Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Fourth Queen by Mark Miller

In the fairytale kingdom of Empyrean, time has moved on. The princesses of once upon a time, like Snow White and Cinderella, have grown old and become great queens. Now, their kingdom is in danger. A Forgotten Evil has returned. In a small village by the sea, two sisters, Zandria and Olena, begin a dangerous journey for Zandria to claim her birthright as a queen. Along their journey, they meet some unique friends and terrifying enemies while trying to survive places like the Dead Forest and escape troll-infested castles. Will they make it to the Crystal Castle in time to save Empyrean or will the sisters lose each other forever? One thing is certain, before their journey ends, Zandria will learn what it means to be The Fourth Queen.

In this wonderful story, for children and adults alike, we are introduced to a captivating set of characters and a unique kingdom called Empyrean.

The story is crafted carefully, with lots of suspense and build-up of different storylines, creating a web of plots that must have taken careful planning to achieve. There are enough surprises along the way, like unicorns and tigers, to keep even the most jaded of readers captivated and turning the pages.

The characters are all very amusing, from the three queens at the very beginning, to the two main characters: Zandria and Olena, two sisters of royal blood. Their relationship is well-developed and complex, with all the mixture of love and competition that siblings experience, but with a healthy dose of fantasy to make it just a touch different. The reader falls in love with the two of them as we follow them through their adventures. The landscape itself is, in my opinion, a character all its own. It is intricately made, with a multitude of details to keep the reader amused and with a smile on his or her face. It’s one of those stories that is hard to put down once it really gets started.

This is a book perfect for a quick, fun, fantasy-filled read. Every lover of fantasy and fairytales would love to dive into Empyrean., and I for one, will be picking up the second in the series.

In My Mailbox

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman

The April Write by Angela Edgar

Bloodmaiden (The Novel) by Christine E. Schulze

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fleeting Memory by Sherban Young

The answer lies with Keats… With these cryptic last words, the man sprawled out on the floor of the rustic cabin expires—murdered. What could he have meant? Why Keats? Which answer? (For that matter, what was the question?)

All this and more passes through the mind of the young householder who discovers the body. If only he knew the guy’s name. Or anybody’s name. Including his own...

From here, our hero is hurtled along a path of self-discovery. With the help of Enescu Fleet, retired private detective and (according to some) the world’s most fascinating man, he will delve into an exciting new game show called Deadly Allusions, where trivia and murder compete for top billing. Along the way, he will attempt to figure out the dead man’s clue—and quite possibly nab a murderer who is too smart for his own good.

This is one funny book. It was hard to go a page without finding something to snicker about. It’s a mystery, reminiscent of Agatha Christie, with amusing characters and an interesting storyline.

The plot begins quickly, throwing the reader along with the protagonist into the fray without any type of warning. We are just as confused as he is, wondering what is going on as much as he does. The tone is light all the way through the novel, making it a refreshing read that is hard to put down. There are moments that will make you laugh out loud with the silliness of the situation, but you will keep turning the pages, wanting more. The mystery progresses, without even our notice, until the answers are revealed.

The characters are unique, with many curious and unique things about them. The protagonist is hilarious in his blind following of Fleet, a detective he happens to meet in his confused wanderings. We root for him, but secretly hope something even nuttier happens to him.

This is a great book for all mystery lovers, but really, it’s a good choice for anyone who want a lighter read and a good laugh, all at the same time.

A Bit of Me(me)

This Week's Question: Who is the person you admire the very most?

That's a hard one. I admire many different people for different reasons. There are many authors that I worship, such as Dostoevsky, Barbara Kingsolver, Poe, but there are also many singers, Tori Amos, Renee Fleming, Rachael Sage. I have no way of picking just one.

What about you?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Follow Friday

Q. Let's step away from books for a second and get personal. What T-Shirt slogan best describes you?

This is a fun one. Anyone who knows me knows that I am obsessed with snakes, so I had to include this one.

And of course a Harry Potter one:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Transfection by David Gaughran

Molecular biologist Dr. Carl Peters is under pressure on two fronts: his research grants are disappearing and his marriage is falling apart. But when medical researchers discover that genetically modified animal feed has tainted the food chain, he finally gets the funding he always dreamed of.

