Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Catching Fire-Suzanne Collins

Wait. Wait. Say what?!

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create. Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.”

First, let me say, HOLY CRAP! This is one amazing book. Not as strong as the first book, but still amazing. In this book we see Katniss develop into a character that is better defined. In Hunger Games, she was a strong, kick ass and take names kinda gal who is one hell of a shot with a bow and arrow. Those she is still that person in this book; however, there is a vulnerability to her that was not in the first book. She is being forced into a position where she must fall in line and be a good girl, or President Snow will take everyone she loves away from her.

I will give you guys a bit of a spoiler here, so if you don’t want to read what happens, stop now and skip to the last bit of this review.  It is the third quarter quell, the 75th Annual Hunger Games, and a lesson must be taught to the people of Panem: even the strongest cannot stand against the Captial. Therefore, the stronger who survived The Hunger Games will be picked to go back into the Arena. Of course, in District 12’s case there is only Katniss, Peeta and Haymich. I liked how it was not just the victors that were affected, but we saw how the people in the Capital were also affected. Not just the items that are imported to them, but also that their victors, are forced to face the horrors of the Arena.

I could not put this book down. The action itself didn’t pick up until Katniss is called back to the Capital for the Hunger Games. However, I was pulled into the story more by Katniss’ trying to discover herself in a post Hunger Games world. The sorrow and guilt she felt combined with her anger and disgust for the society that she was born into.

I’m not going to lie. I was pissed at the end. Not that it was a bad ending, but for the fact that it was a cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers. And due to this…I just had to go and buy Mockingjay. Damn you Suzanne Collins for making me spend money on amazing books!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Divergent-Veronica Roth

Pick a Faction…any Faction…

“In a future Chicago, 16-year-old Beatrice Prior must choose among five predetermined factions to define her identity for the rest of her life, a decision made more difficult when she discovers that she is an anomaly who does not fit into any one group, and that the society she lives in is not perfect after all.”

I find that these Young Adult Dystopias fall in one of two categories for me: Hunger Games and not the Hunger Games. Yeah, I know. It’s kind of a crappy thing to do to books. However, this book just might break that mold and change my mind into Good Dystopias and Bad Dystopias. Don’t worry folks. This is falls into the Good Dystopias.

From the beginning, this book shows the main character, Beatrice Prior, as someone who didn’t quite fit in with. Not that she was an out and out rebel, but someone who was just slightly different. In the Chicago that Beatrice Prior lives in, society has broken down and five Factions have been developed: Candor (the honest), Erudite (the intelligent), Amity (the peaceful), Dauntless (the brave), and Abnegation (the selfless). Our heroine is form the Abnegation Faction. The first couple chapters explore Beatrice’s life as Abnegation and how she feels towards them. I like how Roth made Beatrice view her family as an outsider, someone that doesn’t really belong.

I liked the progression of the story as Beatrice chooses to be Dauntless, leaving her Abnegation family behind. Looking ahead of her in what it means to be Dauntless, you see the perversion of the Faction’s standards and what it means to be one of them. Slowly, Beatrice and Four, uncover the blot to over throw the Factions establishment. Without going into too much detail and causing spoilers, the action was well balanced with the drama and suspense of the Dauntless initiation. There were a couple spots in the story that I felt were a little slow, but for the most part the story was well paced and didn’t feel too slow or too fast. It was like Baby Bear: just right.

The only issued I had with the book was the romance. Not that it was bad, and it was well written, I just felt that it kind of came out of no where and was a little too up and down. I understand that Four has to pretend to have nothing to do with Beatrice as to protect her, but I felt that if I was Beatrice (or Trice, as she’s called once she becomes Dauntless), I’d just say “forget it” and focus on kicking ass and taking names. But then again, that could just be my preference. Sometime I feel some romances in books are hooky and silly, feeling forced. I prefer some good ol' fashion ass kicking with a tiny side of romance.

