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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review Pile Cleanup Review 5- Cipher

Title: Cipher
Author: Moira Rogers
Page Count: 280 pages (449 KB Kindle format)
Publisher: Samhain
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

Back Cover Summary

Fourteen months ago, Kat Gabriel’s life changed forever when she used her empathy as a weapon. Now she can’t escape the weight of those deaths–or the loss of the easy friendship she and Andrew once shared. Obsessed with her mother’s violent past, Kat is determined to learn the truth of her inner-darkness by understanding her legacy.

Since the attack that turned him into a wolf, Andrew Callaghan has done everything possible to make himself stronger. More capable of protecting Kat–both from the supernatural world that forced her to kill, and from their own volatile connection. Pushing her away hurt them both, but he’s finally made himself into the protector she needs.

As Kat’s quest leads her into the darkest underbelly of the psychic world, Andrew is determined to be at her side. But every step forward reopens old emotional wounds and shakes their control. For a dangerous alpha and a deadly psychic, distraction could be fatal–especially when the greatest threat they pose is to each other.

Warning: This book contains a dangerous shapeshifter who could kill you with his bare hands, an empathic hacker who could kill you with her mind, a psychic cult determined to kill everyone, a lot of violence, a little bit of hope, and a happily-ever-after seven years in the making.

Yay for Cipher!  I had been excited about reading Kat and Andrew's story from when we first meet them earlier in the series, and I was thoroughly satisfied with the way things worked out for them. This was an interesting hybrid of the friends to lovers and second chance romance sub-areas, and I was totally on board for this combination for this particular couple.

We start the story with a little bit of a flashback, so we can see the big event that drove a huge wedge between Kat and Andrew.  Until then, Kat was an empath, Andrew was human, and they were playfully flirting and all was right with the world.  Then, Andrew is turned to a wolf shifter during an attack that was meant for Kat, and Kat turns their attackers' brains to mush, not in self-defense, but in defense of Andrew.  This causes a lot of turmoil for her, because underneath it all she's not a person who embraces violence.  This isn't to say that she judges people negatively because violence is a part of their lives, she just doesn't use it as a problem solving method for herself.

She's also terrified that if she could hurt the attacker bad guys inadvertently, she could hurt someone she  loves- like Andrew.  The funny thing is, Andrew is worried about the same thing, except coming from his newfound strength and instincts that are hard to control.  Naturally, these two don't talk about the problem or anything, so we're coming off fourteen months of painful silence and both of them have hurt feelings the other didn't even know were festering under the surface.

I think my favorite part of the book (other than the happily-ever-after, that is) was Kat really making some hard decisions and growing a lot as a person.  She's known for resenting the smothering presence of her cousin and the other brooding alphas in her life, which is basically every guy she knows, but at the same time, if she doesn't want other people to bend over backwards to shield and protect her, then she's got to learn to handle her business herself.  This doesn't just mean getting a leash on her powers, although that is a big part of it- it means figuring out how she feels about Andrew instead of mooning around and waiting for something to happen.  She has to be in charge of her own life, otherwise someone else is going to take over that role by default.

Kat and Andrew figure out pretty quickly that their feelings are returned, and they act on them- sexy times!  They have to figure out how they're going to maintain a relationship without actually crushing or brainwashing each other, and that will take time- now if only they can figure out what's going on with Kat's mom's history and how that affects Kat, maybe they will get to enjoy that time.

I definitely recommend starting the series from the beginning and meeting all of the characters in order- the books are quick and enjoyable and you could easily read the entire series to date quickly.  This is a good thing, because the next book comes out September 4th!  I'll be reviewing it here as well, so stay tuned. :D

Overall Rating:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review Copy Cleanup Review 4- Deadlock

Title: Deadlock
Author: Moira Rogers
Page Count: 264 pages (975 KB Kindle format)
Publisher: Samhain
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

Back Cover Summary:
Abandoned by her wolf shifter father and raised by her human psychic mother, Carmen Mendoza can’t deny she’s different. She craves things most women shy away from–and she has a trail of shapeshifting ex-boyfriends to prove it.

Working at a clinic for supernatural creatures, she’s escaped the notice of her father’s legacy-obsessed family. Until they need a pawn in their bid for power. Snared by a vicious spell designed to wake her inner wolf, Carmen’s only hope is to trust the one man strong enough to soothe her darkest instincts.