Dr. Peters discovers the reason behind the cancer link with GM food, but it's so crazy, he barely believes it himself.

TRANSFECTION is a 5,500 word, 23-page technothriller, starring a molecular biologist who makes a discovery that shocks the world, only to find his life under threat. His story takes in militant vegans, corruption, homelessness, university politics, radiation, the celebrity-obsessed media, and a shadowy conspiracy.

TRANSFECTION is a brand-new story, exclusively available as an e-book.

I received a copy of this story through the Librarything giveaway program.

I love these kind of stories, that are almost science fiction without being completely. It was a really quick read, but fun. Do not be frightened by the premise, there are no complicated scientific terms to muddy up the waters.

It was a bit of a rollercoaster, as we follow a scientist from a discovery of huge proportions to being fired to being rehired. We start to question our beliefs as well as the characters’, which gives the reader the feeling of not being able to trust the narrator. For me, that always makes for a great story. There were even some comedic moments to lighten up the mood.

There are a few unanswered questions, which might for some readers not be wholly satisfying, but it is a well written, balanced and captivating short story.

Well worth buying, in my opinion.

Beautiful, Naked & Dead (Moses McGuire #1) by Josh Stallings

BEAUTIFUL, NAKED AND DEAD is hard-boiled crime novel. Moses McGuire a suicidal strip club bouncer is out to avenge the death of one of his girls. From his East L.A. home, through the legal brothels of Nevada and finally to a battle with the mob in the mountains above Palo Alto, it is a sex soaked, rage driven, road trip from hell.

"Josh Stallings is the kind of writer who shouldn't have to publish for himself, but here he is slugging it out the hard way. Just like one of the hardasses in his own books. The man knows what to do with paper and ink. Read the damn thing."
-Charlie Huston

"Someone once said of Raymond Chandler that he wrote 'as if pain hurt and life mattered.' That's true of Josh Stallings, too. Hop on, kick the starter, and let him lead you on a long, painful, but entertaining ride through Moses McGuire's world. One hint: wear your helmet and your leathers. It might get messy."
-Tad Williams

This was one of those books that could have easily been published in the traditional manner, making you wonder what some of the publishing houses out there are thinking. Thankfully, there the self-pub route is available, otherwise, we’d lose a lot of good books by the roadside.

The plot is fast and fun, a thriller of the best sort, with lots of twists and a pervasive sexual undertone that goes well with the gritty images of mob bosses and drug pushers. There is not a single boring moment. It is tightly written so there is no extraneous information. It was obviously carefully written and edited, making it a powerful story. A punch in the gut. It’s interesting to see the atmosphere in strip clubs, it’s not a usual setting for a book, and yet it is written with care, trying to avoid the clichés that come along with it.

The main character, Moses, a bouncer at a strip club who feels like he has to find out what happened to his friend, Kelly, is a surprisingly captivating person. He starts off a bit on the flat side, but as the plot moves along he starts acquiring layers that make him a believable character. We begin to sympathize with him in his struggles. Cass, the female protagonist, is a feisty one, with great dialogue and many, many coy moments. A good complement to Moses.

For anyone that likes a good thriller, this book is a good choice.

Booking Through Thursday

What’s the latest you’ve ever stayed up reading a book? Is staying up late reading a usual thing for you?

Well, I do it all the time. If a book catches my imagination, then I go right on into the wee hours. Usually, it's Stephen King who manages to make me not want to put the book down, I love reading horror stories late into the night.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

WWW Wednesdays

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently, I'm reading The Passage by Justin Cronin

And Transfection by David Gaughran

I recently finished 1923: A Memoir by Harry Leslie Smith You can find my review here.

Next, I'll probably read Coffee at Little Angels by Nadine Rose Larter

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

•Grab your current read
•Open to a random page
•Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
•BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
•Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

From Transfection by David Gaughran

"Genetic modification was a complex process, but Dr. Peters knew that the root cause of the problem would likely be the foreign DNA that was being inserted into the host. He suspected the answer lay in the transfection process."

-ebook version

Monday, July 25, 2011

1923: A Memoir: Lies and Testaments by Harry Leslie Smith

To say that Harry Smith was born under an unlucky star would be an understatement. Born in England in 1923, Smith chronicles the tragic story of his early life in this first volume of his memoirs. He presents his family's early history-their misfortunes and their experiences of enduring betrayal, inhumane poverty, infidelity, and abandonment.

