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Book Review: The Last of the Demon Slayers by Angie Fox (series, #4)

August 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Female legs with sword and dog near tombstone.Summary:
Lizzie is back from Greece with her hunky griffin boyfriend, Dimitri, and the geriatric witch biker gang (not to mention her talking dog Pirate and Pirate’s pet adolescent dragon Flappy) with plans to help the witches finally set up a real home at a New Jersey biker bar after years on the run.  Of course nothing has ever gone according to Lizzie’s plans since the day she turned 30 and inherited her demon slayer powers.  Naturally, her birth father shows up in a pillar of fire begging her to help free him from a bad situation with an even badder demon in California.  Thus, Lizzie and the gang wind up following fairy trails across the country in an attempt to stop the demon, who just so happens to be out to kill demon slayers too.

Review:
Ah, this series. I have such a love/hate relationship with this series!  That’s mainly because I love everyone except Lizzie and Dimitri.  Why why is everyone else in this world so hilarious and relaxed, whereas Lizzie and Dimitri are basically THAT couple.  You know THAT couple.  They’re the ones who met each other during freshman orientation week and proceeded to have the perfect dream relationship throughout all four years of college and promptly moved in together and got engaged after.  They’re the ones where the girl whines and bitches to you about some minor fight she had with her dude during your junior year when you’ve barely slept in three days and haven’t had a date in months. THAT COUPLE.  It’s hard to root for that couple.

On the other hand, though, there’s everyone else.  The geriatric biker witches are amazeballs.  I would pay good money to have a bunch of older women like that in my life.  They’re strong, empowered, and bound and determined to live their life to the fullest no matter what society says they should be doing.  Interestingly, grandma gets a boyfriend this entry, and Lizzie is none too happy about it.  Grandma tells her unequivocally that old people have sex. Yes! What?  Lizzie is the only one who should be making everyone eye-roll with her sexy antics?  I think not.

Then of course there’s Pirate and Flappy.  Hilarious animal characters hit my heart *right here*.  I would put up with almost anything just to see Pirate trying to train Flappy to sit.  Seriously.  Fox has a real talent for writing animal dialogue that is believable without being too sophisticated.  It’s clear she has some critters in her life.  For instance, Pirate runs up to Lizzie excited to see her yelling “Lizzie! Lizzie! Lizzie!” and then proceeds to beg for food.  Typical doggy.

The plot definitely thickens in this entry.  I’m not sure I’m totally happy with how it has.  Essentially, it turns out there are actually more demon slayers, and as a Buffy fan, this just irritated me.  I don’t like being told there’s only one only to have more show up.  Either there are a lot of slayers or there aren’t.  Plus, did we really have to make the new slayer so feminine?  Lizzie is already a pretty extraordinarily feminine slayer.  It’d be nice to have some variety.  On the other hand, the rest of the plot of the supernatural world is interesting.  There’s Lizzie’s father plus a visit to purgatory.  I’m betting that the next entry will start to confront the presence of “good” supernatural creatures, since we’ve now visited hell and purgatory.  If Dante taught me anything, it’s that that leaves only one place to go.

It’s interesting how I can’t stop reading this series even though I can’t seem to make up my mind how much I like it.  I’ve rated entries everywhere from 3.5 to 5 stars.  I think in general the experience of the hilarious side-kicks and minor characters off-sets the annoying main couple enough that I can kinda sorta mostly ignore them.  There’s also always the hope that they’ll break up, which I root for in every book.

Overall, if you’ve stuck with the series this far, you’ll enjoy this entry.  It takes the focus off the griffins and puts it back on Lizzie and her biological family.  The ever-expanding cast of characters all fit together smoothly and hilariously.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

Previous Books in Series:
The Accidental Demon Slayer, review
The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers, review
A Tale of Two Demon Slayers, review

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Book Review: The Prometheus Project: Captured by Douglas E. Richards (series, #2)

August 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Alien buildings.Summary:
Brother/sister duo Ryan and Regan are back only this time they’re officially part of the team of scientists working in the top-secret alien city discovered deep underground in Pennsylvania.  They rush off every day after school to work in the city of Prometheus.  One weekend they convince their parents to let them sleep over in the city, only to wake up to discover all of the adults captured by a ruthless alien escaped convict whose mind control abilities mysteriously fail to work on the kids.  It’s up to them to save not just the adults, but the earth itself from alien rule.

