Saturday, September 28, 2013

Under the Sea

Drowning Mermaids (Sacred Breath #1) by Nadia Scrieva

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. 

Summary: Deep under Arctic waters lies an ice kingdom carved into a glacier. Those who dwell within it possess magnificent biological secrets. Due to the dangers of impending war, the Princess of Adlivun is forced to flee her undersea utopia and regroup with her sisters in Alaska.

Captain Trevain Murphy is a successful king crab fisherman who has spent his life building his empire above the sea, and knows nothing of the empire beneath it. When he meets a mysterious dancer whose father has recently died, he extends kindness towards her, unaware of her unique genetics and royal lineage.

Trevain's attraction to the enigmatic Aazuria Vellamo will involve him in dangerous designs that will forever change his life, and his perspective on himself and his world. He embarks on perilous journeys in which he will need to release all of his insecurities and inhibitions in order to survive.

Review: A tale of a mermaid war with unique cultures that falls flat with instalove and sometimes unbelievable characters.

While it was unusual to have mermaids without tales, there have been other creatures of the sea that have been done without fins such as sirens. It may have been possible for humans to develop with the ability to breathe under water although I would have expected a bit of difference in their anatomy, both on the surface and under the skin. I did like the logical limitations they faced on land. Their bodies would suffer since they were not built for it. Their culture seemed interesting and the war was certainly dramatic.

My enjoyment was spoiled by Aazuria. She was hundreds of years old, but would act like a teenager at times and at other times would act high and mighty. I didn’t like how she assumed things about Brynne just because she wasn’t as feminine as Aazuria. While Trevain seems like a decent guy (except a few incidents that I hated), they fall in love much too quickly. It’s unbelievable. I can understand falling for an older man (yes I get that Aazuria is hundreds of years old, but she looks like an 18 year old), but if this was written by a man, I would call it wish fulfillment.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that are looking for an unusual mermaid story.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What is a Princess to Do?

Loud, Disorderly & Boisterous by Adam M. Johnson

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review. 

Summary: Imagine for a moment that you are a dangerously clever, thoroughly over-educated sixteen year old, who feels wholly disconnected from her current station in life and hates her father. Imagine also that you have the further misfortune to find yourself alive during the 13th Century, that your father is the philistine King of a small Central European country, and that he does not approve of the fact that you can quote Aristotle more expertly than you can curtsy. Finally to top everything off imagine that you have just learned that you are to be married off to a German nobleman who believes that you will make an excellent pawn in an ongoing struggle to become Holy Roman Emperor...

What do you do?

If your name is Aletheia––first and only daughter of his Royal Highness Edward IX, and most indubitably born in the wrong century––you proceed to flee. If your name is Aletheia you also find yourself embarking on a bizarre and comic odyssey across perilously chaotic medieval Europe. During her journey our heroine will encounter cross dressing Romanians, bamboozle criminally incompetent highwaymen, crush spherically odious tutors (using only the power of pure logic), and, in at least one desperate instance, impersonate the Virgin Mary, all in the hopes of reaching a final destination that is about to be sacked by an army of waylaid Crusaders...

Review: A fun tale that pokes fun of itself and features much that is incongruous to the 13th century.

I call this book fantasy because of how often it breaks the fourth wall of the 13th century. As far as I know, it's relatively historically accurate to the 13th century. The characters, however, behave much differently than someone in the 13th century behaved, especially Aletheia. She is very spirited, too spirited for the 13th century. Plus there are the mentions of concepts or items that were not invented till later like hotels. It all made for a very hilarious effect although it could get a little much.

The plot, for the 13th century at least, was unbelievable. The king was an idiot, but he certainly would have not allowed his daughter to run off nor would his daughter have done such a thing (although she might thought of it). Despite all that, the adventures of Aletheia, Tom, Will, and Gus were very entertaining. They got into so many scrapes and adventures. My favorite was when Aletheia pretended to be the Virgin Mary. The ending was a little abrupt and the reader is left uncertain as to what will happen. I hope they find their happy ending.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy humorous tales or tales of princesses that do not behave how they are supposed to.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Slow Decline

Pieta by William Zink

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review.

