Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hounded (I'll hound you Atticus O'Sullivan - review)

4/5 Stars

I have a confession: I always get confused when classifying books as urban fantasy or paranormal. I know what people SAY the differences are. The thing is, I don't quite believe them. I think these genres share more common ground than differences. I see where a lot of people say "paranormal romance" rather than just "paranormal." But a lot of my favorite books toe the line (Hex Hall and Hold Me Closer, Necromancer for example).

Whatever genre you want to call those two books (they're popularly shelved as both on goodreads) that's also where Hounded by Kevin Hearne belongs. If you know my reading habits at all, you can already guess that I loved this book. You don't get a Hex Hall reference lightly in Cassi-land.

It's got humor, spunk and a sexy-as-hell 2,100 year old Druid named Atticus as a main character. It's everything that I like about Hex Hall and Necromancer, but a little more grown up. Atticus has the wisdom of a man who's lived a long life with a modern sense of humor. The book has a good mix pop culture blended with history and archaic phrasing that befits an ancient druid making his way in the modern world.

Hounded has one of the most interesting blends of mythology I've ever seen. It's a mish-mash of EVERYTHING. Normally that's not done. Authors pick a mythology and stick with it. But why not? This book is not trying to be a brilliant treatise on how to live life. It's FUN and a little bit frothy, but well done. I'm getting tired of books that take themselves too seriously. Lately it seems like authors have been hearing my complaints (Okay I know that's not how it works! I don't have illusions of grandeur) and there's a new class of books that are a little bit urban fantasy, a little bit paranormal and a whole lot of fun.

Want a taste of the excellent voice in this novel? And it's irreverence & use of all religions?
Mary will appear more often, though, and she can do some pretty awesome stuff if she feels like it. Mostly she sits around looking beatific and full of grace. Keeps calling me 'child,' even though I'm older than she is."
Aside from having a kick-ass Druid as the main character, he has one of the best sidekicks ever. I'm a sucker for a talking pet. Oberon, his pet wolfhound, is pure comedy. Oberon and Atticus have a mental connection that allows for some pretty hilarious commentary. Atticus's devotion to his dog might be his most swoonworthy trait. Then again I am a dog person.
< She's kind of like a Mary Poppins just before she turns to the dark side > Oberon said. He was still behind the counter, but he had a good look at her as she exited. < Let go of your anger, Malina! There's still good in you! The Emperor hasn't driven it from you fully! >
There is no romance in this book. I know, right? That's also not normally done, especially not with a main character as sexy as Atticus (did I mention he's posing as a 21 year old Irish man?). But it's a nice change. I expect they'll be some romance as the series advances but it was nice to have a book with no romantic entanglements and no love triangles.

This book is different in a good way. It's gender-neutral, with sword fighting, magic, almost every paranormal creature imaginable and did I mention the AMAZING dog?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Yes I've been quiet...

So I've been quiet lately and you might be wondering where I've been (or you might not have noticed at all. Either way is good with me). Work has been super busy and I got into a fiction writing mood. I've been editing and adding scenes to what I refer to as last years pre-Nano. That is, a story that hit me a month before NanoWriMo last year and needed
to be written ASAP. So I wrote a Sept/Oct novel last year then my November Nano. Yes sometimes I'm a crazy person but that's part of my charm.

There was a super secret knitting project (aka Yarnbombing)
Only it didn't happen because my partner in crime got busy.
So I spent some unnecessary time knitting cheap yarn. Le sigh.

Teaching Troop Camp Training at Cumberland Falls
This involves lots of prep & is exhausting.
It was also like 34 degrees & really cold.

At the beginning of troop camp training I had a slight cold.
By the end I had a HORRIBLE cold & could not really function.
Which led to the best waste of time EVER....

When I was sick I wasn't very productive.
However I did discover that I actually LIKE a vampire story.
This picture is only somewhat gratuitous. It's from The Vampire Diaries.

Today I had an event at this beautiful place called Homeplace.
I feel in love with this tree. It's SOO cool.
Anyone know what it is? Or whats the deal with the knobby roots?

