January 31, 2013

Jeri Smith-Ready: "Bring on the Night"

Title: Bring on the Night [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: WVMP Radio (3rd of 4 books, but there's also a free-download novella that is book 3.5 in the series. See Jeri Smith-Ready's site)
Author: Jeri Smith-Ready [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Year: 2010
Age: 18+ (though Jeri's site actually says 16+, but I think the whole series would be better handled by more mature readers. All the more so because of what stated in the Cons below).
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Original take on the overused vampire theme. Interesting, mostly tridimensional characters. Lots of adrenaline, even in the not-action-driven moments.
Cons: More graphic sex scenes in this one (if you aren't into the stuff) - even an almost-threesome with two girls involved. Gorier than the previous chapters. Radio station and music play a big role in the series, but they're less prominent almost nonexistent in this installment.
Will appeal to: Those who like this series...duh. I wanted to address another point, but it would be too spoilery...

Blurb: Recovering con artist Ciara Griffin seems to finally have it all. A steady job at WVMP. A loving relationship with the idiosyncratic but eternally hot DJ Shane McAllister. And after nine years, it looks as if she might actually finish her bachelor’s degree! But fate has other plans for Ciara. First she must fulfill her Faustian bargain with the Control, the paranormal paramilitary agency that does its best to keep vampires in line. Turns out the Control wants her for something other than her (nonexistent) ability to kick undead ass. Her anti-holy blood, perhaps? Ciara’s suspicions are confirmed when she’s assigned to a special-ops division known as the Immanence Corps, run by the Control’s oldest vampire. But when a mysterious fatal virus spreads through Sherwood - and corpses begin to rise from their graves - Ciara will not only get a crash course in zombie-killing, but will be forced to put her faith, and her life itself, in the hands of magic. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: This is darn tough. Because really, writing a review for Bring On The Night means providing a big, huge, ginormous spoiler. Just one thing, but it's the very core of the book. On the other hand, without the spoiler, there would be no review at all. Or maybe...well, since Karen from For What It's Worth, for example, was able to do it, I hope I can figure out a way to do the same thing myself. I'll address the big spoiler in question with *****. Let's see if it works...
The novel opens two years after the events that took place in Bad to the Bone. And for the first time, Ciara's narrative mode is the past tense. Only in the last chapter she switches to present tense (this is purposely stressed by the author with the sentence "Ah, back in the Now, where I belong."), and my best guess is that Smith-Ready thought it fit to have Ciara recounting the ***** event as a thing from the past, since at the end of the book she has finally come to terms with it.
We left Ciara blackmailed by the Control (see book 1 and 2) into giving them a year's worth of service - and samples of her own blood - in exchange for Shane's well-being. As the book opens, she's completing Indoc(trination) and is going to find out what her final destination is, as far as Control corps are concerned. In the meantime, her relationship with Shane has taken off, and I mean seriously. The station is in the background - big sigh - but anyway, it sounds like everything's going fine there. Though I'm beginning to question the apparent ongoing success of  WVMP, what with it being a vintage station in a world where everything grows old so quickly. (Especially since there seemed to be some small problems back in book 2). Maybe the vamps' strong allure makes up for it? Anyway, this almost idyllic setup comes tumbling down when a supposed chicken pox epidemic begins to spread around and people start to die. This will have a mighty impact on the WVMP happily dysfunctional family, and will change forever the lives - or unlives - of some of its members. [...]

January 24, 2013

Elizabeth Eulberg: "Take a Bow" (or The Of-Course Review)

Title: Take a Bow [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary
Year: 2012
Age: 12+
Stars: 2/5
Pros: Clean book (if you have an issue with swear words). A relaxing, nice read.
Cons: Lack of real depth. Predictable, single-faceted characters. Conflicts are settled too easily.
Will appeal to: Those who need to float in a dream world for a while.

