alpha and omega by Patricia Briggs
Note --> I only read the short story Alpha and Omega out of this collection.
I guess now's as good of a time as any to confess -- I don't like short stories or novellas. I never really have. I enjoy fully developed characters and a complex/in depth plotline and that can be hard to do well in a short story (not impossible...just difficult).
Briggs does a pretty good job in Alpha and Omega. The main reason I picked this anthology up was to read her novella before I started the full "Alpha and Omega" series (as has been recommended to me to do by several people). The big complaint that I saw in regards to the full series is that Briggs really begins the plot with this novella -- and I think they are correct in that determination.
Briggs really jumps into the action with this novella. The whole of the plot takes place within 24 hours or so...and a LOT happens. The world is the same world as the Mercy Thompson series which I really enjoy. One of the main characters is Bran's (the Marrok..ie. leader..of the werewolves) son Charles who we meet briefly in the Mercy Thompson series (at least it's a brief meeting where I am at in the series at the moment...I don't know if he comes into the stories in later MT books). Charles is known as the Executioner and he is sent to Chicago to settle a matter amongst the local werewolves. While in Chicago he meets an intriguing young female werewolf and he discovers, unbeknownst to her, that she is a rare gem among the werewolf hierarchy - she's an Omega.
It held my interest fairly well, but I don't know if I would have chosen to read it had it been a standalone novella. One thing that I enjoyed about it was that it didn't read like pure set-up for the full-length series. Briggs may have written it for that express purpose, however, you could read this novella...put it down...and be satisfied with the story without going on to read the accompanying series.
So...four stars for a decent novella (despite my personal bias against them). If you are a fan of the Mercy Thompson world definitely check this one out.
Life. Sometimes it just gets in the way...you know? I hate that I didn't manage to get a TBT review up this week. From an awful week at work to some big life changes starting to evolve...it's been an eventful week. Every time I crack open a book (or turn my e-reader on), my eyes would just drift closed and...whelp...that's all she wrote. Hope to get back to the routine this week - including the Weekly Newbie and TBT. In the meantime, started working on an ARC copy of Mary Balogh's latest Regency-era romance.
So how about I do a "bonus" Weekly Newbie post since I didn't manage a TBT post? Yes? No? Maybe? Well, I'm going to do it anyway.
The Weekly Newbie - The Escape by Mary Balogh
Expected Release Date: July 1, 2014
Back Cover Blurb:
In this poignant novel of longing and salvation, a hopeful widow and a resilient war hero discover the promise of love’s magic and new beginnings.
After surviving the Napoleonic Wars, Sir Benedict Harper is struggling to move on, his body and spirit in need of a healing touch. Never does Ben imagine that hope will come in the form of a beautiful woman who has seen her own share of suffering. After the lingering death of her husband, Samantha McKay is at the mercy of her oppressive in-laws—until she plots an escape to distant Wales to claim a house she has inherited. Being a gentleman, Ben insists that he escort her on the fateful journey.
Ben wants Samantha as much as she wants him, but he is cautious. What can a wounded soul offer any woman? Samantha is ready to go where fate takes her, to leave behind polite society and even propriety in her desire for this handsome, honorable soldier. But dare she offer her bruised heart as well as her body? The answers to both their questions may be found in an unlikely place: in each other’s arms.
I'm about 20% through the ARC copy of this latest installment of Balogh's Regency romance landscape. I think it's considered number three in "The Survivor's Club" and I was slightly worried I would be lost since I have not read one or two. So far, however, it reads as a standalone that you know fits into a larger picture but reads perfectly fine by itself. I'm not sure if it will have anything that will make it stand out from a lot of her other novels...but I'm only 20% through which means anything can really happen. Oh, and I receive the arc from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Hope to post said honest review within the next few days so keep an eye out.
Time to give a new weekly post a whirl. Introducing "The Weekly Newbie" - a spotlight on an up and coming book that will be released within the next few weeks or months. I'll list the back cover blurb and then a little blurb of my own. Enjoy!
The Ophelia prophecy by Sharon Lynn Fisher
"The Ophelia Prophecy is the thrilling new sci-fi romance from the author of 2013 RWA RITA finalist Ghost Planet...
