Monday, June 30, 2014

Necromancing the Stone

With the defeat of the evil Douglas behind him, Sam LaCroix is getting used to his new life. Okay, so he hadn't exactly planned on being a powerful necromancer with a seat on the local magical council and a capricious werewolf sort-of-girlfriend, but things are going fine, right?

Well . . . not really. He's pretty tired of getting beat up by everyone and their mother, for one thing, and he can't help but feel that his new house hates him. His best friend is a werebear, someone is threatening his sister, and while Sam realizes that he himself has a lot of power at his fingertips, he's not exactly sure how to "use "it. Which, he has to admit, is a bit disconcerting.

But when everything starts falling apart, he decides it's time to step up and take control. His attempts to do so just bring up more questions, though, the most important of which is more than a little alarming: Is Douglas really dead?


Beth says 5 Stars...
I read Hold Me Closer, Necromancer last year and absolutely fell in love with the world McBride created.  It's absurdly clever and filled with sarcastic individuals that make weird references constantly.  At the outset of the book it appears as though things are going pretty well for Sam and his band of misfits.  Unfortunately, in order to have a decent plot for a novel, things go downhill relatively quickly.  Something I can't say enough about this series is how astoundingly funny it is.  Don't read it in public unless cackling to yourself is something you find acceptable.  I spent at least half of the time I was reading this book in some sort of laughter, ranging from giggles to near hysterics.  The plot itself is the weakest part of the book and didn't have me on the edge of my seat.  However, because I kept falling out of it due to uncontrollable laughter I'm willing to give it a pass.  This isn't to say the plot is bad, it's just not spectacular.

Sam just gets better and better.  He tries to develop his necromancy skills while growing into the role thrust upon him as the necromancer of the Seattle area.  He's still sensitive, hilarious, and not quite sure what he managed to get himself into with this supernatural gig.  What makes the book, though, are the secondary characters and the interactions between everyone.  How can you not love the fact that Sam's best friend has been turned into a werebear?  Brid becomes even more bad-ass than I thought possible, despite making some decisions that I didn't quite agree with.  Douglas's house has some amazing quirks, including some highly aggressive garden gnomes that have names like Twinkle the Destroyer and Gnoman Polanski.  The dialogue crackles with quick wit and I could read the conversations that happen between McBride's characters all day long.

If you haven't read this or the first book yet, go buy them immediately.  They're perfect summer reading; light and funny without lowering your IQ.  Be ready for one of the most fun reading experiences you'll ever have.
book from library

Friday, June 27, 2014


To tweet or not to tweet... what a deadly question.

When Briana loses out on a starring role in the school's production of Hamlet, she reluctantly agrees to be the drama department's "social media director" and starts tweeting half-hearted updates. She barely has any followers, so when someone hacks her twitter account, Briana can't muster the energy to stop it. After all, tweets like "Something's rotten in the state of Denmark... and a body's rotting in the theater" are obviously a joke.

But then a body IS discovered in the theater: Briana's rival. Suddenly, what seemed like a prank turns deadly serious. To everyone's horror, the grisly tweets continue... and the body count starts to rise.

There's no other explaination; someone is live-tweeting murders on campus.

With the school in chaos and the police unable to find the culprit, it's up to Briana to unmask the psycho-tweeter before the carnage reaches Shakespearian proportions... or she becomes the next victim.

Beth says 2 Stars...
As a high school theater kid and someone who still loves plays, I was super excited to read this book.  Taking the backdrop of a production of Hamlet and putting a social media twist on it is quite clever.  Shakespearian tragedy blends the ordinary with the epic, potentially providing a nice foil for the action going on in the world of the novel.  Unfortunately, the plot didn't live up to the set up.  Although it was meant to feel high-stakes, I couldn't muster up the energy to feel strongly about the murders.  The live-tweeting bit in the summary is misleading, because the murders are merely foreshadowed rather than graphically described.  The mystery wasn't that enthralling either.  I expected more murders, more drama, and just more interest.  The pacing felt weird, with Bree serving as a roadblock to the resolution of the action rather than helpling things forward.