Blurb: Emme has long lived in her best friend Sophie's shadow. She writes songs, and Sophie sings them. Sophie will stop at nothing to be a star. Even if it means using her best friend and picking up a trophy boyfriend, Carter. Carter is a victim of a particular Hollywood curse: he's a former child star. Now all he wants is a normal life. Ethan has his own issues - a darkness in his head that he just can't shake. Emme's the only girl he's ever really respected...but he's not sure what to do about that. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: It's difficult for me to hate this book. Even if I've been cheated into believing it could be the next "Fame" and it's not. Because "Fame" (I'm talking about the 1982 series...not the 1980 movie or, heaven forbid, the 2009 remake) may have been cheesy (hey, those were the '80s after all), but it used to have real blood and sweat... layered characters...and even managed to teach some life lessons. Well, the first three seasons at least - the last three, not so much. Anyway, the point is - this novel reads like an eviscerated version of "Fame". The story is too simple, fluffy and juvenile for my tastes. The characters  - minus one of them, of course - are too sanitized. And the one who isn't seems deprived of any redeeming quality, which is kind of sanitized in reverse. (To be honest, Ethan is not sanitized at all on the whole...but still too darn perfect in his commitment to Emme. He speaks like a book - well, most of the time, every single one of them does - and has little hearts fluttering out of his puppy eyes). Then again, I can't seem to hate this book with a passion. Hence the 2 stars.
The story revolves around four main characters. Emme is sweet and shy. Sophie is ambitious and manipulative. Carter is sensible and introspective. Ethan is self-destructive and insecure. And they all have the same voice - with the possible exception of Sophie...but even in that case, not so much.  Because especially the first four chapters (every chapter is told in a different character's POV) sound exactly the same, with regards to the structure and sentence construction.
We follow Emme, Sophie, Carter and Ethan from their enrollment in CPA (a New York school of the arts...again, Fame anyone? and BTW, I'm not sure if you can have visual arts and performing arts in the same school, like in this case) to their last year there, and their graduation. Or better, we jump from their enrollment straight to their last year, and then we follow them to their graduation, with only some small flashbacks of what happened in the middle. This makes for a short book, at least comparing Eulberg's take on the story with what it could have been. Because really, so much more could have been said. [...]

January 18, 2013

Kendare Blake: "Girl of Nightmares"

Title: Girl of Nightmares [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Anna (2nd of 2 books)
Author: Kendare Blake [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural, Horror
Year: 2012
Age: 12+
Stars: 3/5
Pros: More original, skillfully-crafted episodes horror fans can sink their teeth into. Cas' athame gets its own backstory. Main story gets closure.
Cons: Athame's mythology makes for some slightly boring chapters. Teen angst/doomed love has the upper hand too often.  
Will appeal to: Those who like more action and danger than the first book provided. Those who need closure about Anna.

Blurb: It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can't move on. Now he's seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he's asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But these aren't just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears. Cas doesn't know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn't deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it's time for him to return the favor. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: I don't want to give you the impression that this is a so-so book. Despite my not stellar rating, I kind of enjoyed it - but it just didn't live up to my expectations after reading ADIB. I thought that reading it for the second time would have helped (it did worked for me with The Time of the Ghost), but nope. I ended up feeling slightly bored and not enthralled, just like the first time. This has everything to do with the fact that the main theme of this sequel is the mythology behind the athame, the ancient order that created it and the right to its control. I give credit to Blake for building a solid mythology again, but it wasn't enough to keep me interested. Anna's fate, the possibility of saving her - all of a sudden, everything is subordinated to Cas proving he has a right to use the athame for that very purpose. He even has to go through a trial - along with an unexpected disputant - and, though they both have been raised to fight the dead, I found the trial itself unnecessarily dangerous (even if it did make for a creepy, enjoyable read...see: Suicide Forest).  The book feels uneven, exciting/interesting in parts, then slowing down here and there. Also, Cas' "dead girlfriend" mantra gets annoying. I understand he owes Anna and admires her - but not even a boy who's spending most of his life dealing with the dead is entitled to have a girlfriend from the other side. Not a practicable option, I'd say.
Anyway, let's be specific, and start at the beginning (if you haven't read ADIB...major spoilers here). [...]

January 15, 2013

A Small Redo

Just a very short post to let you know that the Reading Rooms have been partially redecorated ;) - meaning that I slightly changed or expanded their contents. I hope you'll find the changes useful in regard to your reading experience.
Also, I set up three new Quotes Rooms (A-F, G-R, S-Z and # - the apparently odd partition due to the statistical probability for novels to have titles beginning with certain letters! Yes, I did research a little LOL). I was inspired by Ruby at Feed Me Books Now! and her passion for quotes. I've been wanting to include quotes in my reviews for a while, but haven't got round to doing it till now. (So thank you Ruby!). Anyway, not every book has memorable quotes - so I thought that the best option would be setting up quotes pages only for books that were actually screaming "quote me!", if you know what I mean. The pages are still under construction, but I plan to make an alphabetical list of titles paired with their respective quotes as soon as I can. So...stay tuned!

January 12, 2013

Kendare Blake: "Anna Dressed in Blood"

Title: Anna Dressed in Blood [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Anna (1st of 2 books)
Author: Kendare Blake [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural, Horror
Year: 2011
Age: 12+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Haunting story. Full-fledged characters. Strong mythology.
Cons: Gory details (if you can't stomach them). Some inconsistencies (that will be addressed in the review).

WARNING! If you're over-sensitive about animals dying in books, you might approach this one with caution.
Will appeal to: Those who like their ghosts multifaceted. Those who need a romantic quality in their horror. Those who don't but can tolerate a small amount of it.