Summary: Jim Priest's mother is dying. With his daughter beside him, he alternates caretaking duties with his sister. A year earlier his father died in a mysterious fashion—the head of the Virgin Mary from a lifelong sculpting project of The Pieta fell on top of him, killing him instantly. As days pass by, his mother falling in and out of coherency, the buried secrets of a bittersweet childhood re-emerge, forcing the four of them to accept, if not fully resolve, the limitations of their bonds. Pieta is a story about personal ambition, the anguish of unrequited affection, and the redemptive spirit of a young girl. In concise, elegant prose, William Zink examines the singular, yet universal, forces tugging at the hip of a family in the midst of its most epic chapter.

Review: A tragic tale of family dysfunction, the death of parents, and the breaking up of a family.

On the surface, Pieta is a story about a mother who has dementia and is dying and the son and daughter who are taking care of her. Of course it goes much deeper than that. The dynamics of families, including the dysfunctional dynamics, play a large part in the story and also in the upbringing of the son, Jim. I didn’t always understand the feelings one family member had to another or why a certain relationship would be the way it was. Everyone’s relationship to the other was so complex.

Despite not always understanding a relationship or a character’s motivations, I always did find this book very tragic. I have lost people before, including my grandfather, but those deaths were always or sudden. No one lingered. I can’t imagine the pain of seeing a loved one linger. My favorite character was Alex. Her reactions to her grandmother’s impending death were both poignant and sad. Occasionally, I did feel she was a bit too insightful for a six year old, but perhaps she was just especially precocious. She seemed the sanest out of all of them.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy family fiction.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Turbulent Indeed

A Royal Passion: The Turbulent Marriage of King Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria of France by Katie Whitaker

Summary: It was, from the start, a dangerous experiment. Charles I of England was a Protestant, the fifteen-year-old French princess a Catholic. The marriage was arranged for political purposes, and it seemed a mismatch of personalities. But against the odds, the reserved king and his naively vivacious bride fell passionately in love, and for ten years England enjoyed an era of peace and prosperity.

When Charles became involved in war with Puritan Scotland, popular hatred of Henrietta’s Catholicism roused Parliament to fury. As the opposition party embraced new values of liberty and republicanism—the blueprint for the American War of Independence and the French Revolution—Charles’s fears for his wife’s safety drove him into a civil war that would cost him his crown and his head.

Rejecting centuries of hostile historical tradition, prize-winning biographer Katie Whitaker uses a host of original sources—including many unpublished manuscripts and letters—to create an intimate portrait of a remarkable marriage.

Review: A tale of the ire and eventually love between Charles I and Henrietta Maria of France.

I will admit to not having much interest in this time period. For English history, I usually only read until Queen Elizabeth’s reign and occasionally I will read colonial history and about the French Revolution. From what I gathered from reading this book, this time period is certainly an explosive one with plenty of action and intrigue. While I will be focusing my reading in the coming year on the medieval period, I will try to read more about the 1600s.

Since this book focuses on the relationship between Charles I and Henrietta, it doesn’t go into too much detail about the political climate or why certain events developed the way they did. It also skips years after Charles I and Henrietta are finally in love. Despite the time skipping, you do get an idea of how the relationship between Charles I and Henrietta was. If it’s love, it’s rather cloying and obsessive love. I know that the relationship between the two was strained early on, but it’s no surprise considering that Henrietta was only fifteen from what I remember. Their relationship was certainly a tragic one.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy books about royal marriages or the 17th century.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Let Your Talents Emerge

Blood Lilies by T.A. Miles

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. 

Summary: For Korsten Brierly, life already seemed complicated enough. Disinherited from a young age, helping to govern a town of strategic significance to warring countries, keeping his affair with the local governor's son a secret....

