Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson (Rebel Mechanics #1) (4 out of 5)

•August 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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Verity Newton lands a job as a governess, but of course, it doesn’t stay that way for long. Verity is a magister, and has to work hard to conceal that fact, so she can keep her governess job and not end up on the street. She’s pulled into a “secret society” of rebel mechanics, a group of good-natured folks who are developing non-magical sources of power through the use of steam engines, which is frowned upon by society and the British colonists. If these machines become commonplace, British rule will become obsolete, and the people will triumph. Not too much history is covered here, which is unfortunate, because 1888 was quite a time with British rule. That’s one of the few complaints I had with this book- for history being the backbone of the plot, it’s very rarely addressed. The family that Verity is working for are anti-magister, yet Henry, the uncle who hired her, seems to have a sympathetic bone toward the cause… this isn’t addressed until halfway through the book, but it’s pretty obvious. Verity has another problem she didn’t plan on when she falls for the dashing inventor Alec, who’s part of the rebel mechanics. She’s recruited as a spy who writes anonymous articles for the movement, under the name “Liberty Jones”, and is pulled in both directions. She really loves the family, but she’s lying to them and working with the “enemy”. Can Verity keep up both fronts? Can she make a difference? Will Henry and her young charges catch onto her other life and what will happen? Will she and Alec forge a romance under cover of the movement? Do the Rebel Mechanics win their fight? All in all, a really quick, funny, and feel-good read. There’s only one incident of violence in the book, and it’s only necessary to have a confrontation so that the plot proceeds. No profanity, no true violence, and likable, fun characters (except for Flora, the oldest daughter. I wanted her to sit on an umbrella for most of the book, but toward the end, she gains the likability factor). I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys elements of steampunk and a good, quick, fun read. If you’re looking for serious dystopian fare, don’t look here. Look elsewhere. If you want some fun steampunk and like Kady Cross and Gail Carriger, this is the one to go to.

And Again by Jessica Chiarella (5 out of 5)

•August 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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A few weeks back, I got a phone call from Barbara at Simon & Schuster (Barbara calling Barbara’s? What the heck, bookverse?). Usually, Barbara calls for Holly, our children’s frontlist buyer, but she asked for me. She wanted me to do a “Meet & Greet” with the author of an upcoming book. That author is Jessica Chiarella, and the book coming out is And Again (for the record, friends, the book isn’t out until January 12, 2016. So put it somewhere that it isn’t out until next year, but write it down. There’s quite a buzz around this book, and there’s good reason for that.

I’m not quite sure what I expected. After reading the flyleaf and then the reviews on the back, I was excited to get a chance to read it before its release. And it was a book that stayed with me. I think it’s a book that is going to stay with a lot of people after they’ve finished it. I just read a book like that two weeks ago, and here’s another one. This is just one of those books that transcends the pages and stays STUCK in your subconscious. I guarantee it. When this sucker comes out in January, you’re going to have a great many reviewers who say the same thing.

Four radically different people get the chance of a lifetime (or so it seems)- to get to start their lives all over again, in genetically perfect new bodies. Connie, Hannah, David, and Linda were all terminally ill patients who get approved for the SUBlife pilot program. The SUBlife pilot program allows them to be “reborn” into new bodies that are exact replicas, but minus the imperfections that had been present before the operation. No more illness, no more wrinkles, age spots, or birth scars. What could you ask for? Sometimes, it seems, too much. All four of them had a ton of shit on their respective plates before the fact. Connie had a strong strain of the HIV virus and her looks rapidly slid downhill, which called disaster and a quick end to her career as a Hollywood actress. David’s a Congressman with a rapidly crumbling marriage and a reputation as a jerk(I thought he seemed like a pompous twit), until a brain tumor puts a halt to the impending divorce and possibly his life. Hannah is an artist who had the world at her feet until she got sick. Linda has a family that loves her, but a car accident and being in the hospital in a coma for 8 years, changes the entire picture. All of them have medical diagnoses that have brought them a terminal diagnosis, and here’s the chance for a whole new start. Always- always- always- be careful what you wish for. All four make it through the operation, and oh, how things change. They end up in a support group after the operations are a success. It’s through the minds and narratives of the four that the stories, desires, and feelings come out. If you weren’t fully invested at that point, after you get to know these characters, you’re all in. How do things play out for these folks? Do they run with their chance at starting over? Or do they lapse back into old habits, and reconvene with old demons? I can assure you, at the end of the novel, you have the answers, but with it come a whole new set of questions. This one will stay with you.

