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Tangled Bookmarks

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Navigating Early
Clare Vanderpool
The Ghosts of Chicago: The Windy City's Most Famous Haunts
Adam Selzer
By the Light of the Moon (Lakeside, #1)
Laila Blake
The Monsters In Your Neighborhood (Monstrosity, #2) - Jesse Petersen When last we met Natalie, Alec, Kai, Drake and Linda, they had discovered the Van Helsings were behind the murders of their fellow monsters. And now the Van Helsings have declared all out war on the monsters of New York City. The family want them dead, and our Monster Group are trying to survive, and at the same time, not be outed.

When a video surfaces on YouTube of a monster attack in a park, the gang are terrified that their existence is about to be known. And Natalie – who long thought herself the last of Frankenstein’s Creatures – thinks she can identify the monster as one of her father’s creatures. Just like her. While she’s dealing the ramifications of that, she also has to deal with her love for Alec the Wolfman, and the dangerous secret he doesn’t know he has.

We’ve got a new monster joining the group! Cthulhu! Or rather, Patrick, if you please. Due to the full deformation of his body, Patrick lives in the sewers, cloaking himself when he has to rise to the surface, hoping he won’t be seen by humans. And we also have the addition of Igor, Frankenstein’s assistant. A small man, he’s had plastic surgery to remove his hump and speaks with a Southern accent. He’s also an interior designer. Cos he’s like, an assistant, ok? And assistants like to help. Which is basically the entire meaning of his existence, to help. :D

Once again, Jesse Petersen has given us a wonderful, witty, fun tale of what it would be like to be a monster living in present day. Trying to hold down a normal job, moving amongst humans without being discovered, just trying to live their lives as normally as they possibly can. And adding social media to the mix, The Monsters in Your Neighborhood has become just that little bit more real. If this were Real Life, if we really did have the monsters like Cthulhu, Dracula, Frankenstein’s Creature, The Wolf Man, living among us, I really do believe social media is where we’d discover them.

Back before YouTube, Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook; back before the internet even (yes kiddies, there really was a time before the Internet) – how did we find out things? We looked up books in the library. We watched the news and heard about things at 6pm at night. Or the next morning when we read the newspaper. We didn’t find out things instantly like we do today. The second you turn on your computer, you are finding out things that have happened since you logged off. You don’t have to wait for the news that night, or the newspaper in the morning. Remember one of the greatest twists of All Time? “Luke, I am your father”. How did you find out about that? If you were extremely unlucky, a friend who had already seen the movie told you. Or perhaps a la Family Guy you heard someone in the line at the movies. But the majority of us found out as we sitting in the cinema, watching it happen. Nowadays, we’d have had that spoiler splashed all over the Net and would know about it a long time before the movie even hit our town.

If Frankenstein’s Creature really was living in New York City, she would have been outed very quickly. When any person who owns a camera and has an Internet connection can upload videos that can go viral immediately, it wouldn’t be much of a secret for very long. And that’s the war that the Van Helsings are fighting against our friendly monsters. Twittering, YouTubeing – they want to out the monsters and have the whole world know they are real. And Natalie is terrified that it will be back to the not-so-good ol’ days of pitchforks and fires and mobs.

Natalie needs to pull the group together to fight the Van Helsings. Plus they haven’t forgotten about Hyde – the psychopathic alter-ego of Jekyll who is roaming around, whereabouts unknown. She also has to find out if there really is another of her father’s creations out there, and if it’s him that is killing.

The ending has a wonderful twist that I loved – nah, not gonna spill here – that has me very excited and looking forward to the next installment in the Club Monstrosity series. Jesse Petersen writes a fast-paced, fun, and very relevant in today’s world, story about a bunch of people (yep, these guys may be “monsters” but they are just like you and me, trying to live their lives in this world) who need to save themselves, and make sure no more humans die.
Fish Out Of Water - Ros Baxter I do wish Goodreads would bring in the half stars. This is more than a 3 star, not quite a 4 star. I'd like to go with a 3 and three-quarters rating, but I'll settle for a 3 and a half.

A mermaid who lives in the desert. And is a sheriff. And smokes. Well, why not? Who says a mermaid has to live in water all the time?

Fish out of Water by Ros Baxter is the first in a planned trilogy about Rania Aquilina, the deputy sheriff of a land-locked small town called Dirtwater. And who is also half-mermaid, on her mother’s side. When the body of a young woman is discovered, Raina is called in on the case and discovers the murdered woman is a mermaid. She realizes the woman has a connection to her – other than just being another mermaid – and that’s when things heat up. Solving the case, dealing with the hot naked man who suddenly appears, and stopping her impending foretold death add up to a fun, witty, light-hearted tale.

I very much enjoyed Ros Baxter’s take on the mermaid myth. Although I have to admit I was trying to get my head around how they are underwater – not so much tails and swimming gracefully, but almost like treading water in place. Hmm. Couldn’t quite get that. However it is unique and very different and was well imagined.

The marketing hype is comparing this to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series meets Splash!, the movie. But I don’t see that. Stephanie Plum is downright silly and fluffy – while Fish out of Water is not a heavy dark tale, it’s not as ludicrous and ridiculous as Plum is. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan of the Stephanie Plum series…well, maybe not so much anymore as I really think it’s become tired and overdone. But Raina has a lot more depth to her. And the story as a whole isn’t as cookie-cutter and going through the motions as the Plum series has become.

