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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review: Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan



Ever since the gods of Ancient Egypt were unleashed in the modern world, Carter Kane and his sister Sadie have been in trouble. As descendants of the House of Life, the Kanes have some powers at their command, but the devious gods haven’t given them much time to master their skills at Brooklyn House, which has become a training ground for young magicians. And now their most threatening enemy yet—the chaos snake Apophis—is rising. If they don’t prevent him from breaking free in a few days’ time, the world will come to an end. In other words, it’s a typical week for the Kane family. To have any chance of battling the Forces of Chaos, the Kanes must revive the sun god Ra. But that would be a feat more powerful than any magician has ever accomplished. First they have to search the world for the three sections of the Book of Ra, then they have to learn how to chant its spells. Oh, and did we mention that no one knows where Ra is exactly? Narrated in two different wisecracking voices, featuring a large cast of new and unforgettable characters, and with adventures spanning the globe, this second installment in the Kane Chronicles is nothing short of a thrill ride.

Audio CD, Library Edition, 13 dics
Published May 3rd 2011 by Brilliance Audio (first published January 1st 2011)
ISBN: 1455808393 (ISBN13: 9781455808397)
series: Kane Chronicles #2


Having been unimpressed with The Red Pyramid, I was wary of checking out The Throne of Fire.  But I was desperate for a new audiobook, and the cover looked pretty good, so I risked it.

What an awesome book this is!

The second world-saving adventure falls on the thirteenth birthday of Sadie.  So, she’s mopy and self-centered at times, and I can totally understand why—I would feel the same way if this stuff happened on my day!  Carter come across a little bit like an oaf.  He’s not quite the hero as much as a love-struck-gotta-save-the-girl magician.  Sadie really is the go-to girl for the world-saving.  And I really like her in this role, but felt disappointed that Carter wasn’t more of a hero.  And maybe this was Sadie’s chance to shine, since Carter kinda had the lead in The Red Pyramid.

Either way, in true Riordan fashion, there is non-stop action from beginning to end.  There is an amazing cast of supporting characters and gods!  Riordan’s knowledge of Egyptian had me awestruck.  Some minor gods have some major roles in this book!  Take a bow, Mr. Riordan!

And, also in Riordan fashion, there’s not much I can without ruining the plot!  So, do yourself a favor, and read this book!

I cannot wait for the third installment in the Kane Chronicles!

5 Trees: This throne is on fire!

Get to reading,

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Review: The Last Noel by Heather Graham



With a storm paralyzing New England, the O’Boyle household becomes prey to a pair of brutal escaped killers desperate to find refuge.
Skyler O’Boyle is convinced the only way they can live through the night is by playing a daring psychological game to throw the convicts off their guard. Threatened by a pair of Smith & Wessons, she has to pray that the rest of her family will play along, buying them time. Her one hope for rescue is that the men are unaware that her daughter, Kat, has escaped into the blizzard. But as the wind and snow continue to rage with all the vehemence of a maddened banshee, her prayers that Kat can somehow find help seem fragile indeed.
When Kat stumbles on a third felon, half-frozen and delirious, her shock deepens, because she recognizes Craig Devon immediately. What is the onetime love of her life doing back in town - and in such company? With the threat of death hanging over the O’Boyles, Craig is desperate to unload a vital secret that could change their destiny. But can he trust Kat with the truth? Because one false move and everything he’s sacrificed will shatter - and this could be everyone’s final Christmas alive.


Audio CD, 0 pages
Published October 23rd 2007 by Brilliance Audio on CD Unabridged (first published 2007)
ISBN: 1423343891 (ISBN13: 9781423343899)


I have been intrigued by Heather Graham for some time, and wanted to check out something of hers, so I literally checked out an audiobook from the library and set to it.

I love suspense novels.  It is kinda like my bread and butter, the core of myself as a bookish nerd.  I have been reading this genre since I was a wee lad (said in my best Irish accent…read the book and you’ll understand.  Better yet listen to the audiobook!)—John Grisham, Mary Higgins Clark, Terri Blackstock, among others.  I like finding new authors in a genre I already love, as well as new genres altogether.  I was happily satisfied with The Last Noel and will add Graham to my must read authors!

We got all the dysfunctionally functional family, uber bad guys, the craziness of a holiday, and forces or Mother Nature needed for a fun nail-biter.  From the start, you know this is going to be good.  The story is told from a narrator’s POV and you hear the thoughts and yearnings of many of the family members throughout the book.  It’s a great way to tell a very intricate story like this with so many different players.

Uncle Patty is my favorite character, and I honestly can’t put my finger on why.  He’s the comic relief, and a little eccentric, and a ton of fun.  He lightens the mood on an otherwise dark story.

The family dynamics and the way they work together and love each other in their own ways was very real.  I like that they we’re perfect or Rockwellian (spellcheck says that isn’t a real word…hmm…does it make sense, do you know what I’m trying to say there?).  Their flaws, however small they may be, made them real people with real fears and real hopes and dreams.  People you could connect with.