When a demon hunting mage arrives at his doorstep at the same time gruesome murders begin, Korsten finds himself quickly swept away by a tide of events and discoveries beyond his darkest dreams. Caught up in a war much deeper and far more dangerous than he ever would have believed it to be, Korsten is forced to abandon the life he knew and everyone in it. Summoned to a duty that terrifies him, by powers he can't ignore, he begins a journey into understanding his own soul and how to protect the souls of others from demons bent on possessing, poisoning, and devouring them through methods that are gradually decaying the world they live in. Struggling to stay afloat in a maelstrom of ancient forces, his own emotions, and dangerous political games, Korsten commits himself to the task, for the sake of his soul and his sanity, and for the sake of the lover he was not supposed to have...a man possessed by ambition and by a demon with goals of its own.

Blood Lilies is the first in a series.

Review: A slow moving fantasy tale with an interesting magic system and different, unusual enemies.

I was looking forward to reading this since it was a m-m romance with a fantasy setting, both of which I enjoy. I know together isn’t necessarily better, but I was still hopeful. Unfortunately, this book was quite slow moving and while action did occur, there were long periods of nothing occurring between the periods of action. So much more could have happened in this book if the fluff had been cut out. It’s really a shame since the world was an interesting one and I would have loved to see more of it.

Despite the slow moving plot, I enjoyed the setting and the magic system. It doesn’t explain where magic and mages first came from (but even Korsten wasn’t sure), but I do love how new mages come about. They are chosen by mages who have died. I loved how the blood lilies functioned. The magic system was quite interesting and I liked how it gave a very logical explanation as to what talents emerged and what talents either didn’t emerge or went away. I did find Korsten a little too weepy for his own good, but he was a decently good person.


Recommendation: I would recommend this to those enjoy m-m fantasy stories and who don't mind a slower moving story.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

There's No Excuse

Lord of Wicked Intentions (The Lost Lords of Pembrook #3) by Lorraine Heath

Summary: Only one woman can break through his heart of stone...

Three young heirs, imprisoned by an unscrupulous uncle, escaped—to the sea, to the streets, to faraway battle—awaiting the day when they would return to reclaim their birthright...

Lord Rafe Easton may be of noble blood, but survival taught him to rely only on himself and to love no one. Yet when he sets his eyes on Miss Evelyn Chambers, and earl's illegitimate daughter, he is determined to have her, if only as his mistress.

After her father's death, Evelyn Chambers never imagined she would be sold to the highest bidder, yet circumstances give her little choice except to accept the lord's indecent proposal. Rafe is wealthy, as well as ruthless. Yet his coldness belies deep passion and deeper secrets. If she must be his, Evelyn intends to lay bare everything the Lord of Pembrook is hiding. But dark discoveries threaten to destroy them both until unexpected love guides the last lost lord home.

Review: A supposed romance between an illegitimate daughter and a jerky lord with no heart.

I had read the summary of the book and should have known that I might not have liked it too much. But I needed some romance books for a book challenge and the cover wasn't too cheesy. I read a few book reviews and started to dread the book a little. It especially didn't sound like something I would enjoy. I probably should have decided not to read it, but romances are easy enough reads. I didn't like this story very much at all although I will admit to be interested in reading the stories of the other brothers since they don't seem like complete jerks.

Suffering through a tough and abusive childhood does not give you leave to act like an asshole. I know the author tried to excuse his behavior and oddities by providing him with a tough past. I personally know that certain behaviors, tendencies, and thoughts will come about from an abusive childhood, but it still doesn't excuse people acting like assholes. I don't understand how Evelyn comes to love him nor how she manages to break through the barriers around Rafe's heart.


Recommendation: I personally wouldn't recommend this book to anyone unless they happen to enjoy romances with very wounded heroes.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Time Before the Queen

The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir

Summary: Following the tremendous success of her first novel, Innocent Traitor, which recounted the riveting tale of the doomed Lady Jane Grey, acclaimed historian and New York Times bestselling author Alison Weir turns her masterly storytelling skills to the early life of young Elizabeth Tudor, who would grow up to become England’s most intriguing and powerful queen.

Even at age two, Elizabeth is keenly aware that people in the court of her father, King Henry VIII, have stopped referring to her as “Lady Princess” and now call her “the Lady Elizabeth.” Before she is three, she learns of the tragic fate that has befallen her mother, the enigmatic and seductive Anne Boleyn, and that she herself has been declared illegitimate, an injustice that will haunt her.

