Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bridal Title 1: 'Bridal Bargains: Secrets to Throwing A Fantastic Wedding On A Realistic Budget' by Denise and Alan Fields

A few days before Christmas I went from girlfriend to fiance and like every other bride-to-be once my head stopped swimming reality set in. I now had a party to plan. A big, expensive, 130 people on the guest list party.


I'm not going to try and kid myself here. While I've planned corporate parties for 300, I've never planned this kind of party and never, ever when my own credit card was involved. I wanted... no needed some info to help prepare me for the battles ahead. Enter 'Bridal Bargains' as my first choice read.

The author's summary promises money saving hints and tips in addition to guidance on navigating the rocky, pariah ridden landscape that is wedding planning. Good stuff if they deliver even better when it's laid out in a fun, functional way.

So let's say this is good stuff that falls just short of great. As my first, and so far only, bridal title, I really appreciated the conversational, honest tone that the author's have. It just oozes confident experience. And the cost saving hints are actually things that seem both reasonable and executable. No previous experience necessary - this one is perfect for us novices.

Where this title falls short is that while the cost saving hints are great, they get repeated over and over again. With the repetition I feel as though the book could have been about a third shorter. The repetition also makes it an interesting adventure to find the tip you're looking for. Nothing bothers me more about a book designed to be used as an informative handbook that you need to dig through. I'm not a fan of playing detective and if it weren't for the search function gained through my Kindle, well, after the first read this book would have been pretty useless. That said, with bookmarks and keyword searches, this reference title is absolutely awesome.

Bottom line: If you don't have a clue where to start your planning and you'd like to build a good, cost saving baseline this one is for you. If you're independently wealthy and don't care about surprise fees, flower costs, or are thinking about picking this one up in print, walk on by.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Liebster Award Nomination

Last week I was given the surprise honor of a Liebster Award Nomination by my friend and fellow blogger, Christina at Christina's Book Reviews. Thank you again for the nomination Christina!

To accept this honor I had a few rules* to follow. One of them being to answer 11 questions and give 11 random facts. So here goes nothing:

Christina's Interview Questions:
  • What is my favorite book or series?
That's easy. The Southern Vampire Mysteries.
  • If I could meet one book character who would it be?
I think it might be Alice of Wonderland.
  • What are my top favorite series?
Let's see: The Dresden Files, Southern Vampire Mysteries, Ender's Game, Disc World, Harry Potter, Hitchhiker's Guide, The Dark Tower... all amazing! 
  • Who are your top favorite male characters?
Toss up between Harry Dresden and Eric Northman
  • Why did I start blogging?
So that I could make myself feel better about reading so much. No, but seriously.. I started blogging as a way to get myself through a phase of writers block and just kinda kept on going with it. 
  • What was the last book that made me cry?
The final chapter of 'Flat-Out Love' definitely brought a tear to my eye. 
  • What is my favorite romantic gesture from a book?
At the moment I'd say that honor goes to 'Days of Blood and Starlight' - and in an effort to stay away from spoilers I'll only go as far as to say it's the reason why Karou becomes, well, Karou. 
  • What is your favorite all time romance book?
Love in the Time of Cholera by García Márquez. Because it is the best, all time romance book. Period.
  • Who is my favorite secondary female character from a book?
Iko, the brilliantly written robot sidekick in Cinder by Marissa Meyer.
  • What five books are you reading this year?
Well, the five I plan on tackling in the next month are:
  1. The Witches Daughter by Paula Brackston
  2. A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein
  3. Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman
  4. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
  5. The Human Division #1: The B-Team by John Scalzi
But more on each of those in later postings I'm sure. ;)
  • What are you reading now?
I've just starting to sink my teeth into The Human Division #1 actually...

