Friday, November 30, 2012

A Deeper Darkness ~ JT Ellison

A Deeper Darkness (Dr Samantha Owens #1)
April 17, 2012
400 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

** Review of Book 2 coming next week! **

Dr Samantha Owens the character of focus in JT Ellison's new series, starting with A Deeper Darkness was also one of the characters in her earlier series, the Taylor Jackson series. As Taylor's best friend, Sam appeared quite frequently in the seven books of that series - but now it's time for her to have her own series.

A bit about spoilers/the earlier series: this series really is a fresh start for Sam. Though she appeared in the earlier books - and we know her back story - this is her time to develop her own life, apart from the Taylor Jackson series -- and Taylor.

It's not necessary to read the series to know what's happening in A Deeper Darkness as there's almost no carry over the seven Taylor Jackson books that isn't recapped. It's what happened to Sam in the time between the two books that makes going back and reading the previous series almost reverse spoiler-y. [My reviews for that are here (books 1-4), here (book 5),  and here (book 6 & 7). ]

**Spoilers for Samantha's character below if you plan to read the Taylor Jackson series first **

Dr Samantha Owens has always loved her job as Nashville's forensic examiner. But after the death of her husband and twin children in Nashville's floods, every day is a practice in surviving for Sam.  So long as she keeps working - just not on drowning victims - and doesn't spend time at home, maybe she can escape her guilt.  Someday.

So far, though, nothing's been helping so Sam's only too ready to leave Nashville behind for several days when the mother of her ex-boyfriend, an ex-Army Ranger calls and asks Sam to do a second autopsy. On the surface it looks like Eddie was the victim of a carjacking gone wrong, but his mother doesn't think so. At first Sam thinks she's just humoring the woman, but soon it looks like there's much more involved. Something that might put Sam in danger - or bring her a whole new life. Or both.

It took me a little while to figure out just how the time line in A Deeper Darkness was working. The floods in Nashville were in May of 2010, Where All the Dead Lie, the seventh (and currently last) Taylor Jackson book came out in September of 2011. A Deeper Darkness takes place two years after the floods which were after something that happened in So Close the Hand of Death (book 6, published May 2011).

Confusing, no? What I decided was that there was a bit of never mind when the books came out. All the Taylor Jackson books now took place before May 2010, then Nashville flooded, Sam's husband and twins died, there was two years, then A Deeper Darkness happened/was published. (And maybe no one else needed any of that but as I was not clear on some of it/it never really got explained, it's in the review.)

Though it was not at all necessary to read any of the books in which Sam previously appeared prior to reading this one, I'm glad I did. Glad and kind of sad. Knowing how happy Sam was in the earlier books, the life she had, the family and the friendship, gave m a deeper feeling for the character.

I liked seeing all that Sam's capable of on her own. So much of the focus in the previous books was (understandably) on Taylor, but  we saw glimpses of Sam. Now, after seeing - and hearing - how smart and strong this character is, we get to really experience it. Even if she's been broken by events that happened between the two series, the core of her character is still there and I'm anxious to see what JT Ellison will build her back up to.

When I saw that this was going to be in a new setting, I thought I would spend the whole time missing the old side characters, but I didn't. The new characters are really good. They have their own identities and quirks and I see a lot of potential for them bringing quite a bit to this new series.

As Sam's the main character here and a medical examiner, her focus being forensics, this isn't a police, detective mystery. There are police and detectives and murder and clues. But it's different in that Sam is involved in figuring things out using forensics -- it's kind of like Bones, actually. And I love it.

Rating: 9/10

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sailor Twain ~ Mark Siegel review

Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson
First Second
October 2, 2012
400 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

When Twain, captain of the Lorelei, a river boat travelling the Hudson River, finds an injured mermaid on the deck, Sailor Twain begins -- as does the beginning of a journey Twain never imagined.

Twain isn't seduced by the mermaid as he found her (and not she him) and hasn't heard her song, but he falls under her spell in a different way. Deciding to keep her on board, nurse her back to health, he also decides to keep her a secret. Twain's life becomes increasingly difficult with his new acquaintance and his secret.

Sailor Twain is a story where mermaids are part of fiction - through a reclusive author and their writings - as well as through other characters beliefs and/or possible interactions.

I don't read a lot of graphic novels -- okay, let's be honest, I'd only read the Buffy Season 8 ones already -- but the story of Mark Siegel's Sailor Twain sounded interesting to me when I saw it on Library Thing's Early Reviewer's page. Then I saw that it was an (adult) graphic novel.