What comes next is a succession of stepmothers, bringing with them glimpses of love, fleeting security, tempestuous conflict, and tragedy. The death of her father puts the teenage Elizabeth in greater peril, leaving her at the mercy of ambitious and unscrupulous men. Like her mother two decades earlier she is imprisoned in the Tower of London–and fears she will also meet her mother’s grisly end. Power-driven politics, private scandal and public gossip, a disputed succession, and the grievous example of her sister, “Bloody” Queen Mary, all cement Elizabeth’s resolve in matters of statecraft and love, and set the stage for her transformation into the iconic Virgin Queen.

Alison Weir uses her deft talents as historian and novelist to exquisitely and suspensefully play out the conflicts between family, politics, religion, and conscience that came to define an age. Sweeping in scope, The Lady Elizabeth is a fascinating portrayal of a woman far ahead of her time–an orphaned girl haunted by the shadow of the axe, an independent spirit who must use her cunning and wits for her very survival, and a future queen whose dangerous and dramatic path to the throne shapes her future greatness.

Review: A tale of Queen Elizabeth before she was queen with unbelievable characters and using a rumor I don’t like.

I’ve read six books by Alison Weir. Half of those books I’ve given three stars and the other half I’ve given two stars. Weir seems hit or miss for me. This book was a miss. Two of the three books I didn’t enjoy so much were her fiction books. I seem to enjoy her nonfiction more. I’ll continue to read her work since I like what she writes about, especially the Tudors although I might be more hesitant about reading her fiction.

I do admire Queen Elizabeth I for standing by her principles and being able to rule a kingdom when people were doubting her and clamoring for her to marry. However, I am not the biggest fan of her personality. Elizabeth was portrayed ok in this book although I felt she was too smart even though she was precocious. Everyone else was terribly out of character, at least from what I know about them. It almost felt like Weir was trying to portray Elizabeth as a sainted person who was very sinned against. It wasn’t an evenhanded portrayal. I also didn’t like that the author went against her belief and included a big rumor in the book.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy historical fiction about Queen Elizabeth.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Catch Me if You Can

Dead End Deal by Allen Wyler

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. 

Summary: World renowned neurosurgeon Jon Ritter is on the verge of a medical breakthrough that will change the world. His groundbreaking surgical treatment, using transplanted non-human stem cells, is set to eradicate the scourge of Alzheimer’s disease and give hope to millions. But when the procedure is slated for testing, it all comes to an abrupt and terrifying halt. Ritter’s colleague is gunned down and Ritter himself is threatened by a radical anti-abortion group that not only claims responsibility, but promises more of the same.

Faced with a dangerous reality but determined to succeed, Ritter turns to his long-time colleague, corporate biotech CEO Richard Stillman, for help. Together, they conspire to conduct a clandestine clinical trial in Seoul, Korea. But the danger is more determined, and more lethal, than Ritter could have imagined.

After successful surgical trials, Ritter and his allies are thrown into a horrifying nightmare scenario: The trial patients have been murdered and Ritter is the number one suspect. Aided by his beautiful lab assistant, Yeonhee, Ritter flees the country, now the target of an international manhunt involving Interpol, the FBI, zealous fanatics and a coldly efficient assassin named Fiest.

Review: A dramatic medical thriller with plenty of murder, mayhem, and corporate espionage.

I will admit to reading very few mysteries or thrillers. I will read them if they have a specific topic or setting such as mysteries which take place in medieval times. I like anything medical so I figured I might enjoy Dead End Deal. The book has an interesting premise: a neurosurgeon who is on the verge of a breakthrough who will do almost anything to continue his trials on humans. Despite how that might make him sound, Dr. Ritter is actually a pretty decent guy although a bit too obsessed for his own good.

