Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lessons Learned From Strong Heroines

With all the recent controversy surrouding Marvel and their unwillingness to support female superheroes, I've been thinking more and more about genre fiction as a platform where strong female characters have long ago become the norm, and not an exception. I say this with no small amount of smugness - it's pretty clear that we bookish people are always more openminded and ready to accept change. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Review: The Collector

The CollectorAuthor: Nora Roberts
Series: Standalone
Released: April 15th 2015
Publisher: Piatkus
Length: 483 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

Lila Emerson is fascinated by other people's lives. As a house-sitter, she loves looking after the glamorous, sophisticated homes she could never afford herself. And as a writer, she enjoys watching the world go by, dreaming up stories for the people she sees from her window. 
But then one day she witnesses something only too real - the brutal and shocking murder of a young woman living across the street in New York. And now, because of what she saw, Lila's own life is in immediate danger from an audacious, single-minded assassin who kills for profit and for pleasure.
With the police following a false lead, Lila is on her own. Her only hope is to team up with Ashley Archer, an artist with his own complicated reasons for getting involved. Lila wants to trust the passionate, quick-witted Ash - but is she letting her feelings blind her to his motives? Either way, Lila will never watch from the sidelines again... 

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Nora Roberts is the Nora Roberts for a reason. She knows just what her readers enjoy, and it’s clear from every page that she still enjoys it too, even after so many years and over 200 books behind her. It’s pretty clear when authors love what they do, and you can tell right from the start that this woman writes precisely what she herself would want to read.

Monday, May 25, 2015

LGBT Monday: The Blinding Light

The Blinding LightAuthor: Renae Kaye
Series: The Tav, #1
Released: July 14th 2015
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Length: 212 pages
Buy: Amazon

Jake Manning’s smart mouth frequently gets him into trouble. Because of it, he can’t hold a job. Combined with some bad luck, it's prevented him from keeping steady employment. A huge debt looms over him, and alone he shoulders the care of his alcoholic mother and three younger sisters. When a housekeeping position opens, Jake’s so desperate he leaps at the opportunity. On landing, he finds his new boss, Patrick Stanford, a fussy, arrogant, rude… and blind man.
Born without sight, Patrick is used to being accommodated, but he’s met his match with Jake, who doesn’t take any of his crap and threatens to swap all the braille labels on his groceries and run off with his guide dog unless he behaves.
Jake gets a kick out of Patrick. Things are looking up: the girls are starting their own lives and his mum’s sobriety might stick this time. He’s sacrificed everything for his family; maybe it’s time for him to live his life and start a relationship with Patrick. When his mother needs him, guilt makes his choice between family and Patrick difficult, and Jake must realize he’s not alone anymore.

Renae Kaye sure knows how to write them. Realistic, funny and Aussie-flavored, her romances are truly unlike any other. My favorite thing about her is that the word angst doesn’t seem to be in her dictionary at all. Instead of creating unbearable drama, she relies on excellent characterization and humor in all her books.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Review: The Girl at Midnight

The Girl at Midnight (The Girl at Midnight, #1)Author: Melissa Grey
Series: The Girl at Midnight, #1
Released: April 28th 2015
Publisher: Atom
Length: 361 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.
Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act.
Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.
But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire. 

It has been pointed out far too many times that The Girl at Midnight shares many similarities with Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Some might consider this to be a compliment and an instant recommendation, but for me, it was a sign that I should consider very carefully before reading it. But while it was clear right from the start that the stories do indeed share many elements, it was also clear to me that The Girl at Midnight lacks that pretentiousness I strongly disliked in Taylor’s books.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Audiobook Review: This Is Your Afterlife

This Is Your AfterlifeAuthor: Vanessa Barneveld
Narrator: Stephanie Bentley
Series: Standalone
Released: February 13th 2015
Publisher: Audible Studios
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Audible

When the one boy you crushed on in life can't seem to stay away in death, it's hard to be a normal teen when you're a teen paranormal.
Sixteen-year-old Keira Nolan has finally got what she wanted—the captain of the football team in her bedroom. Problem is he’s not in the flesh. He’s a ghost and she’s the only one who can see him.
Keira's determined to do anything to find Jimmy's killer. Even it if means teaming up with his prickly-yet-dangerously-attractive brother, Dan, also Keira's ex-best-friend. Keira finds that her childish crush is fading, but her feelings for Dan are just starting to heat up, and as the story of Jimmy’s murder unfolds, anyone could be a suspect. 
This thrilling debut from Vanessa Barneveld crosses over from our world to the next, and brings a whole delightful new meaning to "teen spirit".

