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Review: Project Runway: The Show That Changed Fashion with Elia Mell

Monday, July 30, 2012

Project Runway: The Show That Changed FashionProject Runway: The Show That Changed Fashion by Eila Mell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a surprisingly substantive book, it took me a couple of days and a number of hours to read. I've gotten a several of this type of cross-promotional books about TV shows or by celebrities trying to take advantage of their fame, like the Cake Boss, Michael Symon, or Kat Von D, out of the library, and none of their books have taken me more than 45 minutes to flip through, even when they did have a few good stories. They just weren't actually wordy. (Admittedly Symon's was partly a cookbook with the stories as a balance, and of course Kat's had a lot of photos, as it should have, but so did this one.) I expected this book to be just a bunch pictures with captions and a handful of interviews, but it really was much more than that. Of course they couldn't interview every contestant from every season, but they gave a good sense of each season's highlights and most memorable moments, interviews with several key contestants each time and some guest judges, and some of the producers when it was relevant as well. Very occasionally a question was silly, but most of it was pretty interesting. As long as you're a fan of the series of course. This is definitely a book for fans. The format follows the conceptualization of the show, implementation of each session, and a brief summary of the spin-off shows, primarily through interviews with people who were involved with the show, and also through some short descriptions of highlights, and of course through pictures.

Jerrell had a perfect quote that explains why I, a definitely non-fashionista, like the show so much, "Something about seeing the creative process from start to finish is kind of amazing." (p144) And when you add in seeing how different people interpret doing the same challenge, it's just fascinating. I'm not a creative person, so the chance to watch artists at work, even (especially?) under such odd, pressure-cooker circumstances, just wows me. It's beyond me how they can be presented with a challenge, be given fifteen minutes usually to design, be sent off to buy fabric, have to start working, boom-boom-boom, and on the tightest of deadlines almost always create amazing things. I can't imagine anything beautiful, much less create it, but they can do it all, it's remarkable. And as Austin said (about All-Stars on p. 275), "...it's all a delirious, hysterical game! If it's not the most dangerous game, it's definitely the most glamorous, the way I play it." It's a unique experience to see behind the scenes of how such talented people work, and then to see how such different judges view the outcomes. I'm always totally surprised at what they have to say. Sometimes I totally disagree, frequently I learn something, it's never boring.

I'm so disappointed that the show Sarah Jessica Parker produced about artists with the same format only lasted two seasons, it was even more fascinating to watch. Maybe it didn't do as well because most people couldn't as easily imagine buying the end products, so much of the modern art wasn't meant to be family friendly or casually collectible. Whereas with fashion we can at least dream about owning the beautiful clothes or going to a glamourous party in a stunning gown, and we can even get some of the more affordable things the designers end up making. Mondo sells t-shirts on his site, Korto has great jewelry I'd totally buy if I was still working. Maybe the art show just had a harder time finding a mass audience. It's a shame because it was really inspiring.

Anyway, back to the book. It wasn't perfect, were two problems. The first was that while I liked the interviews with the designers a lot, it was frustrating when they were asked about what their favorite and least favorite looks were and there weren't even tiny pictures of them to remind us. Why ask if you aren't going to show us? Some of the time the looks were in the book in the winning looks list, but it was confusing because they would refer to it by a different name than the official challenge name that was listed under the photo; the editors could have made it more clear, if the designer didn't use the official name, by putting the name in brackets. And many of the designs the designers refer to were non-winning looks that aren't in the book at all. Even a one-inch square photo would have refreshed my memory of what the challenge was about and what the designer did. It would have been a busier page, sure, but instead I had to either be frustrated constantly or keep trying to google. I did google some of them, but sometimes I couldn't find them or I got tired of looking. It sounds minor, but the clothes are the whole point, I spent too much time trying to remember what happened and matching the designers with their work, it was a pain.

My only other complaint was that for the staff that didn't appear on-air they should have listed their job titles under their names. We don't know who those people are. It was off-putting, it kept making me feel like I'd missed something that I had to flip back and find, or like I was the outsider who didn't know the cool kids in school that I should have known.