This book is never boring. From the get go there is plenty of action, murder, and intrigue. There is never a dull moment. Ritter winds up being better at eluding his captors than I expected. There were a few incidents that I found hard to believe. Personally, I felt the mutual longing between Ritter and Yeonhee was unnecessary and tacked on to the story (it felt too much like wish fulfillment). I also didn’t like how Feist kept harping on how people looked gay and how he called them fags. I understand that it was part of his character, but it got too much.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy medical thrillers.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Science of You

The Path Book I: Origins by Eric A. Smith

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review.

Summary: The Path, a revolutionary new book about self-development, applies cutting-edge science to the self-help genre, outlining the most powerful secrets of success for every aspect of life.

Want to excel at sports? Ace your exam? Woo your heart’s desire? Win over an enemy? Raise your IQ? Develop a super-memory? Drop your body fat and stay slim and healthy for life? Live to see 100? The Path teaches you how – and much, much more.

You have never seen anything like The Path. This time, you've found the real thing – the true secrets to life, to optimal health, success, self-mastery and fulfillment.

Within the last three years, scientists have unraveled some of the mind’s and body's deepest, most mysterious inner workings, with tremendous implications for your own personal development, achievement and life satisfaction. And nutritional science has been zeroing in on the secrets to lifelong vitality, youth and power at an unprecedented depth and rate. It’s my mission to share these findings with you, and, through this awareness, to help you improve your lot in life –physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually, sexually and romantically.

A mountain of research from within the last decade, much of which is largely still unknown to the mainstream public, contains the secrets to pushing the boundaries of possibility farther than ever before in human history. I've extensively and meticulously researched, documented and integrated this research into one of the most powerful self-help books ever written.

Review: A very informative, although sometimes long, book that covers the beginnings of the universe to our evolution as human beings to how our mind works.

In the author’s request for me to read this book, he told me that it was a self help book based on science. Since I am ambivalent to most self help books, I thought it would be very interesting to read an actually science based self help book. The Path Book I: Origins really is science based. The book begins with how the universe formed. It continues with how humans evolved from basic life. It ends with how the brain functions.

I really did learn a lot reading this book. I already knew almost all of the information regarding the formation of the universe since it’s a topic I have read about quite a lot. The information regarding evolution was mostly new to me since I had read very little about the topic. I learned the most about the brain though and how it functions. While I enjoyed this book, I did find it a bit long and I wonder how many people will read the first book due to its length and how many will just skip to the second book.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that are interested in the science behind what makes us tick.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Seedy Underbelly

Suitcase Pimp by Loren Niva

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review.

Summary: It started out organically enough...

Serial malcontent Loren Niva and his impressionable young wife Anya make the move out to California, in search of their slice of the American Dream. Starry-eyed victims of blind faith and misplaced trust, it isn't long until the city of Los Angeles conspires to devour them whole.

Sick of navigating dire financial straits, open-minded Anya takes work as a ‘girl-girl’ performer in the San Fernando Valley’s thriving adult entertainment industry. Loren assumes the role of a ‘suitcase pimp’ – a slur reserved for boyfriends and husbands of porn starlets – and takes to his sordid new life with voracious relish.

What follows is a boozy, merrily depraved descent into unbridled excess, spanning locales both seedy and stately throughout Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Through whiskey-bleared eyes, Loren eagerly explores his debaucherous new world. But as Anya's dubious star continues to rise, Loren's torrid, increasingly perverse adventures threaten to tear their already flimsy union asunder.

At turns outrageous and profane, Suitcase Pimp tackles the various oily idiosyncrasies of ‘the Industry’, shining a grubby little spotlight on the colorful, low-dwelling characters that comprise it. It is a brutish testament to all-American excess - and a lament for the slow disintegration and demise of an all-American marriage.

Review: A rather sordid tale of two people who got swept up in the porn industry.

Before this book, I had never head the term suitcase pimp. It turns out that a suitcase pimp is the boyfriend or husband of a girl in the porn industry. I must admit that I kept thinking of the movie Orgasmo when I read this book. If you don't know, Orgasmo is a movie by the people that created South Park if that tells you anything. This book has a lot of sex in it (it is about the porn industry), but it focuses on the relationship of Anya and Loren.

