January 31, 2012

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted over at Should Be Reading where we book bloggers tease our lovely readers with just a taste of what we are currently reading. Here's mine this week:

A Discovery of Witches
Deborah Harkness
All Souls Trilogy #1

"Nothing in my culinary experience had taught me what to feed a vampire when he came for dinner. Thanks to my mobile, I was able to reach the zoology department and inquire about the feeding habits of wolves. After rattling off a long list of tasty mammals and explaining they were preferred foods, the bored voice on the other end told me that gray wolves also ate nuts, seeds, and berries. 'But you shouldn't feed them!' the voice warned, 'They're not house pets!"

Just so the quote makes more sense, the vampire character in this book, Matthew, studied gray wolves in the wild. I know that is a bit longer than the usual teaser and I did skip parts so you could enjoy the joke, but I felt you all would enjoy it. I'm currently reading this as a buddy read on Goodreads and loving it! I'm sure I will have a full length review for it in the near future. 

Happy Reading!

<3 Jess

January 30, 2012

Science Fiction Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
Rating: 5

Absolute Epic Nerdyness!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live your favorite video game? Have you ever longed to explore worlds you have dedicated endless hours of button mashing, leveling up, and questing to? Maybe your not a gamer but you would still love to adventure through Middle Earth with noble rangers, stout and sturdy dwarves, and powerful wizards? Or soar through a galaxy far, far away in your X-Wing? If you have ever had a dream like this, if you have ever been called a nerd, if you have ever screamed over a cliffhanger, waited in line at a midnight release, or debated over whether Han actually shot first... Well, then this book is for you.

Many readers have been labeling this as young adult, however I tend to disagree. Although more mature teens would be just fine reading this, it does contain sexual references and have a section discussing the benefits of masturbation by the nerdy masses. This book is a bit light on the dystopia. Sure the world is in trouble, but the focus of the story is life inside the OASIS. A virtual reality based MMO where as long as you've got the dough, you can literally be whoever/whatever you want to be and go wherever you want to go. Are you a Twi'lek goddess trapped inside of a 300 lb man's body? No problem! In the OASIS you can embrace your groovy, tentacle headed, bikini clad side.

This is usually the part of the review where I go into the quality of the plot and characters, but honestly it's not necessary. I loved all the characters involved, and believed in the author's portrayal of the rag-tag group of gamers that make up the High-Five. I also had a ton of fun trying to figure out the riddles and following Wade through all the gates in his search for Halliday's Easter Egg. All I can say is, I hope Cline keeps writing books, because I will keep reading them. If you know me, you know I am pretty picky on what books I buy in hardcover. Books are so expensive these days and I am hesitant to pay $20 for a book that I may not like. I can honestly say that it was completely worth it in this case. Ready Player One sits proudly on my shelf shinning like the epic lightsabre of a book it is.

Can you tell I love Star Wars? Don't worry, this book isn't as Star Wars oriented as this review.

So...go read it...like now

January 26, 2012

Young Adult Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Carrie Ryan
The Forest of Hands and Teeth #1
Genre: YA, Horror, Dystopia
Rating: 5

Absolutely amazing.

This action packed YA take on a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies made my year. This is the kind of book I am always looking for. A book that makes me completely lose track of the time as I turn each page with a pounding heart. Crazy-ass nuns with freaky persuasive tactics? Yes please! These nuns are bad-ass with their wine cellar leading up into a tiny fenced in clearing surrounding by zombies. They could get anyone to give them whatever they wanted with that thing, but they are content with playing god in their creepy stone sanctuary

I primarily read dystopian fiction because I love reading about distorted possible variations of society. I have a lot of fun exploring the vast possibilities of not only what the world could be like, but also what could make it that way. You could say I am a big proponent of "What if?" entertainment. This book gave me what I was looking for and more.

The most common complaint about this book seems to be that the characters are flat. Sure they could have been developed better, but here is why I think they way they are portrayed is realistic. These people are terrified on a daily basis. Without coping skills of steel, I doubt anyone would be able to have a healthy expression of their emotions. Sure the heroine is crazy as hell, but I doubt any of us would do much better in her situation. Mary has been through more than her fair share of bull and she still manages to survive. She has lost both her parents and her only family left, her brother Jed, leaves her to choose between living with the crazy nuns or living on the streets. With these circumstances, the girl is going to be a bit unstable. On top of all that she goes through a number of horrifying experiences throughout the length of the book that would drive anyone to their wit's end. So the characters may not live up to your standards of what a person should be like, get over it. I doubt you know how the human mind reacts to daily terror and a perpetually disturbing existence of survival.

That being said, I soared right through this book. It barely every touched a surface that wasn't my hand because I was glued to it from beginning to end. Anyone who enjoys thrilling narrative, survival tactics, and zombies galore will enjoy The Forest of Hands and Teeth I will definitely be picking up book two as soon as possible.