As for just a few of the many specific fan-girl things that come up in the book:

It's kind of wild that in season 1 they were so new that they didn't even have a photographer on set every challenge to take pictures of the winning looks, so four of the wins aren't in the book. (Although couldn't they get screen caps? It seems like that's what they had in season 3, they were all so dark because they were against that Project Runway lit up screen, but maybe they were just taken from the audience. But a few of those looked like candid photos with the contestants taken after the runway too, it's all very odd.) Other than season 1 and 3 they had all of the professional photos.

It is really cool to know that when Victoria Beckham said that she wanted to buy Christian's work, she wasn't blowing steam. She had him over for a fitting 2 weeks later and bought several pieces. So did Heidi.

Topically (as I'm writing this at the end of July 2012), does anyone remember season 5's Olympic challenge? I liked a couple better than Ralph Lauren's from this year, at least they looked American. But it does go to show that it's harder than you imagine when you look back and see how ridiculous most of these designers' ideas of what our Olympic athletes should wear were.

I was going to say a bunch of bad things about Ivy and how bad she comes off again, but I'm really trying to keep it brief. I'll just say that she's still blaming Michael for her own bad behavior. Once again I really don't understand why anyone who saw the show and now who reads this book would ever want to work with her. And this time she had the luxury of time to think about what she was saying. Regardless of who else did what, she did and said what she did and she just looks bad, period.

Why why why hasn't anyone given Anthony a TV show?

Wow, I always thought Irina got a bit of a raw deal, I always liked her even when I re-watched her season. But she was the only winner who couldn't even be bothered to comment about her win, not even one small sentence or two for the book about the show that made her famous. Maybe she didn't understand the scope of the book. And yet everyone else participated. I can see not wanting to do an more in-depth interview maybe, but to not say thank you, or it was nice to have my parents see me win, something simple, is very odd. And bad business.

I controlled myself, I didn't keep count of how many people listed Mondo (my favorite) as one of their favorites as well, or compare how many votes he got compared to the other designers. But it's probably close between him and Christian. A lot of people rightly so, love what Christian has done both with his design work and with his brand, he's worked his tail off and it's amazingly impressive. I still think Korto doesn't get the credit she deserves, her clothes are beautiful and commercial. And I love Seth Aaron, even if he isn't my personal style, I just love seeing what he does. Andy is pretty wonderful, I always love what she does. Austin is another one who isn't my style, but I love seeing what he comes up with. And don't forget Chris March! I loved the season of Mad Fashion back on Bravo and really hope they do another season soon. And I want the season 9's DVDs to come out already so I can re-examine those guys again. That may be the best top four yet when it comes to potential career longevity, I think they're all going places.

Well, that was a really long review, I guess it just proves that it wasn't just a piece of fluff book. Fans of the series will definitely enjoy the interviews and catching up with fan favorites, getting glimpses into behind the scenes, and the retrospective on the show that we've enjoyed so much. It would absolutely make a great gift for any Project Runway way, I can easily recommend it. As much as any book of a decent size can capture nine seasons of the show, pl us a few spin-offs, this has done an enjoyable job. The one thing that would have made it better, but maybe unwieldy, would be more of the looks from each season beyond just the winning looks.


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Review: Grave Memory (Alex Craft #3) by Kalayna Price

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Grave Memory (Alex Craft, #3)Grave Memory by Kalayna Price
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The good, and it's mostly good: There's a lot going on, several layers of story all at once with the main mystery, Alex's issue with the Winter Queen and having to choose a fairie court plus the games the Queen is playing with Falin, Death and the other collectors and the questions about why they're keeping him away from her, the questions of Alex's humanity or fae nature and whatever is going on with her father and his long game, but it actually all works for me. I have a terrible memory but I didn't have any trouble remembering what was happening in the story, I never felt lost or overwhelmed or frustrated because I couldn't remember something from the last book. It all played out in a way that pulled it together and reminded me without being heavy-handed. It may be a bit messy, but life isn't neat either, things don't just unfold in nice easy steps, one-two-three. I liked the way the pieces of the puzzles fit together and interwove. It all fit and fascinated for me. And boy is her dad some piece of work, trying to figure out his game may be the most intriguing part of the series. 

