Saturday, December 8, 2012

Grace Grows - Shelle Sumners

Always a planner, textbook editor Grace Barnum feels prepared for most eventualities. Until the responsibility-challenged Tyler Wilkie show up. In need of a little help, Tyler has warm eyes, a country drawl, and a smile that makes Grace drop things. And worst of all he writes devastatingly beautiful songs. About her.

Tyler reaches something in Grace, something she needs, but can't admit to - will she learn to let go and let love grow?
Simultaneously adorable and hokey.

I'm not generally one for romance novels; I'm by no means a sap. Yet I had a really hard time putting this book down.

The characters drew me in and kept me hooked. Grace frustrated me so many times, but Tyler's puppy dog persistence more than made up for it.

It was really well written, and I found myself aww-ing often. But it was fairly predictable and formulaic - but hey, that's the genre for ya.

For all you romantics out there, this book is definitely for you.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Stuck - Lissette E. Manning

A world too different from what we once knew...all we hold onto now is survival.

Memories of the dead remind Annie Page of the world she'd once known. Renegade forces are closing in, seeking to command the little that remains. Yet she refuses to stand by and watch the world crumble.

Her children's love the driving force behind the choices that she's made, she's determined to make their world a better place. Yet their survival comes with a price - one that she never meant to pay.
There was nothing special about this book at all.

The blurb makes it sound like it could actually be pretty interesting; however, there was almost no climax nor conclusion. It left me thinking that it was just the introduction to what could have been a really good story.

This story was well written but it could have been so much more. I was saddened that it ended so prematurely.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Asgard Park - Ronald Simonar

Across two continents, three strangers uncover the oldest story on earth and the best kept secret of all times.
I have no idea what this book is about.

Between the undefined acronyms, the incredibly long/difficult names, and the references to groups and organizations I have never heard of, it was extremely hard to figure out what was going on.

From what I could grasp of it, the concept was interesting, as were the events themselves. But why people did what they did, feared who they did, and how it all came together in the end... I am so lost.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Black Conspiracy - Ken Magee

Ancient magic has infected the Internet… is this the end for civilisation?

Previously - Ancient magic has transported Tung, a young thief, and Madrick, a has-been wizard, across a millennium. The powerful magic they brought with them was unwittingly spread over the Internet by Michael, a hacker whose good intentions far outstripped his common sense.

Problem - Civilisation simply can’t handle the unforeseen consequences of the magic and the only people who can prevent the ensuing catastrophe are the same three who created the mess in the first place.

Now - To make matters even worse, evil wizards have followed Tung and Madrick through time. They’re determined to hunt down and destroy the pair, and with them, our modern way of life. Saving the world has just got a whole lot harder.

Yet another amazing tale from Magee.

This book is so fun and amusing. It keeps you drawn in and just won't let you go. It is filled with a plethora of idioms, and Tung's attempts to use them correctly is just hilarious.

The introduction of the Universe was really well done. She is definitely a new favourite character. The way she related to things was clever and intriguing, and I might just have to start referring to Lady Luck as Lord Luck from now now on.

This book was wonderful and I would definitely recommend it. But read Dark Tidings first, just to increase the level of awesome.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Good Fairies of New York - Martin Millar

Dinnie, an overweight enemy of humanity, was the worst violinist in New York, but was practicing gamely when two cute little fairies stumbled through his fourth-floor window and vomited on the carpet...

When a pair of fugitive Scottish thistle fairies end up transplanted to Manhattan by mistake, both the Big Apple and the Little People have a lot of adjusting to do. Heather and Morag just want to start the first radical fairy punk rock band, but first they’ll have make a match between two highly unlikely sweethearts, start a street brawl between rival gangs of Italian, Chinese, and African fairies, help the ghost of a dead rocker track down his lost guitar, reclaim a rare triple-bloomed Welsh poppy from a bag lady with delusions of grandeur, disrupt a local community performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and somehow manage to stay sober enough to save all of New York from an invasion of evil Cornish fairies.

If they can stop feuding with each other, that is.
I struggled, for the entire length of this book, to not simply walk away from it forever.

The story was presented in such a scatterbrained way that it got me dizzy with all its hopping about. Almost every paragraph was about a different group of fairies dealing with a different issue, all of which remained disconnected for the majority of the book.

There were many threads of story coming together in the end, yet somehow it miraculously got tied up in a tidy little bow that was far too easy for all involved.