Alec Jacobson was once the heir apparent to the wolves’ ruling elite, until he walked away to marry the woman he loved. She paid with her life. He lives as a rebel, a black-sheep alpha who protects the supernatural residents of New Orleans from the wolves’ barbaric class system. Too bad he can’t protect himself from his need for Carmen.

Yet staking his claim on his enemy’s niece will turn his city into a battleground. Unless he can find a way to stop breaking the rules–and start making them.

Warning: This book contains a renegade alpha wolf, a smart empathic doctor, very dirty sex with psychic safe-words, the occasional dominance game in and out of the bedroom, and a group of supernatural citizens ready to take on the corrupt leaders of their world.

This is one of those times where I confess my kind-of failure as a reviewer.  I've had this book in my review stack for over a year!  I haven't decanted it yet because I knew I would love it; I was holding on to it for some special occasion that never happened.

That occasion was today, and I'm super glad I did!  I had high expectations for this book and wasn't disappointed.  I don't really recommend starting here with this series, as the first two books are also excellent and do a good job of setting up the events that happen here, but if you're willing to take my word for it that lots of things happened before this book and you promise you will go back and read the first two, you can start here as well.

Before I forget, you can get the first book in this series, Crux, for FREE from Amazon right now until 8/15 by clicking here.  You're welcome.

Anyway, what's not to like about this book?  The book disclaimer says it all- the characters are great, the conflict is intense, and there are appearances by all the familiar characters from the first two books.  Alec is a lovable dope who thinks he has to take care of everyone and Carmen is looking for someone who won't try to use her.  Carmen's father wins the douche of the year award, but we get to meet her family, and I know that these guys will show up in future installments of the series.

Can I talk for a minute, without giving anything away, about how excellent the ending was?  There were a few loose ends from the previous two books that didn't seem like they'd get resolved, but then they totally did, and in a way that set things up nicely for the next book.  I'm a big fan of books where the good guys totally whomp the bad guys, and this book fits that category nicely.

Overall this was an excellent installment in a series that I already enjoy and recommend.  I have the next two books in this series for review, including the forthcoming Impulse, and I pinkie swear and spit shake that it won't take me as long to read those, especially after I enjoyed this one so much.

Overall Rating:

Review Pile Cleanup Review 3: Magnus Opum

Title: Magnus Opum
Author: Jonathan Gould
Page Count: 310 KB (208 print pages)
Publisher: self-published
Genre: Fantasy
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

Back Cover Summary:
A story about a little person in a very big world.

Magnus Mandalora never thought he would leave the safe confines of the small homely village of Lower Kertoob. He certainly never expected to end up in the middle of a long-running war between the saintly Cherines and the beastly Glurgs. But when circumstance places him in such a dubious position, he finds himself on a rollicking adventure where nothing is quite as it seems.

Magnus Opum is an epic fantasy that's slightly skewed - Tolkien with a twist.

In the grand style of the squeaky wheel and the grease, there's been plenty of attention paid to poorly-behaving people lately.  I've seen a lot of people changing their review policies to say that they will no longer read books by indie authors, or will only read books from authors they've worked with before, in order to prevent an attack of the crazies.  It's a sad thing, because I've had nothing but good experiences with indie authors up to this point.  I'm not saying that there are not crazy people out there, but they have definitely soured many people's perceptions.  Their damage is far-reaching.

Anyway, if you've never read a book by an indie author before, I highly recommend starting with any of the books written by Jonathan Gould, particularly if you like a great combination of adventure, wit, and great writing.  I've reviewed two of his other books (Doodling and Flidderbugs) and I have to say that Magnus Opum is my favorite one yet.

The back cover blurb describes the story as "Tolkien with a twist," but there were plenty of other elements to be read and enjoyed as well- a dash of Douglas Adams, a pinch of Terry Pratchett, a morsel of Monty Python. I think I even felt a smidgen of Seuss in there somewhere.  Okay, okay, I'll stop now.  Seriously though, rather than be a simple reimagining of epic fantasy, the author's obvious enjoyment of the genre was front and center throughout the entire story.

This is the story of Magnus, a Kertoobi, who should have been happy to stay in his village and bake pies for the rest of his life.  The mysterious murder of his brother changed all that, and what follows is the story of Magnus deciding that there is a bigger task for him to fulfill than simply the baking and selling of pies.  As he sets out from home for the first time, he freely admits that epic quests are a stupid idea and that he has no idea what he's doing; in the tradition of all adventurers, though, he doesn't let that stop him.