The supporting characters add a lot of depth to the series. She has long-term and loving relationships with her girlfriends Holly, Tamara, and her partner Rianna. And Roy the ghost who wants so badly to be a partner as well. And Caleb the much put-upon fae landlord. And Mrs. B., can't forget her, doesn't everyone really want a brownie? There wasn't enough PC in this one, but we all know I'm a sucker for dogs. The barghest appeared several times at least, though there wasn't really enough of him either, but he's more of Rianna's supporting character than Alex's. Briar was a good new character. Annoying and a bit frightening, but good.

The bad: the only thing that I felt was a little weak again was the romance, and it wasn't terrible, just predictable. The angsty love triangle thing is so overdone. Falin is the typical tortured fae knight, nothing special about him. And Death is charming, but mostly absent. They're both hot, but I've seen it all before. Alex is constantly tortured about them, nothing is ever either of their faults, they're both perfect, and they're both mostly absent in the author's attempt to stretch the triangle out over the series. And I'm much more interested in the mystery, the other characters, the fae world and the layers of the magical worlds that were being revealed than the juvenile (all of their first real) romances between two old guys and the young woman. Everything else was creative but that was just too typical. 

Plus it really bugs me that  Alex never thinks about the other guy when she's with each guy, she never worries about being torn between the two of them or feels guilty about caring for both of them, or like she's betraying the other guy. Sure, there's certainly no commitment in any way between Alex and either of the men, but she should know that they'd be hurt anyway and it should cross her mind and she should at least think about how it's possible she could have such strong feelings for two different guys. If she's going to be in love with two guys then she should think about that, but it's just swept under the table and ignored, except for the occasional mention of their jealousy of each other. The whole romance aspect of the story was basically fine, but I wish urban fantasy publishers and authors would stop pushing love triangles, it makes the heroine look so fickle.

The only other bad thing is that it always bugs me a bit when the heroine is the only person in the world with the powers she has. I just get that irritated, "what makes you so special?" feeling. She isn't just a powerful grave witch, she's a planeweaver and who knows what else, it seems like a little much. There is some indication here that things are going on with the story with her dad that will explain things more, so I'm reigning in my irritation on that, but we'll see how it plays out. 

And seriously, Laurell Hamilton has ruined sex scenes for every author, no one should ever use the phrase, "I came screaming," ever again. Please. I just can't see it without cringing. 

So, in case it isn't obvious, overall I liked the book a lot and I think the author is getting even better at storytelling as she gets more books under her belt. I'm looking forward to seeing how things unfold as this series continues. 


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Review: Fever Moon by Karen Marie Moning

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fever Moon: The Fear DorchaFever Moon: The Fear Dorcha by Karen Marie Moning
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Al Rio's art really is great, it captures the darkness of what's happening in Dublin during the story without being too literally dark to enjoy, it sill has a lot of energy, movement and emotion. And when appropriate the frames are beautifully completed into real pieces of art capturing the city, the scene in a club, a church, even just the background while they're driving, but it's a completely detailed piece of art, not just sketched in background place holders. I'm not a big graphic novel fan, but obviously Al Rio was tremendously talented. He really captured the characters with a lot of emotional depth, every panel was just great. I'm sure his work will be really missed. Cliff Richards did a good job stepping in to finish the book.

The only disappointing character for me was Rowena. I can't remember clearly how she was described in the books, but as a former fighter and as the leader of the sidhe seers I always pictured her as the whip-thin tough-as-nails bitter granny type, not the fluffy granny type. Double chins didn't fit my image of her. The highly disapproving sneer worked though. I also didn't imagine Jayne as such a hunk, was that a comic book addition? I know he's been working out and all, trying to catch the bad guys and save the city, but the super chiseled eye candy look seemed a little much.