However, I applaud the author for providing a wide variety of characters in his story. Unfortunately, his climax was un-climactic. It started to climb and as it was approaching the peak it just stopped and ended instead of talking the extra step to reach the apex before descending.

All in all, a very disjointed and uneventful book.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Mushroom Shift - Joe Clifford Faust

As the year draws to a close, Monmouth comes to realize that the county's aging Sheriff will soon be succeeded by the political enemy who put Monmouth on the Mushroom Shift to begin with. Survival mode kicks in and he begins to consider his options, interrupted by his crumbling marriage, his drinking, and the never-ending parade of drunk drivers, family fights and perverts that make up small town police work.
This is most definitely not your average cop drama. And that's what makes it a good read.
I was intrgued by this small town and the goings-on of its citizens because, as we all know, small towns can be a little...shall we say 'odd'? Faust was able to really humanize his characters and their idiosyncrasies.
A few times I got confused with which nicknames belonged to whom, making certain situations and conversations difficult to follow.
The ending caught me off guard, it was not at all what I expected, but it was what I've been trying to find in a novel for a while now. Not your run-of-the-mill "happily ever after", but it left me content nonetheless.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mutant Message Down Under - Marlo Morgan

An American woman is summoned by a remote tribe of nomadic Aboriginals who call themselves the "Real People" to accompany them on a four-month-long walkabout through the Outback. While traveling barefoot with them through 1,400 miles of rugged desert terrain, she learns a new way of life, including their methods of healing, based on the wisdom of their 50,000-year-old culture. Ultimately, she experiences a dramatic personal transformation.

Mutant Message Down Under recounts a unique, timely, and powerful life-enhancing message for all humankind: It is not too late to save our world from destruction if we realize that all living things - be they plants, animals, or human beings - are part of the same universal oneness. If we heed the message, our lives, like the lives of the Real People, can be filled with this great sense of purpose.
An incredible tale.

The journey this woman went on is fascinating, and she writes such powerful messages. There are definitely lessons in this book that everyone should learn.

This book has motivated me to try to live more in harmony with nature and the world in general.

However, I don't believe this is a book everyone would enjoy. It is not written as a "story" in the traditional sense; there is no climax, no denouement. Morgan simply relates different happenings over the course of her journey.

If you are looking for profound life lessons, then this is the book for you; but if you are looking for just a "story", then you may not enjoy this one as much.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Watchers - Jon Steele

Meet Marc Rochat, a man-child who has devoted his life to being the bell ringer at the Gothic Lausanne Cathedral, one of the greatest architectural structures in the world. Eerie things have been going on in and around his church, including tremblings in the underground crypt and a variety of gruesomely murdered bodies showing up in nearby streets. Across the square from the cathedral lives Katherine Taylor, a beautiful young American woman who is making phenomenal money as one of the highest-priced call girls in Switzerland; she's a bit too introspective for her own good and, unfortunately for her, much too observant of her clients' peccadilloes. Rochat's and Taylor's lives collide with Jay Harper, a British private eye who has been sent to investigate the killings and other strange doings; alas, he has no memory of who hired him or precisely why he was chosen for the job. And now all the clues are pointing skyward, where fallen angels are said to haunt Lausanne.

I'm not one for re-reading books, you know how it's going to end so what's the point? However, with this book I can see myself reading it time and again because I am so in love with the characters that I just want to be engulfed in their world again, forever.

This book had me so captivated that I found myself reading it in lectures, on the bus, even at work (ssh don't tell my boss!). I wish I had a rating higher than "Loved it!" because this book has far surpassed anything on this blog thus far.

The storyline, the characters, the world were written so well. Tiny threads you think insignificant, come flying back to smack you in the face with their importance. Everything weaved together in a stunning tapestry.

I would recommend this book to everyone. This is one read that you will definitely not regret.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Tough Cookie - Diane Mott Davidson

When caterer Gold Shulz is offered a temporary stint hosting a cooking show for PBS, she jumps at the chance. After all, she could use the money - not to mention the great exposure. Plus taping the shows at Colorado's posh Killdeer Ski Resort will be fun. A little cooking, a little chitchat. What could go wrong?