I don't understand how Anya and Loren ever got together. Anya seemed decent enough, but Loren seemed like a waste of space. He never did much. My husband and I have been in pretty bad financial straits, but I have never thought of doing porn before. I was amazed that Anya actually decided to do porn and amazed that Loren went along with it. I don't know how close to the porn industry is to what is described in this book, but it seems downright depressing. I do hope that Loren's life does turn for the better.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy unusual stories or stories involving the porn industry.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Spies and Drama

Lord and Lady Spy (Lord and Lady Spy #1) by Shana Galen

Summary: Let the games begin...

No Man Can Outsmart Him...

Lord Adrian Smythe may appear a perfectly boring gentleman, but he leads a thrilling life as one of England's most preeminent spies, an identity so clandestine even his wife is unaware of it. But he isn't the only one with secrets...

She's Been Outsmarting Him For Years...

Now that the Napoleonic wars have come to an end, daring secret agent Lady Sophia Smythe can hardly bear the thought of returning home to her tedious husband. Until she discovers in the dark of night that he's not who she thinks he is after all.

Review: An entertaining although somewhat cheesy tale about two spies who don’t know about the other.

Adrian and Sophia do seem to both be very good spies and they didn’t know about the other so I guess it goes to show you that people don’t always look too closely at what’s right under their noses. As a fellow reviewer mentioned on Goodreads, this book could have been easily told without the spy part of the story. It could have been a story of two emotionally estranged people finally learning to love and trust one another. I feel that would have made for a better story as long as it was written well.

One aspect of the spy part is that Sophia was actually a competent spy and didn’t rely on her man to do all the work as is too often the case with women that are supposedly good swordswomen, but can’t save themselves (I see that a lot in medieval romances). Although Adrian is a bit jerky at first with his women can’t be spies, men can do things better, and I won’t let you put yourself in danger, he does finally accept that Sophia is competent. I did dislike the constant bickering between them though.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy romance that has either: spies, he said she said, or a woman capable of being dangerous.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Now She's Pretty

Dancing with the Duke (Landing a Lord 0.5) by Suzanna Medeiros

Summary: She's loved him for years...Charlotte Grant can't remember a time when she didn't love her best friend's older brother.

He's never noticed her...
The Duke of Clarington hadn't spared a thought for his sister's friend in years.

Their situations are about to be reversed...
It is the beginning of a new Season and Clarington intends to stay away from all the young ladies and eager mamas hoping to ensnare a duke. But that plan falls into tatters when his mother sponsors his sister's friend and enlists him to dance with her at Almack's. The beautiful vixen he meets that night bears little resemblance to the shy, gangly girl who used to follow him around. Now, instead of avoiding Charlotte, he finds himself frustrated when she seems to notice everyone but him.

Review: A novella about a plain girl growing up to be beautiful and the man she has always “loved” falling for her.

I didn’t like the premise of this novella to be honest. Charlotte had a childhood crush (I can’t call it love) on her friend’s brother for many years. Alex had always thought her to be annoying and hasn’t seen her for years. Now that she is beautiful, he’s instantly in love with her. But what else is there? A childhood crush and a lust for a person’s beauty do not make a lasting relationship. There was nothing between them. I got annoyed with their giant misunderstandings.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that like lust based romances.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Tragic Lives

The Angry Woman Suite by Lee Fullbright

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review. 

Summary: Secrets and lies suffuse generations of one Pennsylvania family, creating a vicious cycle of cruelty in this historical novel that spans the early 1900s to the 1960s. Raised in a crumbling New England mansion by four women with personalities as split as a cracked mirror, young Francis Grayson has an obsessive need to fix them all. There's his mother, distant and beautiful Magdalene; his disfigured, suffocating Aunt Stella; his odious grandmother; and the bane of his existence, his abusive and delusional Aunt Lothian. For years, Francis plays a tricky game of duck and cover with the women, turning to music to stay sane. He finds a friend and mentor in Aidan Madsen, schoolmaster, local Revolutionary War historian, musician and keeper of the Grayson women's darkest secrets. In a skillful move by Fullbright, those secrets are revealed through the viewpoints of three different people-Aidan, Francis and Francis'stepdaughter, Elyse-adding layers of eloquent complexity to a story as powerful as it is troubling.