Barron's big B belt buckle just cracked me up. I can't decide if it suited his arrogance or was silly, but it was funny.

Luckily I owned the ebook for Shadowfever so I could re-read the whole end, I didn't remember any of the key points at all, I guess it didn't make such a big impression on me after all. This actually seems to take place before book five, but I was a little thrown to realize that the whole book had pretty much disappeared from my memory.

As for this book, the ending was super weak. There was no reason given for why Mac's strategy worked or why the words were an issue, a lot of things just didn't hold together with what was up to that point a cool/creepy bad guy. But in general, if you're a fan of the series you should enjoy the book. She and Barrons fight about cars, you get to see him looming over her all big and sexy (if you happen to like that kind of thing), there's a tiny bit of Dreamy-Eyed Guy, overall it's a good portrayal of the world. It's just a petty shallow story. The art deserves four stars, but I just can't give the story that many.

FYI: I've seen a couple of people complaining about Mac's big bosom hanging out in a lot of the book, but frankly that's a comic book thing, it's something that happens in almost every graphic novel adaptation. And it's actually pretty consistent with her character too, she likes tight, girly clothes that show off her figure, so I didn't have any problems with it in this book. And the guy eye candy was just as prominent, with lots of naked Velvet.

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Review: Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues (White Trash Zombie, #2) by Diana Rowland

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues (White Trash Zombie, #2)Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I'm not a big fan of zombie books in general, it's not generally my thing. But I am a big fan of Diana Rowland. She's consistently written books with terrific characters and very real situations, despite the fantasy set-ups of the zombies or demons or whatever she's chosen to use to create drama and excitement in their lives. And she sure didn't fail me with this one!

Angel really got put through the emotional and physical wringer in this book. She was finally setting into a job that she enjoyed and feeling that she was getting her life back on track. And BAM, it all fell apart. Suddenly the trust she thought she'd earned from so many people was gone, even her boyfriend didn't believe anything she was saying, and she was in deadly danger and all on her own again. But our tough girl just moved forward, did what she had to do to protect herself, and saved the day. But what worked so well was that it was all in believable ways, it wasn't in some crazy superhero way. She used her wit, her intelligence and her experience to prevail. And her zombie strength, speed and healing occasional, I'll give her that. But she didn't give up and she didn't give in, she fought back.

I could see so much emotional growth in this book, that was really the best part of the story. She trusted herself. There were some doubts, but mostly she was starting to understand her own worth. She refused to let Marcus or anyone else brush her off, make decisions for her, or belittle her ideas. She was upset when people kept asking her about where she went to school, it did make her feel bad, but it got her thinking about her future too. Seeing her dad and what he was going through with trying to quit drinking really emphasized for Angel what an opportunity she'd been given by being forced to start over by being turned in to a zombie. She knows that so much of her progress is because her "rehab" was forced on her, alcohol and drugs just don't work on her anymore and they make her rot faster and need brains more often, so she just doesn't use them. (Luckily she gets to eat whatever she wants when she'd depressed at least, a girl has to have some outlet!) But she's really trying to make the most of this second chance she's been given, even when it's hard. It's a very believable struggle and I just can't help but root for this chick.

The other thing that's so great about this book, and about Rowland's work in general, is the depth of the world that she creates. Every piece of the puzzle is in place, so the reader never feels for a second like she isn't reading about a completely real place. Because Rowland has been a beat cop, detective, morgue assistant and held many other jobs as well, she makes every detail of her stories come to life. Every supporting character is perfectly in place, every scene is set, but none of it is heavy-handed or wordy, it's just a perfectly painted background so you don't even realize you're absorbing it most of the time. When Angel tore up that floor and crawled into those tunnels, I felt like I was there with her. When she was sitting on the curb holding Marcus at the terribly sad crime scene, I felt like I was there. The details are just so well done. It's like Dan Dos Santos' gorgeous cover, everything pops and comes to life.