I must confess that I thoroughly loathed Bree/Briana as the main character.  I understand wanting flaws in a character to make him or her relatable, but Bree was just annoying.  She wouldn't listen to anyone and thought that her ideas and instincts were always right.  While she did grow and develop by the end of the book, she still didn't turn into a compelling person.  The other characters were all totally flat and couldn't pick up the slack left by Bree's lack of an interesting personality.  The private school vs public school kids bit didn't help things feel fresh and new at all, something that could have been a saving grace.

Overall, don't bother with this one.  I wish I could recommend it based on the interesting idea and my desire to like it, but it wasn't to be.  Many things are rotten in this novel.
ebook from Netgalley

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Chaos of Stars

Isadora's family is seriously screwed up - which comes with the territory when you're the human daughter of the ancient Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris. Isadora is tired of living with crazy relatives who think she's only worth of a passing glance - so when she gets the chance to more to California with her brother, she jumps on it. But her new life comes with plenty of its own dramatic - and dangerous - complications... and Isadora quickly learns there's no such thing as a clean break from family.

Blending Ally Carter's humor and the romance of Cynthia Hand's Unearthly, The Chaos of Stars takes readers on an unforgettable journey halfway across the world and back, and proves there's no place like home.

Beth says 2.5 Stars...
I have some very conflicting feelings about this book.  I've read several of White's other novels and thoroughly enjoyed them, so I was looking forward to this one.  The cover immediately pulls you in because it's just flat out gorgeous and by then end of the book does connect back to the story, something that doesn't always happen when the image is so striking.  The plot isn't that bad and I really like the idea of the story.  Imagine that the gods and goddesses of yesteryear are still among us and very much keeping their traditions alive.  It's a similar basis than Gaiman's American Gods had, but this book isn't quite as well realized.  The mysterious plot is highly underdeveloped and the pieces don't fall into some semblance of a place until the very last second.  The little interludes (I call them that because I'm still not sure whether or not they were entirely flashbacks or dreams) at the beginning of each chapter didn't really serve a point.  Most of the plot was spent with Isadora doing nothing of consequence and it dragged.

My biggest issue was in connecting with Isadora, as in I found it impossible.  I found her beyond irritating.  She's entitled, refuses to listen to others, and in general acts like an angsty spoiled brat.  Not who I want to read about.  Of course being sheltered all her life she doesn't realize that she's absolutely gorgeous, although she spurns all advances because of the impermanence of mortal life.  Enter the love interest, Ry, who tries to convince Isadora that she's wrong about love and life.  I liked his character and would have much rather spent time inside his head.  The problem is that everything is filtered through Isadora and her annoyingly pessimistic worldview.  She can't handle happiness and must find problems (or potential problems) in every situation.  I wish that the other characters had more time because I think more deeply developed secondary characters could have significantly improved the novel.

The worst part is that the idea for this book is so fantastic.  I love the thought and would give a book told from a different character's perspective (Ry, perhaps) a chance because I still think there's potential here.  Unfortunately, this didn't live up to my expectations.  Despite the pretty cover, this one's a pass.
ebook from library

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Uncommon Criminals

Katarina Bishop has worn a lot of labels in her short life. Friend. Niece. Daughter. Thief. But for the last two months she’s simply been known as the girl who ran the crew that robbed the greatest museum in the world. That’s why Kat isn’t surprised when she’s asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald so it can be returned to its rightful owners. 

There are only three problems. First, the gem hasn’t been seen in public in thirty years. Second, since the fall of the Egyptian empire and the suicide of Cleopatra, no one who holds the emerald keeps it for long, and in Kat’s world, history almost always repeats itself. But it’s the third problem that makes Kat’s crew the most nervous and that is simply… the emerald is cursed.

Kat might be in way over her head, but she’s not going down without a fight. After all she has her best friend—the gorgeous Hale—and the rest of her crew with her as they chase the Cleopatra around the globe, dodging curses, realizing that the same tricks and cons her family has used for centuries are useless this time.

Which means, this time, Katarina Bishop is making up her own rules.