Human nature has a strong supporting role in this one. So does your sense of identity. Would you be the same person in a new body? Would you regress back to your past misdeeds and commit them all over again? How much of your baser instincts would you be able to ignore, in lieu of starting over? Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are the four patients, as each one struggles with making peace with their newfound bodies and the realization that they are no longer the people they once were. What a deeply thought out book. I really would have no idea what to say or do if I were ever in a situation like one of the characters in the book. You wish, hope, and pray for the small things to disappear (age spots, dark circles under the eyes, wrinkles), that when they finally do and shit drastically changes, well, how do you cope? Chiarella’s book does a great job of exploring all of those avenues of the soul. There are no easy answers. That’s what I came away from this book thinking. I also came away thinking about every single one of those characters and how things end up for them, after the program and their participation. Wow. Just wow. Put yourself down for this book when it comes out on January 12, 2016.
Thank you to Barbara and Amelia at S&S for the advance copy of the book and for the chance to meet Jessica and discuss the book with her. I can’t wait!

Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, & Adult Entertainment by Chauntelle Tibbals (3 out of 5)

•August 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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This is a quick read as well.
Pretty fascinating. The author does a great job of mapping out the ins and outs(no innuendo intended. Tibbals does enough of those throughout the book, that I need not apply) of everything and everyone related to the adult entertainment industry.
I did win this from somewhere- I normally have to disclose that in a review. The only problem is that I don’t know from where I won this book. It came with a strange, cryptic phallic shaped letter congratulating me on winning it.
Too bad the phallus didn’t accompany the letter!
Tibbals spends a lot of time talking about how her educational funding didn’t go through because of the nature of what she chose to study. It’s a myopic little world we live in, friends, and this is a prime example. She talks a lot about the discrimination faced in the educational community, and then she gets into the “nitty gritty”.
Here’s the thing- it’s not as bad as the normal person would think upon hearing the words “porn star”, “adult entertainment”, “dildo”, or “anal sex”. She takes a very succinct and balanced perspective on what goes on behind the scenes and with those starring, and yes, even those watching. There’s no shortage of treatise on her thoughts on those who are too close-minded to
enjoy what many people enjoy. Come on, everyone has had some sort of interaction with porn; whether it’s watching it, discussing it, reading books by porn stars, or even judging it. It’s a shame that those who judge it as shameful outweigh those who just accept it as it is- an industry that makes millions a year, and yes, as silly as it sounds, gives relief to those who do enjoy it. To pretend that it doesn’t exist? Just another example of what’s wrong with society today.
So for those people who choose to deign themselves as “pure” and not engage in any format relating to the adult entertainment industry, well, you have your Bibles and Jesus to keep your staid selves warm. The rest of us- will have a go!
I also enjoyed all the wording that Tibbals put together. A lot of it was tongue-in-cheek and innuendo-filled. Not sure whether that was her intention, but I think it likely was. Someone like me who turns a simple conversation about pasta into something dirty, appreciates the irony.
Overall, a nicely put together look at sex, society, and the adult entertainment industry. Too short for my liking. I feel like this is a subject matter that could have easily encompassed a whole book, not just a small brochure. This is such a lightweight, dinky book. I feel like she just scratched the surface with the subject matter. However, once you’re in(to the book, that is), you’re in like Flynn.

Invention of Fire by Bruce Holsinger (3 out of 5)

•August 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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The first strike came quickly- halfway through the book, I noticed it said (John Gower #2). Guess who didn’t read the first book? ME! I don’t like picking up on a second or third book in a series.. if I’m going to read a series, I usually do it in order. So…I did get into this historical mystery pretty quick. Holly’s been on my case to read it so she can start it. I showed it to her the other night and told her “I’ll either love it or it’ll lose me”. Sadly, it lost me. There isn’t one thing I can point to. I was riveted most of the way through, then halfway through, one tiny thread unraveled and I lost total interest. The end? Well, it made perfect sense. It was a very good, historical mystery, but it wasn’t on the level of an Ian Caldwell or one of Dan Brown’s books that didn’t suck (Angels & Demons). It was a good, historical mystery. Just not compelling enough to recommend it to the masses en masse.

London in 1836 finds a grisly discovery- that of sixteen corpses, all done in by various and different forms of torture, dumped in a pile inside the walls of the city. John Gower, a medieval poet and trader, is summoned to investigate a grisly find that takes place inside the city walls. Sixteen corpses have been dumped, with various wounds like none seen before, with no seeming clues as to what happened or the perpetrator(s) of the crime. Even in seedy London in 1836, this is a crime of pretty seismic proportions. He figures out the dead got that way courtesy of handgonnes (or as they are commonly known, handguns), a new entry into weapon arsenals. Gower’s quest for justice and the truth is seriously challenged by just about everyone he comes into contact with in London, so he heads to all points between and ends up in Kent, with his friend, the infamous Geoffrey Chaucer. His continual investigation leads to discovery of even more of these deadly handgonnes, and all signs indicate that the person or persons responsible for this are going to commit crimes on an even more broad scale. Can Gower uncover what the next plan is, who was behind the sixteen corpses, and how to stop the next attack? Can Chaucer, as Justice of the Peace, help at all, or will things take a more deadly turn?

