Over-Booked [24] – A Book Haul Post

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Welcome to Over-Booked, my twice-monthly book haul post. I’m linking up with Stacking the Shelves over at Tynga’s Reviews and The Sunday Post at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. Check out their links and you can see other book hauls!

A nice, under control book haul this week! I did get a few new titles for review, but my obsessive searching on Edelweiss and NetGalley has been tamed, luckily:-D

Physical pile:

ob 5-2 2

The Hanged Man (Her Majesty’s Psychic Service #1) by P.N. Elrod. Surprise book from Tor! Big thanks to Tor for this unexpected arrival. I don’t know much about this book, except that it’s a Victorian gaslamp story. I’m hoping to squeeze it in this month:-)

Cash Crash Jubilee: Book One of the Jubilee Cycle by Eli K.P. William. Another unexpected book, but one I’ve had my eye on. How can you resist this fabulous cover?? Plus it takes place in a future Tokyo, one of my favorite cities. The publisher is calling this a “cyber dystopian thriller.” Big thanks to the folks at Talos Press!

Enchantment Lake by Margi Preus. It seems I’m still on a book winning roll. I won this from Mieneke at A Fantastical Librarian. Thank you Mieneke!

Hexed: The Sisters of Witchdown by Michael Alan Nelson. Big thanks to Pyr Books, this finished copy showed up unexpectedly last week. It’s another book I’ve had my eye on, and I believe it’s a novel based on a graphic novel series. Can’t wait to read it!

The Chart of Tomorrows (Gaunt and Bone #3) by Chris Willrich. Requested from Pyr Books, thank you! I’ve loved this series so far, and I’m excited to be able to read the third (and final?) book. This is a July release, so I’ll be adding it to my June stack.

And that’s all for now:-D I just posted What’s On My Plate for May, and it looks like I’ll be adding a few of these titles to my list this month. Look for reviews of Cash Crash Jubilee and Hexed for sure. Link me up to your book haul posts!

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What’s On My Plate – May 2015

On My Plate

Wow, it’s already May?? May means school ends soon, and summer is almost here. I had a tough April, mostly because I had the flu for a couple of weeks (I guess I should have had that flu shot, LOL!), so I just didn’t read nearly as much as I needed to in order to stay caught up with review books. May looks pretty daunting, but I’m diving in head first, and I’ll try to read as many of these as I can. I’m also going to throw a purchased book into the mix this month, because reading nothing but review books is really making me depressed. I don’t know about you, but when I feel like I can’t keep my promises to publishers, I beat myself up. Better to pick a book off the pile that has nothing to do with a commitment to someone else, to reinforce my love for reading! So here’s what I have on tap this month:

For review:

The Awesome by Eva Darrows. This cover is awesome, and the Buffy vibe I’m getting from the story makes me want to drop everything and read it now.

The Shadow Revolution (Crown & Key #1) by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith. I haven’t read the Griffiths’ first series, Vampire Empire, but one of these days I’m going to get around to it. In the meantime, I was very happy to be approved for the start of this new series.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I haven’t read Novik yet either, but I hear she’s really good. This is a fairy-tale retelling, and I’m very curious to read it.

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon. This was one of those situations where I was so entranced by the beautiful cover that I clicked the “download” button before I had a chance to think about it. I may or may not get to this one, since I’ve seen some less that enthusiastic reviews already.

Undertow by Michael Buckley. I absolutely love stories that take place in or near the ocean, which is why I requested this title!

Boo by Neil Smith. The story description makes this sound like a middle-grade novel, but the publisher is Vintage, so I’m not exactly sure who this is targeted toward. But it’s an afterlife story being compared to The Lovely Bones (one of my all-time favorite books), so I’m in!

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan. I’m looking forward to this book because it’s got a strong literary vibe to it. The blurb is saying “in the tradition of Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood.” Yes please!

Blog events:

I hesitate to even use the words “Blog Tour” anymore. You guys, I just had a really weird and awful experience with a recent blog tour, and I may do a discussion post about it soon (but obviously I have to wait until the tour is over). Suffice it to say, I may be done with blog tours, at least the ones run by official blog tour companies. As far as these two books from Angry Robot, I’m participating in the “release frenzy” of the books, but I don’t think AR is even using the term “blog tour.”

Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen. This is the second book in the series, and I’m anxious to get started on it. I’ll be hosting Danielle with a guest post on May 26th, and there may be a giveaway involved as well. Not sure yet, but make sure to stop by and check it out.

Unseemly Science by Rod Duncan. Another book #2 that I’ve been looking forward to! I told the awesome folks at Angry Robot that I’d love to participate in whatever way they’ll have me, so I expect I’ll have something this month to celebrate the release of this book.

And of course, I’ll be reading and reviewing both books:-)

Backlist Burndown review/Women of Genre Reading Challenge/Purchased Book

Afterparty by Daryl Gregory. OK, this truly is a backlist book, because I’ve read Gregory’s two most recent releases. I’ve heard this is pretty damn good, has anyone out there read this yet? Look for my review on the last Friday of the month (May 29) when I’ll be joining Lisa at Tenacious Reader for her Backlist Burndown event.

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear. I had this on the list last month so I could check off a book on my Women of Genre Reading Challenge. Let’s try again, shall we?

Vermilion by Molly Tanzer. I just bought this from new-to-me small publisher Word Horde. I’m determined to squeeze it in this month!

Giveaways: Check back on May 15th for my monthly Book Review Giveaway. If you haven’t entered yet, you really should! The winner will get to choose one of the books I reviewed the previous month.

That’s my May! Let me know if you plan on reading any of these books too!

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THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT by Melissa Grey – Review

The Girl at Midnight

The Girl at Midnight (The Girl at Midnight #1) by Melissa Grey
Genre: Young adult fantasy
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release date: April 28 2015
Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 368

four stars

The nitty-gritty: A magical and action-packed fantasy with characters that I loved and plenty of romance for those who want it.

Lots of bloggers are gushing over Melissa Grey’s debut, and for good reason. This book is a young adult fantasy gem, with all the magical feeling of books like Harry Potter and (yes) Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Grey’s writing is tightly edited and I had a wonderful time reading The Girl at Midnight, barely able to put it down when I had other things I had to go do. Written in short chapters, the punchy plot never slows down, as Grey leads the reader on a magical journey where five characters, who start our as enemies, are on a mission to save their worlds from war.

Here’s a quick recap of the story: Echo is a human girl who lives in the New York Public Library (yes, isn’t she lucky??) but spends much of her time with a race of bird-creatures called the Avicen, who have colorful feathers in place of hair. She was rescued as a kid by an Avicen leader named the Ala, who took her away from an abusive home life. For the past ten years, Echo has been doing errands for the Avicen, mostly in the form of thieving, as she’s able to hop all over the world through a magical corridor called “the in-between.” But the Ala has a new mission for Echo, and it’s pretty important: she is sent on a quest to locate the firebird, a myth that no one believes in, but a powerful entity that, if it does exist, could end the war between the Avicen and their rivals, a race of dragon creatures known as the Drakharin.

Echo follows a trail of clues that lead her from one place to another, as a band of both friends and enemies join her on her quest. But an evil Drakharin is also after the firebird, which she plans to use for nefarious purposes. Who will find it first? And who will survive the final battle?

What made this story work for me wasn’t necessarily the plot (which I found very predictable—I guessed the mystery of the firebird long before the reveal), but the combination of main characters and how they interacted with each other. The Girl at Midnight uses what I call “the Torchwood formula,” in which a story revolves around five main characters. (Please tell me someone out there knows what I’m talking about!) One of the reasons I love Torchwood so much is that with five main characters, there are infinite possibilities for relationships and interactions. You don’t have the standard three-characters-oh-no-there’s-going-to-be-a-love triangle situation. This group includes Echo, who is human; her best friend Ivy, who is Avicen; Caius, the Prince of the Drakharin (oh yes, he has dragon scales scattered on his face like freckles!! Heart be still:-D); Dorian, Caius’ right-hand general who is secretly in love with Caius; and finally, the delectable Jasper, Echo’s Avicen friend who I immediately fell in love with. (If you’ve seen My Best Friend’s Wedding with Julia Roberts, you’ll understand why Jasper reminded me of her gay friend George!)

I don’t want to spoil all the fun of discovering the intricate relationships that form among this group, but I will say that Grey did an amazing job of keeping them interesting. Were they predictable? Yes. Once again, it isn’t hard to guess what’s coming and who will end up with who. But I honestly didn’t care. I had so much fun on the journey of discovery that I’d happily read this book again just to spend time with these characters. The things the characters don’t say to each other are just as important as what they do say.

