Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Devil You Know by Mike Carey - Glad I Don't Know Any Devils

Pros: Ghosts, demons, were-creatures, and a tin whistle.
Cons: A few spots could be cleaned up a little (extra scenes, disjointedness)

The Bottom Line: Apart for the bit of tongue lashing I gave this, it was interesting and entertaining - exactly what I needed.

Mike Carey’s The Devil You Know was right in front of me at work when I was at the Customer Service desk one day. I ended up reading the summary and finding myself rather intrigued. And when was the last time I’d read about ghosts and demons and stuff running around the streets of London? Hmm, never. Or at least, not remotely lately. Though I do find it interesting that this will be the second book with the setting placed somewhere in the Great Britain region (the other being In the Woods, in Ireland).

Anyway, the gist is that Felix Castor is an exorcist. Not “the power of Christ compels you!” kind, but rather a sort of “I see dead people” + pied piper kind. He’s been on leave for a while, but then a job comes his way he can’t say no to. And now instead of a quick ghost-cleansing of the place, he’s found there’s more to things than he thought and it could get him killed if he’s not careful.

Sounds riveting, doesn’t it? See, my problem lately seems to be that either I expect too much, or when I read titles and book blurbs, I get certain ideas into my head that I believe the book will include. Before I rant, there are plenty of good things to say about this book. Felix is a guy you’d like to chat with over drinks, and not always about ghosts either. You give two cents what happens to this guy, and you like his girl buddy, Pen, as well. Likewise, you get interested with the other characters that get involved (well, most of them).

Carey has some great ways of describing things; some that just made me chuckle and think to myself, “That was awesome.” You can see a lot of things fairly quickly – he gives you just enough description so you can make your own image without dousing you with too much detail that can hamper it. And I really enjoy what he did with the whole ghost, zombie, were-being concept. He put some twists on it I’d never thought of before and I’ve never seen either, such as how were-beings come into existence or what zombies are. Many kudos to that because by now, all that supernatural stuff has been beaten to death so much, it’s difficult to twist it into something new and original. Carey manages to do it with style. Oh, and I loved the inclusion of the succubus. High five Mike. Likewise, the method he gave Felix for removing ghosts is very intriguing, my particular favorite phrase was, in regards to where ghosts go when he’s done, “Wherever music goes when it’s not being played.”

While the book is paranormal and mystery-laden fun, there are some troubles with Carey’s delivery and a few scenes. There were a few times where Felix makes connections that I don’t understand how he made them in the first place. Did I gloss over it somehow? Or was it just never really fleshed out? How did Felix know to steal a computer? Especially when he appeared to fail to make a connection that I’d made several pages ago. As for scenes, there were a few that either seemed unnecessary or the way Carey began his chapter threw me off. They always tell us writers (as we work toward the published world) that it’s a very good idea to establish the scene ASAP; who’s there and where “there” is. At least twice I was thinking, “What the heck? Where am I? What’s going on?” at the start of chapters, and several other times a scene would occur and I was left sitting there, paused, wondering just why that had occurred. What function did that scene serve? I can think of two specific ones that have absolutely no attachment to the rest of the book.

For example, at one point Felix’s brother pops up. A.) I never knew he had a brother. He’d mentioned a sister, but never a brother. B.) the guy was there all of maybe 5-10 minutes and did nothing that I don’t think Carey could have made Felix’s friend Pen do to help. I saw no point to it, nor did I see any point to it once I’d finished the book. There were also a few times when things seemed a bit disjointed, which mostly occurs at the front when Felix has explanatory flashback moments, such as how his buddy Rafi became possessed. And I really would have liked it if he made it much clearer earlier on who was dead in a scene and who was not. I finally got annoyed at one point.

While there were plenty of paranormal things wandering around, I was slightly disappointed in the claim I’d read on the book, "But what should have been a perfectly straightforward exorcism is rapidly turning into the Who Can Kill Castor First Show, with demons and ghosts all keen to claim the big prize." Okay, that is a flat out lie. Because of that, I went into this thinking something major was going down and all sorts of crap would come out of the woodwork on their own time to try and kill him (even the warning Felix gets from Rafi made it sound like that). Instead, I can think of three separate beings making intentional attempts on his life, a demon, a human, and a were-creature. And these were few and far between – nothing like what I’d expected. Just so you’ve been warned.

Still, it kept me interested, wasn’t a waste of my time, and was fun running around London with Felix with ghosts and demons hanging around, with all sorts of British references to stuff I did or didn’t know about, and even giggled a little when a Burger King suddenly popped up. And yes, this was originally published in London because Carey is, duh, English.