Fish out of Water is a fun story, one that drew me in and kept me captured throughout. Yes, there is a kinda Love Triangle – my absolute #1 PET HATE – but it honestly didn’t bug me here. I got the feeling that the mysterious naked man – who yep, is a merman himself – isn’t really going to feature big in Raina’s love life. He was more of a distraction for her, while she sorts out her feelings for Doug, her ex. And truth be told, I’m hoping she’ll end up with Doug. A much more fun and enjoyable character than the merman.

It’s cute, it’s fun, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I really like Ms Baxter’s take on mermaids. Pretty sure I’ll be going for book two when it’s released.

I Love the 80s

I Love the 80s - Megan Crane Pull on that Choose Life tshirt and hot pink legwarmers, slip an Adam and the Ants tape into your boombox, open up that icy cold can of TAB, and settle back to read about how Jenna Jenkins accidentally goes back in time to the 1980s and meets her One True Wuv, Tommy Seer, lead singer of the biggest band of the 80s, The Wild Boys.

If you’re an 80s girl like me, you’ll be snickering along as Jenna finds herself surrounded by huge shoulder pads, white coats with the sleeves pushed to the elbows & pastel shirts underneath, skinny ties, BIG hair, and worst of all, NO mobile [cell] phones or Internet. (What did we do before the Internet???)

When Jenna Jenkins was 12, she was madly, completely, utterly and totally in luuuuuuuuuurve with Tommy Seer, lead singer of The Wild Boys, the biggest band to hit the 80s. And devastated when he mysteriously died in 1987. He dominated her adolescent years, and no other male could even come close to him, in her eyes.

In present day, Jenna is consoling herself with her teenage memories of Tommy, while working through the pain and hurt and confusion of a bad and unexpected break up with her fiance. Consoling herself perhaps too much, according to her best friend, who is worried that Jenna is shutting herself away from life, and living entirely in those long ago adolescent dreams. Working late one night, a freak accident sends Jenna hurtling back through time, to 1987, where she discovers she is working for a pop video tv station – sort of like MTV. And one of the first people she stumbles upon is none other than Tommy Seer, alive and well…and a total douchebag.

This book is fun. There’s nothing spectacular in it – it’s your standard boy meets girl, physical attraction ensues (MUCH physical attraction), misunderstandings get in the way, romantic fluff happens. BUT it’s just so much fun to read, particularly if you are an 80s girl like me. The fashions – god, did we really wear that? The music – Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Duran Duran. Jenna’s fish-out-of-water feeling knowing she can’t just check Wikipedia or Google to find out stuff.

And Jenna is determined to find out exactly how Tommy Seer died, and why. Her encyclopedic knowledge of the band ensures she knows about the little “accidents” that were happening to him, leading up to the fatal crash. All she wants to do is love Tommy and stop him from dying.

If you’re in the mood for a light, fluffy, FUN romance, with the added bonus of time travel, then I Love the 80s by Megan Crane is absolutely perfect.
The Blue Blazes - Chuck Wendig How I adore Chuck Wendig! There’s no flowers and unicorns and pretty rainbows and goodness in his worlds. His characters aren’t sweet and righteous and full of morals and ethics. Miriam Black, the “heroine” of his Miriam Black series (Blackbirds & Mockingbirds) is a strong female character…who is also not a particularly nice person. I certainly wouldn’t want to know her. Yet she is absolutely fascinating to read about.

And now we have Mookie Pearl – a thug, a criminal, a drug addict, an enforcer for a Mafia-type organization. And also a fairly crappy father.

Yet I want Mookie to win. I want to see Mookie come out on top, have a happy ending, repair his relationship with his angry late-teens daughter, Nora. Wendig has created this unlikeable character, and then made me like him. Go figure. Dunno how Wendig does it, but he’s a superstar at doing it. :D He’s a writer, someone who creates these horrible characters and sucks you in so deeply, you don’t want to come up for air.

Each chapter of The Blue Blazes has a passage by John Atticus Oakes – a character that we never meet, but the excerpts from his journals about his travels Below tell us a lot about the world Mookie Pearl inhabits. The Underground, the Below, the Beneath, the Underworld – that dark place where the demons and goblins live, and where you don’t want to go.

This is the third book by Chuck Wendig that I’ve read – and every one of them has been a 5 star for me. I love his writing, I love his broken characters, I love his style. Dark and gritty, with flashes of humour, there are still times when I shudder. You won’t find your cookie-cutter kick-arse heroine, saving the world, stuck in an InstaLuv love triangle here. You’ll find broken damaged people, who do things that aren’t nice, yet still feel yourself rooting for them to come out on top.

Only thing left to say – Mr Wendig, when’s the next Mookie Pearl adventure coming out???

Whistling Past the Graveyard

Whistling Past the Graveyard - Susan Crandall There’s something about “coming of age” books set in the past that I’m a sucker for. I don’t know what it is, I only know that I really love reading them. And Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall is an absolute joy to read.

Set in the ’60s in rural Mississippi, Starla is nine years old and living with her strict grandmother. Her father works away, and her mother left when Starla was quite young, to find a career as a singer in Nashville. After being grounded from going to the Fourth of July fireworks, Starla decides to run away, to find her mother and bring her home to her father, and become a “family” once again.

And so her adventures begin.

Your heart is absolutely breaking the closer Starla gets to finding her mother. You know exactly what is going to happen and you just don’t want to be there when it does. Starla is a joy of a character. A young feisty girl who knows what she wants – her family together again – and will do whatever she can to get it. Along the way, she hooks up with Eula, who has her own secrets and her own journey. A friendship develops between this black woman and white child, and Starla starts to have her own eyes opened to segregation. Things she’d never realized or even really thought much about before.