Another picture to show you the size.

Stopped at Levi Jackson State Park on way back.
(This is where I walk every day, be jealous)

Oh Fall. I love thee. The world is just so vibrant.

Soon this will eat my soul. Just giving you a heads up.
I still plan to blog but you know how plans go.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Under the Mesquite (review)

4/5 Stars

So I'm going to tell you a secret. Back in middle school/early high school I used to write bad poetry. Then one day I had an epiphany that I was writing mopey teen poetry and stopped. Then I went through a phase where I decided that I didn't like or understand poetry. Until senior year of college when I took a literature course. We studied poetry and I discovered that I do in fact like some poetry (mopey teenagers need not apply.)

So I'm still on shaky ground with poetry. I love "Do not go gentle into that good night" BUT I'm iffy when it comes to most new poems. Books written in verse make me EVEN MORE NERVOUS. I blame the indecent amounts of Wordsworth I had to read for a class during college. (During which my brain spazzed and was like novel length poem, I GET IT YOU LIKE NATURE).

For a book written in verse to work there has to be a damn good reason for the stylistic choice. For Under the Mesquite it worked. The book is driven by emotion. The writing is not overdone, at times even sparse and always poignant. It's the story of a girl growing up as her mother slowly succumbs to cancer. It's heartbreaking, but not in a cheap way. Rather than focus on the details of the disease, the reader experiences what Lupita feels throughout her mother's sickness. Somehow the verse gives the emotion room to breathe.

The emotions about growing up, sickness, family and loss ring so true. Because the verse is so genuine and natural, I cannot imagine this story told any other way.
Here is one of my favorite passages:
For my sisters, senorita means
having someone to worship: it is
the wonder of seeing their older sister looking
like Cinderella on her way to the ball.
But for me, senorita means
melancolia: settling into sadness.
It is the end of wild laughter.
The end of chewing bubble gum
and giggling over nothing...

Stories involving cancer have been done, re-done and will continue to be done. I read those Lurlene McDaniel books back in middle school (aka all the teens die but HEY at least they fall in love first books). But this book felt different and refreshing. There is nothing trite about the the way this story is told.

It's not a long book but there's a lot of life and growing up between it's pages. It flits between spanish and english, Texas and Mexico, childhood and adulthood seamlessly. It's a beautiful little book that I'm glad I stumbled across.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Zombie Project (Boxcar children - I'm not joking)

Most of the time I choose books that sound good. Sometimes I buy books that sound so terrible that they arouse my curiosity.

When I saw The Zombie Project (Boxcar Children Mysteries #128) for sale on Amazon I thought "WTF are they doing to my childhood?" Then I bought it because I needed to know. I think it's impossible to really review this book. It's bad. Sometimes I feel like it's a joke. Then I find myself wondering "Were they always this bad & I just never realized?"

So here are some of the highlights from my brain spasms as I read this book.

How the heck are they still the same age?
Apparently the original author died in 1979. Which means these books were written BEFORE 1979. Benny is still 6. Henry is still 14. I don't feel like the other characters ages were discussed. And it's not set in the original time period because they make a point of mentioning blogs & digital video cameras. It's just jarring.

"Breakfast is pretty, too," said Benny.
Seriously this child is on the path to childhood obesity. I've never seen food mentioned more in a book. Almost everything that came out of Benny's mouth was food-related.
Things Benny talks about eating (that I remember): Pancakes, peach cobbler, smores, fish, candy
Quote of the book for me.
"Henry, do you have any money for snacks?" said Benny.
Henry laughed, "You just ate, Benny."
"I always have room for dessert," said Benny.
Seriously you don't need to describe everything Benny eats. Maybe the books were always this way. But at the moment childhood obesity is kind of a big deal so maybe you should chillax a little on the FEED ME NOW Benny school of thoughts.

I'm way too old & not innocent enough to be reading this book
"See these bushes?" said Violet. "They're all smashed down in one spot." Hmmm wonder what people were doing in those bushes? Yep thats my first thought. Not sure what's wrong with me.