I also loved the humor in this book! Echo is a snarky and quick-witted girl who has the perfect comeback for just about everything. Her dialogue is full of slang and modern-day references, and I loved it when she meets Caius for the first time, and he has no idea what she’s talking about. (Apparently the Drakharin are sheltered from modern-day life.) And when Jasper comes into the picture, watch out! Although he’s very much a stereotypically gay character, I loved every scene he was in.

The only real issue I had with the story is one I’ve been struggling with lately whenever I read young adult: trying to reconcile the ages of the characters with my expectations of what I think YA should be. In this case, The Girl at Midnight is definitely a YA story, but I felt the ages of the characters were off slightly from the way they acted. In short, I could not picture Echo and Ivy as seventeen-year-olds, no matter how hard I tried. Why the author decided to make them seventeen is anyone’s guess, but I was continually picturing them as thirteen- to fifteen-year-olds. Echo in particular acts like a kid for the entire story, at least until the romance kicks in. She’s mouthy and talks back all the time, and everything is a joke to her (she’s got the best sarcastic timing I’ve ever run across in fiction!). Now don’t get me wrong. It was these qualities that made me love her so much, but I kept tripping over the fact that she ought to be acting a little more mature.

Nevertheless, I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book! Grey wraps up the story without the over-used cliffhanger device (thank you Melissa!!) but hints at some important events to come. For lovers of well-written YA fantasy, who love romantic tension and strong characters, The Girl at Midnight is a must read.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

The Girl

UK cover from ATOM

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Waiting on Wednesday [146] – A GATHERING OF SHADOWS by V.E. Schwab

WOW 2014 copy

Welcome to Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Breaking the Spine, where we can share upcoming books that we’re excited about with other bloggers and readers. This cover just broke this past week, and I couldn’t be happier to see it!

A Gathering of Shadows Final

A Gathering of Shadows (A Darker Shade of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab. Releases in February 2016 from Tor Books. I adored the first book, as did many of my blogger friends, and I’m super excited to see Lila (!!!) on the cover of book two! (I do NOT know what those hands represent, though…) And just for fun, here’s the UK cover:

A Gathering of Shadows2Lovely, right? Here’s the Goodreads description:

Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

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What do you think? Do you love these covers as much as I do?

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WHEN WE WERE ANIMALS by Joshua Gaylord – Review

When We Were Animals

When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord
Genre: Adult speculative fiction
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Release date: April 21 2015
Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 336

four and a half

The nitty-gritty: An allegorical story about one teen’s journey toward adulthood, and all the unusual challenges she and her friends must overcome.

And it makes me wonder if one day I might be able to rediscover fully the child version of myself, before things fouled themselves up, when I was a little girl with commendable manners, when my father and I were two against the world, when my striving for goodness was so natural it was like leaves falling from trees everywhere around me, when I believed sacredness was to be found in many small things like ladybugs and doll toes, when I didn’t have a murderous thought in my head, not one.

This isn’t the easiest of stories to review. There’s very little plot to talk about, for one thing. Joshua Gaylord has written a book of ideas and emotions, and in When We Were Animals he gets to the meat of what it feels like—literally—to go through puberty. It was especially poignant for me, because I happen to have a boy and a girl who are sixteen and fourteen, respectively. These are the ages when teens in Gaylord’s small town “breach,” or turn feral. During the three nights of the full moon each month (with thanks to Joss Whedon for instructing me that yes, in fact, the moon is full for three nights a month!), these teens suddenly feel the urge to run outside at night and tear off their clothes, run wild through the streets, fight and have sex with each other, and let their wild sides run completely out of control. This odd behavior lasts about a year, and then it’s gone forever. After which time, supposedly the teen has crossed the final threshold into adulthood.

The story is about a girl named Lumen, who is approaching her sixteenth birthday but who hasn’t breached yet (and fears she never will). Coincidentally, she hasn’t started her period either, so it was pretty clear that the two are connected. Lumen tells her story from two perspectives: as an adult woman looking back on her time during the breach, and her current life as a wife and mother and how the past has affected her. She’s a very interesting character, in the sense that she seems detached from most of the emotions that the other kids her age feel, probably because she’s telling her story from the distance of adulthood.