But it was about mermaids and something I would have read as a novel sans 'graphic' prefix, so it would be unfair to let the genre stop me.

I think it'd also be unfair to let it stop anyone else who doesn't ordinarily read graphic novels from reading Sailor Twain. Yes, it's a graphic novel, but it's very much not a comic book. It has a pretty complex story line that unravels over it's 400 pages.

The illustrations were very nice. Some were more detailed than others and even though having some drawings left more as line drawings has bothered me before, it worked here.

Sailor Twain is an adult graphic novel. The mermaid is topless throughout the story and there are some 'erotic' scenes/images, content. Overall, however, I wouldn't say it goes past YA (or older YA).

I will say that the ending did not work for me. It seemed rushed and left me feeling like I had missed something - that or as if a character's actions didn't fit/hadn't been worked in enough. Whatever exactly it was, I was expecting a bit *more.*

Rating: 7/10

thank you to the publisher and Library Thing's ER for providing my copy to review

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Panic by Sharon M. Draper

This gripping and chillingly realistic novel from New York Times bestselling author Sharon Draper shows that all it takes is one bad decision for everything to change.

Diamond knows not to get into a car with a stranger.

But what if the stranger is well-dressed and handsome? On his way to meet his wife and daughter? And casting a movie that very night—a movie in need of a star dancer? What then?

Then Diamond might make the wrong decision.

It’s a nightmare come true: Diamond Landers has been kidnapped. She was at the mall with a friend, alone for only a few brief minutes—and now she’s being held captive, forced to endure horrors beyond what she ever could have dreamed, while her family and friends experience their own torments and wait desperately for any bit of news.

From New York Times bestselling author Sharon Draper, this is a riveting exploration of power: how quickly we can lose it—and how we can take it back.
out March 12, 2013 from Atheneum Books for Young Readers - and you can find it on Goodreads

Panic doesn't sound like most of the books I read -- or at least the ones I've been reading lately -- but the combination of the title and that cover along with a synopsis that sounds more than intriguing have it definitely added to my to-read list.

What's your pick for this week? Leave me a link, in the comments, to your post/pick!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Undeadly ~ Michele Vail (earc) review + giveaway

Undeadly (Reaper Diaries #1)
Harlequin Teen
November 20, 2012
272 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

** Giveaway at the end of the post **

Molly Bartolucci lives in a world where the existence of zombies -- and those who can create them -- is known, if not always accepted. Necromancy has been a part of life for so long that its history is taught in public schools and Anubis is the god everyone worships.

Still, living in Las Vegas, soon-to-be-sixteen-year-old Molly only knows a few with the power -- and none that are her friends. All she wants is to blend in, something slightly hard to do while working at Big Al's (her father) Zomporium and about to get a whole lot harder.

A dream featuring Anubis tells Molly she's going to be a reaper, then she meets the mysterious (and perhaps annoying) Rath, her brand new boyfriend almost dies at her birthday party, and people she never expected to see show up with some unwelcome news.

In for a whole new life, Molly's going to find out more about reapers, souls, getting into - and maybe out of - trouble than she ever expected.

Michele Vail's debut novel is a zombie novel, but sort of a zombie-lite novel. By which I mean that the zombies aren't 'grr argggh!' evil, eat your brains zombies. They're still dangerous, will still kill people . . . but they can still be kept almost 'tamed'? (In the first scene with a zombie, I thought a bit of 'Fido,' actually.)

I like this type of zombie for Undeadly. With so much focus on the soul, the reapers, the reanimation, Anubis and how everything works, it would be kind of wacky to have Walking Dead type zombies that people like Molly, our protagonist, were studying to bring back.  A Frankenstein type mob with torches and pitchforks (or common sense) would have stopped them already if they were super-murderous zombies. The almost placid zombies works.

Along with the other beings that are a part of this tale, it makes for a very interesting world that Molly and the other characters are a part of.

There was a lot of introduction and explanation in Undeadly, especially in the beginning, that could, at times, take away a bit from what was happening in the story. While the background did help with understanding Undeadly's world, it didn't always feel like the setup and the plot were working together cohesively. One would distract from the other.

Into the second half of the book, when we've found out the basic 'what's of the necromancy, Molly's party and it's immediate aftermath as well as what that means have happened, things got going better for me. I do think that, as this is the first in a series, there was a lot to tell readers, a lot of building to do, so the second book should flow more smoothly from the start.