I loved that Beatrice and several others in the book are Divergent, it’s a good contrast to the world of Factions. To be Divergent is to belong to more than one Faction. And in this world, you are either in a Faction, or you are Factionless. There is no in between.

The end of this book left me thinking “What the heck?!” So of course, I have to read the second book, Insurgent. How will the world of Factions survive a revolt? Here’s hoping that Insurgent will be just as action packed as Divergent.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

PSA-Tragedy in Denver

I love movies. Like books, they are that escape from reality we all need from time to time. At one point I use to work at a movie theater. I worked there for two years. Hell, that’s how I met my husband. I was technically his boss and all, but we fell in love there watching movies and speaking nerd.

Normally, I don’t say much when it comes to national tragedies because I know that everyone is feeling the grief and anger over what happened. But for what occurred in Denver, CO at the midnight showing of The Dark Knight rises, but I feel I have to. I was in middle school when the Oklahoma City Bombing happened, and I was in high school when Colombine shocked the nation. I was a freshman at the University of Central Oklahoma, sitting in university center drinking coffee watching the news when I saw the first plane crash into World Trade Center in New York. To me, those were true acts of terrorism. They still affected me, but not on such a personal level as what happened in Denver.

***Here comes the ranting and preachy part of my soap box speech. I promise I’m going to try to keep this calm and professional, but some bad words might slip in…***

To the victims, families of those injured or killed, and the city of Denver, CO: My heart is truly breaking for you right now. As someone who loves movies, and whose husband and friends are always going to Midnight shows dressed as characters for high profile movies, the theater should be a fun place to go. Not a place to fear. I know that this has tainted you, and justifiably so, but don’t let the person who did this to you ruin your love of movies or your life. It is a tough time for you truly, but know there are people throughout this nation, hell, even the world, who are sending you love and prayers. With enough love, we can stamp out the darkness.

To the Nation and the World: Please do not blame Christopher Nolan for this tragedy. It’s not right and it’s not fair. Movies, books, comic books, and all other forms of art is not what triggers people to do such heinous acts against their fellow man. Once a psychopath/sociopath, always one. This guy was already crazy when he decided make a plan on opening fire on a room full of innocent people who were just trying to have an awesome time watching the new Batman movie. Now and forever, this incident will be dubbed “The Batman Massacre.” Do not make Christopher Nolan anymore upset by blaming this on him. He had nothing to do with what happened. But if you do blame him, SHAME ON YOU!

To James Holmes: Fuck You. Simple as that. Some people are going to want to know why you could have done this and ruined the lives not only people in Denver, CO but the rest of the nation. A movie theater is suppose to be a safe and beautiful place to escape the world we live in today. But you decided to take a piss all over that, ruining the one happy place that we, as a nation, can leave the troubles of our lives behind for a few hours. Myself, I don’t really want to know what made you think that this was a good idea. I really don’t. I am not going to let your infamy reign. I am going to choose to remember those who died. Not you. Let me throw this out there in your face: You will be tried, and you will be found guilty for killing your fellow man. Now, if you get the death penalty or not, that is up to the State of Colorado. Normally, I am against death penalty, because I feel the worse prison is forcing them to live out their days under the watchful Eye of the Man knowing that he will never ever be free again. But, in your case, I could possibly turn to the other cheek, the one that lets you fry for killing the one thing that we as a nation could all rely on: The Movies.

So my piece has been said, and I will let it rest at that. I will say no more on this subject. I will let the families and the City of Denver mourn in peace. But let us all remember, don’t blame the entertainment industry for this. Blame the individual who decided to pull the trigger. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Hollows Insider-Kim Harrison

Class is in session. Time to read up folks!