Originally published on

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Dear George Clooney Please Marry My Mom by Susin Nielson - Pamplemousse!

Pros: Hilarious and touching
Cons: Nothing

The Bottom Line: Pamplemousse. Don't worry. There's a reason behind that.

There are some books that you simply have to read the moment you see them. They just sit right at the top of your "To Read" list. That's precisely what happened with this book. I spotted it in the young reader's section and immediately pulled it off the shelf to see what it was about. A few snickers later, I knew I had to read it.

Violet's parents are divorced. She and her little sister are flown from L.A. to Vancouver for special occasions, and Violet's never quite forgiven her father for leaving their mother for some hot babe with bigger boobs. To make matters worse, her mom is now dating pretty much every loser in the history of loserdom. The latest? A guy named Dudley Wiener. Ugh. So she's got a plan: get George Clooney to marry her mom. Her best friend is in on it - and maybe even that really cute boy in her class that Violet keeps bumping into. Of course, nothing ever really goes according to plan in life, does it?

Violet, as a protagonist, is a blast. In fact, this whole book was a blast. I stayed up until 12 in the morning to finish it, it was so much fun. Violet gets herself into all sorts of situations, and I have to say that she's the kind of girl I would love to be friends with. Hanging out with her could easily mean some great stories for when I'm older. She's a very headstrong girl who has her moments of immaturity that even her best friend acknowledges. She's not a perfect person, and has issues to deal with that many kids may also be able to relate to. The book jumps right into these problems, such as divorce, dealing with a new family which includes new siblings, dating parents, and more. However, Nielson does it so skillfully, you can see it, yet it's not just blatantly out there. Kids might not notice it (but you never know), but as an adult I thought, "This could be good for kids who have to deal with this sort of thing." Not only does Violet find herself trying to sort out her parents' life, but has to deal with bullies, protect her little sister, handle her friendship, and figure out what to do when the really cute boy starts talking to her.

Especially after blurting out pamplemousse to him. I really want to tell you what that's about because it was just so darned cute, but I want you to read the book and find out for yourself.

Violet is a very human protagonist with her faults, but she's still a whole lot of fun. I loved Nielson's style of writing (done in first person) and everything that went down in this book. Let face it: I loved everything about this book. To add to that, I was giggling about a multitude of things long after I'd finally finished it. I didn't stop there. I emailed Susin to see if she'd sent a copy to George Clooney (and am proud to say I'm the catalyst that made it happen. Yay!), and I kept sneaking the book up to the Customer Services desk to showcase to everyone who walked up there. I'd like to add that I don't handsell a lot of books. During my entire near-3 year time working at B&N, there has only been one other title I've actively sought to get people to buy. Now I'm trying to find ways of getting this little nugget of joy into people's hands.

Six stars. Buy it and have a blast. That includes you too, George Clooney.


Originally posted on

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Goblin King - No, Not Jareth

Pros: Some fun ideas
Cons: Could have been so much better...

The Bottom Line: I wanted a good romance book for some fun, fluff reading.  ...Meh.

I keep finding books at work that I want to read, despite the fact that I have a truckload of books on my To Be Read list.  (I swear, one more random book, then I’ll hit the list.  Promise).  And I admit, I’m one of those silly girls who was a sucker for the movie Labyrinth and who likes fairytale stories.  So when I saw The Goblin King on the cart, I couldn’t just ignore it.  Besides, I’d been feeling romancey so I figured, why not?

Roan is a Celtic king (aren’t they always).  At least, he was until a druid cursed him and his men.  Now he has a gold heart and lives in the Shadowlands.  Slowly but surely, they’re fading into goblins, creatures with goldlust in their hearts and no souls to speak of.  So when Eliza, a girl who once called for his help, calls again, he goes to her.  But she’s a grown woman now who knows what she wants.  It may be that Eliza will be able to save him – or push him into the world of goblins forever.

Sounds like fun, right?  It was, a little, but overall I was getting impatient.  I didn’t ever really get a sense of connection with Eliza, and the two threats within the book weren’t very threatening.  At all.  Eliza had to worry about her corrupt fiancĂ©e Steve, but I kept waiting for him to become abusive…but he didn’t.  In which case I finally realized Eliza was a little stupid.  The druid threatening Roan and his men just sort of lurked around, occasionally popping up.  It was mentioned why he cursed them, why he was there, and so forth, but his overall motivation was weak, especially after so many years.  And when he finally did attack Eliza, it was like no one understood how he did it since he wasn’t supposed to be able to do a lot of things.  It was as though the author painted herself into a corner and managed to just squeak out of it because – I assumed – the druid used magic they didn’t know he could do.  Likewise, he was defeated way too easily.