Our world is no longer our own. We engineered a race of superior fighters -- the Manti, mutant humans with insect-like abilities. Twenty-five years ago they all but destroyed us. In Sanctuary, some of us survive. Eking out our existence. Clinging to the past.
Some of us intend to do more than survive.
* * *
Asha and Pax -- strangers and enemies -- find themselves stranded together on the border of the last human city, neither with a memory of how they got there.
Asha is an archivist working to preserve humanity’s most valuable resource -- information -- viewed as the only means of resurrecting their society.
Pax is Manti, his Scarab ship a menacing presence in the skies over Sanctuary, keeping the last dregs of humanity in check.
Neither of them is really what they seem, and what humanity believes about the Manti is a lie.
With their hearts and fates on a collision course, they must unlock each other's secrets and forge a bond of trust before a rekindled conflict pushes their two races into repeating the mistakes of the past."
***Available to buy starting April 1, 2014***
I am pretty excited to check this one out. I have the ARC copy sitting on my Kindle (or would "in my Kindle" be the better grammar?) as I type this and can't wait to get started on it. I'm slightly cautious only because of my tepid response to Ghost Planet - a book, which in hindsight, I did enjoy...except there were so many holes it resembled an aged Swiss Cheese. I enjoy a good sci fi novel...and to throw romance in the mix can only serve to make it better...right? Hope to tackle this one soon!
Blood rights by Kristen Painter
Living her whole life in this form of slavery, Chrysabelle is ready to flee her master and escape her gilded cage...only to find, on the eve of her escape, her master murdered in their home. On the run and suspected of murder, Chrysabelle teams up with a rogue vampire named Malkom as they uncover a political web of lies that aim to tear down the veil that has been hiding the existence of supernaturals from ordinary people.
I apologize for that run on sentence.
Anyway, like I said, this book started out really strong. It has a beautiful cover and stays away from the recycled vampire plot and world. Painter's idea of the comarré is an interesting one and the twist she throws in about their world was quite good (let's just say they don't just feed vampires their blood).
But about a third of the way through things started to change. Oh, the world was still fun and the revelations were interesting...but Chrysabelle started to turn into a bit of a Mary Sue...she's the best comarré, she's the best fighter, she's the best blah blah blah. It got old. She's the best. At everything. Got it.
And the plot, which had been moving along quite nicely, devolved into political mush. Oh, there are other things happening in the story other than politics...but it seemed politics were the main focus with some fighting in between scenes.
Then it happened...Malkolm started his monologue about his past (which happens just under halfway through the book or so?) and I knew how the book would end. I hate that. I think if I had stayed immersed in the plot, the big plot twist at the plot climax would have been really great...instead, I felt disconnected from the story and had a general feeling of "yep...saw that coming".
I think this read is three stars because of the world building and it really did start out as an interesting read. Maybe I just read the book at the wrong time or something. As it stands at the moment, however...I don't plan on continuing the series.
The Hunger by L.J. Smith
This book celebrates its 20th birthday this year. First published in 1994, The Forbidden Game starts my favorite series from L.J. Smith. In fact, this book has a treasured spot on my "all-time favorites" shelf.
In this first installment of the trilogy, we meet Jenny Thornton who is searching for a fun gift to bring to her boyfriend's party. She stumbles upon a store she never knew existed and meets the store's only employee, the oh-so-gorgeous Julian, who sells her a game in a plain, white box. Once she makes it to the party, however, Jenny thinks she may have made a mistake. Her friends decide to give the game a try, however, and in doing so they begin the fight for their lives.
This book is part Labyrinth and part Jumanji. A young David Bowie can easily be imagined as Julian. And a game coming to life and forcing its players to fight for their lives within the constraint of The Game? Well...that's obviously Jumanji (although I think Jumanji came a short while later?)
If you've enjoyed The Vampire Diaries or The Secret Circle, be sure to check out this other gem from L.J. Smith. This is easily my favorite Smith book/series.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This was an epic, epic book. Ready Player One is pretty much an anthology of all the pop culture references from the 1980s.
I tackled this book in a hybrid form. I snagged the audiobook from my online library without really knowing what it was about - I just knew the book was everywhere. What made me go ahead and pick out the audiobook was because it was read by Wil Wheaton.