Lumen faces many of the same problems that any teen would face: being accepted by your peers, dealing with bullies and peer pressure, and having that feeling deep within yourself that something wants to break free, but not knowing how to deal with it. What Gaylord has done is taken all that teen angst and given it an outlet in the form of breaching, a completely acceptable rite of passage that every teen in town must go through. I loved the feral quality to these outings under the full moon, and while there isn’t anything supernatural to breaching—it seems as if the teens literally turn into animals, but they don’t—it felt dangerous and unpredictable.

Trigger warning: there are a few uncomfortable scenes that border on rape, although in one of the scenes the boy does change his mind and stop. But even those scenes weren’t as horrific as they could be. These teens know they’re out of control, and anything done during breaching is simply part of going through the process. In one scene, one of the more unlikable characters, a boy named Blackhat Roy, goes up to Lumen after she breaches for the first time and tells her, “Now you’re fair game.” It doesn’t take much imagination to guess what Roy is talking about.

My favorite relationship is the one between Lumen and her father. Because her mother died long ago, Lumen and her father have been alone for as long as she can remember. He loves her and trusts her to always do the right thing, and I felt bad for him when his perfectly behaved daughter was inevitably caught up in the breaching madness. It’s hard to read about a parent losing faith and trust in his child, and my heart broke for both of them.

Gaylord’s prose is delightful, and I honestly kept forgetting that a man had written this story! The voice of Lumen radiates femininity, and I’m so impressed by how well a male writer stepped up to the plate and convinced me that Lumen is indeed female, with all the emotions and desires that overtake teens at that age.

When We Were Animals cast a spell over me and made me think. It made me uncomfortable at times and sad at others. I know I’ll be looking at my own children with new eyes now that I’ve read this book, watching for signs of madness, which will hopefully never come. For those readers who enjoy unusual stories, this book is highly recommended.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Above quote is taken from an uncorrected proof, and may differ in the final version of the book.

When 2

UK edition from Ebury Press

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ROLLING IN THE DEEP by Mira Grant – Review

Rolling in the Deep

Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant
Dust jacket illustration by Julie Dillon
Genre: Adult horror novella
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Release date: April 7 2015
Source: Purchased from Amazon
Pages: 123

five stars

The nitty-gritty: A short but highly entertaining—not to mention terrifying—tale about the dangers of the deep.

I’m so happy I bought myself a copy of this beautiful little book from Subterranean Press. It’s a signed and numbered edition, and as far as I know, it’s the only edition available at the moment, other than the e-book. Whichever way you read it, it’s a spectacular story that accomplishes big things in a tiny little package.

I won’t give too much of the story away, because it is very short, but here’s the set-up. The Imagine Network has just commissioned a documentary on mermaids, and they’ve arranged to film aboard the cruise ship Atargatis. The plan is to take the ship out into deep water where little sea exploration has been done before, film the hired scientists doing their thing with water and chemical analysis, and have a troupe of professional mermaid “performers” standing by to add authenticity to the documentary. But as the crew and visitors drop anchor and start to explore the deep waters above the Mariana Trench, people on board start to go missing. It isn’t long before the excitement of filming turns into everybody’s worst nightmare.

For a short novella, Grant’s pacing is really good. She divides her story up into five chapters, and each one is prefaced by a blurb from an Imagine Network documentary from the year 2017, looking back on the disaster of the Atargatis and speculating on what happened. It gives the story a bit of foreshadowing and unsettles the reader. You know something bad happened—it’s explained on the first page that the entire crew was lost, but you don’t know exactly what happened until the end. Grant plants her clues carefully, spaced apart just enough to make the reader anxiously flip the pages.

The story is filled with humor as well. Grant pokes fun at the entertainment industry with lots of jokes about contract fulfillment and how documentaries are edited to create whatever story the director wants to tell, whether it’s true or not. The scientists and actors on board know that mermaids don’t really exist, and so they’ve hired a group of professional mermaids, women who wear specially made mermaid tales and perform at parties and other events. (And yes, I Googled this, and it’s a real thing!) The Blue Seas mermaids have been hired to “appear unexpectedly” on film. Obviously, the Imagine Network isn’t above a little innocent hoax or two.

Despite the short length of Rolling in the Deep, Grant digs fairly deep into her characters’ lives and desires. Yes, there is some stereotyping, especially with the nerdy scientist characters and Anne, the actress who will be hosting the documentary. But it made the story all the funnier for me, and I didn’t mind it at all.