Both Eula and Starla are on a journey and their adventures along the way can break your heart and make you laugh with joy.

A superb book and one I can highly recommend.
The 5th Wave - Rick Yancey When I read a new book, chances are I’ve missed most of the hype surrounding it. Unless they’re doing major news stories on it about people lining up at midnight on its release date or the latest teen movie star is playing a character from the movie, I’m rather blind to the massive hype surrounding book releases. My usual mode of choosing a book to read is to see a shiny pretty cover, read the blurb, scan the first couple of pages. If it’s piqued my interest by that, I’ll nab it. And a lot of times, I’ve read some major winners that way. Of course, I’ve also been stuck with a helluva lot of clunkers too. And then there are times I’ll watch a movie, and only then do I discover it’s from a book that people are raving about. That’s how I discovered The Hunger Games. The books had barely been on my radar when I wondered into the cinema one night and watched the movie. The next day I went and bought them all and read them over a few days.

I’d never heard of Rick Yancey. I’ve never read him before, thus I had no idea of the hype surrounding the release of The 5th Wave. It was only after I’d finished the book, that I jumped online and started reading about it. And was kinda gobsmacked at the hype I had missed. I was also a bit gobsmacked at some of the negative reviews. Had we read the same book?? Or could it be being caught up in the hype surrounding a book gives you much higher expectations that generally won’t be fulfilled? Coming into this book totally blind, were my expectations lower? All I can say is that any expectations I might have had before I started reading, were completely and utterly surpassed by the time I had finished.

I sat down in the morning to start reading, and I didn’t stop reading until I had finished. I took the book with me when I got up to make a coffee. I had it in my hand and my eyes still glued to the page when I made a sandwich for lunch. And yes, I still had it in my hand and was still reading when I had a loo break. No way in hell was I putting this book down for a pee break.

I. Could. Not. Stop. Reading.

I don’t want to tell you about this book. I don’t want to tell you about the characters we meet. I don’t want to tell you about the romance that I had initially been dreading and was then so pleasantly surprised as it unfolded. I don’t want to tell you about the shifting PoV’s that had me wondering how the hell you can write it from a five year old pov and then finding myself getting sucked in. I don’t want to tell you any of these things because I want you to discover it for yourself. I want you to meet Cassie yourself – a wonderful seventeen year old girl who is determined not to give in, who is terrified and lonely and only wants to curl up in a ball and hug her brother’s teddy bear and suck her thumb and wish the world away, who kills a man because you can trust no-one, who made a promise and refuses to break that promise, who keeps fighting because someone’s got to make a stand dammit, who discovers the awful truth of what the fifth wave really is. I want you to meet Zombie – eaten up by guilt because he ran when he should have stayed and fought, who discovers a strength within himself when he realizes the truth and knows he must go back. And I want you to meet Evan – a shark who dreamed he was a man.

A tale of alien invasion that doesn’t have machines walking the earth destroying cities. That doesn’t have spaceships and military planes firing on each other. A tale of alien invasion that rings true. Cos seriously, the fifth wave would be the most effective way of destroying a planet’s inhabitants, but leaving the planet itself still fit to live on. An incredible book with the most perfect writing, fully drawn characters who you really care about, and a tale that has a more logical and accurate invasion plan, than any sci fi film I’ve seen.

And for any of you who have seen the UK’s tv show, Misfits, were you all seeing Evan as Simon too??
Carniepunk - Kevin Hearne, Kelly Gay, Jackie Kessler, Nicole Peeler, Kelly Meding, Hillary Jacques, Allison Pang, Jaye Wells, Delilah S. Dawson, Rob Thurman, Rachel Caine, Seanan McGuire, Mark Henry, Jennifer Estep disclaimer: received this digital ARC in return for an honest review.
review also posted at Tangled Bookmarks

A few strong enjoyable tales, and a few clunkers, make up this new anthology of stories centred around carnivals and fairs, featuring some very well known urban fantasy authors.

Short story anthologies are hit and miss for me. Rarely do I ever enjoy every single tale, but then, I guess that could be the point. Often an anthology is a good starting point to discover new authors or a new series, if the tale is featuring characters from an author’s established series. Something that I found interesting was that I quite enjoyed the Jennifer Estep tale Parlor Tricks, which is from her Elemental Assassin series…yet when I read the first in that series a while ago, I didn’t enjoy it at all and didn’t continue on with it. As someone who only has a very vague grasp of the series, Parlor Tricks was still easily read and understood despite the established characters.

Carnipunk leads off with a very strong and very much enjoyable story by Rob Thurman (author of the Cal Leandros series), which I truly loved, and gave me high hopes for the rest of the anthology. Painted Love is the tale of a totally unpleasant carnie worker Bart, and his foreboding desire for a fellow carnie, a young girl called Becca. Told from the PoV of a completely unexpected narrator, and the narrator’s love for Becca’s older sister, it’s a wonderful creepy story.

Delilah S Dawson‘s The Three Lives of Lydia is a surreal story that unfortunately I couldn’t connect with. Subtitled A Blud Short Story perhaps it’s a tale that would be better read with an understanding of Dawson’s Blud series, which I have never read nor heard of. With an ending that had me scratching my head in confusion, it left me cold.

Kevin Hearne‘s The Demon Barker of Wheat Street follows his three characters from his Iron Druid Chronicles series, a series that I am very much in love with. Granuaile and Atticus and of course, Oberon, attend a Wheat Festival in Kansas, and stumble upon a truly gruesome, stomach-churning sideshow.