And then there's the mystery. There was a lot going on here in the zombie world, a lot that unfolded and added depth to the story beyond what was happening to our beloved heroine. I'm excited to see what happens next. And how Angel gets sucked into it and kicks butt dealing with it.



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Review: Black Blade Blues (Sarah Beauhall #1) by J.A. Pitts

Friday, July 13, 2012

Black Blade Blues (Sarah Beauhall #1)Black Blade Blues by J.A. Pitts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a really neat urban fantasy book with a strong dose of Norse mythology, but what really made it shine for me was the human story. The main character is a young woman blacksmith who has no idea that any of the stories from the ancient lore could possible be true, despite spending her weekends with her friends The Black Briar clan swinging a sword in mock battles at renaissance fairs and Society for Creative Anacronism events. But when she meets a guy who says he's a dwarf who needs her to slay a dragon, all hell breaks loose for poor Sarah on fantastic side of the story.

At the same time, she's wrestling with her personal life, which is going through some turmoil as well. Sarah was raised by some emotionally suppressive and damaging people on several levels, and she has the self esteem to prove it. And she's gay and in the first relationship of her life with the outgoing and lovely Katie, a bard she met at the renaissance fairs. And boy is Sarah wrestling with the situation. Katie just told Sarah that she loves her, but there's still a part of Sarah that feels shame about what her family and community indoctrinated into her as being an inappropriate way to live. And as much as I do not believe that to be true, when I was reading the book I couldn't help but feel deeply for her and the internal battles that she was going through, for her self-esteem issues, her confusion over her identity, her hopeless love for Katie, her jealousy of Katie's friendship with her ex-girlfriend, the consequences all of this caused, Sarah's sorrow over screwing up her relationship with her boss, Julie, and on and on; there was just so much great real life depth and emotion in this book. It's funny actually, I saw a review where the guy didn't like it because he thought it was more of a romance than urban fantasy (despite the dragons, dwarves, giants, goblins, Valkyries, sword fights, explosions, helicopter crashes, etc.). Usually that's my complaint, romance usually just isn't my style. But this didn't feel like romance to me. It's certainly a more sophisticated love story than the love-at-first-sight, based on nothing, they barely know each other but somehow they both just know that this is meant to be, love stories that I really don't enjoy. This is a real adult romance with all of the bumps and bruises that go along with that. And even though it was a theme that is often explored in traditional romances, a woman who has always felt awkward for whatever reason and is now in the middle of her first adult relationship, it felt fresh and real and true. And having the relationship take place between two women gave the author a lot of issues to explore in addition to the usual issues of insecurities and first mistakes, and made the newness make more sense than in some of the romance books I've read when the woman is supposedly awkward and the guy is the most desirable guy on the planet.

I also really like how much the author seems to respect women too. It's pretty rare, from female or male authors, to see women heroes portrayed as just so darn human, really brave but also fully vulnerable, smart and witty without being obnoxious, strong and capable, occasionally stupid, and with so many well-balanced characters throughout the book. I liked what I saw from the men in the book as well, but I would like to see more from the guys as the series develops.

As for the urban fantasy aspects of the story, that was the most inconsistent part of the book. There were a lot of things that I liked, but the storytelling was a bit up and down pacing-wise. And the depth of Sarah's personal story took up a bit of the time that might have been given to developing a deeper plot. It was good, but not stellar. I liked the way the mythology was woven into the story, it wasn't too heavy-handed. And there were some great moments. Like pissing herself in terror when she first saw the dragon, that was a good realistic moment. I liked the humor of the stuff with the Valkyries. And I really liked the way she actually kept telling everyone what was really going on once she figured it out instead of the secrecy that abounds in every other urban fantasy book. She may not have known what to say in her personal life, but she was good about trusting the right people when it came to the crazy stuff that was going on, it was a refreshing change. I also like that when the battles happened it was really a mess, people died, things burned, it was a disaster, it wasn't all magically neat and clean somehow. Big stuff happened, people's lives were changed and I'm eager to see what happens next and how they deal with it. There is actually quite a bit that I'm intrigued about the more I think about the things that were revealed in the book about the dragons' society, as well as the Black Briars, so I'm definitely glad that I have books 2 and 3 already lined up to start right away.