Beth says 4.5 Stars...
I picked up the first book in this series last summer because it was on sale and sounded fun.  I consider that a very good decision, because thus far the books have been an absolute blast to read.  I like to think of the series as Ocean's Eleven with the pop culture sensibilities of shows like Gilmore Girls or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  There's all of the heist action, but constantly peppered with witty banter and one-liners.  The process of planning and going through the mental lists of different cons and tricks took up most of the book, with the actual action limited to a few scenes.  Luckily, the planning is as delightful as the various robberies.  There were a couple of plot twists, one of which was a bit more obvious because of the action that had occurred and the length of the book.  The ending worked wonderfully and had me giving a little satisfied fist pump at the book.

Kat's dealing with rather a lot from all directions.  She starts out the book having decided to lone wolf things for various re-acquisitions.  I'm not saying thefts because she's only stealing already stolen items and returning them to their rightful owners.  Using her skills for good!  However, the crew that was assembled in Heist Society is concerned that she's taking too many risks.  We get Hale and Gabriella being their generally awesome selves starting from almost the beginning of the book.  It takes a bit for the rest to join in, but it's worth the wait.  I love the relationship between Kat and Hale.  Yes, there's the romantic tension, but their priority is making sure that they can still be friends and get the job done.  Granted, that does come with lots of wonderfully quick banter.  The characters do develop some, but the main draw here is the brilliant heist and the rest of the breakneck plot.  Don't look too deeply; let yourself enjoy the ride.

This is a delightful entry in a series I'm thoroughly enjoying.  I definitely want to get my hands on the next book, which I'm sure I'll devour as rapidly as this one.  If you're into globe-trotting adventures with wit and serious capers then go out and buy these books immediately.
ebook from library

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


I never believed in ghosts. Until one tried to kill me.When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, her world begins to unravel. She doesn’t know that paranormal forces in a much darker world are the ones pulling the strings. Not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into Kennedy’s room and destroy a dangerous spirit sent to kill her. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon — a society whose five members were all murdered on the same night.

Now Kennedy has to take her mother’s place in the Legion if she wants to uncover the truth and stay alive. Along with new Legion members Priest and Alara, the teens race to find the only weapon that might be able to destroy the demon — battling the deadly spirits he controls every step of the way.

Suspense, romance, and the paranormal meet in this chilling urban fantasy, the first book in a new series from Kami Garcia, bestselling coauthor of the Beautiful Creatures novels.

Beth says 3.5 Stars...
I was excited to see that Kami Garcia had a book of her own and I managed to find it right when I wanted a bit of adventure.  Although it generally doesn't take much to creep me out, this book didn't scare me and I appreciated that.  Yes, there are ghosts and evil spirit type creatures that haunt with varying levels of aggression that might scare some people.  It isn't that bad, so don't worry if you're someone who's easily scared.  The idea behind the book is super cool with secret societies, horror type entities, and complex familial ties.  However, the plot had some issues, especially at the beginning.  I understand the need for time to set up the world of a series, but it took quite a bit of time to finally get to the point where the plot moved forward smoothly.  The background was also rather spotty, but perhaps the information will come in other books.

A strength of the book was the young members of the Legion.  Kennedy had a few issues adjusting to her new life, but eventually works out her place among the group.  She's a perfectly serviceable heroine, but her tendencies to play things close to the chest and constant self-doubt did get annoying at times.  Although Kennedy is obviously the main character, the others received their own time and space to develop.  They all had distinct personalities and strengths that brought the group together.  My favorite has to be Priest, the delightfully quirky inventor extraordinaire.  His presence made my little nerd heart happy.

Overall I think this is a promising start to the series.  There were problems for sure, but the premise is interesting and the set-up solid.  The ending in particular plays directly into the next book which I think will be better.  I'd suggest giving this a try based on its potential.
book from library

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Diamond Thief

No one performs on the circus trapeze like 16-year-old Rémy Brunel. But Rémy also leads another life, prowling through the backstreets of Victorian London as a jewel thief. When she is forced to steal one of the world’s most valuable diamonds, she uncovers a world of treachery and fiendish plots.

Meanwhile, young detective Thaddeus Rec is determined to find the jewel and clear his name. Will Thaddeus manage to rescue the jewel? Or is it really Rémy that he needs to save?