Review:
This follow-up to The Prometheus Project: Trapped (review) brings even more action and science than the first time around.  It’s also a longer length that is more suitable for the older middle grade crowd.

Ryan and Regan’s relationship with each other has progressed from sibling tolerance to a level of respect for each other clearly due to working together in the city.  It’s nice to see a healthy sibling relationship modeled in a middle grade book.

Again the plot fooled me with a twist ending I didn’t see coming, but that made perfect sense when it was revealed.  This is the sort of thing I’d have loved as a middle grade reader.  A mystery that manages to out-wit me without playing any tricks.

The villain is threatening without being too frightening.  Although the kids’ parents are held captive, no undue violence is shown.  Predominantly the scientists are held with plastic ties on their wrists and a simple verbal threat of “do this or else….”  It seems an appropriate level of suspense for the age-range.  The enemy is formidable, but it is possible to out-wit him.

Although the science, plot, and characters are strong, something just couldn’t let me jump from liking it a lot to loving it.  Perhaps this is because I am out of the age-range intended, but it does seem to me as though sometimes the story expects a bit too little of the young reader enjoying it.  I hope in future books that Richards challenges young readers a bit more with the writing in addition to the science.

Overall, this is another strong entry in this middle grade series.  I firmly believe the series will keep young readers with an interest in scifi and secret government operations happily engaged while parents and guardians can have peace of mind about what they are reading.

4 out of 5 stars

Source:  Won copy in exchange for my honest review from the author via LibraryThing

Previous Books in Series:
The Prometheus Project: Trapped, review

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Book Review: Lucky Stiff by Tonia Brown

August 29, 2011 2 comments

Voodoo doll and candle.Summary:
Peter’s just a young 18 on his first spring break to New Orleans with his friends when he accidentally takes ecstasy instead of sleeping pills and dies.  His friends, terrified, drag his corpse off to a local voodoo priestess who raises him with her special kind of magic–tantric magic.  Somehow this method of raising Peter combined with the time of year makes Peter into a very special kind of zombie.  One who can feed off of female orgasms instead of human flesh if he so chooses.

Review:
In case it’s not abundantly clear from the summary, this is an erotica novel.  A zombie erotica novel.  Frankly if you’re not grossed out by vampire undead sex, then this book shouldn’t bother you at all.  It’s not like Peter decays (don’t worry, Brown takes care of that part logically).  So it’s less sex with a decaying corpse and more sex with an undead dude.

Brown’s concept is hilarious and well-executed.  Peter is a zombie with a permanent hard-on who can’t come but needs female orgasms to feed off of to keep him from going all cold-blooded killer.  Um possibly the best female-friendly set-up for a paranormal erotica ever?  Since he died a virgin, he starts off with the Madam learning how to pleasure a lady for five years, then he gets booted out to go find his own way and become a pick-up artist.  He’s completely focused on and fascinated with the female orgasm.  You might even call it a fetish. ;-)

It doesn’t matter if I can’t come as long as I can be a part of it when you do. (page 15)

On top of the fun and varied sex scenes though there’s lots of well-conceived plot.  Peter has issues he has to deal with.  He basically has to grow the fuck up enough to be able to handle a monogamous relationship and recognize real love for what it is.  For instance, at first he thinks he’s in love with the Madam, but she tells him:

Sex is just sex. Sometimes it’s really good, true, but it’s nothing in da grand scheme a’ things. We may have fucked, but we never made love.  (page 87)

In other words, he only thinks he loves her because he lost his virginity to her.  He needs to go out and learn what real love is.  That combined with navigating morality and your faith (he becomes a voodoo convert loyal to La Croix) are at the center of the plot.

Brown also drops in various witticisms that exhibit wisdom but are simultaneously hilariously dripping in paranormality:

The trick to being undead, much like being monogamous, is keeping everything fresh. (page 33)

Bits like that kept me laughing out loud whenever I wasn’t caught up in the erotica.