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Review: Eternal: More Love Stories with Bite by P.C. Cast

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Eternal: More Love Stories with BiteEternal: More Love Stories with Bite by P.C. Cast

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I got the book out if the library because Jeri Smith-Ready said that her story features the kids that are in her new WVMP novella Let it Bleed (available for free on her website and an important part of the WVMP series, you should get it). But I actually liked most of the stories that I read and added several of the authors' books to my to-read list, so the anthology model was largely successful again.

Claudia Grey - Josephine Baker helps her? Then she runs into one of her old loves, a Russian vampire, outside a German concentration camp? I wanted to give a try because her books are on my to-read list, but they have such mixed reviews from my friends already, I think I just have to pass. It wasn't awful, and I like the not-too-sentimental ending actually, but I have a feeling I'm going end up sniping too much about too-convenient coincidences and other annoyances too much to make it fun.

Lili St. Crow - a very good story, very complete and very compelling. For some reason I've never read her Dante Valentine stories (I even thought Dante was a guy) or her YA books. They have mixed reviews from my friends too, but based on this I definitely want to try them sooner than later.

Nancy Holder - Romeo and Juliet, it was OK if you like that kind of thing. It wasn't the kind of story that intrigued me enough to want to read more of her work though.

Heather Brewer - good story, good twist. It didn't have anything to do with her series, but it did remind me that I've been wanting to read it, and my friends' reviews are all excellent.

Rachel Caine - I'm a fan of her Weather Warden series and it's spin off Outcast Season series, but I read the first book of the Morganville Vampire books and while I liked it, I never felt any strong desire to read any more. It's one of those series I might get to eventually but there's no rush. So I didn't read the short story because I didn't want any spoilers. I'll get the book out of the library again if I ever get into the series.

Jeri Smith-Ready - as I said above, she mentioned the story in her new novella Let it Bleed because the characters in this story appear in that as well. This one comes first, so it's kind of fun if you read this first, but not necessary. It's quite a good little story, as usual from Jeri. I definitely felt for Cass with her ambitions, her love for her boyfriend and how trapped she was in this situation. The supporting characters were also sympathetic, which is petty amazing in such a short story; Liam, Bridget and Michael, as well as Gavin and even the grandmother all were really vivid. My only real argument is in her author's description - my greyhound is the goofiest greyhound in the whole world, Jeri! But yours may be second, I'll give you that.



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Review: Let It Bleed (WVMP Radio, #3.5) by Jeri Smith-Ready

Monday, July 09, 2012

Let it Bleed (WVMP Radio, #3.5)Let it Bleed by Jeri Smith-Ready

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a really fun novella and a significant piece of the WVMP puzzle, so if you're a fan of the series (and you should be!) make your way to the author's website and download the story, at very least before you read the 4th book in November 2012. It's free, so there's no reason not to do it. This is a big transition story, it's the one where Ciara deals with her new situation. And her friends deal with it too. Some well, some not so well. Plus they're all dealing with their normal levels of craziness too. Again, some well, some not so well. And some of the not so well hits the fan. And as usual, Ciara gets to help clean it up. It's a great story. Plus Dexter the vampire dog is in a lot. I love that dog.



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Review: Year Zero by Rob Reid

Year ZeroYear Zero by Rob  Reid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


It started off with a good chuckle--the noble opus so sublime as to trigger the dawning moment of Year Zero was the theme song to Welcome Back, Kotter.  Which, I've got to say, while I might not call an opus, is a mighty fine song that is on my iPod.

