B&D is no more!

I've joined the dark side! [aka my wife's blog]

To continue reading my reviews, please visit

Bending the Spine

Friday, November 25, 2011

Follow Friday (18): Thanksgiving Edition

imageQ: It’s Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. so we want to know what you are Thankful for – blogging related of course! Who has helped you out along the way? What books are you thankful for reading?

A: I don’t think that Parajunkee and Alison knew what they’re getting themselves into with question!  Answers to this question might be quite long!

First, I am thankful for my wife, Rebecca.  Without her decision to begin book blogging, I would never have gotten into this whole monster that consumes my life…in a good way!  Book blogging & reading have become my hobbies.  And I was desperately in need of a hobby!

I am thankful for there being such an encouraging and welcoming community of fellow bookish-types out there.  Though we all have the same ultimate goal (to get good galleys!), there’s no hatred, intense competition, etc.  Just awesome people doing awesome things!

The various blog hops out there bring us all together, so I am thankful for all the hosts and all the time and effort they put into to making them awesome!

And this post wouldn’t be complete without throwing some thanks out the authors  and the publishing companies of the books we read and review.  What would a book blog be without the books to review?  Um, yeah, I had the same though about the answer to that question.  I know my blog would be so sad without all the book reviews!

Ms. Rachel, thanks needs to be given to you, too for mentioning me in your post!

What books am I thankful for reading?  Honestly, I’m thankful that Stephanie Meyer wrote the Twilight series.  For, if I had not read it, I wouldn’t have been compelled to find something better to read (hence the name of my blog).  If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I hate the Twilight books.  But, yes, they did inspire me to keep reading.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Get to reading,

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

This past week we took a trip in honor of our middle child’s birthday to the Kingdom of Magic in the city that Walt built.  On purpose, I left my laptop at home, but forgot to take a notebook.  So, notes and ideas for this review were written on a paper plate.  At least it wasn’t on a paper towel or something!

Now…on to the review:


Love can never die.

Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?

The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.

In Dearly, Departed, romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love

470 pages
Published October 18th 2011 by Del Rey
ISBN: 0345523318 (ISBN13: 9780345523310)
series: Gone With the Respiration #1


Dearly, Departed has put me in an interesting position.  I have longed for this book since first learning of it.  And now, having read it, I’m torn.  I don’t quite know how to feel about it.

I know what I don’t feel.  I never felt invested in the characters or the plot.  Pamela was the only person in the book I really cared what happened to.  There are people I wanted to be hit by a Steampunk bus, but no others that I truly cared about.  Even the main characters of Nora and Bram.  It's frustrating to read a whole book and not care.  Sad, I know.

I spent much of my time reading this trying to remember from who's perspective I was reading.  Every chapter is written from a different character’s perspective.  Incredibly confusing, especially when all the characters are in the same scene.

This was an interesting concept on zombies and I was incredibly excited to read Habel’s take.  And I knew there would be the zombmance, but overall it just didn’t work for me.  As a whole there was a major disconnect from scene to scene, perspective to perspective.  This presented itself as a debut novel.  I don’t plan on reading the sequel.

2 Trees: I am departing from this series.

Get to reading,

*This book was provided to me by the publishers through netGalley* 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: The Undertaker by William F. Brown

Curiosity can kill more than cats, but when Pete Talbott found himself at the wrong end of Gino Parini's .45 reading his own obituary, it was a mystery he couldn't leave alone. From the cornfields of Ohio to the gritty slums of Chicago, a bloody kitchen in a Back Bay townhouse, New York's Washington Square, and the nation's Capitol itself, the hunt is on. Someone with a penchant for sharp scalpels and embalming tables is planting bodies under other people's names, and if Talbott doesn't stop them, he and his quirky new girlfriend Sandy Kasmarek will be next on the Undertaker's list.