I did love the women of the Blue Seas, who have hair colored in every shade of the rainbow and wear custom fit neoprene mermaid tails. The women love what they do, and they’re nearly jumping for joy at the opportunity to practice swimming in open waters. We get to spend just enough time with them to understand their true love of swimming as mermaids has nothing to do with acting. They understand exactly what they’ve been hired for, to pretend to be “real” mermaids, and it doesn’t stop them from having a great time—well, at least until things go terribly wrong. I really liked the idea that Grant puts two of her mermaids in wheelchairs, to show that even someone who isn’t able to walk on her own can have complete freedom of movement in the water.

When events on the Atargatis start to take a turn for the worse, things go south fast. Get ready for a good old-fashioned monster tale with plenty of blood and terror. Grant could have expanded this into a full-fledged novel if she’d wanted to, but I like it just the way it is: a short but nasty tale of “be careful what you wish for.” Trust me, after reading this story, you’ll never look at mermaids the same way again. This was my first time reading Mira Grant, but it’s certainly not going to be my last. Highly recommended.

rolling signed

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Backlist Burndown Review: GENERATION V by M.L. Brennan

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Welcome to my April Backlist Burndown review! Thanks to Lisa @ The Tenacious Reader, on the last Friday of each month we get to link up with other bloggers who are participating. The goal is to read a book from an author’s backlist that you’ve been meaning to read, but just haven’t been able to get to. I could honestly spend all my time reading backlist books, since I’m so behind, LOL! But trying for one a month is a good start.

This book is also part of my Women of Genre Fiction challenge, hosted by Worlds Without End.

This may not technically be considered a “backlist” book, but it is the first book in a series I haven’t started reading yet, not to mention it’s one I’ve had on my TBR pile for quite some time, so I decided this was a good excuse to finally read Generation V. I almost skipped it, though, because I’ve had a pretty tough April as far as blogging goes. I’ve been sick for almost two weeks, and then I lost an entire weekend due to my daughter’s choir competition out of town. So April’s been a big fail for me as far as getting review books read:-( And it took me A WEEK to read this book! Seriously. But in all fairness to myself, I have been very sick and tired and every time I try to read I start to fall asleep:-D

BUT I’m so glad I read it! What a fun start to a series I know I’ll keep up with.

Generation V

Generation V (Generation V #1) by M.L. Brennan
Genre: Adult urban fantasy
Publisher: Roc
Release date: May 2013
Source: Purchased paperback
Pages: 312

four stars

The nitty-gritty: A kick-ass, hysterically funny story with a unique vampire mythos and the best dialogue I’ve read all year!

“Keep one thing in mind, Fortitude,” she hissed, low and dangerous. “I’m not some were-critter. I’m not a woman who can turn into a fox when she feels like it. I’m a fox who can become a woman. Try to remember that.”

After reading many glowing reviews of Generation V, I knew I could not miss out on this series, and now I’m wondering why I waited so long! M.L. Brennan has some of the best and funniest dialogue I’ve come across, and that’s saying something, because I’ve read several books with some pretty amazing dialogue in the past few months, and I think I even mentioned in my reviews that they were the best dialogue I’ve ever read. (I think I need to compile a top ten list of books with awesome dialogue!). So far, Brennan wins this prize, hands down. It takes a lot to get me to laugh out loud, and I spend a great deal of time doing just that while reading this book.

Aside from the snappy dialogue, however, Brennan has created a very cool world of vampires with some ideas that I’ve never run across before. Some of her world building is a bit on the complicated side, so I did have a few moments of trying to picture exactly how vampire hosts are made and how babies are conceived. Even now I’m not sure I understand exactly how that works, but who the hell cares? This story was so much fun, from the self-deprecating voice of Fort, our main character, to the flirty and vivacious Suzume the fox woman, to the scary and complex relationships between Fort and the members of his family.

Fortitude Scott is a twenty-six year old vampire who hasn’t actually become a full-fledged vampire yet. He lives with a deadbeat roommate named Larry, who refuses to pay his half of the rent, and he works in a dead-end job in a coffee-house. His “girlfriend” Beth is cheating on him with Larry, and to make things even worse, his family is highly disappointed in him because he hasn’t yet evolved into a true vampire. Life is pretty bad for Fort, but things are about to get even worse, when the body of a young girl turns up nearby, and Fort connects her to a visiting vampire friend of his mother’s. When another girl goes missing, Fort decides it’s up to him to try to find her, before any of his vampire acquaintances can get their hands on her. With the help of his new bodyguard Suzume, a shape-shifter that can turn into a fox, Fort sets out to do some sleuthing of his own.