Let me just say - Wil Wheaton did a fantastic job with the audiobook. Your enjoyment (or lack thereof) of an audiobook can really hinge on the narrator. Wheaton really was excellent.
So, when I started the audiobook I had no clue what the book was even really about other than the title sounded "gamer-ish". Imagine my surprise when a book chock full of 1980s nostalgia with an engrossing plot emerged.
And when I say the book is chock full of nostalgia...I mean it's crammed into every page, paragraph, and sentence. Cline would throw one reference at you...and then you'd get backhanded by another reference. There were moments it was almost too much. Almost. Cline does a masterful job of combining the 80s nostalgia with the overarching plot...so, the book doesn't devolve into a 1980s trivia game, but rather each piece of nostalgia is part of the whole story. It really is well done.
Unfortunately, I am the world's slowest audiobook listener (this audiobook probably took me a solid 4 weeks to get through) and I ran out of time with the library. But by that point my eyes had been opened and I realized this was definitely a new favorite - so I added the print copy to my library and finished it off within the day.
So what's the book about? I'm going to let the publisher's blurb do the talking on this one. Definitely add this one to your reading bucket list.
Here's the blurb for you:
"It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune--and remarkable power--to whoever can unlock them.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved--that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt--among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life--and love--in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.
A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?"
Whelp, it's been a pretty slow reading week. Ok, not really...but, I've been re-reading Anne Bishop's Written in Red since the new one in "The Others" series (Murder of Crows) just came out this Tuesday. While I wish Bishop would also revisit her "Black Jewels" series, her new urban fantasy series is setting up to be almost as great. Anyway...on to today's TBT post. Since the weather around here has been crazy these past few months (80+ degrees yesterday...but back down to the 40s today? Gotta be kidding me.(), this seemed like a fitting choice.
ill wind by Rachel Caine
Have you ever looked up at the sky (or shaken your fist at the Weather Channel) wondering what's up with the weather these days? Well, Rachel Caine gives you the explanation you were looking for: a select group of humans (called Wardens) who can control the various elements (like Weather, Fire, and Earth) are embroiled in a battle against themselves and Mother Nature as they try to regulate Nature's wrath upon the earth. Oh, and they harness the power of the aether (where they do their Warden-y stuff) with the help of captive Djinn, of course.
So, what happens when one Weather Warden, Joanne, discovers that she's been corrupted with a Demon Mark (which, as you may have guessed, is bad news for anyone let alone a Warden)? She seeks out the strongest Warden of them all - Lewis - who happens to be the only Warden who can harness all the elements, rather than just one. When her plans go awry, however, Jo stumbles across a mysterious hitchhiker named David and the two of them embark on a journey to not only save Jo from a certain death-by-demon-mark, but to also save the world.
Ok, so that's obviously a hugely generalized summary. I'm writing this review having read several books into the series and I don't want to give any future spoilers, so I will just stop there with the plot.
But, what a fun concept for a book/series. Caine does a great job with the world building...it comes across as the "real world" - especially since the average person doesn't realize that the Wardens are responsible for holding back Nature's wrath. Once she set up the general populace's ignorance, Caine was free to expand the Warden and the Djinn universe and she does so perfectly. From the aether to the Djinn to the crappy politics within the Warden's world, it comes across as just realistic enough to make it believable.
I found the Djinn concept to be really interesting as well. I'm glad Caine stayed away from the stereotypical genie (ie. Aladdin's genie or the like). These Djinn are more forbidding, more dangerous. Their enslavement to their Warden masters is an interesting element and puts a pall on the Wardens actions and will certainly be something Caine will address as the series progresses.
The writing style is a bit light and tad fluffy. If you are looking for an epic urban fantasy, this is probably not going to scratch that itch. This is pure escapist fiction and will probably be a quick read...but sometimes that is just the book you need.
Ever have a huge amount of books you've read, but haven't actually reviewed? Well, I do. I thought I'd try to do at least one per week...more if work gets boring. So, let's kick it off with one of the more interesting covers...
My life as a white trash zombie by Diana Rowland
I really like the back cover blurb for this book, so here it is:
"Angel Crawford is a loser.