ebook, 322 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by William F. Brown
ISBN: 1617505110 (ISBN13: 9781617505119)
The Undertaker has the humor of a Stephanie Plum novel, with the action, blood, and gore that men appreciate.  So, dudes, take note, this is a book you would like.
So, I have to get my biggest complaint out of the way: there are some major rookie editing mistakes.  Brown is a fairly accomplished author and there are some quite inexcusable editing faux pas.  The Undertaker should have been edited again.  And maybe again.
We open with a very sinister vibe.  With the feelings of horror and of terror.  As the story progresses what unravels, and I feel that maybe the plot unraveled in a bad way, is a mystery/suspense/government conspiracy type of thing.  Not a bad thing, per se, but maybe a little off kilter from where the book started.  I had expected something more serial-killer than officials on the take.
I read this easily, and could have read it in a couple of sitting had life not interrupted so often.  Peter has wit and charm, balanced against Sandy’s cynicism and bravado.  They worked well together and their developing romance (you see this coming from a mile away) provides a nice break from the running, guns, Mob, Tinkerton, whatever was chasing them at the moment.  The story progressed easily from the action, to the non-action, and back again.  I was never bored
I was, however, perplexed by a couple thing, things that I don’t feel were discussed or used to their full potential.  1. Peter was in the Army, even if for a short time, and it was mentioned a couple times that his “training” came to his aid, but there were times where his Army background should have made a bigger impact, and it just didn’t. 2. Why did Tinkerton et al. decide to do what they did?  I won’t give anything, but I just don’t think this was fleshed out enough.  There’s enough there to wrap the story up, but just left some unanswered questions.
What might have been a 4 Tree book, ended up being 3 Trees.  I was not disappointed in the story or the plot, but surprised by the overall quality of the the finished book.
3 Trees: let this one take you under, you will enjoy it!

Get to reading,
*This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review*

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.
She's wrong.
Hardcover, 452 pages
Published September 27th 2011 by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
ISBN: 1442421762 (ISBN13: 9781442421769)
url: http://maradyer.com/
series: Mara Dyer #1
I have thought about this review all day.  Mostly because my emotional reaction to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is confusion.  Sheer and utter confusion.
Now, this is not to say that Mara Dyer is not a good book.  It is.  There is lots of good in there: good writing,  good mystery.  But that’s about it.  Mara Dyer is just good.  Barely average.  Parts were somewhat disjointed as though we were inside Mara's brain and the book was written the same as her thought process--like there were missing details, purposefully removed to add to the confusion.
The characters are shallow and thin as rice paper.  Mara is whiney and inconsistent.  Aiden and Anna were plastic copies of other evil stereotypical just-there-for-angst characters of many YA novels.  Noah was unrealistic and multiple-personalitied.  From chapter to chapter I just didn’t know who I was going to get.  Jamie was the only character who seemed to be thought through and remained himself.  And I liked him and Daniel the most of all the people in the book.
Torn between hating it and liking it with mild curiosity, I was left confused and vaguely disappointed. There were so many almosts, but nothing really developed or came to light in the some 400 pages.  Mara Dyer felt like a 400+ page introduction.  There was a major cliffhanger at the end.  Which is enough to have me put book 2 on my TBR.  I can't decide if I hate Hodkin or appreciate her cunning.
I don't know how I feel about it, except that confusion pretty much describes it.  Maybe that’s how we’re supposed to feel?
2 Trees: For all the hype, I was let down.

Get to reading,

*Update to this review: After seeing Hodkin at Yall Fest, I am even more intrigued than before about who Mara Dyer is.  Not that she lessened my confusion about the book, but peaked my interest even more for book 2.  She did not change my mind about my 2 Tree rating, however.*

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Yall Fest 2011 Rewind & Book Haul

So, we totally busted up in the Yall Fest on Saturday and had a great time! All the author panels, and discussions, and information, and book signings…it was so much awesomeness all in one place! If you’re from the South, and missed it, you should def plan to attend next year’s (for I surely hope there is a next year’s to attend!) Authors Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl helped organize the event in conjunction with Blue Bicycle Books and many other sponsors. What a success!

Rebecca, Cana, & I left very early Saturday morning and got back very late that night, but it was worth it! I found new authors to read, new authors to learn more about their works, and have even decided that I’m not longer too scared to try to read Ellen Hopkin’s Crank series after hearing her talk about it.

I was also inspired. No, not to write, but to create my own Yall Fest-inspired blog event. I, of course, having just decided to embark on this journey this very morning, don’t have many details yet, but watch the blog for more info on my untitled Southern Book Tour event (maybe that’s just what it will be called) to feature Southern authors, Southern books, and Southern book bloggers.

Now for the Book Haul…

clip_image003The book I picked up this weekend is The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell. She was so much fun on the panels, and even when she was just in the audience! Hearing her talk about this book was enough to get me to buy it, have it AUTOGRAPHED(!!), and put it on my TBR.  I also got my copy of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer signed!