What I loved about this book is that the vampire mythos that Brennan has created is so different from everything else I’ve read—and believe me, I’ve read lots of vampire stories—and I appreciated how she brought something new to the table. These vampires are not immortal, and they are not “made” by being bitten by another vampire, but rather they are incubated inside a “host” and born in the usual way, except that they’re fed blood in the womb. Also, it takes some time before a vampire transitions into a full-fledged vamp. Even at twenty-six, Fort still hasn’t done that, so it was interesting to see this “half” vampire who really struggled with his life. It’s a far cry from the supremely powerful beings that we’re familiar with in other stories in the genre.

I would have liked more world-building, however, because as I mentioned before, some of the details were hard to get a firm grasp on. But I’m sure with at least three more books in the series, Brennan will have plenty of time to fill in the details.

I did love Fort, our main vamp character, even when he seemed like a loser who could barely hold a job or a girlfriend. Once he meets Suzume, though, I liked him even more, because some of that loser personality disappeared. Suzume is now one of my top favorite female characters in genre fiction. She’s a fox that can turn into a woman, and I loved the way she tormented Fort by flirting with him. Some of their most wonderful scenes together—aside from the funny banter—were the times when Suzume slipped back into her fox persona and curled up in Fort’s arms, just like a cat. It was confusing in a way, because you can see the sparks flying between the two when she’s in her human form, but I loved those sweet moments. Brennan definitely taunts us with a possible future romance between the two, but luckily she doesn’t cross over that line in this book.

The action scenes were well written and had plenty of blood and guts to appease the horror lovers out there, but despite some very graphic moments, I still came away from reading Generation V with a smile on my face. I honestly can’t wait to start the next book, Iron Night. If you haven’t started this series yet, and you’re a fan of humorous urban fantasy, then what are you waiting for? Get a copy and get cracking!

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Waiting on Wednesday [145] THIS MONSTROUS THING by Mackenzi Lee

WOW 2014 copy

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a fun way to share upcoming books we’re excited about with other bloggers and readers. Let’s hear it for debut authors! This week I’m featuring:

This Monstrous Thing

This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee. Releases in September 2015 from Katherine Tegen Books. I do love me a good Frankenstein re-telling, and this one fits the bill perfectly! And check out the creepy and atmospheric cover. Here’s the Goodreads description:

In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits.

His brother, Oliver—dead.

His sweetheart, Mary—gone.

His chance to break free of Geneva—lost.

Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead.

But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship.

Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay…

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I love books about books. So the fact that this is a Frankenstein-inspired story and it references the book Frankenstein, just makes it more appealing.

What are you waiting on this week?

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Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH by Martha Brockenbrough

loveanddeath

Welcome to my stop on The Game of Love and Death blog tour, hosted by Rock Star Book Tours! I’m very happy to bring you my review of this book, which I really loved. Keep reading to the end, because there is a tour-wide giveaway of FIVE COPIES of the book (U.S. only)! Not familiar with this book? Here’s a little more about it:

The Game of Love and DeathTitle: THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH
Author: 
Martha Brockenbrough
Pub. Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic)
Pages: 352
Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now . . . Henry and Flora.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured — a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget.

Find the book:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

My review:

four stars

The nitty-gritty: A beautifully written story that does a great job incorporating racial and sexual diversity, with a touch of a fairytale to it.

It would simplify so much if he wanted Helen. But while her skin was pale and creamy, and her elegant collarbones were visible over the neckline of her dress, the sight only reminded him that she had a skeleton beneath her flesh. He wanted love, and when he looked at her, he could only think of death.

What if Love and Death were friends and had known each other for thousands of years? What if they decided to use humans in a game in order to entertain themselves? Martha Brockenbrough has imagined just that scenario in The Game of Love and Death, where Love and Death are able to take on any guise they want to—including a cat and a sparrow—in order to slip into their roles as directors in the game of life.

