Monday, January 26, 2015

Giveaway: Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

"When Love cast me out, it was Cruelty who took pity on me."

In a kingdom born of angels, Phedre is an anguisette, cursed or blessed to find pleasure in pain. Sold to the Court of Night Blooming Flowers, her fate as a beautiful but anonymous courtesan was sealed. Her bond was purchased by the nobleman Anafiel Delauney, who recognized the scarlet mote in Phedre's eye as the rare mark of one touched by a powerful deity. Under Delauney's patronage she is trained in history, politics, language, and the use of body and mind as the ultimate weapon of subterfuge in a dangerous game of courtly intrigue.

Guided into the bed chambers of Terre D'Ange's most influential nobles, Phedre uncovers a conspiracy against the throne so vast that even her teacher cannot see the whole of it. As her nation is besieged by invading hordes from the north, the most unthinkable threat to her beloved home comes from traitors within. Betrayed and blindsided by her own longings, only Phedre and her trusted bodyguard Josselin are left to cross borders and warring armies in a race to stop the final blow from falling.

Enter a lush world of pleasure houses, ambitious warlords, scheming courtiers, and the harsh justice of blessed deities through the eyes of a heroine like no other. Sprawling and darkly sensual, Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart is the start of a truly original fantasy series.



Thanks to the publisher I have three copies to give away!

US/Canada only. No PO Boxes.
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Review: Changing the Conversation by Dana Caspersen

The seventeen key principles for transforming conflict—in a beautiful package from the creator of The 48 Laws of Power 

From Joost Elffers, the packaging genius behind the huge New York Times bestsellers The 48 Laws of Power, The 33 Strategies of War, and The Art of Seduction, comes this invaluable manual that teaches seventeen fundamentals for turning any conflict into an opportunity for growth. Beautifully packaged in a graphic, two-color format, Changing the Conversation is written by conflict expert Dana Caspersen and is filled with real-life examples, spot-on advice, and easy-to-grasp exercises that demonstrate transformative ways to break out of destructive patterns, to create useful dialogue in difficult situations, and to find long-lasting solutions for conflicts. Sure to claim its place next to Getting to Yes, this guide will be a go-to resource for resolving conflicts.



Received for review.

I was frankly expecting this to be a boring, dry book that would put me to sleep immediately but to my very pleasant surprise it turned out to be a bright, dare I say cheerful, and visually stunning book that was a very good read!

I have to say that while all the strategies are useful and should certainly be considered and applied, my favorite was "If you are making it worse, stop.".  Everyone should adopt this as a regular part of daily life no matter what the issue is.

The most powerful words in the book were the last ones of the entire book "Conflict is a place of possibility.  Change the conversation.".  it's an important reminder to us all.

Overall, this was an enjoyable and educational read and I certainly recommend it.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review: Jack Templar Monster Hunter by Jeff Gunhus

Orphan Jack Templar has no memory of his parents and only the smallest details from his Aunt Sophie about how they died. The day before Jack's fourteenth birthday, things start to change for him. At first it's great: A sudden new strength helps him defend his nose-picking friend "T-Rex" from the school bully, and even his crush, Cindy Adams, takes notice. But then a mysterious girl named Eva arrives and tells him two facts that will change his life forever. First, that he's the descendent of a long line of monster hunters and he's destined to be in the family business. Second, that there's a truce between man and monster that children are off-limits...until their fourteenth birthday! Jack has only one day before hundreds of monsters will descend on his little town of Sunnyvale and try to kill him. 

As if that weren't enough, things get even more complicated when Jack discovers that the Lord of the Creach (as the monsters are collectively known) holds a personal grudge against him and will do anything to see that Jack has a slow and painful death. To stay alive and save his friends, Jack will have to battle werewolves, vampires, harpies, trolls, zombies and more. But perhaps the most dangerous thing he must face is the truth about his past. Why do the other hunters call him the last Templar? Why do they whisper that he may be the "One?" Why do the monsters want him dead so badly? Even as these questions plague him, he quickly discovers survival is his new full-time job and that in the world of monster hunters, nothing is really what it seems. 

The added fun of Jack Templar is that readers are warned that reading the book will attract the attention of monsters in their area. They are told to read on only if they are ready to enter the dangerous world of monsters and hunters as an active participant. After all, the best way to get a young reader to do something...is warn them not to do it! 

For Middle Grade readers and higher Fans of: Percy Jackson, Harry Potter and The Goosebumps Series by R.L. Stine



Received for review.

Continuing the tradition of Percy Jackson is this entertaining read about Jack Templar.  This isn’t a happy, peaceful story, but rather a darker, grittier one which makes for quite engrossing reading.  Jack’s life is not easy and his story has elements of Grimm in it in that he is descended from a long line of monster hunters.