Undeadly is probably best suited for upper middle grade or younger YA, young teen readers. Both the story line and the character seem to fit that age range best. Those who enjoyed Marlene Perez's Dead Is series, may want to give this a try.

Rating: 7/10

thank you to Michele Vail for making the giveaway possible and to Harlequin Teen & NetGalley for my review galley

Want to win your own, signed, copy of Undeadly by Michele Vail? Enter below:

Monday, November 26, 2012

34 Pieces of You ~ Carmen Rodrigues review

34 Pieces of You
Simon Pulse
September 4, 2012
336 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

A dark and moving novel—reminiscent of Thirteen Reasons Why—about the mystery surrounding a teenage girl’s fatal overdose.

There was something about Ellie... Something dangerous. Charismatic. Broken. Jake looked out for her. Sarah followed her lead. And Jess kept her distance, and kept watch.

Now Ellie’s dead, and Jake, Sarah, and Jess are left to pick up the pieces. All they have are 34 clues she left behind. 34 strips of paper hidden in a box beneath her bed. 34 secrets of a brief and painful life.

Jake, Sarah, and Jess all feel responsible for what happened to Ellie, and all three have secrets of their own. As they begin to confront the darkest truths about themselves, they will also find out what Ellie herself had been hiding all along...
(synopsis found on Goodreads)

34 Pieces of You was quite a bit different than what I was expecting, but not any less good.  It is reminiscent of Jay Asher's Thirteen Reason's Why, but less emotional and wrenching in many ways. This isn't due to the skill of Rodrigues versus the skill of Asher as a writer, either. The tone that 34 Pieces of You takes is quite different from that of Thirteen Reasons Why.

Despite Ellie being the 'you' in the title, the novel is mainly focused on the other characters - their relationships after Ellie's death -- both with each other and with others -- how Ellie was a part of their lives and impacted them before her death. Ellie's a character in 34 Pieces of You but she is the 'you' not an 'I.'

The narrative moves between the before, the after, the earlier before and the later after, not in a linear fashion. It not only makes for interesting reading but it was really great to see how a character was from the point when everything started (Ellie's death), follow them later, then see how they had been, and then see how they later were as well. I enjoyed it much more then if we had started before Ellie's death, followed through until she died, past that until the end. It made the character development so much better.

I love, love books where characters and their relationships are done well and this is one I adored. It didn't have the emotional impact -- at least until the end, for me -- that I was expecting and the notes were a smaller part than I expected but I that was all okay. It was okay because that wasn't the book this was.

What 34 Pieces of You *was* was a book looking at Sarah, Jake, Jess, and even Tommy and Lola and how Ellie and her death (and life) effected them.  They way that Carmen Rodrigues wove their lives and relationships together was fantastic. Character A might be one thing to Character B but then they were also this other, unexpected thing to Character C -- and, maybe, something small to Character D, too. They were a small group of teenagers, most of whom had spent the last several years growing up together, and the way their lives intersected felt very real and true.

As I said, the book as  whole was not quite as emotional as I was expecting (given the subject matter). There was a particular part, close to the end, however that I really, truly felt connected and I was glad those characters had that moment.

I very much enjoyed 34 Pieces of You and look forward to more from Carmen Rodrigues -- and recommend this one!

Rating: 9/10


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Revolution 19 by Gregg Rosenblum

Twenty years ago, the robots designed to fight our wars abandoned the battlefields. Then they turned their weapons on us.

Only a few escaped the robot revolution of 2071. Kevin, Nick, and Cass are lucky —they live with their parents in a secret human community in the woods. Then their village is detected and wiped out. Hopeful that other survivors have been captured by bots, the teens risk everything to save the only people they have left in the world—by infiltrating a city controlled by their greatest enemies.

Revolution 19 is a cinematic thriller unlike anything else. With a dynamic cast of characters, this surefire blockbuster has everything teen readers want—action, drama, mystery, and romance. Written by debut novelist Gregg Rosenblum, this gripping story shouldn’t be missed.
After reading Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson and Partials (and eagerly, eagerly awaiting Fragments) by Dan Wells, I'm super excited after reading this synopsis!

Robots can be so many different things - from the Jetsons to Cybermen (which admittedly are a bit Jetsons-y just, you know, more take-over-the-world-y) to those in I Am Legend. I'm anxious to see how the robots operate (pun not actually intended, but it works) here.

I also really like reading debut author's novels.

Revolution 19 by Gregg Rosenblum will be released January 8, by Harper Teen. Find it on Goodreads

What are you waiting on this week? Link me in the comments!