1923: A Memoir presents the story of a life lyrically described, capturing a time both before and during World War II when personal survival was dependent upon luck and guile. During this time, failure insured either a trip to the workhouse or burial in a common grave. Brutally honest, Smith's story plummets to the depths of tragedy and flies up to the summit of mirth and wonder, portraying real people in an uncompromising, unflinching voice.

1923: A Memoir tells of a time and place when life, full of raw emotion, was never so real.

It is always interesting to see eras, such as World War II, through the eyes of one single individual. This is a well written memoir that follows the author’s life through his difficult childhood in the Great Depression, showing how his mother slowly began to give up her ideals to put food on the table for her children, while Harry turned to library books for solace.

The writing is simple and to the point, making the events the most important aspect. Sometimes turning brutally stark, the writing tears away until the truth of those years shines through. There are not many books out there that show the life of a pilot during those years, and I was surprised at how moving many of the sections were. There was no real dull moment in the book’s entirety, which is something to compliment the author about.

Writing a memoir is not an easy matter, there is always the danger of maudlin scenes or descriptive minutia that might mean a lot for the author but not for the reader, so this is one of those books that should be read, not only for the incredible life resting in its pages, but for the skill with which it was handled. I can easily recommend it to lovers of memoirs and of history.

Musing Mondays

Do you need to have your owned books out where you can see them, or are you okay with them being stored away?

I need to see my books. There something so comforting about having all my lovelies out, a bit like having a paper army. Which is why ebooks and I don't get along well.
That picture is just of one part of my room, most of those piles are still-to-be-read.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Golden Healer, Dark Enchantress by Christine E. Schulze

He leaned his head close to my ear and whispered, "Are you afraid?"

Chrystine had had more reason than any other time of her life, even when facing one of the rampages of her drunken father. But she wasn't afraid. And that was odd, because although Aaryn, the person asking her that question, was her best friend, he was also a vampire. In fact, she was surrounded by hundreds of vampires.

But they weren't your typical vampires. They were Stregoni Benefici, the good kind. Nor was Chrystine your typical elf. She was the Golden Healer, and she alone could save the Stregoni Benefici from the Dark Enchantress. But can Chrystine figure out the Dark Enchantress' secret and defeat the evil vampires without destroying the good ones as well, without destroying Aaryn? Can Chrystine unravel the dark secret Aaryn keeps so carefully guarded and show him that by choosing to serve good instead of evil, he is still capable of being loved and his past is forgiven?

Find out as you read for yourself the story of the first vampire.

The premise of this book is quite interesting. I’ve never before encountered a paranormal fiction that is classified as Christian fiction, so I was curious to see how the author could manage it. In some ways it is a nice change, but I’m afraid it doesn’t really work as successfully as it could have. It’s hard to think of fairies and vampires as Christian. It seems forced.

The story has some very nice moments, some page-turning moments that make it an easy, quick read. The plot is really fast-paced, sometimes to a fault, since we don’t see many of the moments that would have made us identify with the main character, Chrystine. The section in the Dark Enchantress’s kingdom is well done, providing a change in scenery for the reader. The ending is a bit anti-climactic, not really providing the cathartic moment that the nicely established tension of the pages before asks for. It is resolved too quickly, with not too much of a challenge to the protagonist.

I did enjoy that Chrystine is not just a wimpy heroine who depends on other people to save her. She takes the story’s reins and becomes the driving force behind the plot. It is a good model for teen girls. She is someone with guts and with the strength to follow what she wants to do.

All in all, it’s a fun story that will be a good fit for fans of Twilight and other teen paranormal romances.

A Bit of Me(me)

This Weeks Question: What’s your favorite weekend activity?

Umm, that would probably be reading. I know, not very exciting, or original, but it's what I really enjoy to do whenever I have a free moment. If not that, then probably going to the pool during the summer.

What about you?

Bodyslick by John H. Sibley

An unforgettable new novel set in the year 2031,
where gangs, guns, and genetic engineering rule.

