Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pure by Andrew Miller


by Andrew Miller

Deep in the heart of Paris, its oldest cemetery is, by 1785, overflowing, tainting the very breath of those who live nearby. Into their midst comes Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young, provincial engineer charged by the king with demolishing it.

At first Baratte sees this as a chance to clear the burden of history, a fitting task for a modern man of reason. But before long, he begins to suspect that the destruction of the cemetery might be a prelude to his own.
This was a very good, character driven story written in the present tense.  I loved the description of the Paris streets and slums during the 1700's.  Things were not pretty, not at all, and this story tells all the dirty details.  I was horrified at the living conditions through most of the book. 
Jean-Baptiste begins as a very impressionable young man with not much worldly experience and I loved how his character grew during the span of the story. 
The story itself was very literary and although I loved the writing, I wished I could have sunk down into it more. 
Pure was very good, very well-written...and often disgusting.  Which is really true to history, I think.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bared To You by Sylvia Day

Bared To You

by Sylvia Day

Gideon Cross came into my life like lightning in the darkness… He was beautiful and brilliant, jagged and white-hot. I was drawn to him as I’d never been to anything or anyone in my life. I craved his touch like a drug, even knowing it would weaken me. I was flawed and damaged, and he opened those cracks in me so easily…

Gideon knew. He had demons of his own. And we would become the mirrors that reflected each other’s most private wounds…and desires.The bonds of his love transformed me, even as i prayed that the torment of our pasts didn't tear us apart...
 So...I read this.  I actually liked it.  I've never read 50 Shades of Grey, I don't really want to because of how terrible the writing seems in the excerpts.  If I had known before I started it that Bared To You was supposed to be some sort of homage to 50 Shades....well, I probably wouldn't have read it.  I still have some embarrassment when it comes to reading romance, so I try to stay far from anything with too much drama attached to it.  Because the first thing people say when you tell them you read romance is 'oh, like sex books?'
Moving on.
The story itself was good and I like Day's writing, though she did use a bit too much purple prose for my taste.  I liked that it wasn't just a story of 'already well-off beautiful woman meets ridiculously wealthy and gorgeous man with control issues'.  A lot of the story itself is these two messed-up characters trying to make a relationship work.   
Gideon Cross was a little too good to be true at first, but that rapidly changed for me once I got to know his character better.  He was insanely creepy and I was sorta surprised that he didn't end up being a serial killer.  He stalked her repeatedly, went through her phone, did background checks on everyone she ever came into contact with, and TOOK PICTURES OF HER ROOM SO HE COULD MAKE A DUPLICATE ROOM IN HIS OWN SUITE.  Complete with identical furniture and personal items, of course. 
So, since most people reading this book will be adults, I will not mention how scary his behavior is.   Not. healthy.  Eva didn't seem to worry about it much, except for the occasional fond thought about his cute possessiveness.  Ugh. 
So, on to the things I liked.  I liked how they tried hard to work on their relationship (besides the creepiness) and they actually talked through their problems most of the time.  I get frustrated with most romance because of the lack of communication, so this was a welcome surprise. 
I loved that there were a few scenes where Eva was actively courting Gideon by sending him flowers and gifts.  It was awesome!  Who says the men have to go through all the trouble?  I loved, loved, that part!
*Spoilers ahead!*
Another thing I loved was the fact that Sylvia Day didn't pull any punches and had Gideon traumatized by past sexual abuse.  That's an odd thing to say that I loved, I know.  But I think there is too little awareness of the fact that men are almost as likely to suffer sexual abuse as women are.  

Friday, December 13, 2013

Grow a Sustainable Diet: Planning and Growing to Feed Ourselves and the Earth by Cindy Conner

I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley.

Cold Iron by D.L. McDermott

Cold Iron

by D.L. McDermott

The Fae, the Good Neighbors, the Fair Folk, the Aes Sídhe, creatures of preternatural beauty and seduction. Archaeologist Beth Carter doesn’t believe in them. She’s always credited her extraordinary ability to identify ancient Celtic sites to hard work and intuition—until today.

The tomb Beth has just discovered is the most complete Celtic burial she’s ever seen. Filled with ancient treasure, impossibly well-preserved, the burial has everything—except a body. Her ex-husband, the scholar who stifled her career to advance his own, is unconcerned. Corpses don’t fetch much on the antiquities market. Gold does. Beth knows from past experience that if she isn’t vigilant, Frank will make off with the hoard.

So when a man—tall, broad shouldered, and impossibly handsome—turns up in her bedroom claiming to be the tomb’s inhabitant, one of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the mythic god-kings of old Ireland, Beth believes it is a ploy cooked up by her ex-husband to scare her away from the excavation.

But Conn is all too real. Ancient, alien, irresistible, the Fae are the stuff of dreams and nightmares, their attentions so addictive their abandoned human lovers wither and die. And this one has fixed his supernatural desire on Beth.

I received an ARC copy of Cold Iron from the publisher through Netgalley.

I loved the idea of this book more than the actual result.  I grew up with an intense fascination with everything Celtic, especially ancient Irish history.  Maybe that was the problem.  Maybe I let my expectations get too high.  If you don't particularly care about the Irish setting, then you'll probably love the book a lot more than I did, for reasons explained below.

The story began with Beth and her ex investigating an ancient burial mound in Ireland.  That was definitely something I could get into.  It was like history at my fingertips! It didn't even have to be all that accurate, I just wanted more.

But much sooner than I expected Conn arrived, and even though he was very 'when you want the woman, you just take the woman' I was determined that I was going to like him.  Because he's Irish and the image on the cover is smokin' hot.