My real issue is with Craig.  And the ending.  Let’s start with the ending (and the prologue because that counts as ending).  It was too happy.  Not that everything was perfect in the end, but it was just, well, I couldn’t relate to it.  I could see myself responding the same way the family did through the entire story, but then felt that I wouldn’t have done what they did at the end.  It was too neat and pretty.  And prologue, it was even happier.  Very Hallmark movieish.  I liked one point where things happened, and were over, and it just kinda came to a stopping point.  That was a good place to stop.  I didn’t need the rainbows and butterflies ending.

Craig is a whole issue in itself/himself.  I don’t feel (and maybe I missed something) that his story was really explained.  The whole “why he’s there” issue was not something that I remember hearing, so if I missed it, please let me know!  It seems very convenient that he was there being who he was and how he knew them all.  Anyways, so I can’t take off for this, since I might have been the one that missed it, but still, I needed to throw that nugget at ya.

4 Trees: This one’s not getting coal for Christmas!

Get to reading,

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review: Getting Lucky by DC Brod



When a young reporter is killed in a hit and run accident, freelance writer Robyn Guthrie agrees to finish one of the stories the reporter had been writing for the local newspaper. But nothing is as simple as it seems when she finds out about shady land deals, an old high school nemesis, and Robyn's aging mother.

Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: December 18th 2011 by F+W Media, Inc. (first published November 18th 2011)
ISBN: 1440531986 (ISBN13: 9781440531989)


I have been reading out of my genre-comfort zone for sometime now.  I have discovered series and authors of other genres that I am excited to continue, and other that I have disliked.  Reading Getting Lucky was like a warm homecoming.  Comfortable and welcoming like old family and friends.

This is a crime novel, but not anything like a police procedural.  There’s a hodgepodge cast of characters, all with their little quirks.  Some are stereotypes, others are unexpected, but all are just what they need to be to get this story across.  And really, there are no cops involved.

I did not read the first in the series, Getting Sassy.  There are some things I feel like I missed.  Like the fortune that Robyn’s mother has.  I would love to know where that came from!  Though there were some questions, I didn’t miss enough to not enjoy this book.  Robyn is a reporter, not a police officer, so her moral compass can skew a little, which makes her fun.  Mick, her maybe-ex-boyfriend, has mob connections.  Her mom is in the early stages of Alzheimer's.  There’s a kind of shady feel to the book, like Robyn bends any and all rules to reach her final goal.  Which, honestly, is kind of refreshing!  I’m used to fairly straight-laced cop-types who do their job by the book.  Robyn is sometimes off the grid and kept me guessing a lot!

Though Getting Lucky was slow going at first, once the plot got established, it moved at a nice even pace through to the end.  And even though it was fairly predictable, I enjoyed it thoroughly.  It left me with that happy euphoria after eating that welcome-home dinner of all your favorite foods—completely satisfied.

4 Trees: Enjoyable, fun, and easy read

Get to reading,

*This book was provided to me by the publicist*

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Review: Hurt Machine by Reed Farrel Coleman



"The biggest mysteries in our genre are why Reed Coleman isn't already huge, and why Moe Prager isn't already an icon."—Lee Child
At a pre-wedding party for his daughter Sarah, Moe Prager is approached by his ex-wife and former PI partner Carmella Melendez. It seems Carmella's estranged sister Alta has been murdered, but no one in New York City seems to care. Why? Alta, a FDNY EMT, and her partner had months earlier refused to give assistance to a dying man at a fancy downtown eatery. Moe decides to help Carmella as a means to distract himself from his own life and death struggle. Making headway on the case is no mean feat as no one, including Alta's partner Maya Watson, wants to cooperate. Moe chips away until he discovers a cancer roiling just below the surface, a cancer whose symptoms include bureaucratic greed, sexual harassment, and blackmail. But is any of it connected to Alta's brutal murder?
Hardcover, 300 pages
Published December 18, 2011 by Tyrus Books
ISBN: 1935562649 (ISBN13: 9781935562641)
series: Moe Prager #7