In a world where genetic engineering and organ transplants are booming businesses on the black market, Malcolm Steel, Jr. is king. His turf is Chicago, a city torn apart by the haves and have-nots alike, and Malcolm-known as Bodyslick on the streets-has found a lucrative hustle stealing healthy organs and selling them to desperate, wealthy patients in need of transplants.

Bodyslick has the connections, the knowledge, and the 9mm laser pistol just in case things get hectic. But with the Italian mob, racist skinheads, and the biggest gang in Chinatown on his case, he is going to need all the help he can get, especially when his old `hood cutbuddy and rival ganglord get ready to take over the trade by any means necessary.

Now Bodyslick will make one last run to try to get out of the game for good. But some people will do anything and destroy anyone to make sure that the only way he goes out is piece by bloody piece.

In 2031, when the economy has collapsed and our way of life is changed enough to become unrecognizable, the organ business is booming. One of the people who benefit from this is Malcolm Steel, known as Bodyslick, a man who has his own way of doing business. But when a competitor tries to take over his lucrative industry, Bodyslick must find a way to keep himself above water.

Dystopian novels are always fascinating to read, it is interesting to see how different people picture our future world. The most curious thing is that the picture is always rather grim. This book is no different. The streets are filled, (even more than they are now) with gang members fighting over territory, with mutated humans and animals and with drugs of all kinds. The new commerce is centered around body parts, mainly organs, and of course there is a huge black market for these items. As with anything in our society even now, the wealthy, privileged people are the ones who have the most access to these organs, leaving the poor to suffer as they always have. The way the story is structured shows the change that’s come to our civilization, with robots and all types of technology taking over many of the duties we depend on humans for now. In some cases, as with robots used to perform operations on humans, it is a good thing, while with others, as with one sad robot who performs the duties of a flight attendant, it’s not such a step forward.
It’s interesting to see the idea of robots taken far enough that they actually look completely human, to the point where the main character can’t tell them apart.
In books that have science fiction premises, the main danger is for the reader to be bombarded with strangely named artifacts, unpronounceable names and ideas that are hard for anyone without a science degree to grasp. This novel, however, avoids those faults. There are very few new terms, things such as the new drugs and the new, mutant creatures, and they are easily grasped. There is no need to turn back pages to figure out which word meant what, as in many sci-fi novels. It’s not an easy thing to avoid, so compliments to the author for not falling into that trap.

This novel needs to be read with the knowledge of the urban quality of the plot. If it’s not taken in this way, then the reader will miss most of the book’s charm. There are some very comical dialogues that made me laugh out loud. Yes, there is cursing and foul language, as is to be expected in an urban novel, but not enough to become truly annoying, so no fear on that respect. There is a lot of violence, some which seemed a bit on the gratuitous side, made just to impact the reader, but that might have been exactly what the author had in mind. To shock with a spray of blood, to wake the reader up when things are getting a bit easier for Bodyslick. The pace is fast, leaving the readers breathless as Bodyslick diffuses one situation after another, never pausing for too long.

The characters are well done, their language reads naturally. It did seem, however , that Bodyslick forgets his girlfriend a bit too quickly, fantasizing about a female robot within a few pages. This might have been done on purpose to show the lack of emotion that everyone in the novel seems to have, which does a good job of portraying the bleakness of the future. That’s something that makes a big impact on the reader, the complete starkness of emotion, the lack of real human bonds, which seem weak and diluted by the robots that mingle with the characters. That was a clever way of setting the mood for the novel, which never rises above mild despair.
There are many ethical discussions to be triggered by reading this book. Should we allow things like stem-cell, like DNA modifications? There are signs that point to the positive and the negative aspects of these choices in this novel. There is no clear-cut answer to them, but they do provide food for thought as we follow the characters down their difficult, action-packed road.

One of the things that is most enjoyable is the preface. It cannot be skipped over, as it explains the author’s personal hardships that fueled his need to write the book, his struggles with a society that strives to keep minorities in the shadows, and who provide no exit route for them through the normal, easy channels. It sets the stage for the next few hundred pages, in which all of that will be showed, not multiplied or exaggerated, but with a keen eye for the common, everyday injustices.

This book might not be for everyone, mainly because of the violence, but if that is not something to hold you back, it is a very interesting read and it provides a frightening but astute look at what could be our future if we are not careful. Come jump in and follow Bodyslick through his dystopian world.