Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Review: Hexed


9595650Title: Hexed
Author: Kevin Hearne
Genre: Urban fantasy, humor, adult

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, doesn’t care much for witches. Still, he’s about to make nice with the local coven by signing a mutually beneficial nonaggression treaty—when suddenly the witch population in modern-day Tempe, Arizona, quadruples overnight. And the new girls are not just bad, they’re badasses with a dark history on the German side of World War II.
With a fallen angel feasting on local high school students, a horde of Bacchants blowing in from Vegas with their special brand of deadly decadence, and a dangerously sexy Celtic goddess of fire vying for his attention, Atticus is having trouble scheduling the witch hunt. But aided by his magical sword, his neighbor’s rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and his vampire attorney, Atticus is ready to sweep the town and show the witchy women they picked the wrong Druid to hex.

You know those books that always manage to cheer you up after a bad day, cheesiness and all? This is one of those books. It's pretty ridiculous, but you don't think about it too hard because all you really need is to laugh a little.

Hexed picks up almost immediately after the events of Hounded. Just when Atticus thinks he can finally settle down without angry gods out to kill him, he gets word of a coven of angry witches who are bent on destroying him. It's the type of magic that can only be fought with the magic of other witches, and Atticus knows better than to trust one of those manipulative, sneaky creatures...but does he really have a choice? The stakes get higher and the magical world collides with the real one even more than in the first book.

Oberon and Atticus have a lot more on their plate in this book, but they just deal with it by being even funnier and snarkier than before. I love their friendship and the fact that absolutely nothing can get between them. I also appreciated the larger role the widow and Granuaile in this book, and it was nice to see that Laksha didn't get left behind. I'm still really annoyed at how often Atticus makes comments about how absolutely gorgeous every woman he sets eyes on is, and it got especially annoying when those comments were directed at his initiate, Granuaile. Despite that annoyance, the book is very entertaining.

I'd recommend this to fans of snarky humor and awkward situations, and people who just really need to laugh and lighten up their day.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday 40 - Books for the Halloween Spirit!



Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
Top Ten Books/Movies To Read Or Watch To Get In The Halloween Spirit

I have been kind of AWOL for a couple of weeks because life has been so so busy. I feel like I haven't had time to breathe because every day is a 12 hour day, and then homework and dance practices and midterms and applying for jobs...whooo college! It's times like these when I really want to be out of here!

Ok, mini rant aside, I think getting into the Halloween spirit will help calm me down and make life a little happier, so here are some books I have read or want to read!

1. Neil Gaiman is the master of making truly chilling creatures as well as sinister characters that turn out to be lovable in the end. I really liked The Graveyard book, which has a bit of both. I recently found out was loosely based on The Jungle Book (how did I never pick up on that? Mindblown)

2. The Monstrumologist FREAKED ME OUT. It's full of really terrifying creatures, and in a Frankenstein-esque way, it makes you wonder who the real monsters are...

3. This is a short story, but I saw a one-act play of it in elementary school and it has freaked me out ever since. Ghostly heartbeats that only you can hear...shudders


4. This one isn't technically horror, but it's dark fantasy and I'm really excited to read it (Thank you, Secret Sister, for sending this to me!). I feel like getting into the mind-space of a villain totally counts as part of the creepy Halloween spirit.

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5. This is a book about post-apocalyptic America after a zombie epidemic hits. What makes it scarier is how plausible the science is, and how personal the stories are, because you start to care about people and then BAM bad things start to happen to them...

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6. I'm reading this one right now, and it's pretty damn creepy (but also oddly funny? I don't know, it's really hard to explain). There is torture and death and brutality, but there is also a lot of wit and dark humor. I think that mix captures the spirit of Halloween pretty well!


7. A classic horror novel if there ever was one! I actually really liked reading the original Dracula after growing up on cartoonish parodies. It's a pretty creepy story, and what's cool is that it's told mostly through journal entries and newspaper clippings.