I even liked Beth because she was turning out to be pretty tough. But then she just up and left Ireland to go back to a major American city.  What!  Where is my Irish atmosphere?  I want rolling green hills and small Irish inns with their interesting characters.  I wanted to hear more about the burial mound itself.  Everything Irish was quickly swept away to be replaced with everyday American life.
'Ok, that's fine', I thought.  At least he's an Irish warrior.  That counts, right?  Wrong.  Out of Ireland, and without the setting to constantly remind me of where he came from, Conn became just another alpha male with supernatural abilities.  He made the transition to modern Boston life so well that I quickly lost a lot of interest in his character.  I know the Fae in the story do get out every once in a while, but you would think he would still retain a lot of his Irish 'otherness'. 

The characters themselves were ok, but not very engaging.  Beth was sweet and tough, and I should have liked her a lot.  I'm not sure why I didn't love her.  She was by far the stronger of the two.  Toward the end of the book, she was definitely kicking ass and taking names.  You go girl!

I think most of my disappointment stemmed from the fact that this book didn't take place in Ireland like I thought it would.  Horrible, I know.

Things I liked about the book:

The Fae are described as cruel and unfeeling.  Good.  I like that better than a lot of the gentle fairy people stories.

Micah.  He was a secondary character, but he had a lot more character depth than the two main characters.  I enjoyed the chapters with him in them.

THE COVER!!!  I mean...WOW.

I think I'll like the next book a lot more because I'll know what to expect.  And because of Micah.

3/5 Stars

Friday, December 6, 2013

Torn by War by Jim Melvin

Torn By War

by Jim Melvin

Everyone they love may be doomed. Everything they cherish may be destroyed. There is no turning back.

Torg and Laylah’s world is in chaos; their life together, in jeopardy. Even a powerful Death Wizard such as Torg may not triumph as three terrible wars are unleashed upon the land. The evil druids of the forest Dhutanga—giant, insect-like monsters—swarm to attack the white horsemen of Jivita. The druids are superior both in strength and numbers, but the forces of good are not without hope. Torg and his Tugars stand by the horsemen’s sides.

Several hundred leagues to the east, an army of zombies invades Tējo, the great desert. Most of the Tugars have left to aid their allies, and only a few warriors remain to defend the Tugars’ homeland against this horrendous assault.

The most devastating force of all is led by Mala, the ruined snow giant, who has marched with his massive army of cretins and golden soldiers to assail the black fortress of Nissaya.

Triken is on fire.
I received a copy of Torn By War from the publisher via Netgalley.
I'm not sure what to say about this book, truthfully.  There were times when I liked it and I was interested in the various beings and monsters that Jim Melvin has created.  Sometimes the writing was great, other times not so great. 
I was bored through lot of the book and would have to resist skipping chapters just to get to the characters I liked a bit more. 
The writing style was similar to a lot of epic fantasy, just a little less polished.  I cringed when someone was referred to as going back to their 'nicey state'.  This was after a group of creatures were described as leaving their 'meaney' state.  I felt like I was in middle school again. 
All in all, it was just 'ok' for me.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Warm Bodies

by Isaac Marion

R is a young man with an existential crisis--he is a zombie. He shuffles through an America destroyed by war, social collapse, and the mindless hunger of his undead comrades, but he craves something more than blood and brains. He can speak just a few grunted syllables, but his inner life is deep, full of wonder and longing. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse. Just dreams.

After experiencing a teenage boy's memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice that begins a tense, awkward, and strangely sweet relationship with the victim's human girlfriend. Julie is a burst of vibrant color in the otherwise dreary and gray landscape that R lives in. His decision to protect her will transform not only R, but his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world...

Scary, funny, and surprisingly poignant, Warm Bodies is about being alive, being dead and the blurry line in between.

First of all, I had no idea zombies could be so poetic.  Who knew that under all the moaning and shambling there could be some pretty deep thoughts?

R is a pretty nice guy, once you get to know him and if he doesn't eat you first.  Even though he has the urge to munch on brains every once in a while, he cares about his friends and often regrets his desire to hurt eat others.

He lives a pretty bleak existence, with only his record player and the short hours when the airport escalator actually works and he can ride it up and down.  Up and down. 
He has his friend M and the two exchange the odd grunt or two and occasionally they share any leftover brains they may have saved. 
The brains act like a drug for zombies, where they can for a few moments relive the memories of the dead. Even so, life is still bleak and going nowhere.
When R meets Julie, it's like something miraculous happens...his world is no longer gray and lifeless.    

I really liked Julie, even though I thought it was a little odd at first that she got over his being a zombie rather quickly.  She is sweet but tough enough to take care of herself when she needs to.  She loves life but still carries this world-weary attitude at times. 

The story is written mostly from R's POV and I love the insights into his psyche.  He is definitely a deep-thinker and a dreamer.  Just my kind of guy.  Er...zombie.
There was a lot of humor, some gore, some romance, and a lot of philosophical thoughts coming from the shambling dead.
I loved it.  It was fun and made me laugh hysterically several times until I was afraid my family would hear and think I was nuts.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Honour And The Sword by A.L. Berridge

Honour And The Sword

by A.L. Berridge

It is 1636 - the height of the Thirty Years War, one of the bloodiest and most destructive conflicts Europe has ever seen. As the campaigning season begins, the Spanish armies swell out of the Artois region of the Netherlands – flooding into King Louis XIII's France.

