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Review: The Restorer (Graveyard Queen, #1) by Amanda Stevens

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Restorer (Graveyard Queen, #1)The Restorer by Amanda Stevens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a good spooky ghost story and mystery. I liked Amelia and I liked the atmosphere that Stevens created, it was a good balance of lovely and suspenseful. The cast of characters and the Southern setting were used to full advantage. I liked that Amelia was pretty normal, for a woman with major haunting issues of course. But the way she responded to the murders wasn't UF superhero Mary Sue perfection. She had her freak outs, she made mistakes, she felt like a real person. It definitely had that cozy mystery feeling with the regularly person getting drawn into investigating a murder, but it made sense why she was involved, much more so than most cozies. I also like that Stevens isn't rushing the romance, despite the strong connection the characters feel. I was worried that with her extensive background in romantic fiction that this wouldn't be as much to my taste (not a judgement at all, just where my preferences are these days) but it had a good balance of romantic tension but seems like the series will take some time to let the characters get to know each other.

My only real complaint was the constant heavy-handed foreshadowing technique the author used. I got it from the story, I didn't need the constantly-repeated-in-nearly-every-chapter explicitly spelled out reminders that that their destinies were already entwined but they didn't know it yet, or she should have listened to her father's rules or whatever. I got it, it was dangerous, she was dumb, yada yada, you don't have to keep spelling it out over and over again. Also, the story is from Amelia's point of view so every time she suddenly commented from this omnipotent perspective it just felt so weird, completely jerked me out of the flow of the story instead of intriguing me like it was supposed to.

Overall I thought the thing that really stood out the most was the atmosphere that the author created; it was an eerie, always looking over your shoulder, yet somehow lovely and haunting book. If you like somewhat spooky cozy mysteries with a touch of romance then I think you'll like this book.

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Review: Hex Appeal - Anthology edited by P.N. Elrod, including stories by Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher and more

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hex Appeal (Phoenix Chronicles; The Shadowfae Chronicles, #4.5; Kate Daniels, #5.6; The Dresden Files, #11.9)Hex Appeal by P.N. Elrod

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very good anthology. The stories were longer, allowing a lot more space for plot development and explaining the systems of magic in each world. I'm not generally a big short story fan, I don't usually find them to be satisfying, but these were, I actually really enjoyed all of them except for one. I generally think anthologies are just a tool for introducing authors to fans. I get them out of the library just in case there's a story from one of the series that I'm following that I don't want to miss. But this one might be worth reading even if you aren't following some of the famous series.

Ilona Andrews - Takes place in the same world as the Kate Daniel's stories, but in Philadelphia, and about Saimon's cousin Adam. It was a smart way to capitalize on the familiar world that the author's had created and the already established rules of magic and science that they've spent years writing about, but no familiarity is needed for readers unfamiliar with the stories. It's a very strong story, as all of their short stories are; along with Butcher they're among the most consistent when it comes to short stories, something that few authors can pull off.

Jim Butcher - Great, as always. The third of the Harry Dresden/Irwin/River Shoulders stories. Irwin is in college now and got himself involved with a very dangerous lady. Action, humor, romance, danger, romantic love, familial love, obsessive love, and more, all in 51 pages. The guy really does just write great short stories.

Rachel Caine - A very good story. Different characters and situations than anything I've read from her before, in fact half way though I had to check to see who the author was and was very surprised it was her, I thought maybe it was one of the romance authors I've been meaning to try or something. It was also a good enough story that I was anxious about what was going to happen and wanted to read the end to get spoilers, that's very rare from a short story. It was a very substantive story with a clear plot, a lot of emotion and strong characters.

Carole Nelson Douglas - I'm a fan of the Delilah Street series. As usual, I find the lighter tone a good break in pace in a an anthology. But it was weird that she kept claiming to despise "loathe-hate" Snow since it took place after the road trip book where they had such a push-pull relationship. It was also weird that it has a major reveal about Snow in a story that a lot of fans of the series might not read; maybe it will be repeated in the next book. I always wonder how people who aren't fans of the series will react to her stories, I figure they'll either love them or hate them. They're certainly different from anything else you'll come across.