The answer: everything! When Goldy has to do one of her shows live for a PBS telethon, the broadcast is riddled with culinary catastrophes - from the Chesapeake Crab Cakes right down to the Ice-Capped Gingersnaps. But the deadliest dish of all comes after the cameras go off - and a baffling accident claims a life. Then a series of suspicious mishaps places Goldy's own life in jeopardy, and she knows she'd better whip up her own crime-solving recipe, and fast - before a deadly dash of danger ends her cooking career once and for all.
A definite page-turner!

Goldy is a favourite character of mine, and the intense things that happen in her life always keep me coming back for more.

Tough Cookie is very well written, and the ending took me by surprise. I had my own theories about "whodunnit" and, as per usual, I was wrong.

The book speeds along at a pace that doesn't allow any "dry spells". It keeps you thinking "Just one more page then I'll go to bed" until it's 5am and you realise you have to be up soon.

My only issue with the book was that sometimes I couldn't remember the connections between certain individuals. However, within moments of me starting to get confused, Davidson quickly tossed out a tidbit that helped me to re-connect the dots.

Overall, a fantastic book.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Clash of Kings - George R.R. Martin

The second book of A Song of Ice and Fire.

Throughout Westeros, the cold winds are rising.

From the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding lands of Winterfell, chaos reigns as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms stake their claims through tempest, turmoil and war.

As a prophecy of doom cuts across the sky - a comet the colour of blood and flame - five factions struggle for control of a divided land. Brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk in the night.

Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, the price of glory is measured in blood.
A book of war.

With such chaos and fighting, the story was very intense.

I really enjoyed all the different perspectives. It's great seeing a tale from several different angles, and it really allows you to better understand the characters and their motives.

However, at times the story did lag a bit and some of the fighting ran a bit long.

I am very thankful for the appendix at the back, with the lists of characters and who's related to whom. Very helpful. Things got rather confusing at times and my brain is still a little muddled about some of events that occurred.

Overall, not my cup of tea. Although I am still anxious to read the next in the series.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dark Tidings - Ken Magee

What happens when ancient magic meets the internet? One thing is certain, modern life will never be the same again.

A thousand years ago, a young thief, Tung, and a disgraced wizard, Madrick, are thrust together in an executioner’s dungeon.

In the darkness, Madrick reveals an incredible secret about a legendary spell. The great spell helps them escape their prison cell... and eventually their century.

Catapulted into the present day, their lives collide with Michael, a computer hacker who plans to destroy the world’s largest bank. But sinister people are tracking their every move and they will stop at nothing to steal their spell.

How refreshing! Light and fun, but it keeps you hooked from page one until the very end.

This is definitely a perfect book for this time of year: a beach read. It doesn't take itself too seriously, which is exactly what the summer calls for.

The "alien-ness" of being thrust into an new century was described perfectly. I enjoyed watching the development of the time travellers as they slowly came to grasp some "basic" concepts, including some of our stranger phrases.

Magee's writing style could initially be seen as slightly repetitive. However, the further the plot progressed, the more you realise that this repetition actually adds to the story and the characters. It makes you realise just how connected they are.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I can't wait for the sequel!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Currently Reading...

I'm about a third of the way through Dark Tidings by Ken Magee. After struggling to get through Contra-ODESSA, this book is such a relief. I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

After this book, I have to make a big decision: what to read next. I've recently been flooded with books to review and it is a bit overwhelming.

I'm really leaning towards starting A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin; it's been calling to me for over a month now, and since the second season has finished the desire to read the book has only become more insistent.

However, I might start either Pedophilia: A Cause and A Cure by Steve A. Mizera or The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya instead. We shall see.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Contra-ODESSA - Alex Markman

Inspired by actual events, Contra-ODESSA brings the reader back to 1960s Latin America.

Needing money to fund their activities, Soviets send a team of KGB operatives to track down Swiss bank account numbers from Nazis who stashed fortunes obtained from prior looting. Young American secret service agents seek the source of funding for Latin American radical groups.

Utilizing all their training and hiding behind secret identities, agents of both teams push through physical, ethical, personal, and moral challenges in order to help their team succeed.

An inevitable clash of the two spy networks and the former SS organization ODESSA that follows is violent and brutal. Its casualties are not only people but also morality and law.

What a struggle to read! So many times I just wanted to give up and quit the book, but I was determined to finish it for this review.

The story seems like an interesting idea, but, I'm sad to say, it was not well written. The main story arc got lost for many pages at a time, making it very hard to follow. Many times, an entire chapter (or the majority of it), felt completely irrelevant to the storyline.