Alas, sometimes the dialogue is a bit stiff (haha, sorry, couldn’t resist).  Ahem, in all seriousness, sometimes the dialogue felt a bit forced and unnatural.  Similarly, I was bothered that, although Peter clearly is bisexual (he makes multiple comments about wanting to try things out with men in addition to women), for some reason male orgasms are too violent or pointed or whatever for him to be able to feed off of them.  Um, I’m sorry, but this isn’t logical.  At the very least it would make that if Peter gave head to a guy it would feed him, yes?  It felt like Brown wanted to be edgy by making Peter almost bi, but refused to really go all the way.  A great example of this is that Peter tries sex with a dude once, but only in the context of a threesome, and it’s the only sex scene not written as erotica.  It’s simply briefly mentioned in past tense.  I really wish Brown had gone all the way and made Peter bi.  It’d be interesting to see that here.  Alternatively, to just make Peter totally straight would’ve been fine too.  This fine walking of the line rubs me the wrong way though.

Overall this is a fun erotica with a unique storyline that manages to make zombies sexy with a heavy dash of voodoo.  I recommend it to those who love zombies and erotica fairly equally.  I’m betting, knowing the people that I know, that this is not as small a portion of the population as some may think.

4 out of 5 stars

Source:  Amazon

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Book Review: The Egyptian by Layton Green (Series, #2)

August 27, 2011 1 comment

Egyptian sculpture holding a green globe.Summary:
Dominic Grey, previously a government worker and before that a champion jiu-jitsu fighter, is now working for Professor Viktor Radek on private detective cases frequently involving religious mysteries and the occult.  His first case seems straight-forward enough–retrieve a vial stolen from a biomedical company in Egypt.  But there’s more to this biomedical company than meets the eye, and Dominic soon finds himself racing around the globe from New Jersey to Bulgaria to Cairo in an attempt to unravel a mystery involving what just might be the elixir of life.

Review:
This follow-up to The Summoner (review) lives up to the excitement and global noir feel of the original without retracing the same steps.  This holds promise for the series as a whole as one issue in writing serial detective novels is keeping everything fresh for the reader.

Green has either traveled the world extensively or done a ton of research, as his writing shows an intimate knowledge of the various areas of the world Dominic’s work takes him that is only evidenced by those who have been there.  It is easy to tell when a writer intimately knows the setting they are speaking of, and this is clear in Green’s work.  This lends an extra edge of excitement to the work.

Dominic’s character develops at a believable rate in this entry of the series.  Who he is at the core is still the same, but his work and his encounters with a variety of people lead him to question himself, his life, and his intentions.  I also appreciated that instead of pulling a 007 and moving on to the next woman without thinking much of his love interest from the first book, Nya, Dominic struggles with his emotions about the women he sleeps with.  He is certainly no saint when it comes to the opposite sex, but the way he deals with women strikes a believable middle.

Unfortunately, Viktor does not feature as prominently this time around, and he also appears to be on a bit of a downward slope in his fondness for absinthe.  I hope his character will be addressed more fully in the next entry in the series.

Two of the new characters added this time around are particularly enjoyable–Veronica (the love interest) and Jax (an international mercenary).  I actually fell for Jax much harder than I’ve fallen for Dominic.  He is from small town America with no ties to family, completely confident in the most rural corners of the world.  He’s brassy, witty, and clearly has a bit of a good streak buried in him somewhere.  I think both the ladies and the men reading the series will enjoy his presence, and I hope he’ll pop up in later entries (or even get his own spin-off series).  Veronica is enjoyable for different reasons.  She’s a career woman starting to question where her life is heading and falls for the guy she can’t have.  It may seem cliche, but that sort of thing happens all the time in real life.  She’s sympathetic without being pathetic.  Also, personally, I found her a lot more enjoyable than Nya.  She’s more assertive with Dominic; let’s just leave it at that. ;-)

The writing style itself still struggles in places on the sentence level.  Sometimes Green tries too hard to sound philosophical, and it comes across as forced.  Similarly, some paragraphs lean a bit too heavily on showing, not telling.  The instances of this occurring are fewer than in the previous book, though, and it is obvious that Green is working hard on improving his craft.  Personally, I did not find that these instances distracted me from the exciting plot at all.