It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

Hardcover, 293 pages
Published March 7th 2011 by Harcourt Children's Books
ISBN: 0547482477 (ISBN13: 9780547482477)
original title: The Vespertine
url: http://www.thevespertine.com
series: The Vespertine #1
What awesomeness did you get this week?
Get to reading,

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Follow Friday (17)

Q: In light of 11.11.11 and Veteran’s Day tell us about your favorite solider and how he or she is saving the world. Fictional or real life.

A: This is a deep question.  There are so many people who have gone before us, paved the way for our freedoms and so many more who are still fighting the battles so that we can sit here, happy, comfortable, and contented in our homes and read, and blog, and watch TV, or text, or whatever it is that suits your fancy right now.  We all owe the very way we live to those men and women who have stood up on our behalf and preserved our rights.  So, they are all my favorites.  Every single one of you—THANK YOU.


Get to reading,

*Follow Friday is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read*

Review: Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Tempe, Arizona is as far removed from paranormal activity as is possible. And that's where Atticus O'Sullivan, rare book salesman, herb peddler, and 2,000 year old Druid - the last of his kind - has decided to set up shop. He's been on the run, guarding a very powerful sword from a very angry ancient Celtic god for over two millennia now.
But while these years have been good to him - Atticus has become more powerful than he could have possibly imagined - The Morrigan, a very old god of death, has predicted death and doom for our hero, and it's up to Atticus, with help from a pride of werewolves, and a gorgeous bartender with a secret of her own, to stay alive, hopefully for another thousand years.
Audio CD, Unabridged - Library Ed, 8 discs
Published May 3rd 2011 by Brilliance Audio
ISBN: 1441869999 (ISBN13: 9781441869999)
series: Iron Druid Chronicles #1
I don’t think that I can fully express my love for Hounded with words from the English language.  It’s probably best expressed with an approving man-grunt of some kind.  ‘Cause this is a dude’s book.  I mean, completely and totally written by a dude for dudes.
We’ve got Atticus O’Sullivan the  two-thousand year old butt-kicking  Druid.  The last of his kind.  He’s awesome.  He blends in to modern society by looking young from drinking his specially brewed Imortali-Tea (I don’t know if I spelled that correctly since this was an audiobook and I couldn’t see how it was spelled, so just roll with it) and talking, dressing, and acting like a  modern twenty-one year old.  Hearne is a freaking genius!
Hounded takes all different mystical beings and deities and has them coexisting on the same plane.  Which is really interesting view for this book to take—something that I haven’t seen in a fantasy book before.  Hearne is a master!
The flow of the story is perfectly paced.  It’s so entertaining that I was sad that it ended, and I’m so glad that this is only the first in the series, because I want more!  There is so much awesomeness in Hounded that I can’t say too much because it will ruin it for you!
There is language, and non-graphic sex, and blood and gore, so be warned, if that’s not your thing, don’t read this book.  But if it is, READ THIS BOOK!
5 Trees: Drop what you’re doing, and read this!  NOW!

Get to reading,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Guest Post & Giveaway with Alon Shalev

B&D is honored to feature a post from Alon Shalev, author of The Accidental Activist.  Let’s welcome Alon [rounds of applause and cheers from the audience]!