My first impression was Christopher Moore meets Hitchhiker. I'm not sure why the Moore since it's sci-fi, maybe just the slapstick humor. Now I know everyone is comparing it to Hitchhiker, and really it's not fair to hold it to such a high standard, people are bound to be disappointed if it doesn't meet their expectations after reading that, so I was reluctant to mention it, but I could hardly ignore it. And some will say that it's too derivative of Hitchhiker. But really, just because that was my first thought and so many other people's thoughts doesn't make it actually true. Because once you read it (and I hope you do) you'll see that actually it's nothing like it except in tone and because it has a lot of odd, silly aliens. And the Earth is in danger. And really, every story is derivative of the seven basic stories, right? The trick is just in writing a good, entertaining tale. This definitely doesn't copy Hitchhiker's plot or jokes in any way, it's just similarly styled, so if you like that kind of humor you'll probably like this. It doesn't have Douglas's satirical depth, but it is consistently sweet and amusing.

The book definitely caters to people of a certain age with the some of the humor like Hogan's Gyros, a Magoo-like stroke of fortune, the Kotter thing, Nick Carter, etc., but I fit the demographic so I enjoyed it. On the other hand, it's a thoroughly modern use of tech with mentions of the computer audio software, iPhone, apps, Google, etc., felt very fresh, and the Nick's voice felt very young and relatively hip, if somewhat nebbishy (as intended). I hope that the mentions of technology that were used don't make it feel very dated in a few years like some books that I've read. It doesn't feel like it will because it's pretty general. It mentions iPhones but it doesn't say which one. It complains about the new Windows OS, but everyone does that. It is more obviously set in a certain time than most books, but I think it will have a shelf life.

The plot had a lot of good twists that I didn't expect from the silly way things started out. And Nick isn't as helpless and bumbling as he first appears or as the inevitable comparisons to Hitchhiker will make the reader assume he will be. The premise is silly but the plot really does hold together, it unfurls logically for all of its absurdity and humor. The author said in the (very long) introduction that his beta readers gave him a hard time about this and it was worth it, it's more than just a long series of jokes.

The supporting characters were all pretty good too. Manda was cute without being too anything. Pugwash was a good character, he started off appearing to be that guy you think you're going to hate, but he isn't actually a bad guy, just kind of distasteful and annoying. Judy was a cool shark. Paulie was even funny.

The only printing issue I had with the advanced review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley was that the cutesy little footnotes totally don't work in the ebook version, at least in the pre-release edition, because they're printed at the end of the chapter not at the end of each page, so in order to read them you have to either try to remember what the footnotes were referring to when you get to the end of the chapter, or page forward page by page to find the end of the chapter and the footnote text each time it happens because the chapters weren't marked in a way that could be selected in the ebook version that I had. This may well be corrected in the final print edition. It's not that big of a deal, the footnotes are sometimes funny, but not significant to the story. (**edit - The author reported to me that the printing problem with the ebook version has been corrected, so go ahead and buy it if that's your preferred format.)

Overall, as you can probably tell, I really enjoyed this book. It was clever and funny and surprisingly sweet. I hope you'll give it a try.



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Review: The Spirit War by Rachel Aaron

Friday, July 06, 2012

The Spirit War (The Legend of Eli Monpress, #4)The Spirit War by Rachel Aaron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really like this series. It's more action than anything else, generally light and an easy read, but with touches of thoughtfulness that add enough depth to keep it interesting. And I like the way pieces of the big picture keep being gradually revealed, it definitely has kept me very curious while each individual book has had its own interesting story as well.

This one had a good twist with Josef's past. I liked how he responded to his mom and the situation on the island. And I really felt for poor Nico, finding out about the wife was rough, even though they had never even met; she's so young and naive in many ways. 

And yet, for a really long book there wasn't a lot of character development, again. It's mostly action, and filling in pieces of the puzzle. There also wasn't a lot a lot of Eli and his mischief in this one. And poor Miranda is always the last to know, about a lot of things. I'm kind of tired of her always being a dupe, I'd like to see her take control of something. I still love Gin, of course, minor character though he is; how could I resist what's essentially a giant talking mystical greyhound?