I enjoyed the characters; they were intriguingly dynamic. However, they seemed to have a hard time conversing. A lot of the dialogue seemed forced, awkward. A lot of the story, in general, was forced and awkward.

I would not recommend reading this book. I struggled to get through it and did not enjoy reading it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Brighton Belle - Sara Sheridan

As Britain huddles under the grey mantle of post-war austerity, broken-hearted ex-Secret Service employee Mirabelle Bevan moves into semi-retirement in Brighton. But intriguing details keep intruding on Mirabelle's lonely existence and it isn't long before she's asking dangerous people difficult questions and challenging the mysterious shadows of World War II that begin to rock her new life.
Not terrible, but nothing spectacular either. I'm not really sure what to say about this book. It had its interesting moments, but overall it just wasn't there. In reading, you feel like you are just skimming the surface of what could possibly been a much more fascinating story. The book failed to envelope me.

The premise of the book was quite intriguing, all the ins and outs of it. But at times I found it a bit confusing.

I must applaud Sheridan's writing style, as it absolutely thrusts you into the 1950s. It can be difficult to get the tone of an era across in this manner, but Sheridan has achieved it well.

Mirabelle and Vesta were definitely redeeming aspects of the story. These women were simply wonderful characters. I truly enjoyed them.

Overall, if a friend asked me about this book I'd reply with a shrug and a "Yeah I guess you might like it. Maybe."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

'What are you thinking, Amy? The question I've asked most often during our marriage, if not out loud, if not to the person who could answer. I suppose these questions stormcloud over every marriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?'

Just how well can you ever know the person you love? This is the question that Nick Dunne must ask himself on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy's friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn't true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they aren't his. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what really did happen to Nick's beautiful wife? And what was in that half-wrapped box left so casually on their marital bed?
Vicious! The resentment and hatred that fills these pages is absolutely vicious! Shocking! Wonderful!

This book is a must-read for anyone who enjoys a true mind fuck (pardon the expression). The twists and turns and loop-de-loops; it blew my mind.

The characters are so real, frighteningly real. Believable characters of this degree of excellence is difficult in the best of times, but to interweave them into such a labyrinth, Gillian Flynn I must applaud you. Amy made me laugh right from the start (her very first paragraph sounds exactly like a younger me). She may actually be my new favourite fictional female.

The alternation of perspectives was intriguing and amusing, seeing both sides of the story. However, I did find it occasionally difficult to follow the timeline when characters began reminiscing. I would flip back and try to see if another had mentioned it in a memory yet, and where it fit in their overall history.

I wish this book hadn't ended. I could have continued reading it for forever and a day. It was just too fascinating to stop; but then it did. I would have liked to glimpse a further six months or a year ahead, just to see if all went according to plan. I guess we will just have to assume everything worked out the way it was intended. But I still want more!

This is a book I am definitely going to read over and over.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson describes himself as a reluctant traveller, but even when he stays safely at home he can't contain his curiosity about the world around him. A Short History of Nearly Everything is his quest to understand everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization - how we got from there, being nothing at all, to here, being us. The ultimate eye-opening journey through time and space, it reveals the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.
This book is fascinating. So well written. A friend recommended it because I have very little scientific knowledge and he thought I should broaden my mind a bit, and boy did it ever!

This book is everything that intrigues us about science without the dry-as-dust teachers droning on about it and making us abhor its very existence.

Bryson has a way of writing that immediately draws you in and keeps you connected to him the whole way through. You feel as though you're simply talking to a friend who is explaining the plot of a movie you missed. He doesn't assume any prior knowledge on the subjects he discusses, yet he doesn't talk down to his readers either.

There were the occasional dry patches that were a struggle to get through, although these were more likely due to my predisposition to dislike the particular topics of the section (blame my science teachers). However, I pushed through because I wanted to keep learning more.

If you're uncertain about reading 500-plus pages on all things science, then just read the introduction. It's less than ten pages but it hooks you and gives you a taste of the style in which the entire book is written.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys science (even just a tiny bit), but was turned off it because of school teachers.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Palm Reading - Bridget Giles (ed.)

A clear introduction to the ancient art of palmistry.
Find out how hand shapes, fingers and thumbs, fleshy pads and hand-lines can all be read to discover more about yourself.
Photographs and colour drawings show clearly how to read all the different elements.
This is the most comprehensive yet easy to understand books on palmistry I've encountered in a very long time. Most books assume too much prior knowledge, have too many or too few pictures, or are just plain unexciting.