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8. I read this one a while ago, and it's a really creepy story about a ballet school and the sinister things that happen behind closed doors. The element of the supernatural is subtle, but at the end it comes through with full force!

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9. This book gave me nightmares when my third grade teacher read it to our class, but it was SO GOOD. This is one of the most memorable books I read as a child.
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10. Last but not least, a book written by two brilliant writers that made me laugh hysterically about the apocalypse. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman put together this hilarious parody of The Omen, and it's just great!
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Have you read any of these? Did any of these make you shiver or make your skin crawl?

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: Murder of Crows

17563080Title: Murder of Crows
Author: Anne Bishop
Genre: Urban fantasy, adult fiction

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
After winning the trust of the terra indigene residing in the Lakeside Courtyard, Meg Corbyn has had trouble figuring out what it means to live among them. As a human, Meg should be barely tolerated prey, but her abilities as a cassandra sangue make her something more.
The appearance of two addictive drugs has sparked violence between the humans and the Others, resulting in the murders of both species in nearby cities. So when Meg has a dream about blood and black feathers in the snow, Simon Wolfgard—Lakeside's shape-shifting leader—wonders whether their blood prophet dreamed of a past attack or of a future threat.
As the urge to speak prophecies strikes Meg more frequently, trouble finds its way inside the Courtyard. Now the Others and the handful of humans residing there must work together to stop the man bent on reclaiming their blood prophet—and stop the danger that threatens to destroy them all.

This book was just as much fun as the first book, and it was really cool to see how new elements of the world play out. Still, some of the little things that bugged me in the first book became even more obvious in this one. I guess I can say I still like this series, but this book could have been stronger.

The stakes are much higher in this book than the previous one: someone is actively trying to murder Others by targeting their weaknesses. The Others are losing control of themselves due to the drugs that these conspirators are poisoning them with. Things become even more sinister when you realize where these drugs are coming from.

The characters continue to be awesome, endearing at times and frightening at others. Simon continues to figure out his increasingly complicated feelings for Meg, but that subplot is never overdone or full of cliches (as most romantic subplots are). I felt like the villains were actually villainous this time around (ahem hem Asia Crane hem hem), and my stomach was churning every time we got a glimpse of the Compound.

I also really liked the added dimension of the Intuits, a sort of bridge between the Cassandra sangue and normal humans. Their community and stories added a welcome dimension and sense of hope in a depressing and uncontrollable situation.

The one thing that really bothered me was the lack of urgency. Yes, every time terrible things happened, tension ratcheted up several notches, but in between those times, there were just a lot of conferences. People talked. No one really did things, and especially not Meg. In the first book, Meg was adjusting to life outside of the compound, but by the second book I expected her to actually take charge of her life and do things. She just kind of sits there and lets people baby her, dishing out the occasional prophecy and indirectly saving the day. I just wish the main character had more to do, or just had a little more control over her own life and actions.

This is still a unique spin on the urban fantasy genre, and I'll probably keep reading this series. I really hope Meg grows a spine between books 2 and 3!

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

ARC review: Mortal Heart

20522640Title: Mortal Heart
Author: Robin LaFevers
Genre: Historical fiction, fantasy, young adult

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.
She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn't mean she has...

I missed the rich history and political intrigue that was so prominent in the previous two books, but this one delved a lot more into the mythology of Brittany. It's definitely the most personal story out of the three, and while there were a couple of things that continue to tug at the back of my mind, this was a strong conclusion to this trilogy.

Annith has always dreamed of leaving the convent and fulfilling Mortain's mission as Ismae and Sybella already have. Her need to escape the convent becomes even more powerful and heartbreaking as details of her childhood there are revealed. When she finds out that the abbess plans on making her a Seer, forever stuck in the convent, Annith has to decide whether she should stay in the safety of the only home she has known or take her chances in war-torn Brittany.