As is often the case with epic quests, we meet lots of interesting characters along the way- one of my favorites was the Great Oponium, who was immediately cast as Mel Brooks in my mind.  These folks have varying degrees of assistance to offer to our quest party, but the fun is in meeting them, isn't it?  Saving the world and seeing it all at the same time!

All is not as it seems in the timeless battle between the perfect Cherines and the evil, destructive Glurgs, since nothing is ever that black and white, after all.  The history behind the war between the Cherines and the Glurgs was particularly Seussical.

This would make a fun read aloud for kids or grownups or an even better bedtime story, as there's plenty of adventure and mischief to keep readers engaged.  If you're new to the world of self-published authors and want to start your journey off properly, here is a great place to start.

Overall Rating:

Friday, August 3, 2012

AAD Author Spotlight: Jess Haines!

Authors After Dark is NEXT WEEK!  I'll be green with envy as I see from afar all the fun that everyone is having down in New Orleans, having had to bail on going myself.  Today is the last Author Spotlight, and the final spotlighted author is none other than Jess Haines with the final Five Question Quiz!

1. Introduce yourself, Twitter style! Describe yourself or your books in 140 characters or less.

I'm one of those weirdos who loves chatting about bad movies, good books, and getting dressed up for Ren Faires! Oh, and I write UF.

2. Tell us a little bit about your latest release, or your upcoming projects if you'd prefer.

The latest release of mine is a novella included in THE REAL WEREWIVES OF VAMPIRE COUNTY anthology. I think the title says it all.

My next upcoming release will be STALKING THE OTHERS (July 3rd, 2012), which is the 4th book in my H&W Investigations urban fantasy series. Things are heating up for my heroine, Shiarra Waynest--I'll let the back cover copy speak for me!

Vampires, werewolves, mages–the Others are very real, and wreaking havoc in Shiarra Waynest’s life. But now, she’s returning the favor…
Once, she was one of the good guys–or as close as a New York P.I. can get. Then Shiarra Waynest was drawn into the world of the Others. Every faction has its own loyalties and agenda. And Shia’s recent betrayal by her ex-boyfriend means that she may be on the verge of becoming a rogue werewolf at the next full moon.
Of course, with all the threats against her, Shia’s not sure she’ll live long enough to find out. The enigmatic vampire Royce wants her back in his clutches, as do two powerful werewolf packs, along with the police. Instead of going into hiding, Shia is enlisting the aid of her enchanted hunter’s belt and every dirty P.I. trick she knows. If she’s going down, she’ll take out as many of her enemies as she can–and hope that in the process, she keeps whatever humanity she has left…

3. What books (your own or others) do you recommend most often?

Good question. You can see if my taste in books matches yours by checking out my Goodreads reviews (http://www.goodreads.com/jesshaines).

For PNR, I usually recommend Thea Harrison's DRAGON BOUND, Evelyn Lafont's THE VAMPIRE RELATIONSHIP GUIDE, and Nicole Peeler's TEMPEST RISING.

For non-PNR romantic reads, Jennifer Crusie's BET ME and Julie Garwood's THE SECRET are usually the first ones I think of.

For urban fantasy, I usually recommend authors Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, and Karen Moning. If you like UF with snark, Mark Henry is hysterical and very politically incorrect.

For horror, of course Stephen King, but I also recommend David Mcafee's 33 A.D. and David Wong's JOHN DIES AT THE END.

As for other recommendations, it depends on what the person who is asking likes to read.

4. What part of Authors After Dark 2012 are you looking forward to the most?

Seeing all my friends again! I miss my author, blogger, and reader buddies!

5. If you've been to AAD before, do you have any advice for first time attendees?

Relax and have a good time. Don't be afraid to come say hello to your favorite authors. We're at AAD because we love to meet and talk with you! Also make sure, especially if you're traveling home by plane, that you have plenty of room in your suitcase to bring home books and other swag. You'll get lots of goodies while you're there--so either be prepared to ship it home or have enough space in your luggage to carry it all back with you!

