Monday, October 17, 2011

In My Mailbox #8

Hosted by The Story Siren

Firstly, I must say that I have not been posting as much as I would like so far this month. I've got other things going on and I just haven't the time. But I figured since I did actually receive some books in the mail this week, I would let you guys know what I got!

Amazon had some good books on 4-for-3 sale so I broke down and bought them:

Chalice by Robin McKinley
Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston
The Devouring by Simon Holt

Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren
Goddess of Yesterday by Caroline Cooney
Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

Also, probably my last request of books from Goodreads Bookswap (is anyone else extremely mad that they are shutting that down?):

Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Spray by Harry Edge
My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent

So there you have it. I don't foresee purchasing any more books any time soon, but I do look forward to some special packages in the mail of books that I won. YAY! Look for a post on those forthcoming.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Gail Carriger
Published October 1st 2009 by Orbit

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire -- and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart? - Book Jacket
This is perhaps one of the most witty and charming books I have read in a long time. It has a toe in so many genres it is quite impossible to say precisely what category it falls into. I would lean towards calling it a paranormal historical romance with a trifling of steampunk, a genre which I have no familiarity whatsoever. I have been extremely disappointed by the vampire and werewolf books I've read so far, and this one is truly something else. Wonderful prose, butt-kicking (in a most ladylike fashion) heroine, and a very entertaining romance.

All of the characters in this book are amusing to say the least. There is a large array of distinct personalities that just jump off the page. Alexia Tarabotti is a woman like no other. She is stubborn and never has a qualm about speaking her mind, and in the nineteenth century, that isn't very proper. Of course, the brooding werewolf love interest, Lord Conall Maccon, is dark, mysterious, gruff, and most definitely hunky (or at least I assume he is) . I am not really a fan of romance as it usually borders on the ridiculously unbelievable in terms of compatibility and context, however I find the relationship between Alexia and Lord Maccon to be absolutely delightful.

I have to admit, that I wasn't a big fan of the main storyline. It follows Alexia as she attempts to investigate the disappearances of rove vampires and werewolves. Basically, she sticks her nose where it doesn't belong and gets in lots of trouble for it. I felt that in between all the wittiness and the many clever jokes and innuendos strewn across the pages, the main story got muddled, at least through the first 3/4 of the book. When the mystery did come to a head, with Alexia and her preternatural powers at the center of things, it was extremely exciting. I felt there should have been more of that element through the book than there was. I do think that the budding romance between Alexia and Conall did interfere with the mystery aspect and it made it feel like reading two stories squished together. Perhaps I wasn't prepared for this book, because it was such a new style. I will most CERTAINLY be continuing this series and I am really hoping that the adventures take center stage next time.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Iron House by John Hart

Iron House
John Hart
Published July 12th, 2011 by St. Martin's Press
Source: Won

At the Iron Mountain Home for Boys, there was nothing but time. Time to burn and time to kill, time for two young orphans to learn that life isn’t won without a fight. Julian survives only because his older brother, Michael, is fearless and fiercely protective. When tensions boil over and a boy is brutally killed, there is only one sacrifice left for Michael to make: He flees the orphanage and takes the blame with him.

For two decades, Michael has been an enforcer in New York’s world of organized crime, a prince of the streets so widely feared he rarely has to kill anymore. But the life he’s fought to build unravels when he meets Elena, a beautiful innocent who teaches him the meaning and power of love. He wants a fresh start with her, the chance to start a family like the one he and Julian never had. But someone else is holding the strings. And escape is not that easy. . . .

The mob boss who gave Michael his blessing to begin anew is dying, and his son is intent on making Michael pay for his betrayal. Determined to protect the ones he loves, Michael spirits Elena—who knows nothing of his past crimes, or the peril he’s laid at her door— back to North Carolina, to the place he was born and the brother he lost so long ago. There, he will encounter a whole new level of danger, a thicket of deceit and violence that leads inexorably to the one place he’s been running from his whole life: Iron House. -Goodreads

Iron House by John Hart is an extroidinary thriller. If you plan on reading this book, make sure all your chores are taken care of because you aren't going to want to take a break from reading. Be prepared to remind yourself to eat and sleep because you will likely forget such trivial things while you are so utterly engrossed in this book.

So what did I enjoy most about Iron House? Where do I even begin? The characters are great. Even though their circumstances are abnormal, they still felt relatable and complete (except I felt like I did want to know more about Jessup and maybe Steven). The landscape and scenery described by Hart was detailed without being overly stylized. His description of the locales in the N. Carolina mountains felt like they were isolated from everything which gave the story an even heavier, eerie feeling. No where to run to.

Michael and Julian were brothers abandoned when they were small babies, and were raised in Iron Mountain Home for Boys. They had a rough time of it, Julian always being picked on for being frail, until one day he broke completely and killed another boy that was hurting him. Michael took the blame and the murder weapon and fled from the home. That is where their lives split until twenty-three years later, when Michael, once again, fears for Julian's safety.