Mark Henry‘s The Sweeter the Juice is a very odd tale about zombies, transsexuals and drugs. Plus a zombie baby. Left me quite cold – not so much because of the subject matter (although the zombie baby had me a bit grossed out), but because it’s another one of those short stories that delight in having an ending left up in the air. Which I dislike. Felt more of a horror tale than an urban fantasy one.

Jaye Wells The Werewife tells the story of a man married to a werewolf, along with the obligatory “that time of the month” jokes at the start. Meh. Getting a little tired of authors continually paralleling the whole “time of the month” thing with the werewolf change every month. Bit overdone. Visiting a freak show at the local carnival, where the star exhibits are damaged and broken people who have been traumatised in love, they’re caught up in a horrendous show, presided over by what appears to be an evil ringmistress, and discover that their present situation seems to have something to do with it. A rather bland tale, with fairly unpleasant and unsympathetic characters.

Rachel Caine‘s The Cold Girl is a beautifully told, heart-wrenching story of teenagers and love and the horrible things that teens can do to each other. I think this and Rob Thurman’s tale were my favourites from the book.

Allison Pang‘s A Duet with Darkness is a good story of the fey and carnivals and music. Although I do think that perhaps if I was familiar with her series, I may have enjoyed it a bit more, understood the characters better. Subtitled An Abby Sinclair Short Story, I think it was piqued my interest enough to search out her other books.

Hillary Jacques‘ Recession of the Divine, a story of goddesses and Muses, carnivals and murder. Not enough to keep my interest. Rather confusing and kinda dull.

Jennifer Estep‘s Parlor Tricks, as I mentioned before, makes me want to go back and try the Elemental Assassins books again. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, of Gin Blanco and her sister Brea, investigating a missing girl amidst a carnival led by an evil Elemental.

Kelly Meding‘s Freak House – confused me a little at the start, but I ended up enjoying it. Supernatural people are being exhibited as freak shows for wealthy customers, until the daughter of a captured djinn infiltrates to try and rescue her father. Subtitled A Strays Short Story this had excellent world building, and a wonderful female lead character. I can’t seem to find any info on a series called Strays by Kelly Meding, so I’m hoping this is like a prequel and it’ll show up soon. It’s definitely enough to make me check out a series.

Nicole Peeler‘s The Inside Man is from her Jane True series. If you’ve never read that series, you may find yourself a bit confused about the characters. I have read the first in the series…and I still found myself confused. It’s more a story set in the Jane True world, I think. Capitola, Moo and Shar are hired to find a missing woman, and come across a soul stealing clown. A quick paced action filled tale, it’s not a bad story, but ultimately left me a bit blah.

Jackie Kessler‘s A Chance in Hell is an erotic tale of a former demon trying to live amongst humanity, Jezebel discovers a carnival where a demon is stealing souls. Quite witty, I would have enjoyed this more without the gratuitous and blatant sex, something that I’m extremely tired of in urban fantasy. From her Hell on Earth series, readers of that series would probably enjoy this a lot more than I did.

Kelly Gay‘s Hell’s Menagerie is from her Charlie Madigan series, and centres on Charlie’s daughter Emma, trying to rescue some kidnapped hellhound pups. A great story, it makes me want to go back and try the series again. If you’re a reader of the Charlie Madigan series, you’ll enjoy this.

Seanan McGuire‘s Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid and the Open Lonely Sea ends the anthology and it comes full circle, with the opening story being a wonderful tale that I loved, and the closing story being a great, strongly written, sad tale of a daughter of a mermaid who grows up in a carnival, being taken back to her home town. Along with a title that I fell in love with, Ada is a character I’d love to read more of.

Out of the 14 tales that make up Carniepunk, I liked half of them. The other 7 tales were very meh for me, adn to tell the truth, if the book had only contained those 7 stories, I would have rated it a LOT higher. But you can’t pick and choose when it comes to short story collections, and perhaps it’s inevitable that not all the tales were for me. Readers who are fans of the series written by some of these authors will perhaps enjoy the ones I didn’t a lot more, being more familiar with the characters and worlds. Still, it’s an enjoyable anthology, and with that stunning cover, I expect this one to be rapidly snapped up by urban fantasy fans.
99 Reasons Everyone Hates Facebook - Emmet Purcell I wonder if Emmet Purcell will have any Facebook friends left after this book is released? *evil laughter* Actually, I’m wondering if I should have any Facebook friends, considering I’m guilty of quite a few of these. *blush* But I did pretty much nod my head while reading this, and I think I shouted “hallelujah” a few times too. From the Huge Numbers of People Gather Together on Facebook to form the Most Pointless of Groups (seriously, why on earth would you join a group called I Love My Son??? Or I Love My Cat??) to Leaving RIP Messages as Status Updates (posting RIP Grandad when your grandfather has just died is just another way of saying “hey everyone, I’ve had a death in my family so I’d like everyone to say they are sending me love and prayers and hugs cos even tho I don’t know 87% of you, I want you to acknowledge me”) I was agreeing with Emmet Purcell.

And yet I’m still there. I’m still on Facebook, looking at cat pictures and begging for game supplies. I have a rather large friend list, which considering I am actually an unsociable git, is astounding. (Although in my defense, about 80% of those “friends” are simply fellow game neighbours….) What is it about Facebook that drags us in so much? Even the author of this book, is still on Facebook…and he wrote a bloody book about what he hates about it! We’re still there, checking statuses every day, scrolling past the cat pictures, and the laughing baby videos and the concerned information sharing of how if you barbeque while wearing your contact lenses, they will melt in the heat and cause you insufferable pain and agony.