I was drawn into the story from the very first page.  It’s an entertaining, fast paced read full of adventure and friendship with an excellent message for younger readers.

I certainly recommend this and look forward to the next volume in what I hope is a long series.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Library Loot: January


I haven't done a Library Loot post in ages so I figured I'd recap some of my latest borrows!



#1 New York Times bestselling maestro of macabre suspense Dean Koontz plunges everyone’s favorite spirit-spotting fry cook into his most frightening encounter yet, in the thrill-packed third Odd Thomas graphic novel.

Transforming a ramshackle mansion into a dream house has become a nightmare for onetime Hollywood producer Nedra Nolan, whose newly purchased fixer-upper in Pico Mundo has sent a string of spooked contractors scurrying off the job, claiming the place is haunted. Who’s she gonna call? Her friend recommends Odd Thomas, the mild-mannered young man with a gift for communing with ghosts who won’t rest in peace. With his soul mate and sidekick, Stormy Llewellyn, in tow, Odd agrees to investigate the eerie incidents. But his spirit-seeking style is cramped by the obnoxious TV ghost hunters Nedra hires to flush out the troublesome phantoms with elaborate gadgets.

As night falls and a raging storm traps them all in the mazelike manse, Odd tries in vain to scare up some lost souls. But instead, something more terrifying than any apparition—something with flesh, blood, and teeth—makes its sinister presence known. And with nowhere to hide, Odd and his fellow hunters suddenly become the prey.

*****

Five young girls are thrust into the Deerfield Ballet's holiday production of The Nutcracker with only one thing in common: they don't want to be there! 

McGee's busy with her ice hockey team. 

Zan would rather be reading a good mystery. 

Mary Bubnik is a total klutz. 

Gwen prefers Twinkies to plies. 

And Rocky is just too cool for pink tights. 

How could their mothers possibly think ballet is good for them? 

Cast as the Rats and labeled losers by the more serious ballerinas (the Bunheads), in desperation the girls turn to each other, especially after the Bunheads lock the Rats out of the theater. 

Can they triumph over all the odds and pull off a real ballet in front of an expectant audience?

*****

Gloria French was a jolly widow with dyed blonde hair, a raucous laugh, and rosy cheeks. When she first moved from London to the charming Cotswold hills, she was heartily welcomed. She seemed a do-gooder par excellence, raising funds for the church and caring for the elderly. But she had a nasty habit of borrowing things and not giving them back. They're just small things -- a teapot here, a set of silverware there -- so it's quite the shock when she is found dead, murdered with a poisoned bottle of elderberry wine.

Afraid the murder will be a blight on the small town, Parish councilor Jerry Tarrant hires private detective Agatha Raisin to track down the murderer, but the village is secretive, and the residents resent Agatha's investigation. Of course, that doesn't stop the ever-persistent Agatha from investigating and sticking her nose where no one wants it -- especially as the suspect list grows. And, as if it isn't enough that Agatha's ex has reentered the picture, the murderer is now targeting Agatha!

*****

And, of course, I put myself on the waiting list for Neil Gaiman's latest book:

Multiple award winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman returns to dazzle, captivate, haunt, and entertain with this third collection of short fiction following Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things—which includes a never-before published American Gods story, “Black Dog,” written exclusively for this volume.

In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction—stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013—as well “Black Dog,” a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection.

Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion. In Adventure Story—a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane—Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience A Calendar of Tales are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year—stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother’s Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale The Case of Death and Honey. And Click-Clack the Rattlebag explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we’re all alone in the darkness.

A sophisticated writer whose creative genius is unparalleled, Gaiman entrances with his literary alchemy, transporting us deep into the realm of imagination, where the fantastical becomes real and the everyday incandescent. Full of wonder and terror, surprises and amusements, Trigger Warning is a treasury of delights that engage the mind, stir the heart, and shake the soul from one of the most unique and popular literary artists of our day.




Review: The Hidden Ones by Nancy Madore

AN ANCIENT LEGEND - A FORGOTTEN PEOPLE - A PLOT FOR MASS MURDER 

As CEO of her own thriving company, Nadia Adeire is flush with success, but a secret society dating back to the Essenes believes her to be one of the ancient djinn-the notorious demoness of Hebrew legend: Lilith. What's more, they have reason to believe that she's plotting a catastrophic attack on the world. 

Nadia is snatched from her perfect life and caught in a maze between a present day disaster and the ancient legends of the djinn. Her only way out is to retrace the steps of her deceased grandmother, Helene. The deeper Nadia delves into the past, the harder it will be for her to emerge unscathed. But it is the only way to stop the impending disaster that was set in motion five thousand years ago. 