Black Friday: Movie + Book(ish) Deals

If you're like me you're not one to camp out in front of the mall instead of spending a nice, relaxing Thanksgiving with family or to spend the wee hours of the morning fighting the crowds to save some money.

But I do like to pick up some DVDs and Blu-rays on the Black Friday deals - usually ones I already planned to buy but sometimes others than look just too tempting to pass up.

As I'm also not one to make my Black Friday list months or even weeks in advance (and I :\ thought yesterday was Monday until about 5:30) I present my list today in the hopes that it might help someone else out . . .

Most of those on my list are ones that have either been featured on a Cinema Saturday post previously and/or somehow relate to a book. To make organization/viewing a bit easier, I've added them all to an Amazon aStore (even the things that are maybe not at Amazon/not cheapest there).

Links in this post go to reviews/posts I've done about the movie/show/book but everything should all be included: here If not try the search box:

Amazon, Target, Best Buy & Walmart below

Monday, November 19, 2012

Beautiful Redemption ~ Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl review

More of a Miami Book Fair post coming but for now here's a review . . .  check my Twitter (&/or Instagram, Tumblr) for pictures from the fair.

** Review will contain spoilers for the rest of the series -- up to and possibly especially the ending of Beautiful Chaos Book 3 don't read if you haven't read those because spoilers are no fun **

Beautiful Redemption (Caster Chronicles #4)
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
October 23, 2012
464 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Is the story of Ethan and Lena over for good? Or is there another chapter to be told?

In order to save everyone he loved and cared about, all the people of Gatlin, Ethan made a huge sacrifice at the end of Beautiful Chaos. Now, even as Ethan vows to find his way back to Lena, finding out he may have to trust some he thought to be the enemy and leave behind others he thought he'd never see again -- Lena's making her own attempts.

Not everyone thinks all that Lena's will to risk seems worth such a small possibility. But she knows she has to do it. Even if it puts lives at risk.

Will even death mean the end for these two? Find out in Beautiful Redemption, the conclusion to the Caster Chronicles series.

The ending to Beautiful Chaos left more questions than the previous books in the series. They've all succeeded at leaving things hanging or leaving something (or somethngs) that make you need that next book now, but Beautiful Chaos left more of a, "How? Hunh?! What?!" than the others.

I really enjoyed seeing characters from some of the previous books play a part in this last book. Some of them that I expected to see due either to the plot or to Beautiful Chaos but some not as much. It was enjoyable to have them back one last time as things wrapped up.

Obviously the bigger, series long story is a romance between Ethan and Lena so it made sense for that to be the focus of the story, but at times I wanted that to . . . not quite take a backseat but not be such a focus of Ethan's. With Lena it made sense for her to stay as focused on him as she did, but given Ethan's surroundings earlier in the book, there was a period where I wanted his mindset to shift just a bit.

It wasn't a big issue for me and, as I said, I think it made sense for the story and kept things moving forward well. It's also the only thing I can point to wanting to happen even a bit differently in this book.

The characters, their romances, their familial bonds and their friendships seemed especially strong in this last installment. Whether that was because the plot gave them the chance to shine, for the characters to work together in ways they hadn't before, or because they've grown - as characters and the writing of them - over the series, I'm not sure. Whatever caused it, I loved the interactions between the different characters (Link and Lena, Amma and just about everyone, Liv and John, etc) here.

While a bit different than the previous three novels, Beautiful Redemption was still very true to the tone that's been created throughout this series. It fit with the series, it felt like everyone was getting where they needed to be, or where they were supposed to be and readers were finding out what was needed to be found out before the last page. And then it was over.

This is a series I'm incredibly sad to see end but only because of how much I love it. I don't have any problems with the way it ended. I don't wish a or b or y or z had been different. I really have no even kind of big issues with Beautiful Redemption and look forward to Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's individual books coming (semi) soon and anything they ever decide to co-write in the future!