But this book, this book was perfect! It starts off with a very brief background then walks you through, line by line, mount by mount, describing everything in just enough detail to give you a base idea of what your future holds without getting you completely lost.

This little book was so well written it had me reading my palm and my friend's as we took the train home (to the amusement of the elderly couple across from us). It was such fun and really gives a good feel for the intricacies of palmistry, while making it simple enough that even I can do it.

This book is pocket-sized so no matter where you are you can be learning how to give a proper reading.

Whether you take it seriously or not, it is a fascinating book that consumes hours of your time without you even realising it. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to delve into their future, or examine their past. It is pocket-sized perfection.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Currently Reading...

At the moment I am about half way through Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. It's so packed full of knowledge that I literally feel my brain expanding. But incredibly readable, unlike the science textbooks we had to read in school.

George R.R. Martin's A Clash of Kings just arrived, so it will likely be the next one I read. Well, either that or Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn) or Brighton Belle (Sara Sheridan). Oh the choices! I can't wait!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin

The first book of A Song of Ice and Fire.

Summers span decades. Winters can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must...and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.

The old gods have no power in the south, Stark's family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.
This book was incredible! I couldn't put it down.

I'll admit, I first discovered this series as a direct result of the TV show, which I also love. I decided to check out the book to see just how far the show strayed from the original story. Conclusion: not far at all.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy, royal intrigue, and, of course, dragons. Even if you have seen the show, I'd still recommend reading the book. You will not be disappointed.

The characters were so diverse and evolving. Refreshing, considering many authors have only a handful of developing characters, the rest just remain static. Tyrion, Arya, and Jon are my favourites.

The moral dilemmas were wonderful. At times it was hard to say who was in the right because Martin shows so many perspectives. It makes you stop and really think about what is going on and put yourself in their shoes.

My only issue with this novel was that it ended. I just wanted to keep reading! However, I'll be getting my hands on the next installment very shortly. Can't wait!

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Common Loss - Kirsten Tranter

They were five college friends, bonded for life.

Now only four remain: each sharing a common loss that threatens to destroy them all.

A Common Loss is the follow up to Kirsten Tranter's glorious debut, The Legacy. It is a tense melodrama underpinned by mystery and paranoia, set against the mesmerizing backdrop of modern day Las Vegas.
This book was a struggle to get through, to say the least. I persevered because I could feel it slowly building to something big. Only it never did. It was such a let down.

The beginning was painfully slow with many largely irrelevant chunks. When the friends finally arrived in Vegas I thought Alright, now things are gonna get going! Sadly, I was mistaken.

The author cleverly avoided having to write about complicated aspects of the problems faced by the four main characters by having the main character (it was written in first person) conveniently otherwise occupied at the times when much of the planning and problem solving was going on; he just came in and was basically told "Okay, here's what we're gonna do".

Speaking of problem-solving, the conflict was tied up far too tidily. I was shocked. Had I been in their situation, I would have spent a good portion of time freaking out, hopefully eventually coming to a successful resolution, and then I'd be paranoid about it for the rest of my life, unable to return to my happy little existence.

In short, only read this book if you enjoy coming home and smelling the warm, delicious scent of apple pie baking in the oven, only to discover it is simply a scented candle your spouse just lit. Disappointment.

Review Policy, Etc

To put it simply, this is a blog dedicated to completely honest book reviews. I won't mince words. I won't beat around the bush. If I loved a book, I'll say. If I absolutely hated a book, I'll say that too.

I'll start each review with the blurb from the back cover (so I can avoid any spoilers), then I'll get into the good stuff: the review.

Rating system:
If you would like to send me a book for review, please contact me via email with the blurb from the back cover, or a similarly brief description (I don't want to go into the book knowing anything more than a potential reader in a shop will know). I will do my best to get back to you within a few days with whether I'm interested.

I'm willing to read just about anything, though I definitely prefer fiction (of any kind). I'm open to anything, including self-published and small-time authors.

I will not, repeat not, accept payment for reviewing your book. You will not "purchase" a good review from me, or a review of any kind for that matter. The reason being, if I accept payment (regardless of whether or not I remain true to my opinion), my audience will forever be suspicious of a biased review, and that defeats the purpose of this blog: truly honest reviews. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and are not influenced by anyone.

Alright, so let's get reviewing!