Annith as a character treads a very fine line between self-pitying and resilient. She is understandably upset, but there were moments where I felt like she was acting a little childishly; almost immediately after those moments, though, she would pull herself together and take action to alleviate her situation. I appreciated that Annith knew what she wanted and acted on it instead of waiting for other people to encourage her or save her.

I also really enjoyed the introduction of the Hellequin. The Hellequin are half-damned souls that lived such pitiful lives that they must spend lifetimes serving the living in order to redeem themselves. They are broken, mysterious creatures, but there is also a spark of life in them.

The romance in this novel is mostly what the little voice in my head hasn't been very happy about. It kind of makes sense, but there's just so many little ways in which it rubbed me the wrong way. Some of the other characters are skeptical as well, which I appreciated, but things are smoothed out pretty quickly considering the implications of what's happening. I will say no more so that I don't spoil anything.

If you have enjoyed reading about the assassin nuns of Brittany, you will love this conclusion.

An ARC was provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday 39 - Bookish Places I want to visit



Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
  This week's theme: Top Ten bookish places I want to visit

1. Turn of the Century New York

Inspired by...
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2. Magical Version of Renaissance Venice

Inspired by...
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3. Prague

Inspired by...
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4. London and London Below
Inspired by...
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5. Neverland
Inspired by...
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6. Lumatere and Charyn

Inspired by...

7. Discworld
Inspired by...
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Monday, October 13, 2014

Review: The Dream Thieves


17347389Title: The Dream Thieves
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Young Adult

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same.
Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life.
Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after...

I really love the idea of ancient mythology weaving in with the present day. It just makes daily life a little bit more magical, a little bit more beautiful. There is a poetry to the legends from hundreds if not thousands of years ago, and Maggie Stiefvater weaves that poetry into her books.

The Dream Thieves picks up almost immediately after the epilogue of Raven Boys, with Ronan's little...revelation. Ronan is front and center in this book, and I loved it. You find out more about his family and his past, and secrets.

Secrets play such a huge role in this book. The first few lines from the prologue:

“A secret is a strange thing.
There are three kinds of secrets. One is the sort everyone knows about, the sort you need at least two people for. One to keep it. One to never know. The second is a harder kind of secret: one you keep from yourself. Every day, thousands of confessions are kept from their would-be confessors, none of these people knowing that their never-admitted secrets all boil down to the same three words: I am afraid.
And then there is the third kind of secret, the most hidden kind. A secret no one knows about. Perhaps it was known once, but was taken to the grave. Or maybe it is a useless mystery, arcane and lonely, unfound because no one ever looked for it.
Sometimes, some rare times, a secret stays undiscovered because it is something too big for the mind to hold. It is too strange, too vast, too terrifying to contemplate."

This excerpt does a better job of explaining this book than I ever could. That feeling of unease but also excitement about the unknown? That's this book. The mystery and danger of a secret, and the pain of keeping it? That's this book too.

The characters continue to grow and change and push and pull each other in unexpected ways. Some characters I wanted to punch, others scared me witless, and others I wanted to wrap my arms around in a big bear hug.

This book is lovely.

Read it.
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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Book Talk: Audiobooks



I know audiobooks are very hit-or-miss for people. Some people love them, some people hate them, and some people just haven't tried them.

I've discovered that I really like re-reading with audiobooks. Sometimes it's just hard to pay attention when you're listening to something for a long period of time (ahem physics lectures ahem hem), and if it's a re-read it doesn't really matter. I know how the story goes, so if I miss a few details here and there I won't be lost.

It also depends on how long the audiobook is. The longest one I've done is Mistborn: The Final Empire, clocking in at 20 hours. I think the only reason I finished was because I looooooooooove Mistborn (If you haven't read this yet, GET ON THAT ASAP) and I was already emotionally invested in the story because I'd already read it. If I hadn't already read it, I would have been bored to tears after a couple of hours. My limit is usually 9 or 10 hours because if it's too much longer, I feel like reading the paper book is better because it's so much faster.

