Review: Discount Armageddon by Seanen McGuire

Discount Armageddon is InCryptid #1. It was published by DAW on March 6, 2012.

The Blurb

Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night…

The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity-and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she’d rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren’t for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family’s old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed.

To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone’s spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city… [Goodreads]

The Review

I found this such a refreshing, engaging read. Verity Price is my kind of girl… Well, except for that whole ballroom dancing thing. Very is an independent woman with a long family line who’s trying to balance her family’s expectations with her own wants and dreams. She’s tough and smart, but also human. No crazy powers, no desperate flaw in her character. In fact, she’s just a nice, normal girl. Not counting the excessive weaponry, jumping off of buildings, slutty work uniform, and chanting religious mice in her living room, that is.

So like I said – she’s my kind of girl.

I also love that Very’s family is a group of hereditary cryptozoologists. The combination of supernatural and science is a new and enticing allure. Each chapter also includes a wise quote from one of what I believe is Very’s ancestors. They include such anecdotes as:

A lady is never truly embarrassed. And if she is, a lady is never gauche enough to leave survivors.

As well as:

A proper lady should be able to smile pretty, wear sequins like she means it, and kick a man’s ass nine ways from Sunday while wearing stiletto heels. If she can’t do that much, she’s not trying hard enough.

This is on top of Verity’s own astute – and hilarious – observations of city life. She’s warm, she’s personal… She can hide a gun in a tango dress. She’s more fun than an entire New York subway system full of dragons! I recommend you run out right now and get this book. I can’t imagine a world where you’d regret it.

Magic Most Foul Giveaway

Annnd… Because I’m a huge dork who forgot to include it in the previous post. There is a giveaway attached to the lovely Leanna Renee Hieber’s guest post, sponsored by her Greatness and courtesy of her dear publisher, Sourcebooks Fire.

Giveaway is for one (1) copy of Darker Still and is open to any human person on the planet Earth who leaves a comment either here or on the previous post (I’ll combine them) before midnight in the Eastern (my) time zone on February 19th.  

Thank you all and sorry that didn’t get included on the original posting. February has left me flabbergasted this year.

Review: My Life As A White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland

My Life As A White Trash Zombie

White Trash Zombie #1

Written: Diana Rowland

Published: July 5, 2011

Publisher: DAW

ISBN: 9780756406752

Obtained via: Purchase

Blurb:

Teenage delinquent Angel Crawford lives with her redneck father in the swamps of southern Louisiana. She’s a high school dropout, addicted to drugs and alcohol, and has a police record a mile long. But when she’s made into a zombie after a car crash, her addictions disappear, except for her all-consuming need to stay “alive”…

My Review:

For a hot pink book featuring a wonderfully white-trashy, Louisianna-bayou-living redneck heroine with a pill addicion, this book has it’s surprisingly deep moments. I loved it to pieces (pun intended).

Underneath the decomposing bodies, blood, and brains is the story of a girl with mentally ill and alcoholic parents who has hit rock bottom via a horrific accident that left her wandering overdosed and naked on the side of a swampy road. A mysterious benefactor has saved her life and gotten her a job at the local morgue (and – oh, yeah – turned her into a zombie!) Except a serial killer starts depriving people of their brains, and Angel suspects a fellow zombie has gone rogue. Since the cops don’t even realize zombies exist, it’s up to Angel to stop the killer. In the meantime, Angel has to deal with a selfish, criminal boyfriend; her alcoholic dad; her own pill addiction; as well as avoid arousing the suspicion of her co-workers as she steals the brains she needs to survive.

Rowland manages to mix the macabre with the sincere in this book, balancing the grotesque with the sarcastic, and the desperate with the ordinary. In case you can’t read between the lines: this book has its revolting and hilarious moments. I mean, we’re talking about a zombie who’s a morgue tech. If you can’t assume we’ll have some blood and guts and some callous disregard for the dignity of corpses, then you probably shouldn’t be reading at all, okay?

This is a fun book, with a bit of depth if you care to look for it. The romance plot line is subtle enough for us anti-romance-ers (okay, me), at least until the bottom of the ninth when it kind of smacks you in the face. But it’s a gentle smack, at least, and I give Rowland props for not using the “in love in less than two days” scenario that so many books do. The “twist” ending isn’t very twisty but it’s enjoyable, if a smidgen on the abrupt side. The book is worth buying just for Dan Dos Santos’ amazing cover (even if it is pink!), but happily the inside is just as yummy as the outside.