All the 99 reasons that Emmet Purcell hates Facebook, I hate too. I’m guilty of quite a few of them yet I do them anyway. Because they are so easy to do. A quick flick of the finger and I “like” a group called “Like If You Hate Justin Beiber”. Because it took a quarter of a second and it gave me a giggle when I saw it – and then it forever disappears from my mind. I wonder…is it because Facebook offers such instant gratification that we are so addicted?

99 Reasons Everyone Hates Facebook is a giggle. We’ve all been there, we’ve all seen what Purcell is writing about, we’ve all moaned over the same things to our friends…or written about it on Facebook. *facepalm* And we’ve probably all done at least 45 of those things.

I have a sneaky suspicion that Emmet Purcell has possibly done them too :D
The Silver Star - Jeannette Walls Jeannette Walls wrote two fabulous memoirs – The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses. I devoured them both in a couple of days. Half Broke Horses is the tale of her incredible grandmother, and The Glass Castle is the tale of Walls’ own life, growing up with her “eccentric” mother and alcoholic father. Both books were extremely well-written and fantastic reads, despite the sad and unnerving stories of the emotional abuse. So I was quite excited to be reading an advanced copy of her new book, a fictional tale of two young sisters.

Ultimately I was disappointed. While you can certainly see the influence of her own life in The Silver Star, the book just doesn’t flow as naturally as do her memoirs. It’s quite jerky in places, with stilted dialogue and flat characters. While we get to know young 12 year old Bean very well, the other main characters don’t seem to be developed as much. We don’t get a real explanation of why their Uncle Tinsley goes from being a supposedly normal person, to an eccentric recluse who lives in a house that would take pride of place in an episode of Hoarders.

Bean herself is a wonderful character. Think shades of Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. Although I suppose any fictional young female character who is quite feisty and quick-witted will suffer from that comparison. Her older sister Liz, seems to live in a world of her own most of the time – which gets worse after her incident that propels the second part of the book. After so long of being looked after by Liz, Bean needs to step up and be the caregiver, something that she does well. She’s a strong, funny, loveable character and it’s her voice that drives the story.

I do love coming of age stories. Particularly when the protagonist is a young female, living in the times of the 40s – 70s. I don’t know why I’m attracted to those time periods, I just am. Set in the 1970′s in a small American town that is going through integration for the first time, Bean is trying to make her way and find a home for herself and her sister. In a town full of stereotypes – the evil mill foreman, his downtrodden wife, Bean’s new-found family of caring and loving country folks – Bean and Liz deal with their family name, their neglectful mother’s emotional abuse and a horrific tragedy that befells Liz.

The silver star mentioned in the title seems to be the medal Bean’s true father received during the Korean War, yet the medal itself is only mentioned a few times and doesn’t really have a big impact on the story. It’s a curious choice for a title. The Silver Star just doesn’t live up to Walls’ previous writings. Flat in so many areas, two dimensional characters – save for Bean herself – it just doesn’t pack the punch that Half Broke Horses and The Glass Castle do.

This review is also available at my book review blog Tangled Bookmarks:
The Sweet Dead Life - Joy Preble What a sweet joy of a surprise this book was! (No pun intended *grin*) What we have here is a young adult paranormal book about angels, that has NO instaluv romance in it!! Instead we have a young girl, struggling with a mysterious illness and trying to cope with her severely depressed mother and the disappearance of her father years before. In fact, the only instaluv crush romance going on is with Jenna and her Ariat cowboy boots.

A few years ago, Jenna and Casey’s father walked out on them. Since then, neither they nor their mother has heard anything from him. Their mother slowly sank into a deep depression, spending most of her time in bed, and almost forgetting she even has children. Jenna’s brother, 16 year old Casey, takes on two jobs to help out as well as go to school. And when he’s not doing that, he’s sitting around getting stoned. Jenna’s illness is getting more and more worse, and it’s while Casey is making a mad dash to take her to hospital that they crash. When Jenna awakens in the hospital, Casey is with her…and he’s different. Zits are gone, flabby stomach is gone, and he looks…glowy. Together with the mysterious Amber, the EMT that helped at the accident, Jenna and Casey try to unravel the disappearance of their father, help their mother come back to them, work out who’s poisoning Jenna and deal with the fact that Casey died in the accident and was sent back as an angel.

Told in Jenna’s wonderfully funny & snarky voice, the characters really come to life. There’s not a lot of doom & gloom, and while it hits Jenna that Casey is not just an angel, he’s also dead, it’s not a depressing book. I chuckled a few times at Jenna’s habit of nicknaming everyone and the names she calls her illness. It’s just such a fun story, a sweet story, that you can overlook the fairly “out there” plot and just go along for the ride.

Delirium (Debt Collector, #1)

Delirium - Susan Kaye Quinn As always, I’m late to the party. I feel like every man and his dog has discovered the sheer delight of this new serial, except me. Back in the old old days – think Charles Dickens – serial writing was the name of the game. Stories were serialized in newspapers, with readers desperately awaiting the next ‘episode’. In a time where there was no radio, no television and books were fairly expensive for the ordinary person, serialized stories in the newspapers were the entertainment of the day. It slowly died out around the time of radio and then television, and newspapers shifted from entertainment to more news. One of the more well-known resurrections of it was Stephen King’s The Green Mile, published in six printed books, one per month. I can actually remember desperately awaiting the next book – so that definitely dates me. LOL.