imageThe Accidental Activist - Alon Shalev: The Creative Process 

I was recently asked in a workshop how I find time to write. I had surprised the audience when I asserted the ability to write a 90,000 novel in 100 days. I write at this pace while holding down a challenging full-time job and being an active and involved husband, father, and community member. In fact, I have done this twice in 2011 and could keep writing if I didn't have to attend to marketing and promotion.
Many authors have their own personal framework: the sacred space in their house, listening to certain music, the writer's retreat, and many more. Whatever works for you is right, but my desk in our kitchen. I swivel my chair around and I am at the dinner table. I can write in coffee shops, on the train ride as I commute, or while several boys enjoy a rambunctious play-date in our tiny house.
Writing has always been a natural process for me and I rarely need to spend much time deliberating what my plot is going to be or developing my characters. From what I hear, this is not typical.
It is a state of mind. When I am writing a novel, I am in an intimate relationship with my characters. Since I do not plan my novels before writing, I am absorbed in the plot, sharing the thrill of what might happen next, just as my readers and characters experience it.
I am able to switch off, to leave my characters and focus at work or home, and switch back on when I have an hour to write. What I do think is important is that I am writing consistently. When I am in the creation process, I must write every day. In fact, I am pretty sure that I become quite insufferable when I am not keeping up with my characters.
The Accidental Activist, a political courtroom drama in which two young individuals are sued by a multinational corporation and need to defend themselves in court, is based upon a real court case. The food giant, McDonalds, sued two activists in England in the 1990's and the archaic legal system did not allow legal aid to be granted in a libel trial (they have since overhauled these laws because of this case). Try to blow up the Queen's Corgis (her dogs) and the state provided you with a lawyer, but not for libel. So the plot was pretty much laid out for me. With what happened there, I didn't need to embellish.
But even when I do not base a novel on something that really transpired the story has always quickly taken shape. For example, A Gardener's Tale is a reflection on the fast-disappearing rural life in England and the magic of the Pagan religion that still permeates village society, or Unwanted Heroes (release 01/12) which is a critical view of how we in America treat our war veterans, as seen though the eyes of a young English Kerouac-wannabe in San Francisco. The first draft to both these novels were each written in a quick and intensive period of time.
It is an amazing thrill, a rush, to see the novel come to life under my fingertips. It is what makes the periods between writing so frustrating, and what keeps me always coming back for more.
Alon Shalev
Alon, Thank you very much for sharing with us today!  I always enjoy reading about a writer’s process.  Each author is so different in the way they approach writing!

Now for the Giveaway!

Alon is offering up one (1) copy of The Accidental Activist!  Giveaway is open internationally.
1. Follow instructions on entry form.
2. Winner will be chosen at random.  If winner is in US or Canada, they  will have their choice of a bound or ebook copy; if winner is  international, the winner will receive an ebook copy.
3. I will check accuracy of winner's entry (don't lie, 'cause I'll find you out!)
4. Respond to notification email within 48 hours to claim prize.  If winner does not respond, a new winner will be chosen.
5. Only entries that meet all requirements will be considered valid.
6. Entries will be accepted from Nov. 8—15.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Review: The Accidental Activist by Alon Shalev

David meets Goliath in the law courts of England in the 1990's. The advent of the Internet is leveling the playing field as a multinational corporation tries to silence two young political activists in a riveting court case that captivates the political and business world's attention.
The company will try anything (sex, espionage, bribery and coercion) to stop or win this case. In fighting the corporation, a self-absorbed computer programmer discovers romance and a way to change the world one mega-pixel at a time.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 1st 2010 by Three Clover Press
ISBN: 0981955355 (ISBN13: 9780981955353)
I have been asked to review this as part of the Virtual Authors Book Tours event.  I read the description of The Accidental Activist and felt it would be an amazing read.  I had no idea how right I would be!
You will quickly love the characters.  Matt is certainly idealistic, naïve, and a nice guy.  Suzie is spunky, driven, and passionate.  Combined they form an awesome team of activists!  You will love the prologue—it is so funny! 
The Accidental Activist is humorous, fun, and exciting to read.  It took me quite by surprise how entertaining this was to read.  I would easily read 40 pages without much effort!  It was easy to invest in the story and care about what happened.  I really want to know what happened in the case that this book is based on!
I finished The Accidental Activist and hugged it and sighed a breath of relief and satisfaction.  It is an excellently well-crafted book of epic proportions.  Do yourself a favor and read this book!
5 Trees: This book is no accident!

Stop by tomorrow for a GIVEAWAY and guest post  by Alon Shalev!


Get to reading,

*This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review*

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review: Without Tess by Marcella Pixley


Tess and Lizzie are sisters, sisters as close as can be, who share a secret world filled with selkies, flying horses, and a girl who can transform into a wolf  in the middle of the night. But when Lizzie is ready to grow up, Tess clings to their fantasies. As Tess sinks deeper and deeper into her delusions, she decides that she can’t live in the real world any longer and leaves Lizzie and her family forever. Now, years later, Lizzie is in high school and struggling to understand what happened to her sister. With the help of a school psychologist and Tess’s battered journal, Lizzie searches for a way to finally let Tess go.

ebook, 288 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN:1429969822 (ISBN13: 9781429969826)

I approached this book all wrong.  I made fast assumptions about it, and misjudged it.  I almost didn’t finish it because of my assumptions, but continued reading and finished it.