Review: A story of tragic lives, lies, abuse, depression, and deceit told through the eyes of three people.

The story of the Grayson family and those they are closed involved with is a tragic one. There is so much death, deceit, secrets, abuse, and fear. Everyone is flawed, some much more than others. The stories of each person: Francis, Aidan, and Elyse each take their own viewpoint and are told in different times. Each viewpoint added something to the overarching storyline although most of it is bad or depressing (the events, not the story writing). It does take a little bit to bring the three stories together, but when it does, it's certainly eventful.

The person I felt most sorry for was Elyse. She didn't do anything wrong to deserve her stepfather's abuse although she seems to be the most sane person in the whole story. I did feel a little sympathy for Francis because of what he had been through, but it doesn't excuse his actions. Aidan was a person who never wanted to see the truth and focused heavily on the past. I was amazed by the mental illness and sheer amount of personal denial and deceit that ran through the family.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy stories about tragic families.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

And Again

Welcome to Sarnia by Jan Musil

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review.

Summary: Foundation book for a planned series Science Fiction Epic Series.In their desire to expand Terrans decided that the risks involved in capturing and colonizing the planet known as Sarnia were well worth incurring.

A mere forty years on they lost that gamble. Big time.

136 years later, many things have changed. Some never do.

Review: A science fiction novel that takes place in a world where everyone has to explain their thoughts and actions to everyone, even if it’s only in their own thoughts.

I liked science fiction that takes place on different planets, especially multiple planets. Welcome to Sarnia only takes place on one planet, but it has some history and a good set up with plenty of opportunity for drama (four races on one planet). There were a large number of characters and I did have trouble keeping track of all of them. The characters themselves were pretty decent, but what I couldn’t stand was how every thought or action was explained in great, unnecessary detail. I felt like I was reading info dumps for so much of the book. I also got annoyed by the constant repetition. The author must have described a character’s lilting voice at least five times in a few pages. I get it.

While I did not always understand what was going on (it was hard to tell when it from an alien’s point of view as compared to a human), I did enjoy the intrigue about the alien races and individual characters. Everyone’s certainly out for something. I liked that women were viewed as capable and were warriors along with the men. The main conflict, a taryn, was a conflict that might not mean much on a larger scale or even a global scale, but it certainly meant a lot to the humans. I wasn’t quite sure what a tayrn was, but it will be interesting to learn more about that along with the Sarnians. Perhaps future books will be better since the world has already been set up in this one.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy science fiction stories that take place on other planets.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Alone Among Millions

Last Man Standing by Keith Taylor

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review.

Summary: Paul McQueen is a global celebrity. The only man to survive the zombie outbreak of Bangkok, he's been making the rounds of the morning talk shows and newscasts.

Three months later he's a depressed, suicidal alcoholic. His wife and friends are dead, and it's time to tell the real story about what happened in the city. Why has he been lying all these months? What does the military junta have to hide? What could possibly be worse than the terror of the undead?

Review: A creepy tale of the true beginning of the zombie apocalypse.

This is a short story so it’s quick to read, but it certainly packs a punch. The zombies are really very horrible. They are much more dangerous than the standard horror zombie. I am sure Bangkok is already an incredibly crowded city, but it was even worse during a festival. Being caught in the crowd during a zombie outbreak is the worst place to be. I am amazed that Paul McQueen managed to survive although he does lose everything. I really felt for Paul. I can’t imagine going through what he did and not winding up at least a little messed up.


Recommendation: I would recommend this to fans of zombie stories.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Under the Surface

The Whitechapel Gambit by Marcin Wrona

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review. 

Summary: When the Haversham sun grinds to a halt before dawn, Daniel (or David) Squeak expects that he and his fellow sunwell workers are in for an awful day. What he doesn't expect is that a furious foreman will be the very least of his problems. One gear turns another, and Squeak finds himself injured, sacked from the only work he's ever known, and afraid for his very life.