Living with her alcoholic deadbeat dad in the swamps of southern Louisiana, she's a high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record who's been fired from more crap jobs than she can count. Now on probation for a felony, it seems that Angel will never pull herself out of the downward spiral her life has taken.
That is, until the day she wakes up in the ER after overdosing on painkillers. Angel remembers being in a horrible car crash, but she doesn't have a mark on her. To add to the weirdness, she receives an anonymous letter telling her there's a job waiting for her at the parish morgue -- and that's an offer she doesn't dare refuse.
Before she knows it she's dealing with a huge crush on a certain hunky deputy and a brand new addition: an overpowering craving for brains. Plus, her morgue is filling up with the victims of a serial killer who decapitates his prey -- just when she's hungriest!
Angel's going to have to grow up fast if she wants to keep this job and stay in one piece. Because if she doesn't, she's dead meat.
This was such a fun, fun read! This book has some fun cover art - after seeing the cover and reading the back blurb, you know you are in for a treat. Is it funny? Well, I guess that depends on your sense of humor. Obviously, with a protagonist who eats brains like she used to pop pills, the humor is going to be very dark. And a lot of the dark humor was (brain?) sandwiched or included in some pretty gross (brain?) matter. With a lead character who throws out lines like: "Why did I have the urge to grab a handful of that pink and grey mass and shove it into my mouth like movie popcorn?" you know you are in for a treat. Well, I think so at any rate. If you don't have a dark sense of humor and/or if you get pretty queasy when it comes to some graphic descriptions of brains/rot/etc...well, then you may want to pass.
If you are up for the challenge, however, you may find (like I did) that the book featured a fun, light mystery (who's the serial killer and why is he/she taking all the heads and depriving Angel of her yummy brains?) with a touch of zombified romance. White Trash Zombie was a lot of fun - largely because it's different than the bulk of its genre. I didn't feel like I was reading the same story with different characters...this story felt fresh and fun.
Oh, and I read it on the pool deck of a cruise ship with one (or two?) mojitos in hand so that may have contributed to my enjoyment of it as well.
Still...whether or not you have a mojito in your mouth and Caribbean music in the background, check this one out. It's an undead gem.
Stop Asking Jesus Into Your heart by J. D. Greear
Short. Sweet. To the point.
Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart is a great resource for young Christians and/or Christians who have fallen into the "trap" of doubting their salvation.
J.D. Greear walks us through his own personal experiences with doubting his conversion/salvation. His testimony will especially resonate with those who have grown up in an evangelical church (even more so with those from Southern Baptist churches). Greear draws your attention to the (over?)use of Christian lingo in churches like: "walk the aisle", "ask Jesus into your heart", "pray the prayer", etc... It's the consistent use of this kind of lingo that, Greear argues, can not only create a sense of doubt later on down the road, but also lead to "false conversions" where someone "prayed the prayer" or "walked the aisle", but didn't actually become a Christian.
Greear's journey from a state of constant fear to discovering peace in Christ is a great read for anyone at any stage of their Christian walk. I think Greear's journey is something almost every Christian will experience and/or need to go through at some point in their lives - especially those who accepted Christ at a young age. Greear presents the gospel and references Scripture liberally throughout the book as well, giving it a strong and legitimate foundation.
Definitely check this book out.
How to be a woman by Caitlin Moran
In case you may have forgotten how...Caitlin Moran is here to tell you How to be a Woman.
This book is one part memoir and one part feminist monologue. Moran takes her readers through her developmental years up through marriage, childbirth/rearing, etc. She has an engaging writing style that's very conversational and definitely keeps you reading throughout. The book almost felt like a long speech/lecture, rather than a memoir.
Does Moran impart any revolutionary ideas? Not really. Is this a piece of academic prose complete with sources and footnotes in the Turabian style? Not at all. This is a social commentary of where the author thinks women have come from, where they are now, and where she hopes they go. The big thing that I liked was how she tried to differentiate between feminism and militant feminism. More often than not, the label of "feminist" brings to mind those of a militant feminist point of view and the author argues that this should not be the image invoked. I did not agree with every opinion she put forth, but I don't think she would necessarily find fault with those who disagree with some of her points. I think Moran is striving to make women more aware of their place in society and to draw attention to the fabricated boundaries that have the potential to hold women back.