Here’s my main complaint: Sixteen corpses discovered in the way that they are in the book? Should have leveled the playing field as far as the narrative and how the book progressed. But instead, it almost became more of a directive on treachery and corruption in 1800’s London. That’s fine, because it did have a place in what happened in the book. However, it took over a good portion of the book and didn’t let it go. Kind of like the vagrant who was out on the corner outside the pub begging for food, and despite you giving him the rotten bread, he continues to beg every time he spots you (Pardon me, dear reader, trying to think of something that happened frequently in London in the 1800’s. This was the best I could come up with). That sense of duplicity took over, and it lost me a little there. And then there was the matter of the time it took to finally unravel what happened, once the matter of the corruption was finally dropped. It’s a long, slow read. Normally, I don’t mind that, but between trying to read this one and Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants, I just about shorted out my brain sockets. This book takes a long, long time to reach its conclusion. I really DID enjoy the many twists and turns that Holsinger throws at you, but really, in the end, it was more about how it just didn’t hit the bulls eye with me. It was a satisfying conclusion, a bloody brilliant one, actually, but the walk down the road to the faire just took so many middling steps and scenic route detours that the book had lost my interest by the time I got to the end. If you like a book similar to Bernard Cornwall’s staggering historical epics, well, then you will love this one. If you’re like me and you want quick paced, event based historical mysteries like Ian Caldwell, then you should go read an Ian Caldwell instead.

Paradise Rot (Book One) by Larry Weiner (5 out of 5)

•August 21, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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You really don’t want to start a review with “It was the perfect book to read at the hospital”. Except, it’s my blog, and that’s how I roll. I don’t think Larry objects, because I said it to him on Facebook and he re-posted it. This is another case of meeting an author through Mr. Craig Lancaster and or Ms. Elisa Lorello (honestly, I don’t remember. One of them posted about his book, and I was intrigued). Craig and Elisa are both authors, and friends on Ye Olde Facebook, and somewhere in there I have picked up a few authors as friends, which is always cool. Now, onto the book.

This is Book One in what I’m guessing will be a trilogy. I was hoping it was sort of a take-off of John Milton’s caffeine-deprived opus “Paradise Lost”. Thankfully, more fun that that! (Although maybe I’ve just given myself an idea on what to parody next). Haven’t you ever wanted to get away from it all? Me too. I don’t know if the island of St. Agrippina would be my ideal resort. Although on the surface, it’s paradise…it’s not as it seems under the tropical sun. Take these strange island folk with the unusually white teeth; what’s the story there? Seems the little island resort is run by ZOMBIES. Yes, flesh eating, functioning zombies. Past the spray on orange tans, it’s a jungle out there. A jungle that you shouldn’t go into. Kyle, an ad exec who’s ‘recruited’ straight from the psych ward for a job on the island, should have known something was screwy from the get-go. Quite a cast of characters on the island- a sexy, mysterious jungle assassin named Woman, her paralyzed (its butt is on wheels) Chihuahua who sings (and named Dog, no less), Cate (who he ends up falling for, only to find out she’s one of THEM. That scene? Hilarious), Dory, her sidekick who’s got a ‘problem with men’, Oscar, Kyle’s former Law & Order obsessed roommate at the psych ward, Jimmy Dank, the Rastafarian seaplane pilot, Thierry the bartender, and many others. It seems like you meet a new character (or several) every chapter. Never a dull moment here, friends. A cast of truly strange zombies and non-zombies. The point here is to get the island resort up and running, so that they can have an all-you-can eat zombie buffet.

I should warn you, though, that if you’re not a fan of 70’s music, you may have a hard time with the soundtrack to this book. If you do, well, too bad- pick up the book anyway. I have not been this entertained by a book in months. It is OUT THERE. I am also OUT THERE, so I appreciated it. My dad’s been having a tough go of it lately, and I had started this Monday, picked it up at the hospital Tuesday, and finished it Thursday, again at the point of origin. I was sitting there out right laughing. Pretty sure that a few people thought I was crazier than they normally do (these doctors and nurses know me pretty well by now. Poor people). I am pretty sure that I passed the title and author on to at least 3 people. So, Larry, if I get three people at a veteran’s hospital to read it and take their mind off of why they’re there, then I have done some small service to this book. It’s hard to describe it, but I’ll try my best. Followers of my blog know that I’m a big fan of Tim Dorsey. Well, this is as if Tim Dorsey drank the Kool-Aid, found the droids he was looking for, and dropped some acid while he was at it. Throw in some vampires, gun runners, necrophiliacs, advertising execs, and a fair share of vulgarity, and you have Paradise Rot. Not for the easily offended. Don’t take it to your church book club- you’ll go to hell. Don’t recommend it to your Oprah-worshipping former Book Club zealots- they won’t be down with the sickness. If you like unusual, side-splitting funny, and outright mondo bizarre books, THIS, my friends, is for you. Go out and get it.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley (3 out of 5)