The romance between Eliza and Roan wasn’t very convincing either.  There was no real buildup.  No sense of attraction between the two other than “she’s hot, he’s hot” thing.  Sure, we do get the occasional “Eliza’s got that fiery spirit in her eyes” thing and the “Oh Roan’s such a sensitive guy” bit, but overall they knew essentially nothing about each other and just jumped into bed yippee-skippy.  Heck, near the end of the story, even Eliza admits to herself that she knows virtually nothing about the guy.

(Oh, and by the way, why was Roan’s brother such a jerk?  That reasoning didn’t seem to make sense either.)

I’ll give Shona Husk points for the whole goblin bit, how Roan looks like a goblin in our world and you knew that Eliza would have to get over that bit in a Beauty and the Beast type way for everyone to live happily ever after.  In the general fairytale sense, it was nice, but I still think there’s room for a lot of improvement.  Things could have been added, a lot of the angsty stuff could be removed because it got repetitive, there were some areas that tended to contradict one another, there were occasional point of view shifts right in the middle of a section without a break, and I ran across three typos.

It’s not bad, but I was hoping for a lot more.  There’s to be a second book coming out featuring Roan’s brother Dai, but I don’t think I’ll be reading it.

My recommendation here is a weak one.  I offer that because I know there are people out there who will enjoy this a lot more than I did.


Originally posted on

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Book of Even More Awesome - Awesomeness

Pros: More awesome things.
Cons: Read sparingly or the writing style will drive you nuts
The Bottom Line: Need a reason to perk up? Read a few pages from the book o'awesomeness.

It’s hard to ignore a book when it’s called The Book of Awesome.  I enjoyed that one, so when I saw that there was a second book I went ahead and read it.  After all, it’s a book full of little things that are simply awesome.  What have you got to lose from that?

This is the next installment – The Book of Even More Awesome.  And that’s really all it is.  Each few pages discusses something that’s awesome in this world.  Those little things in life that make us happy.  Like what, you may ask?  How about a few of the following to make you smile:

Coming back to your own bed after a long trip.  Oh, how I can relate to this.  Especially after a camping trip.  I love camping, but the idea of a soft, warm bed with a big cushy pillow?  Oh yeah, it’s like coming back to a little slice of heaven.  Helps you appreciate just how good you’ve got it, too.

Sneaking cheaper candy into the movie theater.  Hey, why spend $3 when you can spend $0.75?

Stomping dry, crunchy leaves on the sidewalk.  I still totally do this.  Which is why it’s such a disappointment when a leave masquerades as crunchy only to go “pleh” when you stomp it.  But those crunchy ones…ooh.  It’s like running through a bag of chips.

Finally getting that tiny piece of popcorn out of your teeth.  Oh sweet lord, I had that happen yesterday.  Ohyeah.  Sweet relief.

And one more because oh yes baby, it is indeed awesome:

When it feels like the lyrics of the song you’re listening to were written just for you.  Haha.  Actually for me it’s not so much that they were written for me, but more like God made sure that song played so I could hear it because it matched my mood.  I always laugh and shout, “YES!”

This is only a snippet of what this book has to offer you.  It’s fun and a good read, though I do recommend reading it in snippets.  Perhaps a few pages before going to bed or after waking up for the day?  Once again there are randomly bolded words and phrases (still have no idea why).  But the reason I recommend this book in small doses is because of the way it’s written.  The style is extremely repetitive and reading it in larger chunks actually started to drive my inner editor crazy.  I keep wondering how the agent/editor didn’t pick up on this (maybe they didn’t think it mattered?).

But the style is basically, “So do this, say that, and la-de-da.”  Triple action sentences.  Done in an almost lyrical way in how they read – possibly because there are so many of them.  I mean, almost every page there was a sentence like that, if not more than one.  Here’s a clearer example, “Just lock that door, shutter those blinds, and crank the bumping music.”  Action, action, and action.  It just became too much.  Not so awesome.

Aside from that, it’s a book full of delightful things (some of which may not apply to you, but you can see how they’d be awesome to others) that can help perk up your day – especially if you encounter that particular awesome something later on.


Originally posted on

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Whoops! I completely forgot to mention this. Last month I reviewed Stephanie Garber's amazing book Caraval for the web blog I curre...