So, my new favorite crime writer is Reed Farrel Coleman.  Hurt Machine is on my Best Of 2011 book list on Goodreads.  Add it to your TBR now.
This is my first Coleman novel, and thus my first in the Moe Prager series (did you notice that this is book #7?).  For this one, you don’t need to have read the others to understand this book.  It’s awesome the way that you immediately understand Moe and feel for him and with him.
Coleman writes with such depth and maturity, that I got emotional reading Hurt Machine.  And I’m not talking about weepy feminine emotional.  This is the dude’s kind of emotional, where you’re all like, “Dude, that sucks.”  Here are two examples from the ARC that really jumped at me:
Death and hurt were pretty present on my mind. I wondered when the former would come and if the latter would ever really disappear. I wasn’t so much concerned with my hurt. I’d been long-hardened to the slings and arrows. No, I was more focused on the hurt I would leave in my wake, the damage I’d done and left unaddressed or unrepaired. Humans are like hurt machines. No matter how hard we try not to do it, we seem to inflict hurt on one another as naturally as we breathe. (From Chapter One)
Only in retrospect is life a simple series of easily connected dots. Humans yearn for simple answers to complex questions, but it just ain’t the way things work. Nothing involving human beings is simple. Nothing! (From page 74)
And the whole book is written like that.  Prose that tears you to the core, rips your being into pieces, then puts all the parts back.  There is a real sense of going through this with Moe, kind of like the feeling of a memoir.  I just hurt for him, felt the wake of his hurt machine.  Especially in the epilogue, Coleman’s writing so heartfelt, honest.  So, human.  The book is dark (Moe has been diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his abdomen) and there is a lot of introspection, but in a good way, it never feels too weighty or overly self-serving.
By this point in a review I have usually dealt with the characters, who I liked and didn’t like.  Um, ok, so I have only one of the many that I don’t like.  I really don’t so much dislike Carm as much as I hate her.  Want to talk about self-serving, she’s completely selfish and inconsiderate.  Take note from the description when she approaches Moe.  Yeah, that’s par for the course with her. 
Moe is my new hero—in that fictional-character kinda way (my dad is actually my hero).  I know he’s completely fictional, but he went through a lot and then at the end, fumbled his way into solving the case!  Way to go, Moe!
Do yourself a favor and read this book…NOW!
5 Trees: Hurt Machine is actually an awesome machine!

Get to reading,

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

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld



Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license -- for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.
Audiobook, 13 pages
Published April 8th 2008 by Recorded Books (first published February 8th 2005)
series: Uglies #1
literary awards: South Carolina Book Award Nominee for Young Adult Book Award (2008), Georgia Peach Honor Book Award (2008), Abraham Lincoln Award (2007)



Ok, so you know when there is a super-hyped book and you’re like, “Well, with all the major hype, I just don’t know if I should give in and read it.”?  Well, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld was one of those books for me.  And I’m glad I read it, because I know what all the hype’s about.  But I just didn’t enjoy it the way I thought I would.  Honestly, it really frustrated me.

Part of the irritation could be from the narrator.  She made Tally very whiney at times.  I detest whiney characters, especially those who are whiney for no reason like Tally was.  Blind obedience turning into quiet defiance then to full-fledged rebellion is a normal theme in YA dystopian, so I was cool with that.  What got under my skin so much is Tally.  I mean honestly, she just couldn’t see that what she was doing was wrong.  Her motivation of being pretty just got old very fast.

So, I basically just wanted it over.  But it was like the book that never ended!  Over all I was really very irritated by Uglies. I will give Pretties a try, but depending on my mood after finishing it, I may or may not ever read Westerfeld again.

*Packs up soapbox and heads home*

2 Trees: Mildly entertaining, left me with an ugly feeling about it.

Get to reading,

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Review: One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

Welcome to Trenton, New Jersey, home to wiseguys, average Joes, and Stephanie Plum, who sports a big attitude and even bigger money problems (since losing her job as a lingerie buyer for a department store). Stephanie needs cash--fast--but times are tough, and soon she's forced to turn to the last resort of the truly desperate: family.

Stephanie lands a gig at her sleazy cousin Vinnie's bail bonding company. She's got no experience. But that doesn't matter. Neither does the fact that the bail jumper in question is local vice cop Joe Morelli. From the time he first looked up her dress to the time he first got into her pants to the time Steph hit him with her father's Buick, M-o-r-e-l-l-i has spelled t-r-o-u-b-l-e. And now the hot guy is in hot water--wanted for murder.

Abject poverty is a great motivator for learning new skills, but being trained in the school of hard knocks by people like psycho prizefighter Benito Ramirez isn't. Still, if Stephanie can nab Morelli in a week, she'll make a cool ten grand. All she has to do is become an expert bounty hunter overnight--and keep herself from getting killed before she gets her man.

Audio CD
Published 1995 by Recorded Books LLC (first published 1994)
ISBN: 140253938X (ISBN13: 9781402539381)
Series: Stephanie Plum #1
literary awards: The Crime Writers' Association New Blood Dagger (1995)
I have eyed the Stephanie Plum books for a long time.  I found a paperback copy in our favorite used book store.  Then, in desperate need of a new audiobook, I looked at my library, and found this.  So, instead of reading it, I got to listen to it.  I have reviewed a newer release by Evanovich (Wicked Appetite) that I really enjoyed, so I had an inkling that the Stephanie Plum books would tickle my reading bone.  I was right.
Stephanie is desperate to make some money and the last resort is working for her cousin’s bonding company as a bounty hunter.  First of all, the way Evanovich describes Stephanie is so real, so genuine.  Second, it’s believable.  This is not one of those books you have to suspend reality to buy into.  From the get-go I was all-in.  Last, it’s just fun.
Stephanie at times seemed to go out of her way to get into trouble.  And Morelli kept coming to her rescue.  But she never let it stop her.  She picked herself up, learned, and moved forward.  She didn’t figure out the bad buy until I did, and that was when he revealed himself.  I never saw it coming.
4 Trees: This is just Plum entertaining

Get to reading,