrophe.

Joe is a strong lead and I’m looking forward to reading more about him and the team.  There’s a little romance and it works because the character’s reactions make sense.  A few twists and turns keep it interesting and ensure the reader doesn’t know exactly what is going to happen next.

Truth is, I really liked this novel but I have to admit that I prefer Rot and Ruin.  The teen stars of Rot and Ruin just seem to pull a little more emotion out of the reader.  Maybe it’s because they don’t yet have all the skills they need to fully take care of themselves.  Joe is a bad-ass so it’s harder to be scared for him.

There are a couple of minor writing tics that did make me pause and re-read (mostly because I was surprised to see them.)  The biggest was the use of same or similar words in back to back sentences.  “News story” in sentence one and “new story” in sentence two.  It’s minor things like this that disrupt the flow of reading for me.  I wish my brain would disregard but it won’t.  Does anyone else struggle with this?

4/5 stars and recommended for zombie fans!

 

Review – Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

magic strikesMagic Strikes is the third book in the Kate Daniels series.  Two words for you – LOVED.  IT. 

Derek, a shifter and friend to Kate, has been horribly injured and is unable to heal.  Kate partners with a group of shifters to help Derek and stop a plot to harm all shapeshifters.  And, oh yeah, Curran is there too.

Ilona Andrews does a wonderful job telling the story, continuing to build this alternate Atlanta and creating relationships between characters you can’t help but care for. 

Kate is strong and loyal.  What’s interesting is seeing her growth as a person.  She was raised by her stepfather to be tough but she’s had to learn to trust.  But, now that she has friends – Andrea, Derek and even Curran – she won’t let anything happen to them. 

Curran is an alpha male, almost to the extreme.  He is a strong leader and is used to getting his way.  His continued pursuit of Kate (with her reluctance to give any ground) is fun to read.  In the real world, we probably wouldn’t be praising a man who breaks into a woman’s home.  Somehow, though, we still pull for Curran to win over Kate.  It is so refreshing that we are three books in and she hasn’t fallen into bed with him.  She is making him work for it!

The supporting cast continues to make the story even better.  Derek and Andrea as Kate’s friends.  Jim, a work partner, who isn’t always the most straight forward good guy.  We finally learn a little more about Saiman and what makes him tick.  Raphael is a hoot – both in general (giving Curran a fan for Kate to use if she became hot and bothered by looking at him) and in trying to woo Andrea. 

If you are a fan of Urban Fantasy, you have to read this series.  It simply works!  5/5 stars. 

Review – Dust & Decay by Jonathan Maberry

dust & decayDust & Decay is the second book in the Benny Imura series.  All I can say is the Jonathan Maberry can really craft a story that appeals to males, females, adults and teens.

It’s been six months since Benny and the crew defeated Charlie pink-eye.  Tom is training them all to become warrior smart.  They are planning to go back out into the Rot & Ruin – probably for good.  They want to track the origin of the plane that they saw and find what is out there.  As you can imagine, things don’t go quite as planned.

In one of my status updates, I said something that pretty much sums up my feelings about the world that Benny lives in – “it is horrifying to think of what people will still do to each other even after the world has fallen apart.”  While there are plenty of ‘good’ people, there are always going to be those who try to profit or gain power during struggles.  Maberry brings that realism to the story and it creates the conflict for our protagonists.  The real fight is with other humans and not the zombies.  That is the success of this series and why so many people, including myself, love it.  You may fear the zombies (after all they will mindlessly kill you given the opportunity) but, for the most part, you begin to pity them.  It’s other people that are the true threat.

I’m not going to give too much away because I hope that you will read this series.  And, if you’ve already read it, you don’t need me to tell you how wonderful it is.  Benny, Nix, Morgie and Chong still have a lot of growing up to do.  And, we find that Lilah isn’t quite as tough as she believes.  All of them make so many mistakes but you can’t help continuing to pull for them.  Tom is already a hero – that’s why the other bounty hunters either love or hate him.  Seeing his friends rally was one of the best parts of Dust & Decay.

We do still have a lot of questions about the world and the origin of the zombie outbreak – who, what, where and WHY?  Maberry uses Nix’s journal entries to show the reader that he is not ignoring those questions or lacking in world-building.  He is allowing us to learn these things along with the characters.  Nix asks every question I have about the zombies so we know that Maberry has a plan.  These writing details make for a fuller and better story.

The ending – well, yes, I was gutted.  That’s all I can say through the tears.

5/5 stars and highly recommended.  Worth every penny!