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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Graveminder by Melissa Marr - Mind Those Graves!


Pros: An interesting world and concept, surprise bad guy
Cons: Took forever to get all those "secrets" out; Rebekkah drove me nuts

The Bottom Line: A good book that, I think, could have been much better with a handful of tweaking.

The October book for the ABC Book Club by Calico Reaction was rather fitting, being that it is the season for ghosts and goblins and all. I've seen Melissa Marr's name on plenty of things before, but they're all teen books. This is an adult book for us older people, but heck, take out the swearing and knock the characters down a couple of ages and we've got ourselves a teen book. Rebekkah sure was angsty and annoying enough to be a teen (no offense to teens but...you know).

Rebekkah hasn't been back to the small town of Claysville in years. But when her grandmother dies, she must return for the funeral. But that's when she feels the need to do things. The same things her grandmother did after people died. And that's not all - something dangerous is lurking through the town. It's hungry and thirsty, and it's Rebekkah's job to put it back in the ground where it's supposed to be. There are plenty of secrets surrounding Claysville - as well as beneath it. Rebekkah needs to understand them and herself before it's too late.

There are a number of good things about this story. I really like Bryan, Rebekkah's would-be love interest (I'll explain that "would-be" thing in a minute), though he had a few of his own stupid moments, such as failing to ask questions that anyone with a brain would ask, or reading a contract - or anything for that matter - before signing it. But his dogged devotion toward Rebekkah was admirable, despite whatever spiritual-type bond they might be forced to have.

The combination of Graveminder and Undertaker was cool, and I liked all the unique things that the Graveminder was required to do. Easy to see why all the Graveminder's needs were seen to by the town. That's a full-time non-paying job right there.

I liked the atmosphere that Marr was able to show us, and the amazing world that lies beneath-ish Claysville. It actually reminded me of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book in some ways. There were plenty of intriguing little bits that occurred down there, though not all of them made sense. And the story itself, minus all that annoying secret-keeping, was solid. I never saw the answers coming. At all. And when I found out who the culprit was, it had one of those, "Oooooh crappy" moments to it. Like when you realize what the bad guy is doing and who they are and think, "Man...they suck."

However, there were a lot of annoying things about this book, and I gave it high marks primarily for creativity.

First off, Rebekkah was annoying as *expletive*. She was so wishy-washy about Bryan all the freaking time and after a while when I discovered her main malfunction I kept thinking, "Oh my gosh, life is short, get over it already!" She never talked about it and that Bryan never got mad at her for it which, while slightly admirable and impressive, was also annoying. She kept doing this, "Oh hold me, love me, go away" see-saw crap that made me want to either slap her in the face or just punch her in the mouth. Or at least see someone else do it.

Marr's agent, editor, or somebody should have picked up on her POV shifting. She does shift point of views between chapters, say Bryan for one, Rebekkah for another, and then someone else the next time. And while that's not all that bad, if I don't know who these people are initially, it can be confusing. Please at least stick their name at the top of the chapter like other authors do. Likewise, there were several chapters that were completely unnecessary. Like she was trying to weave in multiple story threads that didn't really need to be there. Then there were also shifts within chapters, which was really not cool. We'd be in Rebekkah's head and then momentarily slip into Bryan's. But only for a paragraph. I can handle that sort of thing in romance novels, partly because that's how a lot of them used to be anyway, but not here and not like this. I'm sorry, but someone should have caught that and pointed it out so it could be fixed.

I do have to say that the contract struck between the entity hanging out beneath-ish the town and the original people of Claysville just plain sucks. True, I give them credit that perhaps centuries ago it might have been useful - no sickness and all that - but in today's society it's absolutely useless. I don't understand why Bryan and Rebekkah can't just read it and say, "You know, none of this stuff applies anymore, so we're done." Especially when the alternative is having dead people walking around eating people. Just not a good trade. Even in the beginning, I don't see why the townspeople would agree to such a thing - especially since they thought they were dealing with the devil - but oh well. Then I guess we wouldn't have a book, would we?

And on a smaller, final note, I felt bad for Teresa. I mean, there she is, lying on the table, and then nobody ever mentions her again. Not even her sister, whose POV we've had at least twice before. Another POV that probably could have been cut.

It's a good book, though I honestly think it could have been better. It can be a fun read for Halloween provided you can get past the frustrating amount of time for the "secrets" to come out (even after people started getting eaten, but hey, I guess that's not a priority for some people). The underworld area is the most interesting and the final reveal is a bit of an ugly shock. I'll recommend it, but it's a weak recommendation.

NT

Originally posted on Epinions.com

Notes from the playlist: "A Freak Like Me Needs Company" by Patrick Page

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ripple by Mandy Hubbard - Hear the Siren's Song


Pros: It's a siren story – how often do you see those?
Cons: Bad guy motivation seemed a little weak, but who cares?