Rating: 9/10

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Runaway Princess ~ Hester Browne (earc) review

The Runaway Princess
Gallery Books
October 2, 2012
448 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

If Amy Wilde’s new boyfriend, Leo, treats her like a queen, that’s because he’s secretly a prince himself: Leopold William Victor Wolfsburg of Nirona, the ninth most eligible royal bachelor in the world. Amy soon discovers that dating an heir to a throne has many charms—intimate alfresco dinners, glittering galas, and, for a girl who lives in jeans and wellies, a dazzling new wardrobe with tiaras to match. But there are also drawbacks: imagine the anxiety of meeting your boyfriend’s parents multiplied by a factor of “riding in a private jet,” “staying in a castle,” and “discussing the line of succession over lunch.” Not to mention the sudden press interest in your very un-royal family. When an unexpected turn of events pushes Leo closer to the throne, the Wolfsburgs decide to step up Amy’s transformation from down-to-earth gardener to perfectly polished princess-in-waiting. Amy would do anything for Leo, but is finding her Prince Charming worth the price of losing herself?
I've looked at Hester Browne's novels before (and been interested) but never read one before The Runaway Princess. I now think I'm going to have to make sure both her subsequent publications as well as those earlier ones I've passed by are on my to-read list.

What first drew me to The Runaway Princess was any possible similarities to either The Princess Diaries (the book or the movie) and/or The Prince and Me, the movie starring Julia Stiles. With, of course, the story moved to a more grown up world as those stories were aimed to a younger audience and Browne's novel is adult or at least new adult.

It's kind of great that the novel is slightly reminiscent of those tales -- Amy is an 'ordinary' girl, independent if not always confident similar archetypally to both Mia and to Stiles' character, Paige -- but is also so very different.

I really love the characters in this novel. Amy, first: Not only is she a gardener (which, after Simon Baker's Brian in Something New and this novel I now need more characters to be), but she co-owns her business. She's past school age but she's not man-crazy. I really enjoyed reading a book where the character was grown-up enough that they'd finished college/school and didn't immediately transition into husband hunting. While The Runaway Princess has romance, the whole story isn't Amy looking for love. We learn about Amy's goals, who she is, her family, her roommate. I appreciated her being a strong, independent character.

Which, is not to say I didn't like Leo. I kind of loved him actually. His 'prince'ness is actually part of what made The Runaway Princess so different from the other stories I've read and/or seen involving royalty and commoners or us ordinary people. He didn't come in with his royal procession or wearing a coat of arms. He was Leo. Of course, he's also Leopold William Victor Wolfsburg of Nirona.

And that's where some trouble possibly arises. Amy thinks she's found her perfect guy. But is Amy the Gardener really going to work with Prince Charming . . . and is Amy willing to give up all that she's dreamed and worked for just to keep her prince?

I really like that this novel is a bit of Cinderella for the modern girl. The girl who maybe does't need a prince to come and  take her away from everything because maybe she was doing alright for herself.

It's a story that was, honestly, deeper that I thought it was going to be with a lot more development of both the characters and the story (I apologize for my preconceived notions of things with 'Princess' in the title).

Rating: 8/10

thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for my review galley

Going to the Fair . . .

I'll be visiting Miami Book Fair International this weekend! (Should have some posts/tweets/pics from there.)

I'm planning to try to attend, mostly, things with YA authors: Libba Bray, Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl, Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian, Christopher Pike, Laini Taylor -- if I can make them.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Black City ~ Elizabeth Richards (arc) review + giveaway

Black City
GP Putnam's Sons BYR
November 13, 2012
384 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Following a terrible war, the United Sentry States is divided. There are humans and there are Darklings - in many ways it is as black and white as that, but in many others it is not.

It's in Black City, one of the government's regional headquarters, where Natalie Buchanan, the human daughter of the Emissary and Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling meet one night. It's a chance encounter that could mean trouble for either of them. It does cause trouble that neither of them saw coming, though.

After her father was killed by a Darkling how can she possibly be falling for one? And how, when he's spent so long on the other side of the wall separating Darklings and humans can Ash be feeling as he does for a human? A Sentry no less?

While things between Ash and Natalie could certainly mean trouble for the both of them, they're not the only one's in danger. With the war between Darklings and humans just ended and things still almost at a  boiling point, any decision could be a crucial one.

You know how vampire books are supposed to be over? How Stephenie Meyer put a stake in that genre? Yeah. If you really believe that, please read The Immortal Rules (by Julie Kagawa), The Hunt (by Andrew Fukuda) and Black City and let me know if you still think so.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Killer First Date ~ Alyxandra Harvey mini review

A Killer First Date (Drake Chronicles #3.5)
Walker Childrens
February 14, 2012
40 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Amazon/or B&N (where it's a LendMe ebook)

**spoilers through Out for Blood, book three**

Nicholas and Lucy have known each other for most of their lives, but now that they've finally admitted their feelings for each other, Nicholas wants to take her on their official first date-away from all the life-and-death drama that has surrounded them lately. Is it too much to ask for just a fun double date at the local carnival with his older brother, Quinn, and Quinn's new girlfriend, Hunter?

