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Saturday, January 30, 2016

REVIEW: The Drafter by Kim Harrison

The Drafter isnhe first in an all new series by author, Kim Harrison, best know for her Hollows series. Peri Reed is a drafter, a gifted individual who has the ability to "draft" and alter time. But with every gift there is a price.  She is destined to forget both the history she changed and the history she rewrote.  Enter her anchor, Jack, tasked with piecing together her fragmented memories.  Set in 2030 Detroit, Peri is a formidable agent for government agency, Opti.  Together they uncover a list of corrupt operatives, but when Peri learns that her name is on the list, she quickly realizes that all she knows is a lie including her relationship with Jack.

Time alteration is always dicey.  The Drafter weaves a complicated web for not only Peri but its readers.  We discover that Peri is a sleeper agent, working for the Alliance to bring down Opti and that the plan was hatched some five years before. Unfortunately, she's been scrubbed so many times it is unclear where the truth lies. Enter key players from Peri's past, Silas and Allen, who each claim to have her best interest in mind but equally different ways of achieving these goals.

I cannot recommend enough that readers should start with "Sideswiped", the prequel story that provides an introduction to these characters and a profound insight into why Silas in the way he is.  I enjoyed the book but do not think I would have as much if I hadn't read this story first.  Knowing what I know about Silas now better informed me as to his actions, his relationship with others and the revelations at the end of this novel.

One criticism is the somewhat fragmented feel to the storytelling. However, given that this is the same feeling for Peri, the writing style and pacing makes sense.  I'm intrigued by the characters and want to explore how the series develops over time.  At this point, I don't love it as much as the Hollows and I certainly miss Rachel, Ivy and Jenks but there is potential here and I like that it is a departure from what Harrison has previously written.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @BurningBunnies

#audiobook #futuristic #PeriReedChronicles #TheDrafter #thriller #mystery #books

Thursday, January 28, 2016

REVIEW: Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs

*Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a review*

Expected publication: March 8, 2016

In Fire Touched, Briggs' 9th book in the Mercy Thompson series, fae and human tensions are at an all time high.  When Mercy, her husband Adam and the werewolf pack are tasked with stopping a rampaging troll, they discover some lost friends and a powerful new stranger, Aiden (a centuries old human stuck in a child's body), whose time spent in Underhill has left him fire touched. The fae want nothing more than to reacquire Aiden to suit their own purposes; however, Mercy offers him protection in their territory, which complicates an already tricky situation.

Fire Touched is very much a political novel.  Mercy, Adam and the pack have to navigate some precarious situations.  The pack animosity against Mercy finally comes to a head with Adam laying down martial law. This declaration seems to help ease tensions on one front; however, Mercy's pledge of safe haven to Aiden leads to some expected but harsh punishment from the Marrok.  Now declared a rogue pack, the group is thrust into the public eye, is high on the government's radar and must navigate a slippery slope to keep their home safe.

This is an exciting book with plenty of action.  The troll rampage on the bridge is brilliant! Aiden is rather creepy but I like the development happening as he interacts with Mercy and her family. It was great to see Zee and Tad back as well. The fae always make for interesting villains and I just adore Baba Yaga.  While there might be a truce for now, I can see Briggs shifting the series for a new arc of storytelling since the pack is still on its own and their territory is now a supposedly neutral zone for the fae and other supernaturals.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @Mercys_Garage

#FireTouched #MercyThompson #urbanfantasy #supernatural #books #whatimreading

REVIEW: Staked by Kevin Hearne

*Thanks Netgalley for the ARC!*

Staked is the 8th installment in Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles. After 2,000 years, Atticus has made more than a few enemies, especially vampire ones. Even Leif, his former friend and legal counsel turned out to be a backstabber. Now the vampires, led by ancient Theophilus, have become a major problem and it's time for Atticus to kick some vampire butt. It would be great to have some backup, but Atticus' Druid allies have some legit troubles of their own.

Still marked by Loki, Granuaile must venture to attain divination cloaking measures, which leads her on several harrowing quests and more than a little soul searching. Owen, in turn, has set up with camp with werewolf love, Greta, and her pack. He's set to begin training a group of new Druid initiatives but has some nasty trouble himself involving grudge bearing trolls and an unexpected attack with dire consequences influenced by Atticus' globetrotting antics against his vampire foes. When the gang does get back together it is definitely entertaining and action packed.