The sleepy border village of Dax-en-roi stands in their way. Facing the overwhelming might of the Spanish forces, the Chevalier de Roland rallies a valiant defence, but in vain – his household guard no match for the invaders. There is only one survivor as the Roland estate is razed to the ground, one soul who escapes the Spanish brutality: the lone heir to the Roland name, the son, a young boy by the name of André de Roland, the new Sieur of Dax . . .

Upon this young nobleman's shoulders all hope lies. He alone must bear the honour of the Roland name and, with it, the fate of his people.

What could I possibly say about this book, besides the fact that this is one of the best books I've read in a long time?  It was wonderfully written, masterful even.  The characters were unique and their personalities remained true throughout the story.  They had such depth to them!  The book is written with several characters narrating their accounts, each told in first person POV.  I loved the way this was done because it gave me a better understanding of each of the characters.  I loved each of them  (except for Destrada's man).  I would highly recommend the audiobook narrated by Jonathan Oliver.  He brings the stories to life and narrates each character so that their personalities shine through.  I'd say that one of the things I loved so much about the book was his narration.  Many people found the format confusing, but with the audiobook it is easy to follow as each of the characters has their own unique voice.
There was so much suspense in this book!  I felt like absolutely anything could happen at any time and just when I thought I knew how a situation would end...BAM!  Everything would change.  Just like real life, nothing is certain.  The suspense nearly killed me.  In a good way, of course.  My heart was pounding, I wanted to either duck and cover or go fight someone.

I don't know much about the Thirty Years War except from what I read in the book, but it has spurred me on to learn more.  The author wrote in a way that I could easily imagine the setting and the atmosphere of the place.  It felt real.  I wanted to be out there, fighting alongside the French defenders.  The desperation, anger, grief...I felt it all keenly.
I loved every moment of Honour And The Sword.  Finishing the book was like losing a very good friend.  Nothing I write in this review could possibly do it justice. So read it!  Do it.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman

In The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman has created a charming allegory of childhood. Although the book opens with a scary scene--a family is stabbed to death by "a man named Jack” --the story quickly moves into more child-friendly storytelling. The sole survivor of the attack--an 18-month-old baby--escapes his crib and his house, and toddles to a nearby graveyard. Quickly recognizing that the baby is orphaned, the graveyard's ghostly residents adopt him, name him Nobody ("Bod"), and allow him to live in their tomb. Taking inspiration from Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Gaiman describes how the toddler navigates among the headstones, asking a lot of questions and picking up the tricks of the living and the dead. In serial-like episodes, the story follows Bod's progress as he grows from baby to teen, learning life’s lessons amid a cadre of the long-dead, ghouls, witches, intermittent human interlopers. A pallid, nocturnal guardian named Silas ensures that Bod receives food, books, and anything else he might need from the human world. Whenever the boy strays from his usual play among the headstones, he finds new dangers, learns his limitations and strengths, and acquires the skills he needs to survive within the confines of the graveyard and in wider world beyond.

This was a wonderful book and a very fun read.  Even though it was a children's book there was a lot for adults to love in The Graveyard Book. 
I loved Bod's relationship with the citizens of the graveyard.  I was so interested in his schooling with the various ghosts.  Each one had something extra to teach Bod based on their life experiences and the history of their time.  It was very entertaining.
It was very dark in certain parts, especially the beginning.  I love dark, but it's probably not something to read to very young children  :).  Unless they tend to like that kind of thing.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Illumination by Rowan Speedwell


by Rowan Speedwell

Adam Craig is burned out. Lead singer of the hard rock band Black Varen, he's tired of the empty life of groupies, paparazzi, and hotel rooms. Worse, a life in the closet. After the final concert of their latest tour, he flees the after-party in pursuit of memories of lost summers and carefree days, until he passes out on the patio of a shuttered lake resort.

Miles Caldwell is a brilliant artist, tied by agoraphobia and social anxiety to his family's lodge. Alone but for his parrot, he spends his days illuminating manuscripts and hiding from the complexities of life. When he discovers Adam asleep in a deck chair, he's furious but intrigued. Adam soon charms his way into Miles' bed, and they lose themselves in a summer idyll, safe from the compromises and claims of reality.

But Adam's life, with all its demands, is waiting for him. And Miles, uncertain of Adam's true feelings, is battling demons of his own. Somehow, the man who's never home and the man who never leaves it must find the strength to fight for a future together.
I received a free copy of Illumination from the publisher via Netgalley.
I requested this book because the characters intrigued me.  An agoraphobic artist, a burnt-out rocker, an animal character...all the things that should have made this the perfect book for me. But there was something about it that just left me disappointed me.  I'm not sure what I was looking for, only that I wanted something more.  The characters were interesting at first, and then it was like they never developed much after the first few chapters.  It left me feeling as if there wasn't much there, to be honest.  Even their relationship was shallow and cold. 
A scenario like the one presented in this book should have been full of drama, clashing personalities, and a lot more character depth.  And while the book did have its moments, I thought it was somewhat boring and unbelievable.  The dialogue was clunky and there were places when I could sense the author's presence loud and clear as she used it to steer the situation around.   
There were certain parts that I really enjoyed, especially toward the end of the book.  But for the most part, I was just left feeling disappointed. 
2.5/5 stars

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Catch A Ghost by S.E. Jakes

Catch A Ghost

by S.E. Jakes

(Hell Or High Water Book 1)

Everyone knows that Prophet—former Navy SEAL, former CIA spook, full-time pain in the ass—works alone and thinks only about the trouble he can cause. But his boss, Phil Butler of Extreme Escapes, LTD., has just assigned Proph not only a new partner but also a case haunted by ghosts from Proph’s past. Suddenly, he’s got to confront them both head on.