'A Killer First Date' is an e-novella in the Drake Chronicles series by Alyxandra Harvey. Though published between books four and five - Bleeding Hearts and Blood Moon it takes place prior to Bleeding Hearts.

Telling the tale of both Lucy and Nicholas as well as Quinn and Hunter's first dates - which take place together, 'A Killer First Date' is an enjoyable interlude that stays true to the rest of the series. It doesn't really need to be read in between books three and four, it just fits best there plot wise.

To avoid character spoilers, it shouldn't be read earlier - but then, reading this review or the synopsis of the story would already tell you the characters are dating. I read it after Blood Moon and after that book's more heavy story line and its ending, the lighter short story, the interaction of the characters and the bit of fun was incredibly refreshing. Almost like a flashback.

When short stories are done well, as this one very much is, I love to read them as it shows just how well the author know their characters and gives me yet another peek into the lives of the characters I've grown to love.

From Hearts at Stake (aka My Love Lies Bleeding) the first book, I've been in love with the Drake Chronicles series and I'm happy to say that the short stories are just as fantastic. (Lost Girls was in the back of some editions of Blood Moon and it was brilliant as well.)

Rating: 4/5

Friday, November 9, 2012

Taylor Jackson series (#s 6 & 7) ~ JT Ellison review

*Fingers crossed that my computer, my internet and my migraine/almost-lack-thereof cooperate enough for this post to finally get, well, posted - sorry!*

**Likely contains spoilers for Books 1-5 of series - reviews here & here**

So Close the Hand of Death (Taylor Jackson #6)
Mira Books
February 8, 2011
408 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

It's a hideous echo of a violent past. Across America, murders are being committed with all the twisted hallmarks of the Boston Strangler, the Zodiac Killer and Son of Sam. The media frenzy explodes and Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson knows instantly that The Pretender is back...and he's got helpers.As The Pretender's disciples perpetrate their sick homages--stretching police and the FBI dangerously thin--Taylor tries desperately to prepare for their inevitable showdown. And she must do it alone. To be close to her is to be in mortal danger, and she won't risk losing anyone she loves. But the isolation, the self-doubt and the rising body count are taking their toll--she's beside herself and ready to snap.

The brilliant psychopath who both adores and despises her is drawing close. Close enough to touch....

So Close the Hand of Death is really the culmination of a story line that has been building over the course of the past several Taylor Jackson books - since the second book, 14, really. I noted in my review of the first books in the series that the author suggests reading 14 before reading So Close the Hand of Death. While it was hard to pick out which information came solely from 14 while reading this book, the characters as well as the already established plot that are so much a part of So Close the Hand of Death, did really get introduced/play out in 14.

It's been expanded on since then in the three books that came in the interim, but that's the book that really established everything.

I do think there's enough recap in this novel - as with the others - to allow it to be a standalone, but as it's bringing about the end of the Taylor Jackson series, it's more about tying things up for Taylor and rewarding readers who have read the entire series. Readers who will get much more out of this book than someone picking it up for a one-off. (If you're looking to read just one book in this series, I'd suggest one of the earlier books. Not because this isn't as good, but it is more a series book than they are.)

So Close the Hand of Death brings some things that seemed inevitable, but also introduces some things - with the secondary characters that are surprising. This is not a predictable read. It still follows the same sort of format as the previous books with the group working a case, it's just a much more personal case - and Taylor's involved in quite a different way.

The ending is also one that will leave you hoping you have the other book already on hand.

Rating: 8/10

review of Book 7 below, contains spoilers for ending of Book 6

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday

Happy Day After the Election, here's my Waiting on Wednesday pick!!

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…

Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town…until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery...who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch.
First? I adore the title -- I like titles that use phrases, idioms, quotes, lyrics, etc. and this one is one that I just find, well, pretty.  

I also think the cover's pretty gorgeous, the font itself is spectacular and really draws your attention to the title and while the image is in the background (allowing the title to be the focal point), when you do pay attention to it, it has something going on . . .

And: "Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery...who makes you want to kiss back." Seriously? This book blurb and cover combo is one that leaves me with one thought really, "Gimme, gimme, gimme."

April Genevieve Tucholke's debut, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, the first in a series will be out August 15th from Dial.