You must realize before starting this book how difficult it will be to read.  I had no idea how sad and monstrous reading this would be.  Mental illness is no joke.  Just prepare yourself: Pixley is real.  There’s a no-holds-barred approach to telling Lizzie’s story.  You’ve been warned.

I felt sorry for Lizzie.  Both as the compliant preteen flashback Lizzie and the moody depressed teenage Lizzie, her character makes you feel and understand to some extent what mental illness can do to someone.  The feelings of being ashamed, hating, loving all became vivid.  Her love for her sister is fathomless, knows no bounds.  The turning point, when she’s able to let go, I didn’t cry, but it’s just awesome.

Pixley did an amazing job writing this story.  The ending was beautiful.  The growth in the characters was poignant.  Without Tess left me feeling breathless and lightheaded.


4 Tress: Without Tess your life is missing something.

Get to reading,

*This book was provided to me by the publishers through netGalley*

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

WoW (10): Hexed by Kevin Hearne

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly blog-hop hosted by Breaking the Spine that features books we are eagerly awaiting!

This week’s pick:

Hexed by Kevin Hearne

About the book:
Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, doesn’t care much for witches. Still, he’s about to make nice with the local coven by signing a mutually beneficial nonaggression treaty—when suddenly the witch population in modern-day Tempe, Arizona, quadruples overnight. And the new girls are not just bad, they’re badasses with a dark history on the German side of World War II.
With a fallen angel feasting on local high school students, a horde of Bacchants blowing in from Vegas with their special brand of deadly decadence, and a dangerously sexy Celtic goddess of fire vying for his attention, Atticus is having trouble scheduling the witch hunt. But aided by his magical sword, his neighbor’s rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and his vampire attorney, Atticus is ready to sweep the town and show the witchy women they picked the wrong Druid to hex.

Why I’m Waiting:

Having just finished Hounded a few days ago (review to post on Nov. 10) on a huge high, I immediately looked up Hexed at my local library…and they DON’T have it!  AHHHH!  I’m going to have to buy it!?!?! WHAT?  Yes, Hounded was that good and I can’t wait to read HexedHounded was totally freaking awesome and I must know what happens next!  And, besides, who doesn’t love a little butt-kicking anyway?


Get to reading,

Review: All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.

Compact Disc, 8 discs
Published September 27th 2011 by Macmillan Audio (first published September 6th 2011)
ISBN: 1427213585 (ISBN13: 9781427213587)
series: Birthright #1

In a sea of dismal dystopians, All These Things I’ve Done shines as a beacon that there is hope in all the despair.  I first heard about this when I saw the trailer on someone’s blog:

And I had to read it.  And then I entered to win the audiobook, and WON!

Though Zevin doesn’t use the term “dystopian” to describe her book, we have the setting of a mismanaged world, natural resources quickly being depleted, nothing new being manufactured.  Alcohol is legal, chocolate and coffee are not.  What?  I couldn’t quite figure the logic behind that one. But, hey, I went with it, and it provided an interesting backdrop for a non-dystopian dystopian.

I didn’t always like Anya, but I could understand her.  Could relate to her and why she did things the way she did.  It would not be easy to be her.  And you felt it was hard.  She is 16 and managing her family.  I felt sorry for her having to grow up so quick.  She whined a little too much, though.

The description of this book doesn’t do it justice.  It is much more beautiful and tragic.  I’m still trying to figure out why whomever wrote it only focused on the first like, forth of the book.  So much happens, and nothing happens.  Life happens.  Anya is forced to grow up even more than she already has.  She has to make hard choices, adult choices, and live with the consequences, for better or worse.  This is hard to write without spoiling it!

This doesn’t quite fit in one genre.  There’s romance, some mystery, a little suspense, and of course a whole lot of YA drama.  My least favorite part of any book is usually the drama.  But I liked it in All These Things I’ve Done. It was necessary to tell the story.

The ending, holy crap, the ending.  It left me whirling like on a chocolate high!

And there’s more books to come in the series!  Yay!

This was a fantastic story with characters that are as deep as the ocean.  If you’ve ever thought about reading this, do it!  You won’t be disappointed!


4 Trees: Make sure this on the list of things you did!

Get to reading,