I loved this book! Readers won't be disappointed as Hearne once again expertly blends action, mythology and humor into a brilliantly written urban fantasy series. While most of Staked centers around the 'vampire problem', there is plenty of set up for the impending doom of Ragnarok and having to battle Loki plus more god and goddess shenanigans.  There are plenty of laughs, thrills, and a few bittersweet moments. 

On audio, Luke Daniels gives another stellar narrative performance. His characterization and voices bring this story to life. I know other drivers thought I was losing my mind when stopped at red lights since tears were streaming down my face. I love Oberon so much! If you want to have some fun, follow the characters on Twitter: @IrishOberan @ArchdruidOwen 

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @KevinHearne

#audiobook #Staked #IronDruidChronicles #humor #urbanfantasy #Celtic #books

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

REVIEW: Deep Dark Fears

Deep Dark Fears is a humorous and at times, creepy, collection of 100 comics illustrated by Fran Krause and based off of fears submitted by readers and a few of his own.  These fears run the spectrum from the plausible to the wholeheartedly ridiculous.

I thought this was hilarious and all too true of some of my deep and darkest fears.  What I can conclude is that people are weird.  Sadly, I'm weird too since even some of the creepy, silly, realistic, and/or implausible scenarios might have crossed my mind at one point or another.

The fears themselves are interesting and memorable; however, Krause's illustrations vividly bring these fears to life.  I recommend this to graphic novel fans but also readers who enjoy humorous adult nonfiction that is unique and quirky.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow Fran Krause on Twitter: @deepdarkfears

#Fears #GraphicNovel #Humor #DeepDarkFears #nonfiction #bookreview #whatimreading

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

REVIEW: Don't Eat the Glowing Bananas by David D. Hammons

*Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a review*

In the post-apocalyptic wasteland of what was once the United States of America, all Hank Rosetta wants is to experience 5 star dining and find the answer to why the bombs were dropped, thus ending the world as we knew it. Sure, he'd also settle for not being eaten by cannibals or attacked by any other sort of radioactive mutant.

His quest for knowledge leads him to New Dallas where his hopes for answers just might be found.  Too bad the tyrannical dictator claiming to know the truth isn't exactly trustworthy. Hank finds allies in some unlikely candidates, namely Lewis, a regenerating, tentacle armed mutant and a Zoe, a katana-wielding assassin hellbent on revenge.  This trio has some hilarious adventures battling against pirates, dancing zombies, and more.

When I saw this book cover, title and description, I knew that it was one I just had to read.  It's unique and has the kind of humor where you bust out laughing.  I liked the great message regarding the state of the world and how easily it could all go awry as well as the commentary on why it's important to have and uphold the quest for knowledge.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @DavidDHammons

#DontEatTheGlowingBananas #Humor #Apocalypse #FoodCritique #Netgalley

Sunday, January 10, 2016

REVIEW: Double Fudge Brownie Murder by Joanne Fluke

Double Fudge Brownie Murder is the 18th book in Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen series. The book begins with a wedding--Hannah and her sisters travel to Las Vegas to watch their mother wed long time beau, Doc. A surprise guest is Doc's best man, Hannah's college sweetie, Ross. Their romance is rekindled and when the possibility of Ross moving back to Laken Eden permanently becomes a reality, Hannah's love life gets spicey. 

Leave it to Hannah to get wrapped up in another murder investigation in the least likely place.  Her anxieties are high as her trial stemming from events in Blackberry Cobbler Murder nears.  While at the courthouse, someone murders the judge with his own gavel and Hannah finds the body. With her own case dismissed, Hannah is determined to figure out who the killer is. Of course she has to bake some tasty treats too!