Add it to your Goodreads, pre-order from Book Depository, or Amazon

What's your pick for this week? Link me in the comments!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Beautiful Chaos ~ Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl review

Vote! Vote! Vote today! (One bookstore, will even give you a bit extra if you do - and, you know, live in NH.)

Beautiful Chaos (Caster Chronicles #3)
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
October 18, 2011
518 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Ethan Wate thought he was getting used to the strange, impossible events happening in Gatlin, his small Southern town. But now that Ethan and Lena have returned home, strange and impossible have taken on new meanings. Swarms of locusts, record-breaking heat, and devastating storms ravage Gatlin as Ethan and Lena struggle to understand the impact of Lena's Claiming. Even Lena's family of powerful Supernaturals is affected - and their abilities begin to dangerously misfire. As time passes, one question becomes clear: What — or who — will need to be sacrificed to save Gatlin?

For Ethan, the chaos is a frightening but welcome distraction. He's being haunted in his dreams again, but this time it isn't by Lena - and whatever is haunting him is following him out of his dreams and into his everyday life. Even worse, Ethan is gradually losing pieces of himself — forgetting names, phone numbers, even memories. He doesn't know why, and most days he's too afraid to ask.

Sometimes there isn't just one answer or one choice. Sometimes there's no going back. And this time there won't be a happy ending.

For some, crazy reason I didn't review this book last fall. I still don't know what that reason was. So I reread it to be able to review it. . . .

I do love this series. Love. It's unbelievably imaginative and creative. Each book takes us somewhere great from where the previous book left off (and they do leave off somewhere that leaves you just needing to read that next one).

The first two books sort of set up the odd-ness that was out and about in Gatlin, where Ethan and Lena - the now semi-new girl live. From Lena's uncle Macon and his dog Boo, to Link and his latest changes, to Amma  and whatever she might be up to, Ethan's aunts, Link's mother, and Marion we sort of knew the score.

In Beautiful Chaos, however, there are some new twists. Lena's claiming seems to be affecting everything from her family to Gatlin itself and even Ethan. With Gatlin's never silent religious faction more than ready to speak up about the quasi Biblical events: heat, storms, locusts, Lena's family's powers going haywire and Ethan having his own troubles - including someone new in his dreams and possibly waking hours - this third book has its own tale.

It's one that is just as hard as Beautiful Creatures or Beautiful Darkness to put down, too. The characters are working together in different ways. Some characters who seemed established as either set good or bad - or at least neutral - characters, are presented differently in Chaos. You at least question their current actions, if not their past.

I've already said it, but it does bear repeating: I love this series and I'm beyond thrilled that the authors are scheduled to appear at Miami Book Fair International. (Fingers just about impermanently crossed that nothing interferes with their appearance or my going.)

Rating: 9/10

Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl are scheduled to appear at MBFI on Saturday the 17th at 1:00 pm and 3:30 pm

(I'm hoping to finish Beautiful Redemption prior to MBFI, as well, and get that reviewed, too)

book originally received from LBYR - thank you 

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Victory Lab ~ Sasha Issenberg review

The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns
September 11, 2012
358 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

The book Politico calls “Moneyball for politics” shows how cutting-edge social science and analytics are reshaping the modern political campaign.

     Renegade thinkers are crashing the gates of a venerable American institution, shoving aside its so-called wise men and replacing them with a radical new data-driven order. We’ve seen it in sports, and now in The Victory Lab, journalist Sasha Issenberg tells the hidden story of the analytical revolution upending the way political campaigns are run in the 21st century.
     The Victory Lab follows the academics and maverick operatives rocking the war room and re-engineering a high-stakes industry previously run on little more than gut instinct and outdated assumptions. Armed with research from behavioural psychology and randomized experiments that treat voters as unwitting guinea pigs, the smartest campaigns now believe they know who you will vote for even before you do. Issenberg tracks these fascinating techniques—which include cutting edge persuasion experiments, innovative ways to mobilize voters, heavily researched electioneering methods—and shows how our most important figures, such as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, are putting them to use with surprising skill and alacrity.
     Provocative, clear-eyed and energetically reported, The Victory Lab offers iconoclastic insights into political marketing, human decision-making, and the increasing power of analytics.

Sasha Issenberg's The Victory Lab is a book looking at - from the very beginning of political science in Chicago until the present day - how campaigns aim, and very often succeed, to know how a person is going to vote before they do so. And without polls.