I’m going to give it 4 and 1/2 stars, not because it isn’t awesome, but because I think it will get even better as we go along.

Oh, and I almost forgot…. If you’ve read this far, you get a special surprise! I promised the author herself I’d give away two copies of this book on my blog. And I’m fulfilling that promise. Comment on this post if you want entered to win your very own copy of WTZ. Contest closes July 14, 2011 at midnight in the US Eastern time zone. I’ll ship anywhere in the US, mostly because I can print that postage online. (If it requires a trip to the post office, it won’t get done for a very long time. I’m lazy. Sorry. Just ask my previous contest winners!) Note: I don’t care where you actually live, as long as you give me a US address to mail to. If you have a friend who’ll forward it, that’s good enough for me!

“Zombie Super Powers, Activate!”

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Review: Dead Iron by Devon Monk

Dead Iron

Age of Steam #1

Written: Devon Monk [website]

Published: July 1, 2011

Publisher: Roc

ISBN: 9780451463968

Obtained via: Author

Blurb:

Welcome to a new America that is built on blood, sweat, and gears…

In steam age America, men, monsters, machines, and magic battle for the same scrap of earth and sky. In this chaos, bounty hunter Cedar Hunt rides, cursed by lycanthropy and carrying the guilt of his brother’s death. Then he’s offered hope that his brother may yet survive. All he has to do is find the Holder: a powerful device created by mad devisers-and now in the hands of an ancient Strange who was banished to walk this Earth.

In a land shaped by magic, steam, and iron, where the only things a man can count on are his guns, gears, and grit, Cedar will have to depend on all three if he’s going to save his brother and reclaim his soul once and for all…

My Review:

This book is the steam punk story I’ve been waiting for since my husband forced me to watch Full-Metal Alchemist. Lots of authors seem to think that if only they throw a couple of gears into the story that it will qualify as steam punk. Dead Iron, though, is the only story I’ve found that manages that same creepy, brass-plated, “playing with powers beyond mortal ken” kind of feel that FMA had. But it is the human elements of both stories that call to me: among the steam-powered robots and creepy alchemical creatures is a tale of sorrow, loss, and love. Of course, there are also some kick-ass fight scenes and incredibly funny moments, too.

With werewolves, witches, fey creatures, steam punk robots, and railroad tycoons all mixing it up in the Old West, one would think that the story would be jumbled with too many disparate elements. It isn’t. I don’t know how the author does it, but she does it well. If you are of the inclination that Dead Iron might be a fluke – you need to read her short story collection, A Cup of Normal.  Monk does strange as naturally as breathing, and just as practiced. The only disappointment I have with the story is that there wasn’t another 3,000 or so pages of it. I can’t wait for the next volume so I can see what happens next!

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Review: Eat Slay Love by Jesse Petersen

Eat Slay Love

Living With the Dead #3

Written: Jesse Petersen

Published: 07/01/2011

ISBN: 1849835292

Obtained via: NetGalley

 

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The blurb for this book has what some may consider spoilers for the previous two volumes. Please continue with caution.

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Blurb:

Sarah and David have survived the zombie apocalypse. They stood side by side and fought the undead, mad scientists, and even bionic monsters until the unthinkable happened. A zombie bite. But not even that could stop them. Now, with a possible cure in hand, they’re headed east, looking for a safe zone behind the rumored “Wall.” They’re feeling pretty optimistic.

That is until Dave stops sleeping and starts lifting huge objects.

Eat. Slay.  Love.

Because they haven’t got a prayer.

My Review:

This series is my favorite recent zombie tale. I love that there’s a stable romantic couple in the lead. I love the crazy gross zombies and the weird surprises of the story. (Cult leaders! Mad scientists! Investigative reporters!) I especially love the snarky narration of the main character, Sarah.

I just enjoy this series to pieces. Each book has been more enjoyable than the last, and I can’t wait for the next (and concluding… for now) volume. They’re fairly short works, compared to some of the monster fantasies I’ve read in the past (I’m looking at you Pat Rothfuss!), only 250 – 300 pages. That means you can read each of them in a day or a weekend – making them wonderful beach reads or a great way to spend a lazy summer weekend.

If you’re already reading this series, you don’t need me to convince you to buy this book. If you’ve not yet picked this up, go back to Married with Zombies and get started!