Susan Kaye Quinn is publishing the Debt Collector series as a serial. At present, you can purchase them from Amazon for 99c each for kindle, or every 3 episodes they’ll be released in a threesome box set for $2.99. (Please note: prices quoted are current for the time of this writing). It’s an interesting experiment and one I’m curious to see how it pans out.

I don’t know how I’ll go with weekly or fortnightly episodes. I hate having to wait so much with my tv episodes that usually I end up buying the box set of each season, instead of watching it weekly on tv when it airs. Yes, it means that I don’t get to watch it as it happens, but it does mean that when I am so immersed in a programme, I get to watch them all at once. :D Each episode of the Debt Collector series is so short that it can be read quickly, and I’m thinking that may drive me a little insane.

But on the other hand, this serial is so damn good, that I may have to just bite the bullet and grab them as they are released. I’ve never read Susan Kaye Quinn before, so I really had no idea what to expect when I first started Delirium. I didn’t know if she was a great writer, if her World would suit me, or if I was going to enjoy it. I needn’t have worried – I absolutely loved it. The World of the Debt Collectors is not light and fluffy, not sweet and heartwarming. It’s dark and gritty. The type of stuff I love to read. A futuristic setting, with Debt Collectors collecting your life.

I was still a little bit confused tho about the World Building. But considering this was only the first episode, I enjoyed it enough to continue and hope the world is explained a bit more as we go on. I’m not exactly sure how it all works – which in a full blown novel is a bad thing, but in a serial, is not. A debt collector’s cut of the job is to keep a little bit of the “life” they have collected – something that seems a lot like a drug hit. And when Lirium meets a woman who he thinks is a prostitute sent to service him, and realizes she wants a bit of that “life/energy” for someone else instead of herself as part of the payment, he’s angry. He calls her a Collector Hunter, a person who tries to force a Collector to transfer some of that hit to them. As Lirium says about the “hit”: They all start out pretty to begin with, then get even better with all the life hits they earn in their trade. When I give her the hit, it will make her eyes shine brighter, her skin glow even more vibrant, and her body come alive with all those heightened sensitivities the warning label carries.

Very much like a drug rush. The girl – who he names Apple Girl due to her perfume – wants him to give the hit to her ill younger sister. Lirium decides the choice is between going with Apple Girl to help out her sister, or spending the night with a bottle again…and guess which one he chooses? :D And thus our tale begins.

It’s enough to have me wanting the next episode. The rather damaged hero, the interesting world of Debt Collectors – I want to keep reading this. And if it means that I have to wait for the next episodes, biting my nails, desperate to find out what happens, then so be it. I will.

Cos Susan Kaye Quinn has successfully sucked me into her World and her Imagination and I want to continue.

The Mine

The Mine - John A. Heldt At its heart, The Mine by John A Heldt is more a love story than a time travel story. It’s also extremely well-written and one of those self-published that are a joy to read – no typos, no misused words, no major plot holes. Very well put together, although I do think the cover needs a bit of work. The image is perfect for the story, but I feel it should be full page, rather than the bordered image it is. It does let down the excellent writing and imagery we encounter within its pages.

I’m a sucker for time travel stories. It’s one of the greatest moral dilemmas ever – if you went back in time, would you change anything, thereby possibly changing your own future? How would you survive a different time? Would you be too scared to even talk to a stranger in case that changed their future, thereby possibly changing the time you came from? Or would you throw caution to the wind, and just do as you do?

In 2000, Joel Smith is a college student, on a road trip with a friend, when he discovers an old abandoned mine. His curiousity leads him to explore it, where he encounters a mysterious light, and walks out into 1941. A time when his mobile phone [cell phone] won’t work, his money is no good and his country is heading towards war. He falls in love, and is then left with the dilemma – does he try and go home to his own time, where his family and friends are? Or does he stay, possibly changing the future of many people, including the woman he loves, and perhaps ending up fighting in a terrible war that happened sixty years before?

He falls in with a group of friends of his own age, with one of them being his grandmother. Joel’s certainly stuck between a rock and a hard place. By befriending his grandmother, and falling in love with one her friends, he is doing something that could change his grandmother’s future, thereby possibly making him never born? And how can he leave Grace, to go back to his own time? Does he tell anyone where he’s from? Honestly, how on earth would you deal with it? Would you tell someone, whereupon they would think you totally crazy? Would you mention something occurring that you only know from history, but hasn’t yet happened? How do you tell the woman you love that she’s actually about 60 years older than you are?

Poor Joel. Yet despite his dilemmas, he manages to cope quite admirably in an alien time. Taken in by the family of a young man called Tom who becomes a close friend, he finds a job and acclimatizes himself to the life of 1941. All the while, he is desperately trying to decide whether he will attempt to make it home, and stay with Grace, and possibly end up fighting in WWII.

A beautiful love story of a fish out of water, dealing with internal conflicts, The Mine is an excellent read. I did have two quibbles with it however – I really didn’t feel Joel’s emotions at discovering where he was. He seemed to accept it quite readily, which didn’t ring true. He didn’t panic, didn’t get upset, didn’t fall into shock. To be suddenly thrown into a world where you’ve lost your family, and all your friends; where you are truly utterly alone, and you know exactly what was to come for these people – it would be a helluva shock and Joel didn’t seem to react to it. (I know I’d be a quivering mess)

And the ending. While it’s a beautiful ending, and it’s the ending that I wanted to see happen, it felt very rushed, very much a deus ex machina. Although having said that, I have just realized this is part one of a series. And the third book The Show seems to deal with that. I’m not saying any more as I don’t want to do any spoilers, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be picking that one up. :D

At the time of writing, The Mine is currently only 99c at Amazon’s Kindle store – and believe, despite the quibbles I have with those two particular things, it’s very much a bargain price for this great read.
Some of Tim's Stories (The Oklahoma Stories & Storytellers Series) - S.E. Hinton As always, please keep in mind that all reviews here are my sole personal opinion. I don’t deconstruct a book in an university essay way – I simply talk about how much or how little I enjoyed a book and if it “spoke” to me or sucked me in. What I think of a book may not be what you – or even all the critics in the world – thought of it.