My nominees are:
  1. Chonny over at PlasterQuest (and trainwreck)
  2. Empty Art maintained by the talented Manny Trujillo
  3. Willem, another insanely talented artist friend, for his blog CE
  4. Just Another Photo Blog by good friend, not to mention fabulous photographer, Micah Goldstein
  5. The Languish Dynasty. (Neil hasn't updated in awhile, but maybe this award will prod him into action. :-D )
  6. Em for Just One More - a blog about baked goods that makes me hungry every time.
I know it said to nominate 11 blogs, but making sure they have under 200 subscribers makes this one hard I tell ya! And who knows - I could have just nominated a bunch of bloggers who have thousands of followers... what do I know anyway.

Edited to add Random Facts:
(Yeah I'm a big stupid-head and forgot them the first time)
  1. I have two corgis and yes, they really are the best thing in the universe
  2. I'm currently trying to iron out the last half of a YA, romantic fantasy I'm writing.
  3. I used to work in finance but marched out and got a job with a video game company - it was the best thing I ever did!
  4. I will watch anything produced by the BBC.
  5. My first car was a 20 year old Mercury Marquis - and it was like the most comfortable sofa on wheels.
  6. I woke up to the album August and Everything After for one entire year back in high school because it was jammed in my CD player / alarm clock and I couldn't figure out how to break it out of prison.
  7. I once back-ended a car onto a rock and needed to get a tow truck to use a winch and lower me off of it - true story.
  8. I don't have a 'favorite' color - but I sure have preferences.
  9. I've kept a few pet rats over the years.. and would do so again in a heartbeat.
  10. When people tell me gory stories I have a bad tendency of blacking out.
  11.  If I didn't keep a book review blog I'd keep one that documented my ever growing list of pet-peeves.
*If I nominated you for the same honor there are a number of rules to follow:
  • Thank your Liebster Blog Award Presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you.
  • Answer the 11 questions from the nominator, list 11 random facts about yourself and create 11 questions for your nominees. (See below for my questions to you!)
  • Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs of 200 followers of less who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen. (No tag backs)
  • Copy and paste this award on your blog!
And that's it! Pretty easy qualification and again - thank you Christina. It's been a lovely experience. 

Question for my nominees:
  1. What did you want to be when you were ten years old? 
  2. What is your favorite book?
  3. What was your favorite television show back in high school?
  4. What is it now?
  5. Why do you blog?
  6. What is your favorite quote?
  7. What is your least favorite word and why?
  8. Do you have any movie recommendations?
  9. If you had a time machine would you use it?
  10. If I say the number 42 what do you think of?
  11. Where is the best place you've ever traveled to?

'Flat-Out Love' by Jessica Park

With it's over sized, rainbow colored bubble letters on plain white background, the cover of Jessica Park's 'Flat-Out Love' gives very little insight to the depth within*. On it's surface, the story Park tells is a romance, but even after having predicted the plot roughly 20% through, it still held my attention and kept me awake until 2am, on a work night no less. Once it was in my hands, I just couldn't put it down.

Predictable as it might be, this isn't a girl meets boy pulp composed of unnecessarily intimate scenes and sloppy encounters, a la' '50 Shades' - no this is a book that tells the story of two people who develop honest and earnest feelings for one another as the greater story of a broken family in the hard, seemingly impossible process of healing unfolds.

Bottom Line: If you're looking for a romance that holds something real, grounded, witty and thoughtful at its core, this one is for you.

*As a side note, the cover will make total and complete sense once you're near the end - for me, this is just another example of the kind of thought and depth that Park loaded into the novel itself.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

'Gods of Men' (Children of the Apocalypse) by Joseph Pignataro

Before I make an ass out of myself with this review I feel like I should admit two things:
  1. This is the first graphic novel I've ever picked up. Yes. For reals.
  2. I'm not even capable of drawing a convincing stick figure so please take any 'style' critiques with a heaping cup of salt.
Phew - okay... glad we got that out of the way so now I can continue without feeling too much guilt.