P.N. Elrod - A very good story. I've never been that into her Vampire Files books, but I look forward to trying her new Steampunk series.

Simon R. Green - Heavy-handed, as usual with his Nightside stories. If he'd just cut out 20% of the unnecessary characters and side stories and focus on the main plot, I'd like these stories and books better. But it was ok.

Lori Handeland - This one I didn't like at all. It seemed really promising until the end gutted it and made the woman into a spineless idiot. This is the kind of romance I have no respect for, where the women rationalize excuses to be used and abused.

Erica Hayes - I wasn't a huge fan of the first Shadowfae book because it was so heavily weighted toward romance more than urban fantasy, but I did like the dark world that Hayes created. This story with the same background was a better fit for my taste.

Carrie Vaughn - A good story about Odysseus Grant, a reoccurring character in the Kitty Norville books.

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Review: The Red Pyramid: The Graphic Novel by Rick Riordan

The Kane Chronicles, The, Book One: Red Pyramid: The Graphic NovelThe Kane Chronicles, The, Book One: Red Pyramid: The Graphic Novel by Rick Riordan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was definitely a graphic novel, it's very wordy. I'm not sure it converted very well to the action format, it just required too many words to get the story across. Or maybe the author just wasn't willing or able to edit it enough to fit the graphic novel format, because it's really a very true telling of the story in the original novel. But there were some cool visuals, like the great room in the New York nome. And having Carter's comments in blue and Sadie's in yellow was a good touch that tried to convey the back and forth narration style of the book. But I don't think it managed to get the point across sufficiently that Carter and Sadie were telling this story, it's a really important foundation of the books and only becomes completely clear at the end of this graphic novel that they were telling this story.

Plus the humor and banter that was in the book, and was conveyed best of all in the audiobook format, just didn't end up in this format at all. Even though some of Sadie and Carter's inner monologues were included, none of the banter and wit ended up in this book. It was just so serious. There was very little to show how Carter and Sadie were becoming friends and people who could count on each other. There were lots (and lots) of words for the historical and mythological aspects of the story but the relationships were neglected. In an attempt to make sure that every step of the plot in the original book was included and explained fully, the spirit of what made the book special seems to have been left out. What makes Riordan's YA books work so well is the balance of exciting adventure, emotional depth and humor. I got a bit of the emotions with the kids' feelings about their parents and about Bast. But somehow the adventure on this one was often dry, and the humor got left out.

I often find graphic novels to be a great way for reluctant readers to get introduced to wonderful books that they might not read otherwise. And maybe when they're adaptations of novels then they might get intrigued enough to dive into a text series that they never would have tried as well. But I'm not sure that this one is the going to do that job, it's just too text-heavy and too much like a novel. I'm sad to say that I think that if I was a kid reading this for the first time, don't think I'd be excited about this series. I still recommend the audiobooks for this series, they're by far the best format to best convey the humor and adventure in these books.

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Review: An Apple for the Creature, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

An Apple for the CreatureAn Apple for the Creature by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I've said in other reviews of anthologies, when they started getting popular I thought it was an annoying idea just aimed at getting fans of certain authors to buy more books. And of course that is the plan, put Charlaine Harris's name on a book and say that there's a Sookie story inside and it guarantees lots of sales. Or in this case, from what I can see in the Goodreads reviews so far, it's all about Ilona Andrews. Which is the reason I got it too, I have to admit it. But I have developed a reluctant respect for the business model because it works as intended. Not only does having a few big names on the cover sell books, but when the books are well edited it introduces readers to authors that they may not have tried otherwise. And frankly, as a library reader the expense isn't an issue for me, otherwise I couldn't justify buying books of stories that are just hit and miss.