The Bottom Line: A solid story about a girl who is part siren - and her efforts not to kill anyone when she sings. Are you in? I thought so.

I saw the cover of this book and thought, "Hm." I read the jacket and thought, "Ooh." And after I read the book I thought, "Yay."

Honestly, how often do you see a story that features a siren? You know, the women in the sea who sing men to their deaths? The sirens in the story of Odysseus, who made his men plug their ears and tied himself to the mast just to hear their song and not kill himself? Not many, right? Yeah, me either.

That's why I had to get in on this. It sounded like it would be fun, and a teen book only takes a handful of hours to polish off anyway.

Lexi is a siren. She discovered that little piece of information when she killed a boy on her sixteenth birthday. Since then, she refuses to let anyone get close again. She doesn't know who she might kill, and only swims in a lake in the mountains. Failing to swim means being in absolute pain the next day. But then, for some reason, another boy tries to break through her tough exterior. It would be so nice not to be alone again. But does Lexi dare risk it? Fall in love? Or kill again?

Ooooh feel the goosebumps! Haha. This was a good tale. Lexi is a very sympathetic character because she's stuck by herself with some weird curse she doesn't understand, and she has already killed someone by drowning them. She's pretty bummed out. It doesn't help that her friends turn on her like vipers (ah the fickleness of high school kids) afterward. And Lexi, since she knows she's the murderer, she's willing to let them do it because she believes she deserves it. Tough, tough time. It's easy to feel really bad for her when she freaks out a little when Cole, the best friend of the boy she killed, starts being nice to her.

Then there's her siren side. If she doesn't swim every night, it feels as though she's walking on shards of glass the next day (honestly, I don't see how she could stand that - she must have a high pain tolerance because geezo...). She doesn't sleep anymore either. The swimming and singing take care of that. All Lexi wants is to be normal, but she doesn't know what she's capable of. It's a tricky decision for her to make.

Then of course, there's the extra little cog in the wheels. A new kid who may not be normal. But what's his deal? Can he be trusted? I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but when it does, it drops hard and suddenly you realize that oh man, that's not a shoe at all... A very nice little surprise. Though I do think the bad guy's motivation is a little weak, I'm willing to let that go because in the end, mythical creatures do what they do because, well, it's what they do. I did like how not everything is resolved between Lexi and other people, interestingly enough I think that makes the book more realistic (siren part aside), and the interactions between Lexi and Cole are touching.

I had a good time with this book. It had good atmosphere, enjoyable characters, and some unexpected action. Take a day to read it and enjoy!

NT

Originally published on Epinions.com

Notes from the playlist: "Rise Above 1" by Reeve Carney feat. Bono and The Edge

Saturday, October 15, 2011

First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones - Hot, Snarky, and Fun!


Pros: Witty and funny, sexy and exciting
Cons: The writing style on random occasions

The Bottom Line: Recommended to me by one of my managers - good deal! I know I'll be reading the second one!

Usually when people recommend books to me, I brush it off. But sometimes the books they recommend just stick. In this case, one of my favorite managers recommended Darynda Jones's First Grave on the Right. One look at the cover and I thought, "Oh this could be fun." I read the book blurb and with my manager's insistence that the book was hilarious had me hooked. I checked it out of the library once I finished Clash of Kings.

Charley Davidson is a private investigator and "consultant" to the Albuquerque Police Department. What most people don't know is that she's a grim reaper. The grim reaper in fact. Ghosts can see her sparkly come-to-the-light beacon from miles upon miles away, but sometimes they need a little help. Like finding out who killed them. While Charley tries to discover who murdered three lawyers, her dreams are filled with a mysterious but super hot-n-sexy entity that she may actually know. Who is he and what does he want? And can Charley actually get through a day without getting herself injured?

The funny thing is that I read this book right after reading Stacey Kade's Queen of the Dead...and then Meet Joe Black was airing the night I finished this...and the next day some other person-sees-ghost movie was on. Coincidence? Or creepy fate..?

Anywho, this was a fun book to read. Charley is snarky and doesn't take crap from anyone. She keeps her little gift to herself because most of the time people can't take it and freak out. But her father and her Uncle Bob, both of whom worked for the police force, believe her and deal with it because it helps them solve cases and (naturally) get promotions. Her assistant, Cookie, is a fun little character, and the mystery man is ooh-la-la delicious. I look forward to seeing more of him...even after knowing who he is.

My only issue was some of the sentence structures and occasional writing style hiccups. Just very randomly I would have to go back and read a bit because I had no idea what someone was referring to, like a pronoun at the end somewhere - does "they" refer to the cops or the houses or donuts or what? Or when the dialogue went off on a slight tangent and then jumped back to the task at hand - only not quite. It's hard to describe, but I know if I were editing this, I'd mark several places with notes or question marks.