Review-ish section
The mystery is pretty dumb. I tried to find a nicer way to say that. But when your mystery revolves around a charity golf-tournament and a "villain" who is foiled by not turning off the ringer on his cellphone I can't help but wonder why this book was written. Obviously it's ghost written (OOO unless Gertrude Chandler Warren is the zombie!). I imagine what happened was "Hey zombies are popular let's throw one into a Boxcar Children story" then rather than thinking better of this proposal they actually wrote it. And HEY it must've worked for them somewhat because I bought the ebook. But I bought it to laugh at, not because it sounded good. Is that really what we want the Boxcar children to become? Is destroying my childhood really worth a few bucks? This book just makes me sad inside. It's good for a laugh though. But be aware, I'm not laughing with it, I'm laughing at it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Anna Dressed in Blood (review)

4/5 Stars

When this book, with it's creepy and moody cover and equally creepy title, Anna Dressed in Blood, started popping up in my goodreads emails I didn't know what to think. I'm not a horror person. I don't usually read scary books or watch scary movies. Mainly because they never actually scare me and I always find myself asking "Really that's what your so afraid of?"

But I kept seeing glowing reviews. So I put my skepticism aside and decided to give it a chance.

I really need to stop being so judgmental about what I think I read. Because I loved Anna Dressed in Blood. Many of my friends say the book scared them. I'll be honest, it didn't scare me. But it didn't depend on cheap thrills or misleading bumps to up the fear factor. You don't have to be afraid to enjoy this book.

The story is well developed, centered around the sad mystery that is Anna Dressed in Blood. Yes she's a big bad ghost. Yes she kills people. But rather than running around screaming and dying like stupid people who run upstairs, not down, during horror movies, the majority of this book is spent on figuring out what made Anna such a powerful ghost. Which is a lot more interesting to me.

I pretty much like all of the characters in this book. Kendare Blake doesn't fall into the trap of making them stereotypes. Carmel--beautiful, blonde, queen bee--could have easily just been that. But she's given life beyond her type and by the end is a well developed character. Cas could've just been witty one-liner mysterious new guy. Anna could have just been a horror story. I think you get my point.

Anna actually becomes my favorite character. Nevermind that she been killing people for 50 years or that I should probably be scared of her. I find her fascinating. In case you didn't read the blurb on the front cover, there is some romance in this book. But it's not he love-at-first-sight crap that I hate in paranormals. It builds over time. Its lingering looks and butterflies in the stomach, all those wonderful things that make your first love so special and usually so tragic.

And let's net forget about Cas (who is actually the main character). He reminds me of Sam from Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. He's witty and a little bit lonely. His connection to the dead has created a barrier between him and the living. But he's not that pathetic loser type character. Fact is, he carries himself with enough confidence that he could have any of the pretty preppy girls he wanted. He just can't relate to them. They're pompoms and football games, he's killer of things that should've stayed dead. Even though he goes around killing ghosts, he doesn't think of himself as a hero. He's got a chip on his shoulder that's been following around since a big-bad-ghost killed his father and he's hoping slaying Anna will prove that he's ready to go after his father's murderer.

This story has just the right amount of twists and turns. What makes me REALLY happy is that the twists actually make sense. You're like "Okay I didn't see that coming but I totally believe it." Halfway through, the book had me coming up with my own theories. I was never right, but that's okay. The book drops clues and hints, and they aren't just red-herrings.

I think this is the perfect October read. It's creepy, ghostly, but somehow has a lot of humor and heart. I'm even considering reconciling with paranormals after this book.

One non-story related issue I had: The book is printed in maroon ink which is rather hard on the eyes. It's gimmicky and trite, which is sad because that's everything the story is not. It's a poor graphic choice by the publisher. I've seen weird ink colors in a few books thus far and I NEVER like it. I got used to it after a few chapters but that's the LAST thing you want readers to do. I literally almost put the book back down when I saw the font color. I know I'm picky about graphic design but I doubt I'm the only one who doesn't want to stare at red ink for 300 pages.