These Harris/Kelner anthologies have been consistently among the best of the pack. The stories have been focused on the theme and the authors have been a really interesting mix. In this one, the mix of light stories, police procedurals, creepy stories, and mythology based stories worked very well. The mix helped keep the pace of the book interesting. Although I'm not a big short story fan, but the book kept my attention throughout. Of course some stories were stronger than others, but overall it was one of the more successful anthologies in terms of my enjoyment level. I was already a big fan of several of the authors, but that doesn't always translate into good short stories, so I was pleased to see how well they did this time out. The only completely new author to me was Donald Harstad, who's story was fantastic. I would absolutely would read his books if I didn't have anxiety issues, I really can't do thrillers. There were a couple others who I was familiar with but not already a fan, but their stories didn't convert me. Oh, and on a completely editorial note, I really liked that the author bios were right at the beginning of each story. I makes me nuts in anthologies when they're at the end of the chapters or at the end of the book, or worse, not included at all. I want to know who these people are, and if the stories are part of a series that I might want to buy, that's the whole point of this thing.

Charlaine Harris - It was fine, a bit preachy, but better than the attempt at mystery in the last anthology that I read. She's a good example of an author who's not great at writing short stories, in my opinion, so this was a nice improvement.

Jonathan Mayberry - It was a clever idea, but it went on much too long with the preaching as well, and then it ended very abruptly.

Donald Harstad - Gotta love a guy who thinks his wife and beagles are the most important thing to mention in his very short author's description. His law enforcement experience certainly showed in the story as well. It was a really smart take on what it would mean to be a vampire in the modern world from the perspective of police officers. It's hard to believe it was his first short story or his first foray into urban fantasy, it was very well done. I hope he considers making this the foundation for a book.

Marjorie M. Liu - A very good, creepy, and emotional story. I like that she finds so many new and original ideas for her short stories in the anthologies too; as much as it would be fun to have an episode from one of her series, I like that I never know what she's going to do next, it's makes it fun to discover.

Rhys Bowen - Pretty good, certainly appeals to the nightmares we all have about high school.

Amber Benson - I just don't like this series. I read the first book and decided not to continue with it. I tried this story but had to abandon it after a few pages, the girl is just Too Stupid To Live, much less lead anything. What's supposed to be cutesy funny is just annoying to me in this series, but it's a matter of taste.

Mike Carry - Very dark, very emotional, and smart; typical Carry while still being something quite different than anything I've read from him before.

Faith Hunter - It was fine, but I'm not familiar with the series and it didn't intrigue me to read more about it.

Ilona Andrews - Good story, as usual. It's always hard for me to judge how people who haven't read the series will feel, if they'll have a good feel for the world and characters, but I think this one is very self-explanatory. It's about Julie, Kate's ward, and is very self-contained, brief but enjoyable.

Steve Hockensmith - Kind of cute except that it doesn't hold water. If he was what he said he was in the end then he wasn't what the story was all about at all. So he just used the idea to scare the guy, but that kind of makes the whole thing seem fake.

Nancy Holder - Another good law enforcement story. I'm always amazed when authors can convey such a complete story in such a short time frame, it was quite well done. It's my favorite of her short stories.

Thomas E. Sniegoski - Wow, I didn't realize Kirby was a Frenchie! I just assumed he was a lab like Mulder. That tells you how long it's been since I looked at his website. What a cute dog!

Poor Marlowe! I did complain that he wasn't in the most recent book enough, so I guess this makes up for it. Poor baby had to go to school. Marlowe is a black Lab, modeled on Mulder, Sniegoski's beloved yellow Lab who passed away a couple of years ago. And he's a great character, the best friend of Remy, the angel/PI who's the main character in this series. But wow was that story bad timing when I was already freaking out about hiring a dog sitter for my dogs, too awful.

Toni L.P. Kelner - A good story, as usual. I haven't read her books yet, but she's a very good short story writer.

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My new little sweetheart of a mutt

My new little sweetheart of a mutt

Such a goober

Such a goober

Always in my heart

Always in my heart

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