Love and Death select Flora and Henry as their next players when they are but wee babes in their cribs. Death selects Flora and Love selects Henry, and Death bets Love that the two won’t fall in love, or he’ll claim the life of his player, Flora. Love agrees, and when they turn seventeen, the game begins. Henry and Flora are thrust together in different ways over the course of several months, with Love and Death manipulating their chance meetings and actions. Love poses as the “mayor” of the homeless community known as Hooverville, while Death takes over the body of a woman named Helen who is sent to stay with Henry and his family in the hopes that they will marry, thus taking Henry out of the game.

But despite the conniving of the two entities, Henry and Flora discover that they have much in common, and soon Henry is making excuses to see Flora when she performs at her jazz club. Love is blossoming, but with so many obstacles in their path, one wonders exactly how this game will turn out. Brockenbrough keeps the readers guessing up until the very end and throws in a twist or two which makes the story exciting.

There are many things to love about this book. First of all, you should know that Flora is African-American and Henry is white, and because the story takes place in 1937, you know that right off the bat their relationship will be an uphill battle. Segregation is in full swing (the story’s location is Seattle) and these two are not even supposed to be seen talking to each other. The way the author handled this part of the story was so well done. Flora is the one who protests her growing affection for Henry, while Henry does everything in his power to keep running into Flora.

And despite their differences on the outside, these two have lots in common—they are both skilled musicians. Henry is a bass player who is forced to squash his love of music in order to work a “real” job at a newspaper, while Flora has inherited her father’s jazz club and sings on stage in addition to running the club. I loved the role that music played in this story, and I appreciated that even though both Henry and Flora are talented and fiercely dedicated to their music, they still have trouble accepting that sparks are starting to fly between them. When their music should be bringing them together, it ends up keeping them apart.

Brockenbrough gives us not one, but two gay characters, who added another juicy layer to the story. Henry’s best friend Ethan (he lives with Ethan’s family because he’s an orphan) hasn’t come out yet—it would destroy his strict and very traditional father—but he’s secretly in love with Henry. He finds solace with James Booth, the self-proclaimed mayor of Hooverville but keeps the relationship a secret. Meanwhile, Ethan’s cousin Helen comes to stay for a while (she has been cast out of her family because of an affair with another woman), ostensibly as a possible future wife for Henry, but the twist is that Helen is Death, and she weasels her way into their lives and tries to ruin everything.

Everything is deliciously and intricately connected together, and you can practically see the strings attached to all the players, as Love and Death maneuver them into place for a final showdown.

Lots of real historical moments that happened in 1937 make an appearance, like the burning of the Hindenburg and the crash of Amelia Earhart’s plane, as the author suggests Love and Death are responsible for all great moments like this.

This is not your typical “happily ever after” story. Lots of dark things happen to these characters. Just when you think things are going well for Henry and Flora, Death pulls the rug out from under them. Still, this story is a fascinating exploration of how the world turns, how people stand up for and love each other, no matter what the obstacles.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.

About the author:

MarthaMartha Brockenbrough (rhymes with broken toe) is the author of two books for adults and five books for young readers.

She’s the founder of National Grammar Day (every March 4), and she’s written game questions for Cranium and Trivial Pursuit. The former editor of MSN.com, Martha has interviewed lots of celebrities, including the Jonas Brothers and Slash (his favorite dinosaur is the diplodocus). Her work has been published in a variety of places, including The New York Times. She also wrote an educational humor column for the online encyclopedia Encarta for nine years.

She lives in Seattle with her family. Her favorite kind of food is Indian, although Thai runs a close second. Besides writing, she likes board games, playing music with the family band, travel to places far and near, drinking lots of coffee, and working out really hard at the gym.

Find Martha: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook |Pinterst | Tumblr | Goodreads

Follow the rest of the tour:

Week One:

4/20/2015- Alice Marvels– Interview

4/21/2015- Books, Bones & Buffy– Review

4/22/2015- A Glass Of Wine– Guest Post

4/23/2015- Jump Into Books– Review

4/24/2015- IceyBooks– Interview

Week Two:

4/27/2015- Fiction Freak– Review

4/28/2015- Nerdophiles– Guest Post

4/29/2015- The Starry-Eyed Revue– Review

4/30/2015- Seeing Double In Neverland– Interview

5/1/2015- Winterhaven Books– Review

And now for the giveaway! FIVE lucky U.S. winners will receive a finished copy of The Game of Love and Death! Simply enter the Rafflecopter below to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Over-Booked [23] – A Book Haul Post

Over booked banner

Welcome to Over-Booked, my twice-monthly book haul post. I’m linking up with Stacking the Shelves over at Tynga’s Reviews and The Sunday Post at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. Check out their links and you can see other book hauls!