January 23, 2012

Historical Romance Review: Ripe for Scandal

Ripe for Scandal
Isobel Carr
The League of Second Sons #2
Rating 3

I know this is a much shorter review than I usually do, but I really don't have that much to say about it. My longer reviews tend to be because a book either really wowed me or really bummed me out. This one fits neither of those categories. It was just ok. 

This book was a lot better than I expected it to be. With a cover to match it's title, Ripe for Scandal offers the reader a range of emotions not typical to the usual smutty historical romance fare as the main characters take on hardship after hardship in their already shaky marriage. I gave it three stars for diverting a bit from the formula of historical romance we are so used to. However, fans of this genre will still feel comfortable and familiar with the style and locales.

January 22, 2012

Paranormal Romance Review: Hold Me If You Can

Hold Me If You Can
Stephanie Rowe
Soulfire #3
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Rating: 1

It's unfortunate when the first thought that comes to your mind once you've finished a book is "Thank God it's over!"

The entire experience was painful. Hold Me If You Can is a paranormal romance so coated in sugary silliness I literally think I got a cavity. There wasn't a single moment in this book I could take seriously. The fierce warrior hero uses flower shaped throwing stars... Okay... and if that wasn't weird enough the villein's power that seems to be causing all the problems is called smut and it isn't the only thing smutty about this book. Don't get me wrong, I love trashy romances especially ones with paranormal themes, but this was just over the top. Towards the end I didn't have to read entire sentences as every other word was love. It was like my annoying Aunt Marge was pinching my cheeks and reciting, "You are such a lovey wovey lovekins!" Love was crammed into this book like nobody's squishy lovey business. Did I mention the heroine is a Sweet? No, not a scrumptious dessert! Her mystical race is actually called Sweet and she actually owns a dessert shop named Scrumptious. The only cool part about this situation was that she made virility balls, a magical chocolate treat that gives men nearly perpetual erections. That was pretty cute.

Although I didn't enjoy this book very much, I did feel it had a decent message squeezed to death by all the suffocating love. Throughout the book, the heroine is encouraged by her friends and her hero to love herself, no matter how scary that may be. Self-acceptance is a powerful, wonderful message no matter what the packaging.

I really wouldn't recommend this to anyone, unless they had really off the wall tastes. I'm going to have to read something really mature and serious to cleanse my pallet after this. I may just have to resort to Stephen King, and I'm really not that big of a fan

January 14, 2012

Paranormal Romance Review: Shadow Heir

Shadow Heir
Richelle Mead
Dark Swan #4
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Rating: 3

I'm just going to start this review by saying I enjoyed the book overall. The series was starting to lose it's momentum, but like any good author, Mead writes her series with an end in sight. I can't stand when a series goes on forever just to squeeze out some extra money, but I won't get into that here.

If you are a fan of the series, but haven't had a chance to pick this one up, you are probably aware of the infamous ending. I don't do spoilers in my reviews so I will just say this. I was very disappointed in Mead and Eugenie. Mead has every right to finish her series the way she wants to, but it did not endear me to Eugenie in any way. Also, I think Eugenie should cut her loses with Dorian. As soon as he finds out what she did at the end of this book, well, let's just say I don't see a relationship for them in the future. Being conscious of who Dorian is and what he desires most from life, I would think it would be obvious how he will take the news.

What I did enjoy about this book, was that we got to spend more time with the characters and see Eugenie have her babies. I felt the plot was well thought out and the writing was still as good as ever I was just bummed about how it all came together at the end. In no way was this a bad read for me. As a fan, I had expectations going in and unfortunately they were kind of slapped in the face during the last chapter.

This is still my favorite series of Mead's, and I hope she has some spin-off planned in the future to sate my curiosity about what happens next. Maybe a series about Jasmine?

January 3, 2012

Wicked Reading Awards 2011

I read over 100 books, graphic novels, and short stories this year. It was been a lot of fun and has made me eager to see what new book wonders await me in 2012. In this first week of 2012, I want to share with you all the very best and worst of my 2011 reading adventure. I do want to clarify these are books that I  read last year and may not necessarily have been published in 2011.

Best Read 2011
Someone Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead
By Christiana Miller
Obviously there were a lot of great books to choose from and some pretty epic series releases that could have made Best Read 2011. However, this indie gem stole my heart with it's fun humor, endearing characters, and thrilling moments. The transition from funny to chilling was at times immediate combining these two elements very enjoyably. I'm looking forward to a sequel but for now I will savor Miller's short story in the anthology Every Witch Way But Wicked .

Best Romance
By Diana Gabaldon
I think there needs to be an epic romance genre just for this series. The Outlander books certainly are epic and like no other romance I have read before. The usual cliches and plots are not present here, leaving Outlander in a class all it's own. Romance readers will excite and history buffs will find themselves enthralled. I cannot recommend this series enough, and with the 2011 release of the 20th anniversary edition, now is the perfect time to get acquainted.