Tom Boudreaux—failed FBI agent, failed sheriff, full time believer in bad luck—is wondering why the head of a private contracting firm has hunted him down to offer him a job. Still he's determined to succeed this time, despite being partnered with Prophet, EE, LTD’s most successful, lethal, and annoying operative, and even though the case is also resurrecting his own painful past.

Together, Prophet and Tom must find a way to take down killers in the dangerous world of underground cage matches, while fighting their own dangerous attraction. And when they find themselves caught in the crossfire, these two loners are forced to trust each other and work together to escape their ghosts . . . or pay the price.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.

This reminded me so much of the Cut And Run series by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban.  That was one of my favorite series, so I'm glad I was able to find something so similar yet unique.  The two characters are tough men, amazing fighters, alpha males to the core.  Neither of them takes orders very well, though Prophet is so allergic to authority he makes Tom seem almost angelic.  
I love the character development in this story.  Both main characters are very well written and I got to know them very well because of it.  I love how complex they both were.   There was never a time that I considered them flat or one-dimensional. 
There were quite a few twists and turns in the story and it kept me on my toes the entire time.  I never knew what was going to happen next.  There was a lot of emotion and angst, so it ended up being a moody read.  I absolutely love a story with a lot of angst.
Prophet was a great character and not the asshole I thought he would be after reading the first chapter or two.  He has his issues, of course, but he is also caring and vulnerable under all the tough guy stuff.  There was a lot to love about Prophet.
Tom was hot.  Every little quirk or 'flaw' only added to his hotness.  I went into this prepared to love Prophet, but Tom really took first place in this story.  I love a bad boy character.
The writing style was bold and to the point, without a lot of fluffy shit thrown in.  I'm glad the author didn't try to make this too sweet or tame, because then I wouldn't have thought the characters were believable.  As it is, they were amazing and realistic.  

**Mild spoiler ahead**

This is not an all-in-one romance.  Don't go into this expecting a HEA at the end, or you'll be disappointed!

5/5 Stars

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dr. Bird's Advice For Sad Poets by Evan Roskos

Dr. Bird's Advice For Sad Poets

by Evan Roskos

“I hate myself but I love Walt Whitman, the kook. Always positive. I need to be more positive, so I wake myself up every morning with a song of myself.”

Sixteen-year-old James Whitman has been yawping (à la Whitman) at his abusive father ever since he kicked his beloved older sister, Jorie, out of the house. James’s painful struggle with anxiety and depression—along with his ongoing quest to understand what led to his self-destructive sister’s exile—make for a heart-rending read, but his wild, exuberant Whitmanization of the world and keen sense of humor keep this emotionally charged debut novel buoyant.

I recently had the great luck to run across this review, which compared this book to one of my all-time favorite movies: Dead Poet's Society. I was overjoyed.  It's possible that I only made the connection because of Monica's review, but I would like to think that I would have recognized it anyway.  I cannot tell you just how many times I've seen that movie and wallowed in my self-imposed angst.  I love a movie or a book that can just make you feel, even if that feeling happens to be uncomfortably sad.  Dr. Bird's Advice For Sad Poets is one of those books.
James is exactly the kind of kid I used to be.  He's fond of poetry, hugs trees to make himself happy, and is so awkward around other people that it is almost painful.  He can barely talk to the girl he likes, though in moments when he isn't ruled by anxiety he concocts ill-advised plans to be noticed by her.  Even when they are talking and things are going well, he can't get over the fact that he just may not be...enough. 

"My eyes are probably cloudy, sad, mean, boring.  Not blue enough or brown enough or bright enough."

The writing is beautiful and poetic, which is to be expected in a story about a young poet who reads Whitman as much as James does.  There is a lot of emotion in this book.  I was cringing practically through the entire story, first in embarrassment for James and then in sympathy when the parents were introduced.  The parents are pretty horrific.  I was surprised James and his sister Jorie didn't end up even more messed-up than they were.

"She and I seem to be poisoned with sadness in our blood."

I loved the book.  It was like discovering my favorite movie all over again.  There was quite a bit of nostalgia involved, which was an odd feeling to have for a book I've never read before.  But there it is...I'm the kind of person that can't separate a comparison once it's been made.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ragnarok by Brian James


by Brian James

The Viking gods have been banished from Asgard by Odin. Today they make the best of life on Earth. Thor is a professional athlete, Freya a prostitute, and Loki sells cheap products on QVC. Lurking in the background of their lives is a prophecy; one that declares that their time is at an end. Ragnarok is about to throw the gods into a state of civil war and the one who controls the hammer of Thor may be able to change the arc of destiny.

I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.
I honestly had a difficult time reading this and I had to force myself to finish it.  The story was slow and tedious, and the writing style was not easy to get into.  All that would have been ok and I would have at least come away from reading the book feeling indifferent about it and maybe rated it two stars if I was in a good mood.  But what made me absolutely livid was the 'humor'.  It was forced and about 90% of the jokes were in very, very poor taste.  I lost count of all the fat jokes, gay jokes, homeless jokes.  It was like being in high school all over again and watching the school bully pick on all of your classmates.  It left me feeling very uncomfortable. 
0/5 (because I don't actually have to give it a star)

Touch Of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Touch Of Power

by Maria V. Snyder

(Healer Series #1)

Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan assumes their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Territories, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life....
This was the first book in what I suspect will become another brilliant series by Maria V. Snyder.  I was first hooked on her books when I read Poison Study years ago.  Since then, I've kept my eyes peeled for any new books she's published.  There is something about her writing that sucks me into her stories and makes me care deeply about the characters.
The pacing was slower than in Snyder's Study series.  I think it helped give the reader a better understanding of the world and all the past events that led the characters to be exactly where (and who) they are.  The slower pacing allowed each of the characters time to develop their own unique personalities.
Kerrick is an intriguing character.  Yes, he is abusive toward her in the beginning, but I loved the fact that the author made no excuses for him.  Avry is no weak and fragile woman, and she is able to hold her own and then some.  I'm sure this would probably upset some readers who will hate Kerrick just for the principal of the thing.  But I think it's more impractical to expect a group of men who live in a 'holy-shit-everything's-gone-wrong' type of world to treat an equally strong female character with kid gloves just because she happens to be a woman.  How she handles it, and how he responds, says a lot about their characters.
There were times when I was more impatient with Avry's character than any of the men's.  She has a stubborn streak that made me wish she would just...stop.
I have always loved fantasy that can have a touch of romance in it without sacrificing plot.  This book had it all, and I was engrossed in Touch Of Power the entire time I was reading it.  There were so many twists and turns that kept me on the edge of my seat.  A good situation could turn bad with a blink of the eye.
I've seen this shelved under YA, which is confusing to me because all of the characters (except maybe Flea) are well into their twenties.  Kerrick is definitely not a model of heroic behavior and doesn't belong in YA. 
All in all, I was left feeling very satisfied with the story.
5/5 Stars

Friday, November 15, 2013

Covet Thy Neighbor by L.A. Witt

Covet Thy Neighbor

by L.A. Witt

 Tattoo artist Seth Wheeler thinks he’s struck gold when Darren Romero rents the apartment across the hall. The new guy is gorgeous, witty, and single, plus he’s just the right blend of bold and flirtatious. Perfect.

Except then Darren reveals that he moved to Tucker Springs to take a job as the youth pastor at the New Light Church. Seth is not only an atheist, but was thrown out by his ultra-religious family when he came out. He tends to avoid believers, not out of judgment but out of self-preservation.

But Darren doesn’t give up easily, and he steadily chips away at Seth’s defenses. Darren is everything Seth wants in a man . . . except for that one massive detail he just can’t overlook. Is Darren’s religion the real problem, or is it just a convenient smokescreen to keep him from facing deeper fears? It’s either see the light, or risk pushing Darren away forever.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review via Netgalley.
I thought that I had had enough of light and fluffy romance for a while.  Even M/M, which is usually more complex and therefore interesting, can get old after a while.  When I saw the synopsis for this one I knew I had to give it a try. 
An atheist tattoo artist and a youth pastor, both men?  I can honestly say I never thought I'd read a book with that kind of pairing. I'm all for new experiences, so I requested it.
Seth was my favorite character in the Tucker Springs series.  He was funny, with a sarcastic streak that came though loud and clear throughout the entire book.  He was also genuinely kind and I found it very easy to like his character.  He seems like the kind of guy you could either drink a few beers and laugh with, or tell him all your deepest secrets and he would listen closely.  He would be the perfect friend.  The story is written in first person from Seth's POV, so we get a good long look into his soul.  It's really quite beautiful.
Darren is like a study in opposites.  There were times when I thought his character was unbelievable and that he was doing things no minister would.  Smoking pot and one-night stands just does not seem believable for a minister character.  But then I got to thinking: would I really want him to act any differently?  This is a romance, after all.  A fictional story created for the sole purpose of entertainment.  In this case, I think I'm glad reality took a short smoke break.
Their relationship was very interesting because of the entire minister/atheist/gay dynamic.  There was so much going on and so many emotions flying around.  I think it was a very well-written story about how love can always win in the end.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bearful Bear and His New Moves

Bearful Bear and His New Moves

by Anna Lee Everhart

 While Bearful Bear goes about another day in the forest, he wonders whether he can learn to move like all of the animals around him. Every creature he encounters shares how they move, and then Bearful has the opportunity to practice his new skill.

Children will learn how to fly, gallop, hop, and more with this rhythmic, rhyming tale about an inquisitive bear whose animal friends teach him to move in many new ways. These catchy how-to's not only encourage movement by the reader, but also encourage language development and outright fun!
This was a very cute children's book.  I don't have children yet but I have two nephews, one who would be old enough to listen and try to do all of the groovy moves that Bearful Bear is learning. 
It would be a great book for all young children, but especially for those who have a difficult time sitting still for story time.  Bearful Bear encourages kids to move around and try different things, like hopping, galloping, and rolling.  It's interactive and fun.
The drawings are bright and beautiful and would probably be exciting for children.   They are encouraged to look at the pictures and try to find the next animal who will teach Bearful Bear some new grooves.   
Rating for children: 5/5

After The Fall by L.A.Witt

After The Fall

by L.A. Witt

After years of saving every penny, Nathan has finally managed to buy the horse of his dreams. He’s looking forward to a summer of exploring the Colorado mountain trails above Tucker Springs with Tsarina. But on their very first ride, a motorcyclist makes a wrong turn, scaring Tsarina into bolting and leaving Nathan with a broken leg, a broken hand, and a ruined summer.

Ryan is a loner and a nomad, content with working odd jobs before moving on to the next town. Feeling guilty for causing the accident that leaves Nathan in two casts, Ryan offers to keep Tsarina exercised until Nathan heals.