I’ve had another two-week period of a more-than-usual influx of new books, and I’m not complaining at all! I’m just worried about when I’ll be able to read them all, LOL:-D I have a great mix of review books, purchases and contest winnings, so let’s get started:

Physical review books:

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The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Seven, edited by Ellen Datlow. This arrived unexpectedly from one of my new fave publishers, Night Shade Books, and I’m so glad it did! I’m a big Ellen Datlow fan, and I’m looking forward to these stories. Thanks Night Shade!

The Memory Painter By Gwendolyn Womack. Another unexpected arrival from Picador, I have honestly never heard of this book until now, LOL! But it looks pretty good. Time permitting, I’ll give it a shot. Big thanks to Picador:-D

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen. This is the new paperback release of the book, and I was very happy when a publicist from Thomas Dunne Books offered me a copy.

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough. I’m part of the blog tour for this book, and my stop is this coming Tuesday. Stop back here to see what I thought about it, and enter a cool giveaway!

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So, a few months ago I signed up to be an Ace Roc Star, which is Ace & Roc’s new street team. I really thought I had a snowball’s chance in hell in getting in, but for some reason, they selected me. My first package just arrived this week, with an interesting mix of books. (Fellow blogger Lisa and I have been analyzing the contents in minute detail!) You can’t see it in this photo, but there’s a short excerpt from Jim Butcher’s upcoming The Aeronaut’s Windlass, which is weird because that’s an Orbit book. Hmmm. Nevertheless, I’m excited to be part of this team! So glad to have Lisa from Tenacious Reader and Jessica from Rabid Reads to dish with:-D Big thanks to Ace/Roc Books!

Digital review books:

Curses to HarperCollins and all their “Download Now” deliciousness that popped up this week!

I was pretty good and only chose four of them for review. Chuck Wendig’s latest from Harper Voyager also popped up, and I’m very happy to have been approved for Zeroes. And what can you say about Alice Hoffman? If you read this blog, you know I’m a huge Hoffman fan, and even though her latest doesn’t appear to have the usual magical realism elements, I’m still excited to read it.

Walk the Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson. I haven’t read this author before, but I know lots of bloggers who love her. Can’t wait:-D

The Unquiet by Mikaela Everett. This parallel world story has been getting some good reviews.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. I was so excited to see this up on Edelweiss, I didn’t think twice before clicking the “download” button.

Zeroes by Chuck Wendig. Duh.

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman. Duh again.

This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee. This Frankenstein retelling sounds perfect for me, I’m really looking forward to it.

Thank you to Greenwillow Books, HarperTeen, Harper Voyager, Simon & Schuster, and Katherine Tegen Books!

Won:

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So yeah, I won a bunch of stuff! It happens, I go a year without winning any giveaways, then suddenly, boom!

The Undying by Ethan Reid. Big thanks to Kristin at My Bookish Ways! I believe the second book in this series comes out soon. This looks like a bound galley, it’s pretty cool. Thanks Kristin!

Half Wild by Sally Green. I haven’t read book one yet, but it’s a series I’ve been dying to start, so this will give me a reason to find Half Bad. Big thanks to MaryAnn at Chapter by Chapter!

Touch by Claire North and Age of Iron by Angus Watson. Won from Anya at On Starships and Dragonwings. Thank you Anya! I got to choose two ARCs from her collection. I was THRILLED to see Touch listed, as it’s on my “must read soon” list. And I’ve heard really good things about Age of Iron.

Purchased:

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Some of my pre-orders that I’ve been waiting for came in, and I couldn’t be more excited!

Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant. This is a lovely little hard cover, only 128 pages, and I plan to knock it out next week in between review books.

Saga Volume One by Brian K. Vaughn. I’ve read so many great reviews of this graphic novel, so when I needed to bump up my Amazon order to get free shipping, this book went into the cart.

Vermilion by Molly Tanzer. Another highly anticipated pre-order, just look at all the swag Word Horde sent with the book! Includes a signed bookplate, sticker and bookmark!

And that’s a wrap! Excuse me while I crawl into my hole and read for the next, um, five years or so! Let me know if you’ve read any of these:-D

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