Right, now I’ve got that out of the way. Read this in about an hour and a half. Yep, it’s that short. I spent more time reading the interview with S. E. Hinton in the second half of the book, than the I did the first, which are the actual stories.

This book made me think. And not in a deep philosophical way. It made me think in a cynical way. About the idea behind publishing this book. And not in a good way.

Fourteen very very short stories that are interconnected – they tell the story of two cousins, Terry & Mike, who are very close. The deaths of their fathers when they are children dictate the rest of their lives. Terry takes the wrong fork and is in prison. Mike takes the wrong fork too, but he spends his life feeling copious amounts of grief and guilt that he’s not in prison with Terry. The last tale ends abruptly, on a cliffhanger, and you have no idea what happens.

It wasn’t till I looked the book up online that I found out who the “Tim” in the title is. The idea is that these stories are written by Tim, who is actually Mike.


Uh, ok? Tim is never mentioned in the stories. Tim is never alluded to, his presence is never sensed. So…what the hell point is he? I have no idea. Why not have the character called “Tim”? Why not call it “Some of Mike’s Stories”? What on earth was the point of supposedly writing it as “Tim” and changing the character’s name to Mike?

The stories are…nice. Yeah. But Mike and Terry stay frustratingly out of reach of the reader. There is too little of them to connect to me. And the last story, the one that is so abruptly cut short. Does Mike live? Does Mike die? Does the climatic event teach him a life lesson? Does it make everything that went before ok? Is his life of guilt validated by what happens? Huh?

The reason I’m so cynical about this book is that it strikes me as something that was published simply because it’s S. E. Hinton. The whole book feels like exercises written in a college Creative Writing course. And then they were gathered together cos OMG SE HINTON IS BACK. And then throw in the huge interviews at the back to pad out the book. And the “Tim” thing? It smacks of conceit. And it doesn’t make sense. They’re writing exercises, to get to know a character in a longer book, or to demonstrate you have a grasp of writing fiction. They’re character pieces. Not worthy of a published book.

I feel cheated. I feel I was led to believe I was going to get a full book, a full story that would build on the magic of The Outsiders or Rumble Fish or Tex. Not a series of exercises that a writer may do to help build a new novel, a new world.

I believe this is being published in ebook form for the first time, as the paperback was released in 2009. If you’re a fan of The Outsiders, the only value this book has is the lengthy interview pieces at the end. Which were done in 2006, so they are already old news.

I don’t particularly want to rate this book. The interviews would get 2 stars maybe simply for the information – old as it is – in it. The stories themselves would maybe get 2 stars. The entire thing? Probably a -1.

And now you know why I prefaced this review with that intro.

One Step Too Far - Tina Seskis It’s no spoiler to mention there is a major twist – or two – in this book. All the reviews are talking about it and the back cover blurb even mentions it. And while I can say the twist is a total gut-punch, and yes, one I did not see coming, I also feel a tad bit cheated about it. The misdirection is so prominent, that what you think, is quite literally, the only thing you could think. It’s as if the author has gone out of her way, to set that up. And the rest of the novel was written around it.

Having said that tho’, this really is an enjoyable novel. A story of loneliness and despair and the overwhelming desire and need to just escape from everything.

We’re dumped right into the action with the story opening with Emily running away. What follows is her attempt to make a new life for herself in London, away from whatever it is that is haunting her. She finds a room to rent, a new job and a new best friend. And then she slowly spirals down into a sort-of functioning drug addict, which culminates in a new tragedy…and the outing of her closely-kept secret.

Along the way, we are given flashbacks to her previous life – the meeting and falling in love with and marrying her husband Ben and starting a family; her relationship with her complete and utter bitch of a twin sister Caroline; tales that show us her relationship with her parents. We’re given a few chapters from the POV of Caroline, who even at an early age, sensed her mother’s dislike for her and reacted accordingly. A few chapters about their father, a dowdy meek man who grows apart from his wife after the birth of the twins and indulges in affairs.

The flashbacks to the birth and childhood of the twins, told from the POV of their mother, are very interesting. You really do understand why Caroline is the bitch she is, and why Emily so easily bows to her sister – although being the mother of teenagers myself, you kinda want to grab Caroline and shake her and tell her to get over herself and stop blaming her parents for all her choices! Ah but then, that’s teenagers, right? – and the slow disintegration of the parents marriage and love.

On the other hand, we have chapters of Emily’s new best friend Angel’s childhood. And they really weren’t necessary. Angel is more of a plot device to show Emily that running away from problems doesn’t really help and to send her down her spiral into drug taking, club bopping, shoplifting and all-round unlikeable life. Angel’s story is a bit of a waste – she’s simply just not that important to the story as a whole for us to read constant pages of her growing up in seedy surroundings with a mother who didn’t care.