Despite their bad start, Nathan and Ryan soon become friends . . . and then much more. But with a couple of nasty breakups in his past, Nathan doesn’t want feelings getting involved—especially knowing that Ryan will never settle down. But since when do feelings ever listen to reason?
I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher for review.
I wanted to like this book a lot more than I actually did.  I love hurt/comfort themes, and any book involving horses usually rates high on my list.  But here's the thing:  I was bored.
The beginning was great and the set up to this romance was interesting.  I thought I was going to remain interested through the whole thing and finish the book with some amount of satisfaction.  After the first few chapters, though, I realized that I was getting restless and wanted to read something different.  Not a good sign.  It seemed that after a certain point, there wasn't much going on that hasn't happened in every single chapter so far:  Nathan gets help going down the stairs, they go visit Tsarina, they go to a restaurant to eat, they talk too long and leave the restaurant late, Nathan gets help going up the stairs, he crashes on the couch.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Add in some sex scenes about halfway through and go through everything again. 
Speaking of those scenes, I thought there were too many and after a while I just started skipping them.  I do the same with any type of romance that tries to tell you how much the characters feel about each other by the amount of sex they have.  It makes their relationship seem one-dimensional and I get tired of having to skip ahead.
The characters themselves were kind of...meh.  There wasn't much emotional depth to them and it left me disappointed.  
I regained a small amount of interest in the last two chapters, but not enough to make me want to read it again. 
2/5 stars

Monday, November 11, 2013

Never A Hero by Marie Sexton

Never A Hero

by Marie Sexton

Everyone deserves a hero.

Owen Meade is desperately in need of a hero. Raised by a mother who made him ashamed of his stutter, his sexual orientation, and his congenitally amputated arm, Owen lives like a hermit in his Tucker Springs apartment. But then hunky veterinarian Nick Reynolds moves in downstairs.

Nick is sexy and confident, and makes Owen comfortable with himself in a way nobody ever has. He also introduces Owen to his firecracker of a little sister, who was born with a similar congenital amputation but never let it stand in her way. When she signs the two of them up for piano lessons—and insists that they play together in a recital—Owen can’t find a way to say no. Especially since it gives him a good excuse to spend more time with Nick.

Owen knows he’s falling hard for his neighbor, but every time he gets close, Nick inexplicably pulls away. Battling his mother’s scorn and Nick’s secrets, Owen soon realizes that instead of waiting for a hero, it’s time to be one—for himself and for Nick.

This was a sweet love story about a socially-awkward loner who is too afraid of being laughed at to leave his own apartment for long, and a confident veterinarian with a dark secret.  It dealt with some pretty heavy topics and I love that Marie Sexton wasn't afraid to delve into such dark waters.

I loved Owen's character.  He is a nice guy but paralyzed with fear and self-doubt because of the fact that he has a congenitally amputated arm and an obvious stutter when he becomes anxious.   Most of his low self-esteem comes from his mother, who is a bitterly unhappy woman, and who only seems happy when she is making other people miserable.  I felt horrible for Owen because of some of the incredibly hurtful things she's said.  No one should be that cruel, especially to their own children.  I absolutely hated that woman.   Hated. 

Nick was a great character, for the most part.  He helped Owen come out of his shell and gave him more confidence than he's ever had in his entire life.  He was supportive, but not overly protective.  He introduced Owen to his sister, who also has a congenitally amputated arm, but on the opposite side than Owen does.  Pretty coincidental, right? That fact made me scoff a bit, but this is a romance and they've never been known for being entirely believable.  I liked Nick, though I was disappointed in him for several things he did during the course of the story.  Yes, he has a dark secret and he's afraid to tell Owen.  Completely understandable, at that point, because they're only friends.  But he leads Owen on and then backs off until he seems cold and unapproachable.  Not a good thing to do to someone with such low self-esteem, man.  And he allowed them to get 'close' before his big reveal.  Absolutely unacceptable, in this case.

The relationship between them started as a comfortable friendship and built slowly.  I liked that the author spent a lot of time developing things between them and didn't make them jump into bed within the first few chapters, like I've seen in many romances.

There was one scene in particular that I thought was especially well done.  Nick invites Owen out to a friendly dinner at a restaurant.  Things go from pretty bad to oh-my-god-get-me-out-of-here!   The entire scene at the restaurant was wonderfully written. It made me extremely anxious and I wanted to crawl into a deep, dark hole out of empathy for Owen.  If you have even a degree of social anxiety, it will be a very uncomfortable scene to read.  Any book that can give me such an emotional reaction is very well-written, in my opinion.   

There were a few things that I disliked.  One, was that I doubted that Owen could completely get over his anxiety so quickly.  Of course, the beginning of it was in stages, but toward the end it was like he was a completely different person.  He's had a lifetime of serious anxiety and self-esteem problems, and I don't think it's possible to get over it so fast without having some lingering issues.
Another is that I have never in my life heard a man use the endearment 'hun'.  I could be wrong and maybe there are a lot of men out there that use it and I just haven't met them.  But to me it sounded more like something an older woman would say, and it completely ruined that moment for me.  Luckily it was only once, but it stuck in my mind throughout the rest of the book.  

Normally I would give this 3/5 stars, but because of that restaurant scene, I'm giving it: 

4/5 stars 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Ghoul Goblin

Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Ghoul Goblin

by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden, a Chicago private investigator and wizard, heads to a small, isolated Missouri town terrorized by Nevernever monsters. The singularly unfortunate Talbot family has suffered a curse that has decimated their number for generations, and only our hero can save them... that is, if he can survive hostile lawmen, the dark secrets of townsfolk, an ancient guardian spirit, and two deadly carnivores! Can Dresden cleanse the Talbot bloodline of its curse without a blood sacrifice of his own?