ABOUT THE LEGACY OF THE WATCHERS SERIES: Thousands of years ago, something happened that changed the course of human history. Testimonies abound of these otherworldly visitors they called angels, and their hybrid offspring, the Nephilim giants. These mighty gods quickly rose to power, and the ancient world came alive with industry and culture. The species that existed for hundreds of thousands of years as hunters and gatherers suddenly began settling in one place, cultivating the land and governing themselves. They created irrigation, the wheel and algebra. Yet amidst all this progress, an undercurrent of terror was spreading like wildfire, carrying whispers of djinn, daeva and demons... 

The Watchers were supposed to do just that; watch. But humankind proved far too tempting and they fell to earth, taking wives and even producing children. But their children grew into unruly giants whose souls did not ascend like human souls when they died, but remained here on earth. These errant souls haunt the earth to this day. They are the djinn, the hidden ones, also known as daeva and demon. They have one purpose-to live. But to live they need bodies. 

This chain of events has reached the point where the djinn need more than just our bodies to survive. They must take back control of the earth, just as in the days when they ruled as gods. 

OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES: 
Book 2: Power of Gods 
Book 3: Masquerade 
Book 4: The Fourth Trumpet (available in the spring of 2015)



Received for review.

I'm not normally a big fan of religion based fantasy novels so this was not a favorite for me.  It drew on the legend of Lilith and the Nephilim, as well as other religion based characters, and they were used in such a way that their stories contained rather overpowering religious overtones.  

The stories of the three women were unnecessarily tangled and decidedly difficult to navigate since the author felt the need to keep switching from one to another (and, as such, one time period to another) and you really lost the flow of each narrative.  

The women themselves felt rather flat and blah.  None of them were particularly likable and their stories were so confusing and intertwined that you lost any sort of connection that you may have formed with them which detracted significantly from any reading enjoyment.

This was supposed to be science fiction but it's really religious fantasy which is not attractive to most readers, whether believers or non-believers.  Overall, between the complicated story and the bland characters I really cannot recommend this.

★★☆☆☆ = Just Okay



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Friday, January 23, 2015

Review: The Sea Garden by Marcia Willett

Marcia Willett delivers another powerful and touching tale of the importance of friendship and family in The Sea Garden. 

Jess Penhaligon is on her way to Devon to receive an award for her botanical painting. Hosting her will be Kate, who gladly welcomes her into her home. Jess's own family fell apart several years ago, so she is grateful for Kate's friendliness —and her close unit of extended family and friends, who embrace Jess just as warmly. 

As this group begins reminiscing on their pasts and sharing their stories with Jess, it becomes apparent that her family history may be linked with theirs. Long-buried secrets from past generations begin to be uncovered —but at what cost have they been kept hidden?



Received for review.

Marcia Willett's novels always leave me with a warm, fuzzy feeling at the end despite their rather complicated and emotional storylines.  She has a wonderful ability to weave everything together so it comes out just as you'd hoped it would and you close the book feeling satisfied.  This latest novel is no different.

This is a lovely story of family and friends set in lovely surroundings.  The author transports you to their world and makes you truly feel as if you know these characters and, more importantly, want to know and like them.

Overall, the story is light yet touching and would make for a lovely beach read.  I certainly recommend it.

★★★☆☆ = Liked It


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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review: If Hemingway Wrote Javascript by Angus Croll

What if William Shakespeare were asked to generate the Fibonacci series or Jane Austen had to write a factorial program? In If Hemingway Wrote JavaScript, author Angus Croll imagines short JavaScript programs as written by famous wordsmiths. The result is a peculiar and charming combination of prose, poetry, and programming. 

The best authors are those who obsess about language—and the same goes for JavaScript developers. To master either craft, you must experiment with language to develop your own style, your own idioms, and your own expressions. To that end, If Hemingway Wrote JavaScript playfully bridges the worlds of programming and literature for the literary geek in all of us. 

Featuring original artwork by Miran Lipovaca.



Received for review.

Admittedly I am no expert in JavaScript, but with a title this fun I simply had to try this book and I was quite pleasantly surprised.

While the actual JavaScript bits were a bit over my head the accompanying profile of each author was incredibly enjoyable.  I particularly liked the sections on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Douglas Adams since they are two of my favorite authors.  

This is best read one or two sections at a time or it can become overwhelming for amateurs and thus lose some of its enjoyment.  When rationed, like an expensive box of chocolates, it provides a surprisingly enjoyable experience and for those who love to read.