Overall, The Egyptian is a fast-paced, unpredictable detective mystery, perfect for those looking for a light-weight, page-turner for their evenings or the beach.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Free kindle copy from the author in exchange for review

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Note:  The Egyptian and The Summoner are on sale for 99 cents for this release weekend only (August 27th and 28th)

Previous Books in Series:
The Summoner
, review

Friday Fun! (People Who Have Fevers Probably Shouldn’t Blog But I’m Going To Anyway)

August 26, 2011 2 comments

Hello my lovely readers!  Goodness, it’s a good thing I had posts queued up and scheduled as I seem to have dropped off the face of the planet the last couple of days with a random high fever and sore throat.  Not sure what that’s all about.  Planning to apply whiskey and soup to it tonight.

Also this seems to be weird weather week here in Boston what with the tremors from the DC earthquake shaking our high rises and Hurricane Irene supposedly arriving Sunday.  I get slightly irrationally excited over storms.  This is quite possibly because they were one of the more exciting events around when I was growing up in Vermont.  In any case, when the weathermen and the media are all “SHIT’S ABOUT TO GET REAL” and then it doesn’t, I get majorly disappointed.

*shakes fist at sky* You promised me loss of electricity and storms and rain slamming into my window and comforting my kitten and hiding under a blanket with my kindle and secretly laughing at my new-found right to eat everything in my fridge before it goes bad!

Yeah.  Girlfriend has a tendency to get irritated when instead of that everything is sunny and normal.  Although I suppose I still could hide under the blanket with my kindle and kitty.

In any case, my preparation for  Irene is going to consist entirely of acquiring alcohol and a flashlight since I don’t own one.

Side-note: if anyone knows any sore throat cures I would massively appreciate it.  It hurts to talk.

I think it is still obvious I have a fever.

Oh!  Also, fellow east coasters, what’re your hurricane preps consisting of?  My work has already hid all of our picnic tables somewhere.

Book Review: Wolf Hunt: The Burning Ages by Sebastian P. Breit (series, #1)

August 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Wolf standing in front of Nazi flag.Summary:
It’s the future, and the world is in another semi-cold war between NATO and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China).  A NATO group of British, American, and German naval ships is being sent to Brazil on a mission, but part-way there they are all zapped back in time to 1940.  With the chance to change history for the better, what will they decide to do?

Review:
I first want to point out that Breit is German and wrote this in English himself; it is not a translation.  I have to say that I wonder why he made that choice as the plot certainly seems to have more of a European than an American appeal, but I am impressed at his effort to write in his second language.

The summary of the book makes the plot sound fast-paced, but in fact it is actually distressingly slow-moving.  It takes about 1/3 of the book for the all-important time-traveling event to happen.  I spent the whole first part of the book just waiting and wondering when it was going to happen, because once the basic politics of the world and character traits were set up, it’s just a waiting game.  The naval mumbo-jumbo filling up the rest of the space just wasn’t necessary.  This issue carries on throughout the book with half of the sailors spending a solid amount of their time stranded on an island, for instance.  Since this is marketed as a fast-paced historical thriller, perhaps somewhat like the style of The Da Vinci Code it quite simply needs to move along faster.  Intense naval specifics and codes are not necessary.  Fast-moving plot is.

Breit also needs to invest in a British and American editor each, as the British and American characters say and do things that are just flat-out wrong in British and American English respectively.  One that really slapped me across the face is that one of the characters is from Boston, but everyone refers to him as a “Bostoner.”  People from Boston are called “Bostonians.”  I have never once in my life heard anyone say “Bostoner,” and I live in Boston.  Another example is at one point one of the Americans reads another American’s birthdate from off an id and says it the European way “11 September 2001,” instead of the American way “September 11th, 2001.”  This is one of those instances where the author needs to have his facts straight in order for the story to be believable.  Nothing makes me not believe a character is American quite like having him get a bunch of American English wrong.

Additionally, as a woman and an author, the way the female characters are handled is distressing to me.  Just one example is that a bunch of the stranded female sailors are attacked on the island by some of the locals in an attempt at rape.  These women who had the exact same training as their male counter-parts are apparently completely incapable of saving themselves, but instead have to be rescued by their male comrades.  But it gets worse.  Later when the captain of the ship is relating the event to another man, he asks if the women were alright.  The captain responds by saying that the doctor said they were fine.  The doctor.  Apparently nobody bothered to ask these women if they were raped (HINT: I’m pretty sure women can tell if they’ve been raped or not).  Plus no one seems to care that these women are clearly not going to be emotionally ok after almost getting raped, and not once do any of the female characters who were attacked say anything about it with their own voices. This is just completely inexcusable.  It’s a removal of women’s voices from ourselves, and it’s insulting to a female reader.