The mob, crooked politicians, murder, schizophrenia; this book has all that and more. Of course there are twists and turns that make these books all the more gut wrenching, so you have to read it to find out.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The First Days by Rhiannon Frater

The First Days
Rhiannon Frater
Published July 5th, 2011 by Tor
Source: Swapped

The morning that the world ends, Katie is getting ready for court and housewife Jenni is taking care of her family. Less than two hours later, they are fleeing for their lives from a zombie horde.

Thrown together by circumstance, Jenni and Katie become a powerful zombie-killing partnership, mowing down zombies as they rescue Jenni's stepson, Jason, from an infected campground.

They find sanctuary in a tiny, roughly fortified Texas town. There Jenni and Katie find they are both attracted to Travis, leader of the survivors; and the refugees must slaughter people they know, who have returned in zombie form.

The First Days is like an awesome zombie movie times ten. I was originally worried that the zombie genre wouldn't translate well into book form for me as I am a huge fan of pretty much all zombie movies. However, this book was all that I was expecting and then some.

It's not really a new idea for a zombie book, as it is pretty straight-forward zombie killing and surviving, but I feel that Rhiannon Frater really made it her own. One of the greatest aspects of this book is that the protagonists are two women. It is a wonderful thing to read about two strong women doing what they must to survive and battling back zombie hordes on their own. These two ladies, Jenni and Katie, are lucky to make it through the first wave of the zombocolypse. After living under the thumb of a domineering and abusive husband, Jenni has difficulty standing on her own two feet. She clings to the safety and strength that Katie provides for her as they travel across Texas looking for a safe haven away from the big cities. While Jenni is determined to rescue her stepson, Jason, to make up for the loss of her other two sons (which she witnessed being eaten by her former husband), Katie is dealing with the regret that she harbors over losing her beloved wife Lydia that same morning. These two women quickly form a bond that is insurmountable by anything going on around them. They are their new family now and will take care of each other no matter the cost.

Once they get to the refugee town of Ashley Oaks, the reader is introduced to a whole new cast of characters. Every one of them is so distinct in their personality. The group tries to form a new life as best they can in the fortified town, but as time goes on, there is a distinct personality shift in both Jenni and Katie. While Jenni turns into female Rambo, wanting to kill everything in sight and ask questions later, Katie becomes extremely depressed once she actually has time to breather and realize that she has lost her one true love.

The First Days is an action-packed, no frills, zombie novel. I think that if you are a fan of zombie movies, than you will most certainly love this book. It is disturbing and gory at times, but what can I say, that's what I love about it. It isn't afraid to be real, and I can't help but feel that when the zombocolypse does come, this is how its going to go down. I am happy to have this book right next to Zombie Survival Guide on my shelf, and I absolutely cannot wait until the next in the series comes out to find out what happens to the people I feel like I've been through this entire ordeal with. I applaud Ms. Frater for never giving up and her original fans for getting the word out on this amazing internet sensation.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause

The Silver Kiss
Annette Curtis Klause
This edition published July 28th, 2009 by Delacorte for Young Readers
Source: Swapped

Zoe is wary when, in the dead of night, the beautiful yet frightening Simon comes to her house. Simon seems to understand the pain of loneliness and death and Zoe's brooding thoughts of her dying mother. Simon is one of the undead, a vampire, seeking revenge for the gruesome death of his mother three hundred years before. Does Simon dare ask Zoe to help free him from this lifeless chase and its insufferable loneliness?-Goodreads
The edition I read also contained two short stories entitled Summer Love and The Christmas Cat, however I will only be commenting on the main story, The Silver Kiss.

This book is written with the dual narratives of Simon and Zoe. Zoe is constantly alone because her father is always visiting her terminally ill mother in the hospital. Not only is Zoe frightened to see her mother in such a state, it seems that both her mother and father has shut her out during this difficult time. She feels ashamed that she is complaining about not having anyone around her while her mother is wasting away in the hospital. Simon is also very much alone. He is a 300 year old vampire who is desperate to make a connection with someone or something in this life. His only reason for living is tracking down the evil vampire who made him and getting his revenge. On a dark night when Zoe feels stifled by her loneliness inside her house, she goes for a walk and meets Simon for the first time. Without a word, their eyes lock and curiosity stirs inside each of them. But can their love endure what lies ahead for both Simon and Zoe?

Since this story was originally published in 1999, I feel that it must have been a major influence and precursor to the YA vampire/werewolf books of today. Even though I like Simon's back story and character when he is by himself, where Zoe is concerned, he is just another stalker-ish, love sick puppy. I didn't feel like it suited him very well. What is even more weird is that when Zoe finds out that this boy she first saw sparkling in the moonlight (sounds oddly familiar) has been stalking her outside her window, she invites him in her house with barely a question! She doesn't seem frightened at all by him or his tale of vampires. She was quick to accept Simon's story and to even let him drink from her because she was so mesmerized by him. Because of this, I felt there was a real disconnect between their characters and they didn't gel well together. Aside from the fact that they were both extremely lonely and faced with death, I didn't get a real sense of who they were together.

The story is extremely fast, almost too much so at some points. That is too be expected, I suppose, since the actual story is less than 200 pages. There was just no time to get to know the characters because of this. I did feel that the plot where Christopher was involved was really interesting and I wanted more of that. This just wasn't my taste at all, but I am betting fans of Twilight and Shiver would enjoy it.