Issenberg knows a lot about the different methods used by different campaigns and different individuals all across the twentieth and now twenty-first centuries to garner the best possible voter predictions. Whether its education, income, past election participation or even pet ownership, there are people who, apparently, know whether or not it factors into whether or not you're more likely to vote - and, in a given election, for whom. To a degree, of course.

Victory Lab left me interested in some past elections that I will admit to knowing little to nothing about. It likely wasn't the point of the book as many who will read this book are older and, therefore, already familiar with those national elections. I'm not, though, and the things that were mentioned, in reference to how they effected votes, how the strategists used them, left me interested and wanting to know more.

The book also finally told me where - and a bit of the why - all of those (horribly annoying) direct mail campaign flyers that show up in the mailbox in multitude before every election started; and how they've been used in some elections. It was pretty interesting.

I don't know if it was Issenberg's writing, they way that Victory Lab was written, they way the material worked for me or something else but I saw it more as individual case studies when I think I was envisioning seeing something more general, broad. It felt more campaigns and less Campaigns? Yes, they will all be run differently, but it was hard to see that they were all using the same knowledge, if differently.

The book was a bit hard for me to get through, so I may have been expecting more storytelling (even taking into consideration the genre) than there was. There were times when someone would be introduced with something anecdotal, but their introduction used just to bring in another person or place, usually leaving me wondering where the first person had gone.  Victory Lab felt slightly academic, like something you would read for class or a paper.

Victory Lab has a lot of interesting information and facts as well as plenty to think about - with the impending election and beyond. It's one that left me with some things to look into and more knowledge about just how campaigns 'know' who to target and think they know who will be voting for them. The way all of that information was presented didn't quite work for me, but I'm glad I kept with it and know the things.

Rating: 6/10

thank you to Crown for my copy of the book

No matter, a book says, your vote is still up to you - and only you - so tomorrow don't forget to . . . .

Friday, November 2, 2012

Ten ~ Gretchen McNeil review

Balzer + Bray
September 18, 2012
294 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Don't spread the word!
Three-day weekend. House party.
White Rock House on Henry Island.
You do NOT want to miss it.

When they get the Facebook invite for a weekend house party on Henry Island, Meg and her best friend Minnie both lie to their parents about where they're going and take the ferry to the island. Everyone at the party has their own reasons for attending - both Meg and Minnie's involve TJ, the school's star football player and most eligible player . . . but several attendees, host included, seem to be delayed by the encroaching storm.

Soon, though, it becomes clear that their three day, adult-free, party on the secluded island is going to be so much less fun than expected. After watching a twisted, strange DVD with one message: Vengeance is mine they wonder if it's a joke or a warning.

Then the deaths start.

With no one else around, a horrible storm raging and the ferry - that's not due to return for days - the only access to the outside world, and no way to communicate with people off the island the teens wonder if the deaths were accidental . . .  murderer afoot. If there is a killer, can Meg find them? And stop herself and her friends from being the next victims?

Ten is a fun read. Ten teens are stuck on an island, in a house secluded from everything else and, with no way of communicating with anyone else, find themselves possibly in the presence of a killer. There are deaths that happen where there's a bit of a question, at least for the characters, whether or not some outside party caused the death or if the character that died and/or an accident is solely to blame.

The questioning not only brings up just a bit of internal strife with the characters early on, but it (rightfully, it seems), keeps them all from completely freaking out as soon as the first death occurs. It would make sense for other nine teens to just about lose it if a character died and it was an obvious murder, but it would also make it harder for the story and the characters/their relationships to progress.

Ten is a lot like the teen movies and horror movies of the late 1990s/early 2000s - which I mean in the absolute best way. The plot of the book reminds me of all of the things there are to love in those movies while still taking the opportunity to point out some of the flaws they had as well.

Some things in the book seem predictable, but things aren't quite as easy to guess as you might think (or maybe you're a really great guesser and they are!). Certain things I hoped would come to fruition, did so I really can't fault those things for being a bit predictable because I would have been disappointed had they not happened.

I really hope to read more books like Ten. The story between Meg, TJ and Minnie wasn't amazingly unique but it had elements that made it new and it was nice to have it all unfolding in the midst of the, perhaps, more dire circumstances of the rest of Ten.

Rating: 9/10

thank you to Harper for including this in my box of Halloween books & the arc giveaway!

Video Veneris

This week's Video Veneris (Video Friday) pick is the trailer for Reached, the third book in the Matched trilogy by Ally Condie - it follow Matched, of course, and Crossed

I, for whatever reasons, never did read Crossed but I need to so that I can read Reached which will be out on the 13th!

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