The mysterious Sir Nicholas offers Squeak a way out of his predicament, but this knight is no saint. As Sir Nicholas slides around the pawns and bishops of a decades-old plot, it's Squeak who finds himself in motion: from sunwell to manor, from soot-stained Haversham to wealthy Rawlish, and even to the deadly jungles of the surface.

Workhouse lads are resourceful. Everybody knows that. But the bloody alleys of Haversham are not nearly as dangerous as the glittering avenues of King's Court.

Review: A tale of murder, mystery, and intrigue set in an incredible steampunk setting.

I was quite amazed when I learned that Squeak lived on the inside of earth. The people there don’t seem to live too far below the surface, but it’s still incredible that they managed to have whole cities and factories. There were even mushroom forests and lizards that pulled carriages (although they had their tails cut off, which made me sad). It never does really explain why people went to live underground nor did I learn much about the surface, its people, and its culture. I would love to know the mechanics of living under the surface.

There certainly is a lot of intrigue in this book. Sometimes the intrigue can get a bit much and I did get a little confused at times. Squeak gets rescued by Sir Nicholas and gets caught up in a plot that spans decades. Part of the book focuses on Squeak as a child and then it suddenly jumps to Sir Daniel (Squeak as an adult) and his quest to free his friend. Though it kept switching back and forth, with such a large gap of time I found myself to be missing crucial information (although a lot got explained later). I would have liked some in-between.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy steampunk.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Culture Clash

Indian Maidens Bust Loose by Vidya Samson

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a review. 

Summary: Nisha Desai is a young Indian woman who pines for romance in a country where love is in the same class as malaria, and where mates are selected using a calculator.

Normally deluged with ghastly suitors of her father's choosing, she suddenly finds herself on the short list for a bride-seeing tour by a rich and handsome nephew of a neighbor. This is the stuff of which dreams are made.

A nightmare materializes when a very un-Indian ruffian moves in next door, complete with beard and obnoxious Harley motorcycle. He might play the bad boy in one of Nisha's beloved romance novels, but in real life, he terrifies her.

So she tries to ignore the thundering engine of the bike while anxiously awaiting the arrival of Prince Charming--or at least, Prince Rich.

But arriving first are a long-lost black-sheep American aunt and her trouble-magnet teenage daughters. The aunt proves to be a New Age space case, while the cousins’ appetite for disasters threatens to level the city of Ahmedabad. In short order, the demented cousins instigate an elopement, a public protest, and a riot that gets Nisha thrown in jail.

Nisha’s family comes to the conclusion that while East and West may meet, sometimes they shouldn't. The guests are seen as an invading force, equipped with weapons of mass corruption.

While Nisha wonders how she can hide her now corroded reputation from the dream suitor's family, insanity marches on. Nisha's father adopts a pet cow and convinces half the city it's the reincarnation of a Hindu deity. The two families are finally united in a common goal: to bilk thousands. The result is Madison Avenue's idea of a religious experience, which is not a controllable situation.

Indian Maidens Bust Loose is a hilarious romantic comedy set in the land of cows, curry, and the Kama Sutra.

Review: A humorous and sometimes bittersweet tale of a young woman living in India and the culture clash that occurs when cousins come to visit.

As an American with a European heritage, I know little about India or its culture (they do make delicious food though). It was certainly interesting to read a book told from the point of view of someone living in another country, in a different culture. There are certainly some differences and Nisha does have some different values than someone in America might. Despite any cultural differences, Nisha is a very likeable character and someone easy to relate to.

The cousins from America create havoc. Their culture clash is the basis for this book. It was incredible all the trouble that Amber and Lauren could get up to. I must admit to not being a big fan of Amber (and sometimes not a fan of Lauren either), but I grew to like them at least a little. Nisha’s world does really get turned upside down and a large part of it is due to the cousins. It really was tragic to see how Nisha’s mother had suffered throughout her marriage and I was glad when she was finally able to find her happiness. I was also quite glad that Nisha got her happy ending.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy books about other cultures.