Overall, this was a good entry to the series. There was certainly more to the story with the wedding, introduction of Ross and the courthouse murder.  I'm pretty intrigued about the next book since Hannah has decided to accept one of her proposals and a wedding is imminent. This book once again features a nice selection of delicious sounding recipes.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

#CozyMystery #Recipes #Humor #HannahSwensen #DoubleFudgeBrownieMurder #JoanneFluke

Saturday, January 9, 2016

REVIEW: Adulthood Is a Myth by Sarah Andersen

Adulthood Is a Myth is a fantastically hilarious collection of comics by Sarah Andersen chronicling the all too real ups and downs of "adulting." While I may now be firmly in my 30s, I can relate to so many of these images and had to control my laughter when any particular page hit too close to home. Andersen addresses so many key themes including relationships, work, fashion and much more.

I'd definitely recommend this to fans of Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh or if you've read either Let's Pretend This Never Happened or Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson.

Here are a few of my favorite pages:

This definitely applies to myself and pretty much every other bookworm that I know!
This is me in any season! Who wants an actual social life when you can go home and get in your pjs!?!

I swear this was me last night. Just one more chapter!

Final rating: 4 out of  5 stars

Follow Anderson on Twitter: @SarahCAnderson

#adulting #graphicnovel #humor #life #netgalley

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

REVIEW: "Sideswiped" by Kim Harrison

"Sideswiped" is the prequel short story to Kim Harrison's new series The Peri Reed Chronicles, a futuristic, yet urban fantasy, take on government agency operatives and time travel. Told from the perspective of Silas--brilliantly gifted with technology and science, he dreams of a career as an anchor, which would give him a future with lady-love Summer, a drafter.

A chance encounter brings new student Peri Reed into their lives.When Silas, Summer and their friends fail their final test before graduation, they enlist Peri's help to pull off a plan to change their fate.  Of course, the outcome differs vastly from what they'd hoped and further twisting of time leds to traumatic results.

I really enjoyed this glimpse into a new literary world from Harrison. Time travel books can be a bit dodgey but I think this spin on it sounds interesting.  The characters are engaging and readers get just enough insight to imagine that there will be some fallout based on the ending of this story and what is bound to come in The Drafter. I want to know more about Silas and Peri certainly seems sassy with an interesting backstory.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @BurningBunnies

#Sideswiped #TheDrafter #TimeTravel #Futuristic #Books #whatimreading

REVIEW: Wytches Vol. 1 by Scott Snyder

Wytches is a dark and pretty horrifyingly creepy graphic novel exploring an alternate mythology of witches.  The Rooks family has moved to Litchfield for a fresh start following an accident which left mother, Lucy, paralyzed and the mysterious disappearance of teen daughter, Sailor's bullying nemisis, Annie. However, evil waits in the woods and has more in store for this family. The story provides a unique look at the origins of witches and touches on interesting themes regarding the darker aspects of the human psyche.

I was expecting this to be dark and scary but maybe not quite this much.  The story is intricate and compelling on its own but the graphic novel format with these truly haunting and altogether grisly images pack a punch that is decidedly more terrifying than just the well crafted, written words of many notable horror novelists (i.e. King, Koontz, Maberry). I needed to sleep with the lights on and have a comforting hug when I put this down.

The teaser to the next volume has me intrigued and I will certainly read on--except in daylight, with a blankie.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

#Wytches #GraphicNovel #Horror #ScottSnyder

Monday, January 4, 2016

Marvel's Agent Carter - Season 1

I just finished binge watching the first season on Marvel's Agent Carter. I admit I didn't love the first Captain America film, but a highlight for me was Peggy Carter as portrayed by Hayley Atwell.  I missed the debut of the series this past year and definitely wanted to catch up before the next season starts in mid-January.

The 1940s is probably one of my favorite fashion and influential decades.  This show doesn't disappoint with its depiction of New York City nor the stylization of the characters and the sets.  I adored Atwell's wardrobe--the rich colors, strong lines and fantastic fabrics. The cast as a whole looks superb throughout. Seriously, I NEED THAT RED FEDORA!

As a whole, the storytelling arc is solid if a bit stereotypical of the time period with villains portrayed as German or Russian. These depictions grow rather tiresome quickly; however, I do believe that the show's creators are making a point regarding the era. Furthermore, the stylization and treatment of such characters is meant to juxtapose the diversity that can be present in contemporary storytelling.