Of course this is best for those with knowledge of JavaScripts it can be fully enjoyed but even those readers with a passing acquaintance with it should find this a light, fun experience.  I certainly recommend this.  

★★★★ = Really Liked It



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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Featured Book: Purified by Elizabeth S. Sullivan



About the book:

When a mutilated body of an African American girl is found in a park sandbox, the media shows no interest. Instead, their attention is riveted on the disappearance of Olivia Safra, a college student and only child of the powerful and dangerous Richard Safra. Suspended ADA, Beck Oldman, demoted to a rookie PI is assigned her first cases to find a missing teenager and Olivia Safra.

Leads connect the murders to the Safra case. The investigation into her client's private life reveals a dark side in the relationship between a father and daughter and exacts his wrath against Beck. More girls are found murdered, putting Beck in a race to stop a serial killer and stop her own client from destroying her

PURIFIED is a thrilling story that explores many dark subjects, including what it does to those who have to live in the world of killers in order to stop them.



About the author:

After Elizabeth S. Sullivan earned her JD while working full-time teaching English she decided to follow the advice she gave to students: follow your passion. She has written five screenplays, one short, and has worked as a script doctor. Elizabeth has won screenplay competitions and has been a semifinalist twice, in the prestigious Nicholl competition, which garnered Elizabeth a manager, LITTLE STUDIO FILMS in Beverly Hills. Her passions in life are books, films, the environment, and her family.



Featured Book: Power of Gods by Nancy Madore



About the book:

A GAME OF CAT AND MOUSE SPANNING THOUSANDS OF YEARS IS SUDDENLY COMING TO A HEAD.

As the Legacy of the Watchers continues, Nadia finds herself inextricably tied to the Raphaelians. Her former life--and everything she believed in--has been shattered, and she needs their help to pick up the pieces and start again.

But there are still unanswered questions, so Nadia is once again drawn into the mysterious underworld of the hidden ones. But now there may be even more at stake. Threats of Armageddon loom in the distance as they attempt to decipher a formula that may hold the key to unconscionable power. Their quest takes them back to the ancient world--this time to King Solomon and his legendary djinn. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, Lilith is already attempting to finish what Asmodeous started.



About the author:

Nancy Madore achieved enormous critical acclaim with her "ENCHANTED" erotic series by Harlequin, which includes ENCHANTED, ENCHANTED AGAIN and ENCHANTED DREAMS.

Madore is currently writing a historical / speculative fiction / mystery series entitled "LEGACY OF THE WATCHERS," which was inspired by her life-long interest in ancient history and mythology. So far, there are three installments in the series: THE HIDDEN ONES, POWER OF GODS and MASQUERADE. The fourth book in the series, entitled THE FOURTH TRUMPET, will be out in February of 2015.

THE ETHICS OF JUDGE NADEAU represents a diversion for Madore that was brought about by true life events. In her first work of non-fiction, Nancy Madore teams up with Lynnann Frydrych to relate a drama far stranger than any fiction she could have dreamed up. This true life account of sex and betrayal within the legal system is sure to shock, provoke and amuse.

You can read more about Nancy Madore and her books by visiting her website at www.nmadore.com.



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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Review: A Second Bite at the Apple by Dana Bate

From the acclaimed author of The Girls' Guide to Love and Supper Clubs comes a witty, honest novel, perfectly seasoned with both humor and heart, about daring to bite into the life you really want...

Sydney Strauss is obsessed with food. Not with eating it--though she does that too--but with writing about the wonders of the gastronomic world, from obscure fruit hybrids to organic farming techniques. Since food journalism jobs are more coveted than Cronuts®, Sydney pays her bills working for one of TV's biggest egomaniacs--until she's left scrambling for shifts at a local farmers' market.

Stacking muffins for the Wild Yeast Bakery isn't going to win her any James Beard awards. But soon Sydney is writing the market's weekly newsletter, and her quirky stories gain attention from a prominent food columnist. After years of putting her love life into deep freeze, she's even dating again. And then Sydney gets a shot at the story, one that could either make her career or burn it to a crisp--along with her relationship and her reputation...



Received for review.

I was actually quite surprised by this since I'm not normally big on the whole Chick Lit thing.  The characters were well formed and believable and the entire story had a nice pace to it.

I have to admit that I didn't like Sydney though.  At all.  She was, frankly, a bit of a bitch.  Her career was more important to her than her loved ones and she didn't care who else she hurt on her way up the ladder.  Her attempts are reparations were just too little too late in my mind.

Overall this was a good quality read and reminiscent of The Mindy Project - if Mindy had a Grinch sized heart.  If you enjoy reading about female characters with serious personality flaws then I definitely recommend this.

★★★★ = Really Liked It





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