“New York Times bestselling author Kim Harrison has won legions of fans with her sexy supernatural novels featuring bounty-hunting witch Rachel Morgan. And now comes a unique look inside her beloved Hollows series that no fan should miss.
The Hollows Insider 
In the Hollows, the supernatural Inderlanders rule, and humanity must abide by their conventions, or else. To survive among vampires, witches, Weres, gargoyles, trolls, fairies, and banshees - to say nothing of demons - humanity needs a guide. And now, written by Kim Harrison herself, here is an insider's look at the supernatural world of the Hollows, from an overarching new story to character profiles, maps, spell guides, charm recipes, secret correspondence from the elusive Trent Kalamack, and much more.
Enter the world of the Hollows like never before!
One misfired spell is all it took to sent investigative reporter Devin Crossman on a mission to uncover all the secrets of bounty-hunting witch Rachel Morgan and expose them to the world. Herewith are all of Devin's notebook entries, a treasure trove of evidence including maps, speces profiles, magic spells, documents from Inderland Security, Takata's song lyrics, Betty Bob's recipes, ley line charms, entries from the Were Registry, articles from the Hollows Gazette, Rynn Cormel's Vampire Dating Guide, demonic spells, and many more entries that cast light into regions of the Hollows that have never been revealed.
But Crossman's one-man war against Rachel Morgan has not gone unnoticed...”

This is a book I got for Christmas in 2011 from my mother-in-law and at that point decided she was the best mother-in-law in the history of all mother-in-laws. When I saw the gorgeous cover, I literally squealed like a little girl. Yeah, awesome mother-in-law.

This textbook sized companion guide to the world of Rachel Morgan is amazing. It is defiantly made for the fans for us to truly understand Harrison’s world she has created. And Harrison poured a lot of love into this book.

You can tell everything was carefully thought out. Though the layout of the book is that of an academic book,  it felt more like an additional story told from a different point of view. Devin Crossman’s journal entries were fun to read, giving a human point of view on a world of the Hallows. My favorite part of the book is the Inderland Security documents, describing the different species from witch to pixy, from banshee to vampire. It provided an awesome insight into what is Rachel Morgan’s Hallows.

This is of course, like I said before, a companion book to The Hallows series. And with companion books, you need to read the books. How many of these books should you read before delving into the Insider's Guide? I would at least the first four books (Dead Witch Walking; The Good, the Bad and the Undead; Every Which Way But Dead; A Fist Full Of Charms). And my dear friends, I know I have said it before, but really, you should read this series if you haven't yet.

I know this was a short review, but to really appreciate this book, you have to be a fan of the Hallows. And not just “yeah, these books are alright” but a dye in the wool “Rachel Morgan is one bad ass check who I cannot get enough of” type of fan. And Ms. Harrison, let me say to you thanks, for thinking of your fans and putting this book together.  It was a blast to read and I feel like I know so much more and appreciate your amazing story telling. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Eat Slay Love-Jesse Petersen

Lock and load, ladies and gents. It’s time to kill some zombies.

“Sarah and David have survived the zombie apocalypse. They stood side by side and fought the undead, mad scientists, and even bionic monsters until the unthinkable happened. A zombie bite. But not even that could stop them. Now, with a possible cure in hand, they're headed east, looking for a safe zone behind the rumored "Wall." They're feeling pretty optimistic. That is until Dave stops sleeping and starts lifting huge objects.”

I am so glad that I finally got around to reading the third installment of Jesse Petersen’s Living with the Dead series. I have to say, Ms. Petersen, bravo.  I just don’t know how to thank you for writing such amazing zombie tales.

Sarah and David are still relatable characters, but there is something more to David since surviving a zombie bite thanks to a miracle drug made by Dr. Kevin in the last book, Flip This Zombie. He seems to need less sleep, is stronger, and also seems to be immune to zombies. As with all really awesome books, I can see myself as Sarah and my husband William as David. Though we sometimes are nit-picky with each other, we make a really bad ass team: smart and snarky. And I’m pretty sure if it came down to it, we could be pretty good shots with shot guns.