And on yet another hand (yes, I have a few hands), the only thing we really get to know about Ben, Emily’s husband, is that he was utterly in love with her, was devastated when she left and desperately wants to find her. As a character who is a major part of Emily’s life, and a big part of why she left, he is quite flat and one-dimensional, sadly.

The twist when it comes, is a major moment of “WTF??…huh, wait, that can’t be right…what???” And because the misdirection and misinformation in the preceding novel is so great, you start to wonder if the author had the twist first, and then built the novel around that. But it is a good twist, and it completely explains Emily’s actions and why she would run away and try to lose herself. And I started to like Emily then, cos up to that point, she was quite an unlikeable character. In fact, I don’t think there really is a likeable character in the whole novel – except perhaps for Ben, but then we know so little of him and don’t really get to know him, that he’s kinda not even likeable or unlikeable. He’s just….there.

The prologue has a twist or two also – one that had me going “WTF??? how the hell did THAT happen???” And it’s one that just felt like the author was trying to trick us – it didn’t feel a natural progression of the story.

Look, One Step Too Far is a difficult novel to review. Because the whole premise of the story rests on a major twist in the plotline, you can’t say too much. And it’s difficult to talk about why I liked it and why I didn’t like it, without giving it away.

Nevertheless, it is well-written and I’m giving it 3.5 out of 5.
Misty Circus - Victoria Francés, Olinda Cordukes Ooooooooooooooh, the PRETTY!!!!!! *strokes pictures in awe* A gorgeous gorgeous GORGEOUS book, with a beautiful story of finding joy and friendship.

Litte Sasha has lost his mother to a plague illness, and his father to despair and drink. He is sent to an orphanage, which he runs away from, and discovers a magical circus in the woods. Along the way he finally finds two friends, Josh LeChat (a little black cat), and Chloe Pumpkin, a young witch.

And that’s basically it! A beautiful simple story, with the most gorgeous illustrations. It’s a short story, but honestly, I didn’t fall in love with it because of the story. It’s the dreamy art that has me hugging it and stroking it. My iPad screen has many many smudges on it. Lots of fingerprints. And I blame Victoria Frances and Misty Circus for that.

The story itself is told as dreamily as the illustrations, a fairy tale if you will. Sasha finds a family and home at the magical circus. It’s a tale of abandonment and finding your place in the world.

This will be a must-buy for me.
Fall of Night - Rachel Caine She’s a tricky woman, that Rachel Caine! When I first read the blurb of Fall of Night, I was a little bit concerned. Claire’s given permission to leave Morganville and is off to MIT. I envisioned a whole book about Claire, and missing all my favourite characters and the town of Morganville too! How can that be? I thought in a panic. No Morganville? No Myrnin? No Eve? How can Ms Caine do this to us?

I should have more faith. :D Yes, Claire is off to MIT, to study in an advanced graduate program, under Professor Irene Anderson – who is herself, an ex-Morganville native, and who pretty much worked for Myrnin as Claire does. And while Morganville itself doesn’t star in the novel, we do get to revisit with its citizens. (Happy Snoopy Dance!!)

You see, I’m not a fan of Young Adult novels, especially Young Adult paranormals. In fact, I have to say that I don’t like them at all. 99% of the ones I pick up or read about, are cut from the same cloth. The plots never differ, the characters are all the same. There’s instalove, there’s love triangles and there are parents who are either totally oblivious, or absent or abusive. *Note to teenagers – parents are not oblivious of what you up to! We always know….we were teens ourselves once….

But Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampire series has grabbed me. Right from the very first book, I never felt I was reading something aimed at Young Adults. I am probably twice the age of the demographic of these books, yet I never ever felt it. No instalove – here’s a secret: I always felt Claire and Micheal would be the ones to hook up. Could have knocked me down with a feather when it was Claire and Shane. No love triangles – I loathe love triangles, cos let’s face it, how often do these happen in Real Life? And while Claire was young, she wasn’t a silly, self-centred, immature character. She was intelligent. She was clever and sweet and wonderful and oh how I would have loved to have been Claire when I was younger!

So here’s Claire, leaving Morganville at last, knowing she will desperately miss her friends, and at the same time, feeling the relief of being out of the dangers Morganville holds. She contacts her former best friend from pre-Morganville and moves in with her. It’s a testament to how Morganville has changed Claire, that she finds she no longer has much in common with the former BFF and it’s a very uneasy relationship.

She has her machine, the one that changes vampires mental capabilities, and oh when it is used at one particular point during the book, my heart wanted to break. Is the machine a good thing, saving humans from the bloodlust attacks of vampires? Or is it something worse, something that can end up be used for pain and bad things instead?

We have a couple of new characters, one I’m not too sure I liked much as she is the epitome of the gorgeous, bad-ass, Urban Fantasy female lead that I’m starting to get a bit tired of in the genre. Plus she has a bit of…history with Myrnin. Get away from my Myrnin, you skank!!!!

*cough* Ah yes. Right then. Where was I? My sweet crazy totally loopy Myrnin does appear in the book, which is as it should be. :D Without Myrnin, this series would probably lose about 45% of its appeal to me, I think. I would still read – and enjoy – a Morganville Vampires book without him, but it just wouldn’t be as sweet tasting to me.

All in all, Fall of Night is another worthy entry into the series. If you’ve never read them before, start with the first one Glass Houses, don’t start here. You need to learn about the characters, and you need to watch Claire’s growth from frightened little bookworm wondering what the hell she’s gotten herself into, to the wonderful, smart, intelligent, reasoning, strong bad-ass young woman she is now.

And you need to fall in love with Myrnin the way I did, bit by crazy bit. :D