Beth says 4 Stars...
The summary fails to mention that there's a delightful little steampunk element to this story that makes it a bit more than a Victorian mystery.  The set up is a bit odd initially, but soon works itself out and the storylines connect in a more logical way.  Gosling gets a bit ambitious with the scope of the novel and tries to bring in tons of elements.  They eventually coalesce after some time and kinks.  Occasionally some ideas didn't receive the full explanation I would have liked to see, especially some of the oddities mentioned closer to the end of the book.  Despite all this, the plot had a nice flow to it and drew me in slowly.  The mystery unveils gradually with a few moments that accelerate the plot forward.

I quite liked Rémy as a character.  She was a little off in the best possible way, mysterious and suspicious.  Everything in her world wasn't shiny and happy, but she always survived in the best way she knew how.  Her specific skill set often proved useful and she knew when to accept help when things were too far outside of her experience.  Her interactions with Thaddeus were delightful, ranging from verbal sparring to emotional upheaval.  Thaddeus made me smile with his uncanny instincts, propensity for being ignored, and love of technology.  Having chapters that followed both him and Rémy made both of them seem more real and offered insights into the similarities and disparities between their worlds.  In an utterly not shocking turn of events, I particularly enjoyed the Professor with his offbeat scientist/inventor ways.  Although he was a bit stereotypical, the mad scientist archetype is always fun for me to read.

Overall this was a fun, quirky little novel.  I certainly enjoyed it.  If an adventure featuring a circus, a diamond, and a dash of romance sounds good then this is for you.
ebook from Publisher

Monday, June 2, 2014

Nihal of the Land of the Wind

Nihal lives in one of the many towers of the Land of the Wind. There is nobody like her in the Overworld: big violet eyes, pointed ears, and blue hair. She is an expert in swordplay and the leader of a handful of friends that includes Sennar the wizard. She has no parents; brought up by an armorer and a sorceress, Nihal seems to be from nowhere.

Things suddenly change when the Tyrant takes charge. Nihal finds herself forced to take action when she is faced with the most difficult mission a girl her age could imagine.

Fierce, strong, and armed with her black crystal sword, Nihal sets out to become a real warrior. Readers will be riveted as she forges her powerful path of resistance.

Beth says 3.5 Stars...
So this year I decided to make a bookish New Years Resolution and it's been the only one I've ever kept going this long.  A part of that was to read more books from outside the Anglophone world and that's the main reason I was interested in Nihal, which was translated from Italian.  Well, that and the awesome cover/summary.  The plot takes a bit to get going because it's an introduction to a whole new high fantasy world, but is totally fascinating.  I really liked the world building and want to know more about the lands of the Overworld.  The Tyrant makes an excellent unseen enemy and I quite like the idea of his development into an evil powerhouse.  There is a big problem with the book: the writing.  It's hard, however, to discuss fully because this is a translation and quite often issues not present in the original bubble up in a new language.  The prose doesn't flow as smoothly as it should and tends to get unwieldy.  It's impossible to know if the issues stem from the translation or are inherent in Troisi's original writing, so I'm trying to give her the benefit of the doubt.

For some reason I found Nihal palatable despite the fact that she has some qualities I rather dislike.  She's obsessive, thoughtless, and constantly disregards advice she should listen to.  However, by the end of the book she has grown quite a bit and begins to recognize her weaknesses.  Sennar is a better character by far.  He's interesting, thoughful, and compelling.  Although the first time we meet him he's obnoxious, he grows to become Nihal's biggest supporter and a powerful crusader for peace.  I really would like to have a book from his perspective!  A strength of the book is its supporting characters, who have depth and offer a range of ideas and experiences.  The fascinating politics of the Overworld form an undercurrent with many of the characters involved in one major political entity or another.  I hope that the next books explore this further.

The series is promising and I can see reasons it would be a best seller in Italy.  It's one that serious fans of high fantasy should definitely give a try.  The world is fascinating and there's serious potential for the story during the rest of the series.  I know that I'll keep going to see what happens in the Overworld.
ebook from publisher