So what did I think of 'Gods of Men' by Joseph Pignataro? Well that's easy; it was terrible. But while I'm at it let's take a second and break that down.
  • Art style: Looked like it was done by someone suffering from the shakes and drawing with their off hand.
  • Story line: What story line? Seriously - this thing had about one thing happen over the entirety of the first installment which to me seemed a bit odd if only because the blurb and accompanying reviews made it seem like something actually, oh... I dunno... HAPPENED!
  • Length: If I'd paid for this I'd have been pissed. Really and truly livid. By the time I'd settled in to a comfortable reading position it was over. Than again, maybe this was a blessing in disguise. If it'd been longer I might have felt like this was a tremendous waste of time and not just a slight annoyance.
Bottom Line: If you or someone you love is about to spend money on this waste of ink please, for the love of literature, knock it out of their hands. And like always if you find that you disagree with me, please please please tell me why in the comments below because as things stand at the moment I'm wondering how on earth this series got such rave reviews everywhere else.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

'Married with Zombies' (Living with the Dead #1) by Jesse Petersen

Solidly written zombie novels make me happy – I mean really happy. Like, “I just ate a heap-load of chocolate” happy. Unfortunately for me, my preference for the more lighthearted and quirky variety, like ‘Warm Bodies over the ‘War Z’ dystopias make this sort of happiness rare to come by.  But I was not to be deterred. Once I’d finished up ‘Warm Bodies’ last month I diligently began hunting for my next zombie-fix.

Although my search did take me to a few odd titles, it eventually dropped me at the feet of ‘Married with Zombies’ by Jesse Petersen and these words caught my attention about halfway through the blurb:

Once upon a time they met and fell in love. But now they're on the verge of divorce and going to couples' counseling. On a routine trip to their counselor, they notice a few odd things - the lack of cars on the highway, the missing security guard, and the fact that their counselor, Dr. Kelly, is ripping out her previous client's throat.

For me, those words and beach-read inspired cover were all I needed to download and get started. With that description and a title that harkens back to the days of Peg and Al Bundy, I was all but guaranteed that it would be quirky – but would it be good?

Well, let’s put it this way. ‘Warm Bodies’ is the Lindt dark chocolate truffle of zombie fixes. It’s heartwarming and serious and doesn’t leave you holding the bag, needing more. ‘Married with Zombies’ is great, but it’s more like a Reese’s mini  – shorter, louder, takes itself a whole lot less seriously and really? Who just has one peanut butter cup mini? Not me, that’s for sure and it makes the whole idea that this is a new series to sink my teeth into that much more enjoyable.

Author Jesse Petersen has a great sense of humor through the whole thing and I’ve got to say I laughed out loud more than a few times. The characters were good, and given the relationship the two mains have at the start of the journey the buildup is excellent. If you’ve ever lived with someone for more than a few years you’ll probably end up appreciating this one for the no-nonsense, honest love these Sarah and David have for one another.  

Bottom line: If you like your zombie novels terrifying and filled with pointless teeth-gnashing, this one probably isn’t for you at all. If you’re more interested in seeing what happens to the people on the ground, how relationships can get stronger even in the midst of near-certain doom, you’re on the right track. As for me, well, I certainly love Reese’s… and already plan on picking up ‘Flip this Zombie’ soon.

Monday, January 7, 2013

'Days of Blood & Starlight' (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2) by Laini Taylor

I'm not sure why, but it seems as though the Goodreads reviews of this book are uncharacteristically packed with animated GIFs and internet MEME references. And while a few of them are well done most are... well... nauseating and borderline offensive. See for yourself. Oh, go ahead, I don't mind - I'll be right here waiting.

See what I mean? Too much BLINK BLINK BLINK and not nearly enough substance. I'm sure that there are some great insights to be had in that epileptic stroke waiting to happen, but when you start to feel nauseous just scrolling through the page I'm not sure how much of them you'll see, never mind retain long enough to make any sense of it all.

But we aren't here to review the reviews and on that note the follow-up to 'Daughter of Smoke & Bone' left me jaw-gnashingly expectant of the final book in the trilogy and a thousand times more depressed than I'd every imagined. Launching into 'Days of Blood & Starlight' we find Karou living a life that fits her about as well as a potato sack mumu. It's an existence entirely devoid of happiness - her friends, family, life, love... all of this has has been pushed away aside and replaced with a single, brutal focus: war.