The moral questions were interesting though. When the enemy is legitimately terrifying and doesn't respect anyone's rights, is it OK to use similar tactics? It was good use of fantasy to explore real world issues through what really is otherwise just a fun story. Is there room for idealists in wartime? Are there moral lines that just shouldn't be crossed, even of it means losing? It's nice in a book when good triumphs over evil and the point gets made that morals need to be upheld and that there's always a better way to do things, but what if there isn't? What if upholding your morals actually meant losing to the monsters? Not just dying but getting enslaved or seeing the ones you love tortured? Are there really lines that shouldn't be crossed? Anyway, in the book there were the constant tensions between Spiritualists Miranda and Banage on the one side and Sara and the Council of Wizards on the other and how they think it's appropriate to use spirits. There was also Slorn vs. the Mountain and the issue of demonseeds when it comes to research and containment vs. destruction. They were interesting questions that could be interpreted to apply to issues in our world.

I really like how fully developed the world and the system of magic were. There's so much depth to the story at this point, it's quite fascinating. It has the ring of mythology with the stories of the gods and stars that are being revealed and yet there's a feeling of realism that's really interesting. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the series wraps up in Spirit's End in November 2012 and finding out what's really on the other side of the sky and how all plays out.

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Review: Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander

Monday, July 02, 2012

Nightshifted (Edie Spence, #1)Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


3.5 stars. Overall I liked this one, but it was a bit mixed for me. I liked the generally dark but not too dark tone. The darkness and dirtiness of the County hospital and the city came across well, as did these not so savory vampires. And it started off with a bang by going right into the story with Edie having to search for the girl, Anna. But it also felt kind of abrupt in the first section of the book too. There was a lot happening at all at once. And then Edie had a one night stand, which I didn't mind, it seemed to underscore her loneliness (and she did end up seeing the guy again anyway, sort of). But she invited the guy home before she even kissed him, what if he was no good? And more importantly, no condom, she's a nurse?! It became a point in the story when she got tested for STDs, but I didn't get the point of that at all, it wasn't done in a preachy-use-condoms way, it just felt weird. And all of this went on right near the beginning of the book, before we really got a handle on the characters or situation, it was just a bit odd.

Sometimes I found the amount of detail to be overwhelming, there were so many characters, details about the supernatural world, situations at work, and problems in Edie's life. But some of it was really charming, like the German ghost grandfather of one of her patients who talks through the old CD player that she basically adopted, it brought little moments of both levity and sweetness and depth as well.

I also really liked the situation with Edie's brother, Jake. In so many books I pull my hair out wondering why the silly heroines don't just walk away from the dangerous situations, they're just too brave to seem real. But Edie has a good reason to be in this mess, she's doing it for her addict brother, who the Shadows are helping in exchange for her working on the Y4 floor of the hospital where the supernatural people/creatures go.

I really liked the nursing aspects of the book. It reminded me of Diana Rowland's Kara Gillian and White Trash Zombie books only in that you can really tell that Rowland has been a cop, detective, and morgue assistant; there's a big difference between really knowing what you're writing about and in doing research about it, and it really showed here. The nursing and medical information wasn't heavy handed or overwhelming, it was just interesting and well layered throughout the book, giving everything a level of realism that added a lot to the fantasy story.

I think the one thing that really bugged me was that there was no explanation (that I saw, did I miss it?) for why Yuri was looking for Anna for so many years and couldn't find her, but Edie got some mysterious ghost message when she was in his apartment and was able to find her in minutes. It's pretty much the foundation for the whole book and it's a major unexplained coincidence, the kind of thing that just annoys the heck out of me. The rest of it's a pretty good start of a first time author. A bit overly complicated. Not a perfect romance, but OK. A strong heroine, if not perfect. But that just bugs me. But the intro for the next book was really good, and I'm definitely looking forward to trying it, and hoping that it's an even stronger book than this one was.



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