This is Your Afterlife first came to my attention because of its beautiful cover and the person behind it – our very own Jenny from Seedlings and Supernatural Snark. The cover reflects the book perfectly: it is upbeat, sweet and light. Just what the doctor ordered. If you’re looking for a comfort read, look no further. This book will make you laugh, swoon, and despite its title, it will leave you smiling ear to ear.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Audiobook Review: End of Days

End of Days (Penryn and the End of Days, #3)Author: Susan Ee
Narrator: Caitlin Davies
Series: Penryn & the End of Days, #3
Released: May 12th 2014
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Length: 8 hrs and 43 mins
Buy: Audible

End of Days is the explosive conclusion to Susan Ee's bestselling Penryn & the End of Days trilogy. After a daring escape from the angels, Penryn and Raffe are on the run. They're both desperate to find a doctor who can reverse the twisted changes inflicted by the angels on Raffe and Penryn's sister. As they set off in search of answers, a startling revelation about Raffe's past unleashes dark forces that threaten them all.
When the angels release an apocalyptic nightmare onto humans, both sides are set on a path toward war. As unlikely alliances form and strategies shift, who will emerge victorious? Forced to pick sides in the fight for control of the earthly realm, Raffe and Penryn must choose: Their own kind, or each other?

End of Days is the conclusion we’ve all been anxiously waiting to read since early 2011, when Susan Ee first released what was to become a self-published sensation. Angelfall was quite a surprise for readers and publishers alike and luckily, the quality was recognized on all sides. But if Angelfall was a huge success, the book that followed, World After, was an even bigger hit. Not only did Ee manage to reach the same level of excellence, she somehow doubled the excitement and our own emotional investment.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Blog Tour Review: The Happy Ever Afterlife of Rosie Potter (RIP)

The Happy Ever Afterlife of Rosie Potter (RIP)Author: Kate Winter
Series: Standalone
Released: May 21st 2015
Publisher: Sphere
Length: 304 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

Falling in love is never simple. Especially when you're dead.
When Rosie Potter wakes up one morning with what she assumes is the world's worst hangover, the last thing she expects is to discover that she's actually dead. With a frustrating case of amnesia, suspicious circumstances surrounding her untimely demise, and stuck wearing her ugliest flannel PJs, Rosie must figure out not only what happened last night, but why on earth she's still here.
Slowly the mystery unravels, but there are many other secrets buried in the quiet Irish village of Ballycarragh, and nobody is as innocent as they first appear. Aided by the unlikeliest of allies in her investigation, Rosie discovers that life after death isn't all it's cracked up to be, particularly when you might just be falling in love . . .
In this hilarious, life-affirming and romantic journey through Rosie Potter's afterlife, she shares the ghostly tale of how she lived, she died, and she loved (in that order).

What could be better on a slow Sunday afternoon than a book that can make you smile and cry at the same time? With the protagonist dead on the very first page, one would assume this book to be gloomy and heartrending, but The Happy Ever Afterlife of Rosie Potter is really the farthest thing from it. This heartfelt, hilarious story celebrates life as it’s meant to be lived, with no regrets and not a moment wasted.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Review: Eighth Grave After Dark

Eighth Grave After Dark (Charley Davidson, #8)Author: Darynda Jones
Series: Charley Davidson, #8
Released: May 19th 2015
Publisher: Piatkus
Length: 304 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

With twelve hellhounds after her, pregnant Charley Davidson takes refuge at the only place she thinks they can’t get to her: the grounds of an abandoned convent. But after months of being cooped up there, Charley is ready to pop. Both metaphorically and literally since she is now roughly the size of a beached whale. Fortunately, a new case has captured her attention, one that involves a murder on the very grounds the team has taken shelter upon. A decades-old murder of the newly-vowed nun she keeps seeing in the shadows is almost enough to pull her out of her doldrums. 
Charley's been forbidden to step foot off the sacred grounds. While the angry hellhounds can’t traverse the consecrated soil, they can lurk just beyond its borders. They have the entire team on edge, especially Reyes. And if Charley didn’t know better, she would swear Reyes is getting sick. He grows hotter with every moment that passes, his heat scorching across her skin every time he’s near, but naturally he swears he’s fine.
While the team searches for clues on the Twelve, Charley just wants answers and is powerless to get them. But the mass of friends they’ve accrued helps. They convince her even more that everyone in her recent life has somehow been drawn to her, as though they were a part of a bigger picture all along. But the good feelings don’t last for long because Charley is about to get the surprise of her crazy, mixed-up, supernatural life….

Yes, it’s finally that time of the year – Charley Davidson is back with us, in all her glory, to amuse and entertain, to make us laugh and even break our hearts.

Charley’s world is becoming more complicated by the second. Eighth Grave finally offers some answers, but with them come even more questions and uncertainties. Darynda Jones knows how to give us just enough, intrigue us even more, and leave us begging for the next installment.