Overall, I'm still in love with all of the characters and getting to see a lot more of the chimaera and Karou's best friend Zuzana is a huge plus. While I did find myself missing the romance that was so heavily played out in book one, this second installment by Laini Taylor still finds plenty of ways to pull at your heartstrings. By finding a perfect balance between the apex of a brutal, soul-shredding war and heartwarming and emotional scenes that will, in all likelihood, carry us to an epic book three due out sometime in April 2014, this book is absolutely worth your time.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

'The Accidental Time Machine' by Joe Haldeman

A few years back I read Joe Haldeman's 'The Forever War' based squarely on the wonders of Amazon's recommendation. In this particular case, however, Amazon got it a little sideways and because of the book's focus on war and incredibly strange use of timelines, I didn't really enjoy it.

Fast forward about two years and I'm staring at my Kindle's ad-plastered screensaver flaunting the cover of 'The Accidental Time Machine'.  The fact that I bought the book says two things; A.) I must have a terrible memory because it didn't even cross my mind that I might have ever read anything by this guy before and, B.) Amazon knows how to pry money out of my wallet with pin-point precision.

While it's now clear that I'm going to need to work on B, I'm glad that I didn't automatically make the connection between these two titles. Where 'The Forever War' was dry and boring and, in my opinion, confusing for the sake of causing confusion, 'The Accidental Time Machine' was fun and well-paced with likeable characters that made sense from beginning to end.

I guess I'll need to rethink my general rule of striking author's from the to-read list that have previously delivered lukewarm titles. While it won't have me lifting the ban on certain authors anytime soon, it might bring on some interesting surprises like this one. 

Bottom Line: 'The Accidental Time Machine' is worth the read. It's a solid science fiction and a fun read to boot.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January Resolutions & Waiting List

Before I get started with today's post I need to apologize to each one of you. It's been over two weeks and not even a whisper has been posted. I assure you that I've been reading just as much as usual - I've just been too busy/hectic/unfocused over the holidays to get my butt in gear get back to the reviews. But that changes today with number one on my short list of New Year's resolutions: Write more!

This year I resolve to put up at least one post & write at least another 1,000 words towards my novel each week. It's lofty, but attainable - so I'm confident that it can happen.

And what better way to get started than to outline the next month of reviews? In the hopper for January we've got:
  • 'The Accidental Time Machine' by Joe Haldeman: I read 'The Forever War' a few years ago. To be honest it wasn't my favorite book ever - but it had won itself a pretty hefty number of awards and even though I'd probably only give it a yellow light, it was worth the read and definitely had substantial literary merit. That said, I look forward to sinking my teeth into this one which promises to be another thought provoking time-travel fiction.
  • 'Gods of Men' (Children of the Apocalypse) by Joseph Pignataro: This one will be my first ever graphic novel experience. Now that I have a brand new Fire HD (thanks to the wondrous spirit of Christmas giving), I feel like I don't have an excuse to leave this genre behind any longer. Expect this review and more like it in the months' to come.
  • 'Flat-Out Love' by Jessica Park: Not sure about this one, and I know virtually nothing about it (besides the fact that the cover reminds me of some 1960's cartooning) but it's my book clubs read this month so, it makes the cut.
  • 'Dead Beat: A Novel of The Dresden Files' by Jim Butcher: Because everyone should be reading this series and I'm shamefully behind.
Lastly, I'll be introducing a new monthly segment to the blog with a focus on bridal books and resources. I know it's a bit of a weird segment - given my proclivity to science fiction novels and usual romantic fantasy focus - but when a girl gets engaged over the Christmas Holiday it only makes sense. Yes, you read that correctly, I'm now suffering from wedding-itis. As such, I'm going to abuse my power and make you all suffer the planning process with me. I'll be kicking off the bridal segment (with a name to be determined) with:
  • 'Bridal Bargains' by Denise & Alan Fields
All right everyone - see you soon and I truly hope you had a wonderful holiday season and happy New Year!