There’s the issue of European bias expressed through the American characters.  For instance, one American character expresses shame at how Americans only speak one language.  First of all, the rate of bilingualism in the US is actually rising, so following the arc of the future, there should be more bilingual Americans, not less.  Second, I’ve never once heard an American express woe in an all-encompassing way like that by saying something like “It’s so sad Americans aren’t bilingual.”  People say, “I wish I was fluent in another language,” or “I wish I was fluent in Japanese,” but they just don’t put it that way.  That whole paragraph sounded like a European using an American character as a puppet to say what Europeans think of Americans.  Yeesh.

I also have problems with the German characters though.  A bunch of them express the desire to stop the Holocaust not to save lives but to save the German people from harboring the shame and guilt for generations to come.  Um, what?  That’s your concern oh time-traveling Germans?  Having been to Germany myself on a student exchange and visited Dachau, etc… I can say that I have a hard time imagining any of the kids my age at the time (15ish in the early 2000’s) focusing in on that as opposed to stopping a bad thing from happening because it’s evil and wrong.  I can only imagine that generations even further along would be even more focused in on stopping a genocide as opposed to saving some broad idea of German honor.  It’d be like having a time-traveling modern American decide to stop the Trail of Tears to save us from shame as opposed to doing it to save innocent Cherokees.  The whole thought just makes my brain hurt.

To sum up, Breit shows ability as a writer that needs to be worked on and honed.  I’d recommend either getting a good editor who can handle both British and American English or switching to writing in German.  He also needs to work on tightening up his plot.  Normally I’d say, nice first effort keep trying, but due to the opinions and biases and presentation of women present in this first attempt, I’m afraid I can’t say that.  It’s readable, but why would you want to read it anyway?

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Ebook from author in exchange for my honest review

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Product Review: Print from Easy Canvas Prints

August 24, 2011 1 comment

I was wonderfully excited to receive my second offer for a product review from Melissa Pont of Easy Canvas Prints.  In her super-friendly email she gave me the opportunity to create my own 8 by 10 print in exchange for reviewing my experience (and the print) here.  As a 20-something slowly trying to decorate my apartment like an adult, I jumped at the opportunity.

The site basically creates professional artist quality prints from your own photos.  This means any one of your many digital photos can become a piece of artwork in your home.  By far the only difficult part of my whole experience was choosing which picture I wanted hanging in my home!  I love taking photos, and Boston as well as my visits home to Vermont gave me a whole slew of scenic items to choose from.  I finally decided to narrow it down by first choosing which section of my apartment needed decoration the most.  My kitchen won by a long-shot, as it only had one picture hanging in it.  Once I chose my kitchen, I knew which picture I wanted in there.

I took a picture my senior year of undergrad at a New Year’s Eve party of raspberries in champagne with SoCo in the background.  The colors in the photo (yellow and red) go with the color theme I’m slowly working on in my kitchen, so that was the choice!  I then had to visit Easy Canvas Prints to create the print.

The website is clearly set-up and guides you through each step smoothly.  First you upload the picture.  Second you choose which size you want.  Third you choose if you want a border or not.  If not, your photo wraps around the edge.  I wanted a border, so I then had to choose what style.  I selected a solid color and a golden-yellow to match the color of the champagne.  You then simply place your order.

My print arrived in just about a week, which I think is a very reasonable time-frame for creation and shipment.  It arrived well-packaged in completely recyclable cardboard and brown paper and clearly stamped as “Fragile.”  Hanging it literally took me about one minute, as the bracket for hanging was perfectly placed on the back, so I simply had to stick a nail in my wall.

It’s a truly gorgeous print and has absolutely added a level of class to my kitchen.  I had a wonderful experience with Easy Canvas Prints, and I encourage those looking for professional quality art for their home made from their own photos to check it out.  It’s a truly unique way to decorate your home.

Print of champagne.

Close-up of the print.

Picture on wall of kitchen.

Print hanging on my kitchen wall. Notice how the raspberries match my red toaster. ;-)

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