•August 19, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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I got this one from the St. Martin rep, Anne. Thank you, Anne. You’re forgiven for the fish. First The Nightingale, then this gem. Don’t let the 3 star rating fool you, I really did enjoy this book. The cover is great, the format of the book itself, even the font is great. It just didn’t consume me, much as I would consume a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, if allowed to. It was a pleasant, quick read. And a good one. I just needed riveting, and it wasn’t riveting… just a jolly good book.

This author is GREAT with character development. Holy smokes, you really feel as if you may find these people in a gin joint. 1883 London finds Thaniel coming home to find a mysterious timepiece on his pillow. He assumes it’s a gift, only to be told it’s not from the person he thought. Six months after he finds it, it saves him from an explosion that decimates Scotland Yard. What the hell is going on? He heads off in search of the watchmaker, Keita, to find out what secrets the watch holds. How is it possible that it saved his life? Why him? Some thing’s fishy, and no matter what Keita is telling Thaniel, weird shit keeps happening. Weird shit that can’t be explained- or unexplained even. Enter Grace, a physicist, who gets in the way of the chain of events and tries to figure out what is going on, and things get even more loopy. Thaniel doesn’t know what to think- is Keita up to no good? Or is Grace? What’s the deal with this watch? Why is he caught up in this crazy maelstrom of events?

OK. Here’s what I liked- everything. But it wasn’t riveting. I put it down half a dozen times, came back, picked it up, read a few chapters, and onto the next thing. Not at any point was I RIVETED to that book. I thought, from the buzz and the quotes on the back, that I was in for some mystical, magical journey. The journey from London to Japan as empires and long held traditions start to fall like dominoes- was some great atmospheric narrative. I love these characters. They’re all well developed, no goofy dialogue with hidden meanings, and no out of character actions. It was a nice little switch from a couple of other books recently, where the characters are seemingly set up well, then break out of character completely and do some real crazy shit, that ends up having NO bearing on the plot of the book that they’re in. So that was a nice change of pace. Like I said, a great little read, just a little bit too easy on the plot and non-existent on action. You can’t go wrong with it if you want a nice novel with some history and some fabulous character studies, and it would be a great vacation read.

THROW THIS MOTHERFUCKER IN THE TRASH! Bradstreet Gate by Robin Kirman (1 out of 5)

•August 18, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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Oh, this is a shame. I had high hopes for this one.
Before I go further, the FCC requires that I inform the reader that I got a copy of this for free, in return for a honest review, from Blogging For Books. The novel itself is courtesy of Penguin Random House. And it is a debut, so I had high hopes for it. Vanquish those hopes, kids. Definitely not what I thought.

This book reminded me greatly of a Bret Easton Ellis novel, except that it was not as great as an Ellis novel would be. At least, in regards to the class warfare and social standings so stacked up here. Then again, it is important to the plot of the book. Or is it? This one takes place at Harvard. At the center of the book is the murder of Julie Patel. Georgia, Charlie, and Alice all arrive to attend, with different visions of what to expect from the goliath and its occupants. Julie’s murder puts a horrifying spin on what they thought there were going to be dealing with in the first year of college. Instead, it ends up being about their classmate, a seemingly sweet young lady, being murdered. Their professor, the enigmatic Rufus Storrow, is the prime suspect. Georgia’s odd relationship with him is a subplot, unresolved sexual tension between Alice and Georgia is a subplot, Charlie’s Internet security business is a subplot. Essentially, you have a story full of subplots, but none going anywhere. And worse yet, you don’t care! I didn’t care! I kept waiting for one of these to have anything to do with Julie’s murder, and ultimately, you get to some answer, but it really doesn’t fit with the rest of the equation. It’s like a algebraic equation that is never going to be solved because key components have vanished into the ether. Moreover, if you’re going to use Harvard as a background, you would expect more of a feel for the place. The surface is barely scratched. The ending?? Holy crap, wait until you read the ending and the “resolution” to the murder. You think you’ve ripped all your eyebrow hairs out, and then you get to that. Unbelievable.

People who know me accuse me of being overemotional. Yes. I’d rather show some emotion than be a block of ice. THIS book? No emotion. Emotionless. Flat. You just don’t care about the characters. I kept hoping for a huge bronze statue of Salman Rushdie to fall on Storrow. What an insipid, narcissistic tree branch. I kept hoping for justice for Julie, but to read the book…is doing no one justice. You know what you need to do with this title.

 
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