But maybe that's just me. Otherwise I had a great time and I do intend to dig up (hah, pun intended) the second book and then move on to the third. I loved some of Charley's little taunts and descriptions, and laughed aloud at more than one point. At the beginning of each chapter is something either Charley says or that exists on a bumper sticker or a t-shirt. And it's always funny.

More graves please!

NT

P.S. I love the shoes on the cover!

Originally posted on Epinions.com

Notes from the playlist: "Rest Easy" by Natalie Walker

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade - How Will It End?


Pros: Another enjoyable romp with Will and Alona
Cons: Not *quite* as much fun as the first book

The Bottom Line: With "Uh oh" moments and "How will this work out?" questions, it's a solid sequel for ghostly goodness.

The first book, The Ghost and the Goth was something I never thought I'd read. I just thought, "Psh. Cliché." And moved on. But for some reason it kept popping up, so I finally read the book blurb, and then curiosity got the best of me. I read it and thoroughly enjoyed it. And the best part? It wasn't really cliché at all!

So when I saw a second book appear on the shelves, I got excited. More of Will and Alona? Yay! If you haven't read the first book, you need to in order to know what is going on. There are no explanations at the beginning of this book (which is fine with me), so you'd be jumping in blind.

Will is busy doing his ghost-talking thing with Alona at his side when suddenly a pretty girl shows up and interrupts them. The girl, Mina, is a ghost-talker to - the first one Will has ever met aside from his dad. He's determined to learn more about her and the other ghost-talkers she seems to know, much to Alona's displeasure. And when Alona wants Will's help, he's a bit, well, unhelpful. So it's up to Alona to solve her own problems. However, that only leads to many more - and much bigger - problems.

It's Alona being herself and Will being, well, normal all over again, which is fun. The emergence of the ghost-talkers opened up a whole new set of possibilites for these stories, and with so much going on, I started to wonder, "Um, is there going to be a third book?" (One visit to the author's site and yes, there will be.) I kept wondering how the author, Stacey Kade, was going to put these two together permanently. If that was her plan anyway. It seems to have worked out well, but that brings out even more questions as to how the third book is going to work. Very interested in seeing how that goes down.

Though I am personally kind of bored with stupid/corrupt/secretive organizations that go around taking care of some of mankind's problems, I'm willing to see how this plays out. I'm also interested in learning the final bits of information regarding Will's father and just why he killed himself (not a spoiler, fyi).

I can see some people having problems following Kade's logic/rules for the afterworld, such as the necessary positive energy to stick around vs. ghosts that are in no way nice and can actually kill people. But she lets her characters address this and it's good enough for me. Besides, if everyone had all the answers to the afterworld, all of this would be pointless, wouldn't it?

Just like the last book, this one see-saws between Will's point of view and Alona's. Both are written in first person. You'll be left with more questions at the end of this book than you might like, but hey, that's what the next book is for!

NT

Originally posted on Epinions.com

Notes from the playlist: "The Lonely" by Christina Perri

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Leaves by Ezra Stein - A Little Bear’s Wonder


Pros: Absolutely adorable little story with delightful illustrations
Cons: Nothing

The Bottom Line: If you want a cute story for your little one, this is perfect for fall...or heck, anytime!

David Ezra Stein does some great children's books. His illustrations range from downright quirky to "Awww!" inducing. I discovered Leaves last autumn. I kept peeking at it anytime I was at work because the cover was just so darned cute. A bear leaning over to take a look at a leaf on the ground. Finally I got the chance to read all the way through it.

It's a small book. A board book, to be precise, so the pages are nice and thick, perfect for small hands to grasp. Mom or dad can read the book to kids, and they can learn to read as they grow. The story is a simple one. A young bear is out and about one day when he sees a leaf flutter to the ground. He asks the leaf if it's okay, but of course the leaf doesn't respond. Soon, all the leaves are falling off the trees and the baffled bear doesn't know what to do about it. Finally, winter comes and the bear goes to hibernate in his little cave. When he wakes in spring, he discovers...what? All new leaves! Yay!

This book is absolutely adorable. I think Stein uses a mix of mostly watercolors and with one or maybe two mediums to do his illustrations. But he gets the colors perfect and I love his simple style. The bear...omigosh, the bear is so cute! Stein captures the seasons wonderfully. One of my particular favorites is when the bear is snoozing away in his burrow and outside on the snow, other animals bebop around, like birds who leave tracks and squirrels who dash about. Even though the illustrations are simple overall, he does make sure to pay attention to the details.

I don't have kids, but if I did I would buy this book in a heartbeat. Yay autumn and yay colorful leaves and little bears!

NT

Originally posted on Epinions.com

Notes from the playlist: "Dreams Don't Turn to Dust" by Owl City

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