Monday, May 18, 2015

LGBT Monday: Knight of Ocean Avenue

Knight of Ocean Avenue (Love in Laguna, #1)Author: Tara Lain
Series: Love in Laguna, #1
Released: May 1st 2015
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Length: 254 pages
Buy: Amazon

How can you be twenty-five and not know you’re gay? Billy Ballew runs from that question. A high school dropout, barely able to read until he taught himself, Billy’s life is driven by his need to help support his parents as a construction worker, put his sisters through college, coach his Little League team, and not think about being a three-time loser in the engagement department. Being terrified of taking tests keeps Billy from getting the contractor's license he so desires, and fear of his mother's judgement blinds Billy to what could make him truly happy.
Then, in preparation for his sister’s big wedding, Billy meets Shaz—Chase Phillips—a rising star, celebrity stylist who defines the word gay. To Shaz, Billy embodies everything he’s ever wanted—stalwart, honest, brave—but even if Billy turns out to be gay, he could never endure the censure he’d get for being with a queen like Shaz. How can two men with so little in common find a way to be together? Can the Stylist of the Year end up with the Knight of Ocean Avenue?

Knight of Ocean Avenue isn’t my first book by Tara Lain and it won’t be the last, but if you asked me to tell you some details about any of her books I’ve read before, I’d be hard pressed to remember them. Outing the Quarterback was my favorite among her books, and one I’d certainly recommend, but her shifter PNR and her latest contemporary series, apparently, are cute and light-hearted, but ultimately forgettable.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Review: The Storyspinner

The Storyspinner (The Keepers' Chronicles, #1)Author: Becky Wallace
Series: Keepers' Chronicles, #1
Released: March 3rd 2015
Publisher: Margaret McElderry
Length: 432 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Drama and danger abound in this fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.
In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.
The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.
With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

We all know that good YA fantasy is hard to find. It’s where we find the brightest stars, but it’s also the most challenging of genres. For a debut author, writing in the same genre as Melina Marchetta, Kristin Cashore, Megan Whalen Turner, Rae Carson and many, many authors, can be very risky and, I assume, somewhat intimidating. After reading The Storyspinner, I believe Becky Wallace is one of the good ones. Not great just yet, but very promising indeed.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Review: The Rise and Fall of the Gallivanters

The Rise and Fall of the GallivantersAuthor: M. J. Beaufrand
Series: Standalone
Released: May 12th 2015
Publisher: Amulet
Length: 288 pages
Source: Publisher for review
        The Book Depository
In Portland in 1983, girls are disappearing. Noah, a teen punk with a dark past, becomes obsessed with finding out where they've gone—and he's convinced their disappearance has something to do with the creepy German owners of a local brewery, the PfefferBrau Haus. Noah worries about the missing girls as a way of avoiding the fact that something's seriously wrong with his best friend, Evan. Could it be the same dark force that's pulling them all down?
When the PfefferBrau Haus opens its doors for a battle of the bands, Noah pulls his band, the Gallivanters, back together in order to get to the bottom of the mystery. But there's a new addition to the band: an enigmatic David Bowie look-alike named Ziggy. And secrets other than where the bodies are buried will be revealed. From Edgar-nominated author M. J. Beaufrand, this is a story that gets to the heart of grief and loss while also being hilarious, fast paced, and heartbreaking.

Being a child of the 80’s, I get really nostalgic whenever I’m reminded of something from those years, be it the music, the fashion, or David Bowie’s weird personas. But with or without nostalgia, with or without understanding of the period, The Rise and Fall of the Gallivanters is a truly magical book. Heartbreaking, overwhelming, deeply metaphorical and symbolic, painful, strange and so very honest, this sucker punch of a novel will stay with you for a very long time.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Audiobook Review: Suicide Notes

Suicide NotesAuthor: Michael Thomas Ford
Narrator: Joe Caron
Released: January 12th 2010
Publisher: Audible Studios
Length: 5 hrs and 38 mins
Buy: Audible

Fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up on New Year's Day to find himself in the hospital. Make that the psychiatric ward. With the nut jobs. Clearly, this is all a huge mistake. Forget about the bandages on his wrists and the notes on his chart. Forget about his problems with his best friend, Allie, and her boyfriend, Burke. Jeff's perfectly fine, perfectly normal, not like the other kids in the hospital with him. Now they've got problems. But a funny thing happens as his 45-day sentence drags on: the crazies start to seem less crazy.
Compelling, witty, and refreshingly real, Suicide Notes is a darkly humorous novel from award-winning author Michael Thomas Ford that examines that fuzzy line between "normal" and the rest of us.

After an attempted suicide, Jeff wakes up in a psychiatric ward where he is forced to spend the next 45 days. He doesn’t want to and he’s determined not to cooperate, but his stay isn’t optional and his parents refuse to take him home. Finding their son almost bloodless in a bathtub isn’t something they particularly want to relive, and if the psych ward is what it takes to keep him alive, that’s where he’ll stay for as long as it takes.