I received an ARC copy of this book for review.
I think this is the first actual comic book that I've ever read.  I requested it because anything Jim Butcher touches turns to gold, and his Dresden Files are amazing.  I wasn't sure about a Harry Dresden comic book but I wanted to give it a try.  I am so glad that I did.
The artwork was stunning and the artist did a wonderful job of capturing the emotions of the characters.  I couldn't stop looking through the pages even though I had so many other things I was supposed to be doing.  Instead of going through a quarter of the book a day, as was my plan, I read the entire thing in one sitting.  It wasn't very long, but still.
The story line was just as exciting as I had expected from Jim Butcher.  I loved the twists the story took as I made my way to the end.  Some things I guessed, some things took me completely by surprise, and it was worth every minute I spent reading it. 
Am I suddenly going to become a comic book connoisseur?  Probably not, though I'm willing to try some others.  And I'll definitely be picking up any comic books based on the Harry Dresden world.     
I especially loved Jim Butcher's series summary hidden in the back.  There were moments when his wry 'check this shit out' writing made me crack up. It was wonderful.  Definitely recommended for fans of the Dresden Files series or anyone who loves a good comic book.

5/5 Stars

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Break by Hannah Moskowitz


by Hannah Moskowitz

Jonah is on a mission to break every bone in his body. Everyone knows that broken bones grow back stronger than they were before. And Jonah wants to be stronger—needs to be stronger—because everything around him is falling apart. Breaking, and then healing, is Jonah’s only way to cope with the stresses of home, girls, and the world on his shoulders.
When Jonah's self-destructive spiral accelerates and he hits rock bottom, will he find true strength or surrender to his breaking point?

After reading this book, I am more glad than ever that I've never broken a bone.  It sounds awfully painful.  But that doesn't keep Jonah from trying to break every bone in his body.  He wants to be strong for his brother, who is only one drop of milk or splatter of egg away from certain death.  Their mother already has her hands full with Will, the baby that just won't stop crying.  She isn't a responsible mother anyway.  I think Jonah did more mothering than she did. 
Jesse just wants to be normal.  Jonah wants to keep him safe.

The writing style was a bit too juvenile for me, but since it's intended for young adults, that's more my problem than the author's.
Jonah and Jesse were interesting, but I didn't think any of the side-characters had any depth to them.  Especially Charlotte.  What in the word did he see in her?
The adults depicted in the book were all lacking common-sense or any sense of responsibility.  It left me feeling cheated, when I really wanted to love the story.
The latter third of the book was very good, though, and full of angst.  Which is something I absolutely love.  The more angst, the better.

What I learned from reading Break:
1. Families are seriously messed-up.
2. Psychologists are idiots who will blame you for other people's mental problems and then lock you in a dark room for several days.
3. Leaky boobs are like cyanide.

3/5 stars

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls

by Patrick Ness

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting — he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments.

The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.

From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd — whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself — Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

This was a beautiful story!  I'm coming to realize that any book I pick up by Patrick Ness is going to be rated highly.  The man is a genius with words.  After reading The Knife Of Never Letting Go I knew that anything written by him was going to make me a gooey mess.  Anything written by him in honor of a friend who died of cancer?  Priceless.
This is me:

This is me on Patrick Ness:

Conor is coping the best he can while his mother undergoes treatment for cancer. 
Sometimes his best just isn't good enough. 
At school, people are starting to pretend he's invisible just so they don't have to think about him or his mom.  Everyone except the bullies, that is. 
His grandma's house is like a museum, and how is he supposed to live there when it seems cleaner than his mom's hospital room?
His dad is a jerk.  Seriously. 
And his mom is dying.
The monster helps him learn to cope in the way only a giant tree monster can: by destroying.
The writing was beautiful and the imagery and feeling behind the words really pulled me into the story. I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mistress Of The Solstice by Anna Kashina

Mistress Of The Solstice

by Anna Kashina

As the head priestess of the ancient Solstice cult, Marya must sacrifice a virgin every year. She copes with this gruesome duty by assuming a mask of cold detachment, as her father—the evil tzar Kashchey—devours the maidens' souls to maintain his youth and power. It is his power alone that keeps Marya’s kingdom safe from all enemies—or so she was raised to believe.

When Ivan arrives on a quest to stop the virgin sacrifices, Marya throws all her magic against him. To maintain her life—and that of her father—she must destroy Ivan before he completes his quest. But can she find it in her heart to do so?

Baba Yaga, Leshy, Vodyanoi, and the ancient animal deities come alive in this beautifully crafted romantic story that will take you into the authentic world of Russian fairy tales—with a dark, sensual twist.

This was a very interesting twist on several Russian folktales.  It wasn't a straight retelling but a story with fairy tales woven into it.  There were characters that are well known, such as Baba Yaga, and the lesser known Primal Spirits.  It was very much like reading Grimm's Fairy Tales, only with some naughty bits worked in.  Because I'm sure I would have remembered if Grimm's had that much sex in it.
The writing style was rich and brought life to the story, especially the parts with Baba Yaga.  I love anything about the old crone.
There were some odd grammatical mistakes, though that could be because of kindle formatting errors in the copy I was sent. 
I have one complaint which kept me from rating this book four stars.  The two main characters weren't people I really cared enough about.  I knew from reading the synopsis that Marya was going to be difficult to like but I had hoped that eventually I would grow fond of her.  I didn't like her at all, even at the end of the story.  She was willfully blind to the fact that her father was evil and her sacrificing girls was nothing short of murder.  Several times she felt anxious and troubled, but she pushed the thoughts away and kept on with it.  She ignored everyone who had tried to tell her the truth.  There were very few parts in the story where I could feel like I could empathize with her and it left me feeling like she didn't deserve Ivan's kindness.  Anyone who knows they are doing wrong but ignore their intuition so they don't have to feel guilty isn't going to make my list of people I want to know.  Even in the end I didn't feel as though she had really changed.
Ivan was more interesting, but we didn't get to know him very well.  I was constantly trying to figure him out but there was no actual insight into his personality.  He was a two-dimensional hero thrown into a quest by the other characters.     
Even with the problems I had with the main characters, I was interested enough to keep reading.  The world-building was unique and the addition of characters from Russian folklore made it fun to read.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Feed By Mira Grant