As an Oklahoman, I totally appreciated that most of the book was set in Oklahoma. And I know that some folks from this state can get a little up in arms about how we are depicted (i.e. Grapes of Wrath) but I could totally see the commune from the beginning of the book being formed here in than one town on the outskirts of Oklahoma City and Tulsa (and maybe Lawton…). And that’s what so great about reading Petersen’s zombie stories: the characters are believable. There is that delicate balance that has be to walked between the ordinary and the extraordinary. I can accept that there is a chance that David has super Zombie Powers without being a zombie because David is a believable individual. I enjoyed the addition of paparazzi news anchor and the drugged out rock star. They provided not only additional entertainment and humor, but also other characters for Sarah and David to interact with.

The mythical Wall proved to be true but not what Sarah and David and company expected. And of course, if you have read Jesse Petersen’s series of short stories, you would have gotten that sense that of course they are not letting those who have survived the End of the World through the Wall.

I’m glad to see that Jesse Petersen left us all hanging in what could possibly happen next to Sarah and David. The difference between this book and the first one: we have left behind the chick lit for some balls to the wall action. It’s no longer about their marriage, it’s been saved. Now, its just about saving the world. Once again I say, let’s lock and load. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Third Grave Dead Ahead-Darynda Jones

Charley Davidson: I know you are a fictional character…but can we be friends forever? Please?

“Paranormal private eye. Grim reaper extraordinaire. Whatever. Charley Davidson is back! And she's drinking copious amounts of caffeine to stay awake because every time she closes her eyes she sees him: Reyes Farrow, the part-human, part-supermodel son of Satan. Granted she did imprison Reyes for all eternity, but how is she supposed to solve a missing-persons case, deal with an ego-driven doctor, calm her curmudgeonly dad, and take on a motorcycle gang hell-bent on murder when the devil's son just won't give up on his plan of seduction..... and revenge?”

So I’m going to sing the praises for this book and you people are just going to have to suck it and accept it. No snarky comments about this book. Nooooo. Just a giant love fest  because Darynda Jones has once again come through with further developing Charley’s personality and powers as a grim reaper, and making me laugh out loud and slap my forehead with the things that she says and does. The Reyes plot and the missing wife story line blended well together and I almost forgot that there were two separate story lines. All the characters are well balanced and there is no “plot fodder” (my husband’s description for characters that are mentioned once only to turn up dead. Filler so to speak. My husband is kinda brilliant). 

On a side note, Cookie is even more hysterical in this book than the last two. I picture myself as Cookie when I get a little bit older. But I digress.

The physical interaction between Charley and Reyes was interesting and fun to read. This was the only time they have really been around each other since the first time they met when they were teenagers. Sure, Charley has seen and did some baw-chicka-wa-wa when Reyes in his non physical form. The tension Charley felt was not so much a sexual one (though there was that one scene...), but a “OMG, this guy is an escaped convict.” Reyes is a strange combination of brutal son of Satan and gentle and caring uncle and brother.  And of course, Jones made still made Reyes uber sexy and an uber bastard all at once: makes you love to hate him, and hate to love him. Grr!

My most favorite part of the book was at the beginning when, a poor Charley, who has not slept in two weeks, drives over to Garret’s house, and upon entering his home, turns around and thinks that he has no pants on. And then, she flips out and covers her eyes yelling and embarrassed that he has no pants and crashes into the wall. I was laughing out loud so hard out loud that my husband asked me what was going on. Jones has some great comedic timing with Charley and the situations she was in throughout this book.

I was most pleased when she laid the law down with Reyes and everybody else at the end of the book. I will not go too much into detail, because really if you haven’t started reading this series yet you should and I don’t want to spoil anything for you, she pretty much gives Reyes the middle finger in an amazing display of her grim reaper powers.

I’m going to throw this out to the universe and say Darynda Jones, I totally can’t wait till October 30th for the next installment, Fourth Grave Under My Feet. No. For reals…I can’t wait. Because I know it’s going to be totally amazing! 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter-Seth Grahame-Smith

Oh my peas and carrots! How can one not want to read a book with this title?

Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother's bedside. She's been stricken with something the old-timers call "Milk Sickness."
"My baby boy..." she whispers before dying.
Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother's fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.
When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, "henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose..." Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House. While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years. Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.

I read Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the play on a classic. So when I saw the really cool cover and awesome title of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, how could I not want to read a book this book? I was expecting something a little campy told in a fictional way, full of action and adventure and the 16th president killing vampires. But what did I get? Nada. Nil. Zilch. And let me say…I fill slightly jilted. Just an FYI, there is a spoiler ahead as to how the book ends, but I really need to voice my dissatisfaction with the ending.

Here’s my main issue with this book: YAAAAWWWNNN! It was so boring. It read like a biography, which, yeah, I get. But for me, it’s hard to read biographies. It’s just not something that sparks my interest. And the author was trying so hard to write some kind of action into this faux biography but it fell flat and felt forced.  Also, the ending was kind of a cop-out I feel. It’s like Graham-Smith forgot until after the fact that Lincoln had been assassinated and then tried to pull some verbal ninja move and turn it around and make Lincoln a vampire. I mean, really? COME ON! Should have just let the man stay dead.

I can appreciate that Grahame-Smith was able to tweak and weave the idea of vampires into a fictional telling of the life of Abraham Lincoln. You can tell the Grahame-Smith took time picking all the correct words to make sure that the story he was trying to sale you, you would buy. Unfortunately, for me, I could not suspend reality and buy what the author was selling.

It's been a little over a month since I finished reading this book, and as I look back on it, I get a little more peeved that I allow myself to get caught up in the hype. I try so hard, and sometimes the hype is worth it, and sometimes it's not. And Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was not worth the hype. Maybe the movie will be better...but then again maybe not....

Me and My Ghoulfriends-Rose Pressey

Oh wait…was there really a plot to this book? Wait…oh! There it is…I think…

“By day, Larue Donavan is a down-to-earth bookstore owner. But by night, she's a world-renowned psychic investigator dedicated to helping lost spirits find peace. Dead people won't leave her alone and Abraham Lincoln thinks he's in charge of her lovelife. Larue can handle ghosts and undead presidents. It's the living who drive her crazy. When Callahan Weiss moves to town, the handsome newcomer opens a coffee shop right next door. She's smitten from the start, but she's not the only one -- The boutique owner across the street has her eye on Callahan too, and uses witchcraft to fight dirty. When Callahan gets hit by a love spell, Larue will need more than a little help from her ghoul-friends to save the day.”

So I know that first little line is dripping with snarky sassiness, but let me say that this is story was not bad. But it wasn’t fantastic. It was well, mediocre. I would prefer leaning towards either end of the scale in determining if this book was good or bad. But the scales of my book review justice did not want to tip in either direction.

The thing that drove me a little bonkers about this book was that this girl really didn’t seem to have anything better to do than drool over Callahan Weiss (who seems a little too dream boat for me and over the top perfect for my taste), and not liking the evil witchy boutique owner (which, I mean for good reason. She was a bitch). The story was rather slow and I had a hard time getting behind Larue, who in my mind seemed a little wishy-washy. I’m so use to reading paranormal and urban fantasy that is fast paced and full of action, so while I was reading this I found myself bored with Larue’s pinning and whining.

However, all this being said, the writing was decent and certain characters were very fun to read. I did enjoy the interaction between Larue and her ghostly friends. It seemed like they were the only ones who really genuinely gave a crap about Larue and her love life.

I might have enjoyed the book a little bit more if I hadn't read two action pack books prior to this one. But I love my paranormal with a nice big helping of kick ass. Rose Pressey wrote a simply nice story that was a little too cutesy for me. If you need a fluffy chick lit book with little substance, this is totally a book that you should read then.