Best Urban Fantasy
The Demon Lover
By Juliet Dark
A late 2011 release, The Demon Lover had varying effects on the reviewing community. Book bloggers everywhere either liked it or they didn't. Obviously this blogger loved it. Reminiscent of classic Gothic literature, The Demon Lover starts out slowly, drawing the reader into it's word subtly. However, once things get going, you won't be able to put this one down. I recommend this to fans of Urban Fantasy as it may disappoint those who are looking for a hardcore paranormal romance experience.

Best Young Adult
Dreaming of Beauty
By Kristen White
The shockingly good indie retelling of the story of Sleeping Beauty. This was by far the best young adult book I read this year. The majority of the mainstream titles were extremely disappointing, lacking in quality and substance. Dreaming of Beauty is smart, funny, and offers a realistic portrayal of teens and their families. You know how in many YA books the parents seem to never be around, allowing their teens to have adventures with vampires, faeries, angels, and the like? Well the parents here are actually very involved and extremely likable. Overall, a fun read to cure your YA blues.

Best Series 
Fever Series
By Karen Marie Moning
From beginning to end, this series will surprise you with its ever evolving characters and mythology. Arguably the best paranormal series out there. The last book in the series Shadowfever was released in 2011 and is pictured above. This book offered an epic end to an absolutely epic series. Moning has already set the title for her spin off series about our favorite dirty mouthed, quick footed teen Dani. Can't wait!

Best Short
Kidnapped for Christmas
By Evangeline Anderson
The well written and surprisingly wonderful indie erotic short story. These are usually just ok, but I was very impressed with this one. The fun concept of paying for your own kidnapping experience is genius. Even more so is that the wrong girl gets 'napped leading to a potentially criminal, but altogether scintillating read. Oh, and it's festive! :-)

Favorite New to Me Author:
Christopher Moore
A Dirty Job
 Ah yes, the evil genius that is Christopher Moore. This was a group read in my Urban Fantasy book group. I was interested in giving this author a try and was lucky enough to find this book at the thrift store cheap! Not only is it a beautiful book, but it is a truly beautiful read. Moore manages to combine dark, morbid wit with underlying heartfelt messages. I have added quite a few of Mr. Moore's books to my library and intend to read many more of this delightful books this year. 
Best Irreverent Death Scene
Henry VIII: Wolfman
By A.E. Moorat 
My not so favorite read staring one of my favorite historical characters turned werewolf. While I didn't like it overall, the death by fat ass scene is absolute dark witty genius. This death scene has stuck with me and continues to make me giggle manically to myself creeping out innocent bystanders frequently. If you have a pretty dark, messed up sense of humor I suggest you give this book a try. Plus, the author is a pretty cool guy who takes the criticisms of a nerdy girl reviewer in stride. :-)

Worst Read, Worst Heroine, Worst Hero
Demons Like it Hot
By Sidney Ayers
Yes Wicked Readers, this book was so bad it won three bad awards. While being both both juvenile and amateurish this novel also manages to be aggressively cliche and pedantic. This is the book that made me decide to read less romance this year and branch out to other genres. I won't even get into the brattyness of the heroine and the non-existent personality of the hero. My recommendation is just please read anything else.

Fantasy Review: Touch of Power

Touch of Power
Maria V. Snyder
Healer #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4

 When I first started reading this, I was a bit put off by how rushed it felt. Much of the time the characters spend together is off page leaving weeks unaccounted for. I felt disoriented, almost like there wasn't enough thought put into the actual events of the book, but once I hit about a third of the way through, the story really opened up to me. Details about the world, the catastrophe it has suffered, and its characters are revealed slowly as Avry travels, a bit against her will, to heal a sick prince who could save the fifteen realms, but has left a scar on more than one aspect of Avry's life. Her traveling companions must convince her that Prince Ryne is worth saving, and worth giving up her own life for.

I was intrigued by the magic woven throughout Avry's world and ultimately how the rare healers came to be. The mystery of the Death and Peace Lillies kept me interested, and when I finally found out what they had to do with the overall plot, I was pretty impressed. Some aspects of this book were easy to anticipate, but I seem to get that with almost every book I read.

The thing that really makes or breaks a book for me are its characters and Snyder does not disappoint. Avry's band of misfits were so endearing, especially Poppa Bear. Their interactions with Avry and  slow but satisfying development are what really invested me in this story.

What I genuinely appreciated about this book is that it wasn't focused on forcing the romance between Avry and Kerrick. It just fell into place while Snyder focused on the goal of saving the realms, introducing fantastic characters, and offering the reader a genuinely enjoyable experience. Although the book could have stood on it's own, I can say that I am truly looking forward to further installments of this series.