by Mira Grant

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. Now, twenty years after the Rising, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives - the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will get out, even if it kills them.

I am not a person who likes politics.  I hate to hear political discussions and I run at the slightest hint of a debate.  I don't like the way politics can make some reasonably sane people turn to hatred and bashing to get their point across.  I have never seen a calm and rational political discussion.  

If a book has any hint of politics, I may read it but without much hope of actually liking it.  Who knew that all I needed was the addition of some flesh-crazed zombies to secure my interest?

Politics = Meh. 
Politics + Zombies = Awesome.

This story follows two sibling bloggers who are reporting from the campaign trail of a presidential-hopeful.  After regular media let the world down by not reporting the first initial zombie outbreaks, bloggers are the most trusted source for news and views.  Shaun and Georgia are two such bloggers.  She is a "Newsie" who reports strict facts with as little opinion as possible and he is an "Irwin", the type of blogger most known for their daring acts of 'watch me poke this zombie with a stick'.  Together they make a remarkable team.

Told in first person POV, the story is a brilliant mix of suspenseful fight scenes and tense political discussion.  The politics are far enough removed from our own issues to keep it from becoming irritating. 

I really liked the overall feeling to the story.  It was tense and had the feeling of being balanced precariously on the edge of something horrible.  The world has managed to (somewhat) come back from the near-annihilation of civilization, and there are cities full of terrified people living behind walls and under constant monitoring with blood tests and virus screening. 

Shaun and Georgia are very well thought-out characters.  They are extremely co-dependent, but who can blame them in this situation? 
They have each other's backs through everything that happens.  In a world when zombies aren't the only monsters out there, it's a very good thing they can rely on each other so much. 

The characters drew me in immediately and I cared more about them than I did anything else that happened in the book.  The plot was great but the characters were what brought me back to the book hour after hour.   

The writing style is straightforward and not prone to flowery description and it fits the story expertly.  Much like Georgia's own writing, it is the simple facts of events and emotions caused by them.  All told with Georgia's dry humor.   

4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Cold Commands by Richard K. Morgan

The Cold Commands by Richard K. Morgan

(A Land Fit For Heroes #2)

Ringil Eskiath, scarred wielder of the kiriath-forged broadsword Ravensfriend, is a man on the run from his past and the family who have disowned him, from the slave trade magnates of Trelayne who want him dead, and apparently from the dark gods themselves, who are taking an interest but making no more sense than they ever have. Outlawed and exiled from his ancestral home in the north, Ringil has only one place left to turn Yhelteth, city heart of the southern Empire, where perhaps he can seek asylum with the kiriath half-breed Archeth Indamaninarmal, former war comrade and now high-up advisor to the Emperor Jhiral Khimran II. But Archeth Indamaninarmal has problems of her own to contend with, as does her house guest, bodyguard and one time steppe nomad Egar the Dragonbane. And far from gaining the respite he is seeks, Ringil will instead find himself implicated in fresh schemes and doubtful allegiances no safer than those he has left behind. Old enemies are stirring, the old order is rotted through and crumbling, and though no-one yet knows it, the city of Yhelteth is about to explode.

This was a wonderfully written book, as I expected it would be from my experience reading The Steel Remains. The world building is lush yet realistic, full of pain and filth nothing even close to rainbows and butterflies. I love it even more for that.

It starts off slow, a lot slower than The Steel Remains. For a while I was wondering where it was all heading until I decided to just go with it. I do prefer the faster pace of the first book, but the pacing in The Cold Commands allowed for more character introspection and development.

Ringil is broken and cares for very little in the world except his two friends...and maybe his sword. He'll do anything and use anyone in order to get what he wants. Sometimes he walks a very thin line between honor and cruelty.
Egar is sick of living a soft life, he wants a good fight and a good death. He wants a woman he can't have and to feel like he used to when he was younger.
I don't think Archeth knows what she wants, except answers to where her people went and why she was left behind.
It's not a pretty story, though the prose is beautifully written. The overall feeling of the book is hopeless and dark, with maybe a glimmer of light here and there.
I love the characters Mr. Morgan has given us. They are world-weary and sick of everything and everyone. And bored. It's a bad idea for somewhat-heroic warriors to get bored. The result is a lot of bloodshed and some pissed-off officials. And lots of swearing.
They have seen and done terrible things that would give weaker men (and women) nightmares, but they just shrug it off. Their age is fast catching up with them. Ringil and Egar both realize that their bodies can't put up with the abuse like they used to be able to, but they barrel through with grim determination.
Both men are the very definition of anti-heroes. Archeth isn't much better, though her personality is usually held in check with an iron will.

I had a lot of fun reading this. I'd recommend the series to anyone who loves an anti-hero and some great fight scenes and gore. And very inventive swearing.

4 out of 5 stars