Then again, I'm guilty of skimming, so listening to the audiobook sometimes forces me to get more invested in the characters and actually pay attention. I loved The Help and Code Name Verity on audio because the narrators did such a great job of bringing the characters to life. I loved both books more than I think I would have if I'd read the physical book first.

I don't think I would have been half as entertained with some books if it weren't for the narrators. Nick Podehl is PHENOMENAL, and I love listening to his books (especially Chaos Walking!). I definitely would not have found Kevin Hearne's Hounded as funny if it weren't for Luke Daniels doing all the accents and the doggy voice for Oberon. I also loved the narrators of Code Name Verity, Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell. Kristine Hvam did a great job of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy as well.

What do you think of audiobooks? Any recommendations? Did you find some audiobooks you want to try?

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday 38 - Character driven novels



Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
  This week's theme: Top Ten Character-driven books

1. What would a list of character-driven novels be without the charismatic con artists, Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen? If you haven't read Lies of Locke Lamora, you really should. It's witty, intelligent, very emotional (heartbreaking at times, in fact), and tons of fun. Honestly, I would read anything with these two characters in them because no matter how crappy the other aspects of the books are (the third book was definitely lacking in a few ways...), Locke and Jean make it worthwhile.


2. Just because a novel is character driven doesn't mean you actually have to like them, right? Gone Girl has two complete wrecks as main characters and narrators, and no matter how ugly it gets, you just can't look away...

It's scary how charismatic Amy and Nick are. No matter how twisted they are, you still want to know their story. This book is intense!


3. I cannot say enough good things about Maddie and "Verity". These two have the type of friendship you only dream about, and manage to be incredible and brave but also intensely human and realistic. This book is really only a little about WWII; it's mostly a love letter to friendship.


4. Every Melina Marchetta book ever. Every last one of them. Creating heartbreakingly real characters who are equal parts flawed and strong is Marchetta's trademark, and I constantly have to remind myself that these people I'm reading about aren't real and that I have no reason to be soaking up my surroundings with tears (of the sad, joyful, and bittersweet variety).


5. The Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French is great. I love these novels because they can be read as stand-alones, but there are still subtle threads connecting them or minor characters that come to the forefront in different books. Each book focuses on a different detective, and the detective's past and personal struggles are always just as important as the murder they're trying to solve. These are some of my favorite mystery novels and I highly recommend them!


6. Who doesn't love a snarky Jinni? Bartimaeus is clever and humorous, but his relationship with humans and the things they accomplish are incredible. There is a real push and pull relationship between Bartimaeus and Nathaniel throughout this series, and the ending always has me clutching my heart. I loved this series as a child, and I still do!


7. Chava and Ahmed are the title characters of The Golem and the Jinni. Not only are these characters incredibly realistic (oh the irony), the minor characters are as well. You really get to see the immigrant experience of turn-of-the-century New York, and the book is slow, but gorgeously written and emotional.


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8. Bruiser by Neal Shusterman is very unexpected. It's told from three perspectives, all written in distinct styles (it's very clever when you compare the narrative style to the characters' personalities!). The title character is a bit of an outcast who doesn't let people get too close to him. When you finally see the truth from his eyes, you just want to envelope him in a bear hug. This book is nothing without its characters, and I thought it was brilliant.

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9. This book is fascinating because you get to see things from the perspective of not one but two antiheroes. Well, maybe a villain and a hero? Or two misguided, twisted people? The greatest thing about this book is that you are constantly revising your perception and judgments about the two main characters. It's great!

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10. This series never ceases to surprise me. Each book centers around one new character, but all the old ones don't just fade into the background. If anything, all the characters grow and become far more complex and dynamic with each passing book. Despite all the technology and evil manipulation happening, this is still a very character-centric series.


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