Watching this first season made me wish I was still in graduate school.  There is so much to discuss from a Women's Studies perspective. Peggy Carter is very much a woman trapped in a man's world. She's routinely underestimated and all but discounted except for how quickly she can pick up the lunch order. The men she works with are chauvinistic and incredibly annoying, but that's the point. She's the one off saving the world while they stand oblivious and think Carter is a helpless female merely biding her time until she marries and goes off to have a slew of kids. I enjoyed Jarvis as a character and Howard Stark too because they do not underestimate her.

Then there's Dot the evil Russian assassin.  She's another female character that begs for deep analysis and the written word. I had to wonder if she's not the predecessor of the Black Widow? I need to look up references in my Marvel encyclopedia. I enjoyed the fight scenes between these two and hope we get more.

Overall, I liked how this season fits within the other entries to the Marvel universe. There's just enough connection to Captain America to give the show some stability; however, Atwell's poise and charisma ensure that the series stands on its own.  Carter's character grows remarkably during these episodes

@AgentCarterTV #AgentCarter #HayleyAtwell #Marvel #Feminism #TV

REVIEW: Midnight Marked by Chloe Neill

*I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a review*

Expected publication: March 1, 2016

Merit is back as Sentinel to Chicagoland's Cadogan vampires, charged with protecting the House and its Master aka her beloved, Ethan. What begins as a fun night out on a double date with Catcher and Mallory soon turns deadly when a shifter is killed by an unknown Rogue vampire.  Further investigation links use of alchemist magic to the Circle, led by Adrian Reed, the gang's new nemesis. Along the way, Merit and crew hit a few snags including some relationship tensions and the discovery of someone from Merit's past.

Fan of the series will still enjoy this latest installment. The story and characters remain engaging.  I always appreciate Neill's attention to detail and ability to weave humor into even the most intense situations. Ethan and Merit are a great book couple. Not only do they make a good team, they have their setbacks but prevail over professional and personal challenges.

One drawback for me was the pacing. I felt as if the narrative lagged a bit in the middle. Reed has the potential to be a memorable villain; however, I expected more from him following the events in the last book. I was a little let down by the ending but Sorcha intrigued me and I bet readers haven't seen the last of her.

Overall, Midnight Marked is a solid entry in the Chicagoland Vampires series.  The highlight was definitely the ending. No specific spoilers but fans will be happy to know that one certain long promised event finally takes place. I look forward to the next book later in 2016.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @chloeneill

#MidnightMarked #ChicagolandVampires #ChloeNeill #magic #mystery #supernatural #romance

Saturday, January 2, 2016

REVIEW: Dating the Undead

Dating the Undead is a fantastically done parody magazine by Gena Showalter and Jill Monroe. Reading like a magazine, complete with advertisements, this is a truly unique guide to loving an immortal man whether he's a bit un-dead, furry, feathery or fiery.

I'm a huge fan of multi-genre formats and this certainly fits the creative bill. I adore the Cosmo-esque, fashion magazine format.  It is hilarious but also well done.  I can't imagine all the hard work that went into layout and editing.

For Showalter fans, there are snippets to the Lord of the Underworld series, so if you love those dreamy, yet badass guys, check this out if you haven't already.

This read left me wanting to get up on Showalter's series and with a strong desire to much on some Doritos.  I think my favorite part was the Immorstrology.  Apparently, my dream guy is could be a vampire, werewolf or a dragon!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

#DatingTheUndead #parody #humor #GenaShowalter #LordsOfTheUnderworld #romance #supernatural

Friday, January 1, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016

There are two reading challenges I'm going to tackle this year.  The first is the Popsugar 2016 Challenge.  Here's what I hope to accomplish:

  1. A book based on a fairy tale - Stars Above by Marissa Meyer
  2. A National Book Award winner - What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
  3. A YA bestseller - Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  4. A book you haven’t read since high school - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  5. A book set in your home state - The Last Star by Rick Yancey
  6. A book translated to English -  Night by Elie Wiesel
  7. A romance set in the future - Dead of Winter by Kresley Cole
  8. A book set in Europe - Rook by Sharon Cameron
  9. A book that’s under 150 pages - Beware the Kitten Holy (Lumberjanes #1-4) by Noelle Stevenson
  10. A New York Times bestseller - After Alice by Gregory Maguire
  11. A book that’s becoming a movie this year - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by JK Rowling
  12. A book recommended by someone you just met - Infinite In Between by Carolyn Mackler
  13. A self-improvement book - Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson
  14. A book you can finish in a day - Dating the Undead by Gena Showalter
  15. A book written by a celebrity - Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson
  16. A political memoir-  I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert
  17. A book at least 100 years older than you - Dracula by Bram Stoker
  18. A book that’s more than 600 pages - Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
  19. A book from Oprah’s Book Club - The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
  20. A science-fiction novel(s) - This Shattered World, Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman
  21. A book recommended by a family member - Die Trying by Lee Child
  22. A graphic novel - Wytches by Scott Snyder
  23. A book that is published in 2016 - Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina
  24. A book with a protagonist who has your occupation - Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs by Molly Harper
  25. A book that takes place during Summer - We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  26. A book and its prequel - Roar & Liv, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
  27. A murder mystery - Double Fudge Brownie Murder by Joanne Fluke
  28. A book written by a comedian - Men Are Stupid...And They Like Big Boobs by Joan Rivers
  29. A dystopian novel - Ruins by Dan Wells
  30. A book with a blue cover - Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi
  31. A book of poetry - Triangles by Ellen Hopkins
  32. The first book you see in a bookstore - Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  33. A classic from the 20th century - The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien
  34. A book from the library - Iron Warrior by Julie Kagawa
  35. An autobiography - You’re Never Weird on the Internet by Felicia Day
  36. A book about a road trip - I Was Here by Gayle Forman
  37. A book about a culture you’re unfamiliar with - I am Malala : The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was  Shot By the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
  38. A satirical book - The Annotated Alice (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) by Lewis Carroll
  39. A book that takes place on an island - Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  40. A book that’s guaranteed to bring you joy - Don't Eat the Glowing Bananas by David D. Hammons

1.   Read a horror book – Bad Moon Rising by Jonathan Maberry
2.   Read a nonfiction book about science – Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steven Sheinkin
3.   Read a collection of essays – Undead TV: Essays on Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Elana Levine
4.   Read a book out loud to someone else – Let's Say Hi to Friends Who Fly by Mo Willems
5.   Read a middle grade novel – Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan
6.   Read a biography (not memoir or autobiography) - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
7.   Read a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel – Blood Red Road by Moira Young
8.   Read a book originally published in the decade you were born - Christine by Stephen King
9.   Listen to an audiobook that has won an Audie Award – Yes Please by Amy Poehler
10. Read a book over 500 pages long – The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon
11.  Read a book under 100 pages – The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
12.  Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender – Luna by Julie Anne Peters
13.  Read a book that is set in the Middle East – And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
14.  Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia – Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
15.  Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900 – A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
16.  Read the first book in a series by a person of color – Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper
17. Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years – Trillium by Jeff Lemire
18. Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie – A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
19.  Read a nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
20.  Read a book about religion (fiction or nonfiction) – Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini
21.  Read a book about politics, in your country or another (fiction or nonfiction) – In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
22.  Read a food memoir – Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, Her Job and Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living by Julie Powell
23.  Read a play – The Tempest by William Shakespeare
24.  Read a book with a main character that has a mental illness – Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

#2016 #ReadingChallenge #Popsugar #BookRiot #Goals

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I just got home from seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens!  I felt like I was the last person in our galaxy to see it but I finally made it.  I loved it! It was fun and exciting. I loved the storytelling, especially how the ability to blend the old with the new. Great effects and some heartache make for a fantastic film!

While I have seen all the other films (yes, the dreadful prequels, sorry if you loved them, they just aren't that good and the originals (o: ), I'm not an uber Star Wars fan like others I know. I think they're great--gotta love those characters and the mythology that's become a pop culture phenomenon but if you know me, you know that my fandom lies in other realms.

I adored the nostalgia of certain themes, scenes, and characters.  It was great to see some of my favorites again. I'll always be a sucker for Han Solo, Chewy and my absolute fav, C3PO.  I really loved the new characters like Finn and especially Rey. BB-8 almost stole the show - pretty entertaining with just robotic head tilts and beeping but I do love a good droid!

All of these people certainly have dysfunctional families!  Good stuff here to build on for the 2017 film.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

#StarWars #TheForceAwakens #movie #review #NewYears