Find Jess:
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/Jess_Haines
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JessHainesAuthor

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Review Pile Cleanup Review 2: Imagine Childhood

Title: Imagine Childhood
Author: Sarah Olmsted
Page Count: 208 pages
Publisher: Shambhala Press
Genre: non-fiction
Copy for review obtained via NetGalley.com in anticipation of an honest review
*Note: This title will be released on October 12, 2012*

Back Cover Summary:
For children, potential is limitless, curiosity is an electrical current, and every moment is open to the possibility of the unexpected. Day-to-day life is filled with adventure. Road blocks are invitations to try new routes. And the world is vast and expansive. This book is a celebration of childhood through the crafts and activities that invite wonder and play. The twenty projects and activities in this book are meant to speak to the way children engage with the world. These projects are not about what is produced in the end (although that part is fun too) but rather they are stepping-off points—activities that spark curiosity, an adventure, or an investigation. They’re about the process of getting there. They’re about the conversations that happen while making things together. They’re about getting to know the world inch by inch. They’re about exploring imaginary universes and running through real forests. They’re about living in childhood . . . regardless of your actual age. They’re about being a kid.

This book is an amalgamation of several things- it's part craft book, part treatise on play, part journal, part photography collection.  It contains a variety of projects inspired by nature and intended to spark creativity, discussion, and exploration.  The illustrations are beautiful- it's the kind of book you could look at just for its own aesthetic appeal and leave the content for another day.

Regarding the projects- there are step by step directions for each project, and a photo of each one if you'd rather wing it and see where you end up doing it completely yourself.  Additionally, the textual pieces that introduce each project provide an interesting format for reflection on the different themes of the book- play, imagination, and our relationship to nature from when we were children, versus how we relate now as adults.

I'm a huge fan of craft and project books and oftentimes my first foray into one will be just looking at the pictures and getting excited by what's inside.  Sometimes I want to make the projects inside look just like the pictures, and sometimes the pictures are just the inspiration to do something on my own and I go from there.

I wouldn't use this book as a roadmap- I would explore it as an adult and use the ideas to springboard working with kids.  As summer vacation winds down, sometimes the idea barrel for what to do with the periods of free time that have opened up can feel pretty empty.  Exploring books like this one can provide new ideas for activities for kids to work on on their own, and can provide ways for adults to keep the play going and encourage language development and usage as well as creativity without taking over the project.  As an added bonus, many if not all of the projects use recycled materials or things found in nature, so there isn't anything to buy or acquire.

So with all the good stuff going on in this book, why only 3 stars?  I guess my biggest issue with this book as a produce for sale is that I'm not sure if what's inside is worth the $19.95 cover price.  I would definitely recommend seeking this book out at the library for the inspiration you can gather, but in the world of Google you could find all the ideas here someplace else, including the journal-like reflections.  I enjoyed reading the book and thinking about the contents, though, so as a reading experience it was definitely fun.

Overall Rating:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Review Pile Cleanup Review 1: Creepers

Title: Creepers
Author: Bryan Dunn
Page Count: 202 pages (294 KB Kindle format)
Publisher: self-published
Genre: horror, thriller
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

Back Cover Summary:
A zany group of characters struggle to save their home after a genetically altered creeper vine invades a small desert town.

Doc Fletcher, an eccentric biologist in the remote Mojave Desert, has finally created the ultimate drought-tolerant plant: a genetically engineered creeper vine. It's destined to change the world, but not according to Doc's plans. Instead, this vine has a mind of its own. Mayhem ensues as the residents of Furnace Valley (pop. 16), along with campers at the nearby hot springs, run for their lives - led by wannabe date rancher Sam Rainsford and the nerdy yet gorgeous botanist Laura Beecham, who has come to the desert for a reunion with the father she has never known...

True confession time- when I read the summary of Creepers, this is the first thing I thought of:

Evil sentient plants!  The planet in question for this book, known as the Fletcher Creeper after the guy who engineered it, has way grander ambitions than Audrey II- this plant wants to destroy everything it comes across, no exceptions.

There is a lot going on in this book, and I will say that the murderous plants were definitely my favorite element of the story here.  I'm not a huge fan of horror fiction but this was a good access point for me as a reader.

The strength of this story lay in the building of the suspense surrounding the nature of the Fletcher Creeper and the speculation about how on earth all the characters were going to escape their plant-based doom.  I could easily picture those scenes and found my attention really grabbed at those points.

This book does have two big weaknesses- one is the high number of chapters and breaks in the narrative (78 chapters) which makes for uneven pacing and a jarring effect while reading, and the other is a large cast of characters that we never really get to know.  We have to assume that these characters have feelings and back story and all that, but we never really get to know from the text what any of those things might be.

Upon finishing this book, I felt that the story was interesting enough, and further polishing would have enhanced the reading experience.  I wouldn't be averse to reading another book from this author, but I don't think this one will go down as my favorite.

Overall Rating

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