Blurb: Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: he kills the dead. So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay. Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: (Yes, this is not technically an "offbeat" book. On the contrary, you could say it's mainstream stuff. But you may expect me to agree with the majority of readers occasionally ;). Sometimes a good book is universally recognized - thank heavens for that! So watch me review a successful book and be proud of it ;D).
First off, this is a remarkable debut novel. It doesn't read like the very first book of a newbie author. Blake handles her material and prose with a great amount of confidence. There are recognizable pop-culture influences of course (I'll elaborate later), but they are for the most part conscious and even ironically underlined. Even a new take of an old story (the hitchhiker-from-hell episode) sounds fresh and interesting. We are propelled in mid-action thanks to that, and given an immediate and thorough understanding of Cas' life and purpose. The first chapter is an excellent mood-setting for the whole book. Cas' quiet, matter-of-factly voice makes us understand that he's already an old hand at what he does. Actually, he's been hunting ghosts for three years, since he was 14. I found a bit hard to believe that Cas' mother was able to accept his "job" with such serenity. Yes, it was her husband's call before - but since he was killed while ghost-hunting, one would expect her to wrestle with Cas all the time about going down the same road. Though her being a witch helps gaining a perspective (?), I suppose. So the two of them (plus their cat Tybalt) are constantly traveling from place to place, for Cas to hunt and kill his ghosts. He does that with his father athame, a knife with peculiar qualities, that Cas believes to be linked to his own blood.
Cas is in Thunder Bay on what could be a typical errand: killing a murderous ghost called Anna Korlov. But something about this 16-years-old, more-than-50-years-dead girl makes him uneasy (this is not logically explained). While searching for the best approach to Anna's ghost, Cas ends up teaming with queen bee Carmel and psychic nerd Thomas (only, the queen bee attitude is mostly a façade, and the psychic nerd is actually developing a crush for her). Other kids from school get in the way, with disastrous results - though one could say that Cas was careless, at the very least, or tragedy would not have stricken. Truth is, Anna is no common ghost, but a powerful goddess of death, though she can't leave the house she was murdered in. So, Cas and his friends (among which Gideon, an old English pal of his father, and Morfram, Thomas' grandfather) must come up with a clever plan to destroy her. Only, Anna is not just a homicidal ghost, but also a helpless girl trapped in her own nightmare, and with a soft spot for Cas - though she's aware he's come to kill her. [...]

January 05, 2013

I Can't Wait...Any Longer!

Hi fellow readers and reviewers!
Since I'm in Italy (as you already know) and I don't own a credit card (as you weren't supposed to know before I told you), I can't rely on sites like Amazon or eBay in order to have my not-Italian books shipped. So I buy them on these Italian sites that have a foreign-books section and a cash-on-delivery policy. Sometimes this causes a delay in the delivery itself...just like now. I placed an order for 12 books on Dec. 19...and 5 of them are still being tracked down. Frustrating, you may believe me. Below, the books I'm eagerly waiting for, with the blog Rooms I will put them in; everyone of them is linked to its respective Goodreads page.

...new(ish) books...

Mike Lancaster: 0.4 (a.k.a. Human.4) and 1.4 *Sci_Fi
B. C. Johnson: Deadgirl *Afterlife
Sangu Mandanna: The Lost Girl *Sci-Fi

...more new(ish) books...

Adrienne Stoltz & Ron Bass: Lucid *Multiverse (??? Not sure here. Will decide after reading)
Kimberly Sabatini: Touching the Surface *Afterlife
Jeri Smith-Ready: Lust for Life *Adult
Christopher Pike: Witch World *Christopher Pike

...older books...

Christopher Pike: Monster, The Immortal and The Wicked Heart *Christopher Pike
Jutta Goetze: Luna-C *Contemporary

I'm particularly excited about:

Deadgirl: it got the best ratings of them all on Goodreads (apart from Luna-C, but that one has only received 1 rating so far!). Also, I'm a sucker for dead/undead girl stories!

The Lost Girl: this one sounds like a real good dystopian, with an unheard-of premise.

Lucid: I just can't place this one. Makes me crave to tear apart the veil of mystery that surrounds this story. What did really happen? Is it paranormal, contemporary-with-a-twist, or what? I've bravely resisted the spoilers so far. Hope to make it till the darn book is shipped.

Touching the Surface: another great-sounding new twist on an established standard.

Lust for Life: end of series!

Witch World: according to Goodreads reviewers, it's a love-it-or-hate-it book. As you know, I'm a fan of Christopher Pike, but this didn't prevent me from being disappointed in some of his books before. Anyway, I love the alternate-universes premise already. I'm a sucker for them too!

As for Monster, I read it in Italian, and pretty much hated it - but I do want to give it a second chance. Maybe it will sound better in English, and I will be able to raise my rating to 1.5 stars LOL. I'm such a masochist ;D.


Edit - Feb 7 

*grunts* My webseller won't be able to send me Monster, The Immortal and The Wicked Heart. Someone definitely needs to reprint all those old Pike books. * storms off enraged*