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Review: The Neon Graveyard by Vicki Pettersson

Book 6 - Signs of the ZodiacThe Neon Graveyard

Signs of the Zodiac #6

Written: Vicki Pettersson [website]

Published: May 31, 2011

Publisher: Harper Voyager

ISBN: 978-0061456794

Obtained via: NetGalley (& Purchase)

Blurb:

Once she was a soldier for the Light, the prophesied savior who would decide the outcome of the eternal conflict raging unseen in the dark corners of her glittering hometown. Now Joanna Archer is just another mortal—still born of an impossible union of Shadow and Light . . . still hunted by both—and carrying the unborn child of a lover held captive by a depraved demon goddess. Joining forces with a band of rogue Shadow agents, Joanna’s ready to storm the stronghold of her demonic foe, risking everything to enter this ghastly, godforsaken realm where the price of admission is her eternal soul. Because in a world that has stripped her of her power, identity, and fortune, Joanna has nothing left to lose—except her baby, her future, and the epic war poised to consume the city.

My Review:

If you’re a fan of this series, I don’t need to try to persuade you to read this book. If you’re not a fan – what are you waiting for?

This series has more goodies than a reader knows what to do with: debutantes and superheroes; villains; cool weapons; casinos; the sweaty, sunny Las Vegas desert; a comic book store complete with preternaturally creepy pre-teens; defenestration; sex; violence; mystery; astrology. It’s an awfully good thing that our author does in fact know what to do with it all!

The Neon Graveyard is the absolute perfect end to the series. Joanna has been built up and torn down over and over (and over) and this ending is just as ugly and messy and visceral as her life has always been. Things do not fit together in a tidy package with a cute little Olivia-worthy bow. No. It is put together like when I try to wrap a gift: the edges of the paper are cut crooked and folded in too many places to be pretty, the bow is mangled and has too many frayed ends. But the paper is unique, providing its own entertainment, and there is enthusiasm and care wrought into every crinkle and excess line of tape.

This story has always been messy, tangled, bloody and real. This ending gives us satisfaction and hope. Happiness? Well. That’s really for the reader to decide.

Now that the story is complete, new readers can take it all in one go. I imagine that reading all six books at once is sort of like having incredible sex in the middle of the southwestern desert: fantastically freeing, exhilarating, and absolutely unique. You’ll be completely emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted by the end of it. You’ll be wrung out, sweaty, and utterly satisfied. And — if you don’t manage to die from thirst, sand abrasions, heat stroke, sun burn, or a stray scorpion — it’ll be totally worth it. Just imagine the orgasm.

I can’t wait to try it myself! (The complete read-through, that is. I am much too much of an old married woman now to even want to attempt outside nookie in the middle of a desert. Imagine the chafing! Not to mention the sunburn….)

BUY IT!*

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*This is an affiliate link.

 

A Precious Gift, or How David & Leigh Eddings’ Books Taught Me to Be A Decent Human Being

I’ve done lots of stupid things in my life. I think just about everyone has. Regardless, I try not to spend a whole lot of time on regrets because if even one thing in my past were changed, I think the whole domino pile of craziness would collapse — and, well. I kind of like where I’m at now.

So I only really ever had one big regret, and it has nothing to do with past loves or big mistakes or foolish choices.

It is simply this: I never got to meet David or Leigh Eddings. If you’re not familiar with this King and Queen of Epic Fantasy (and why aren’t you?), then you’ve probably never read the series known as The Belgariad. Or the ones titled: The Mallorean, The Elenium, The Tamuli or the stand-alone The Redemption of Althalus.

The Belgariad in particular is a universal, coming-of-age, farm boy becomes a King kind of epic fantasy. Yes, that’s become a familiar trope but dare I say (and yes, I do) that even if Eddings did not do it first, then at least he did it best. This is a truly world-encompassing tale with sorcerers, knights, both benevolent and evil gods, and a pair of dueling prophecies that could shatter the entire universe with their opposition.

I admit it – I read this series when I was very young. I read it, and loved every bit of it. From the illiterate kitchen scullion to the fiery-haired princess to the magic-wielding aunt to the curmudgeonly old story-teller/sorcerer. I didn’t love it in the same (lesser) way that I enjoyed Dragonlance, which I read at about the same time. That was adventure, but this was something else.

The Belgariad is carried not by its plot (which is, though entertaining, fairly predictable for anyone familiar with the fantasy genre), but on the backs of its characters. Garion, our hero, is very young when the story starts and is essentially “raised” during the course of the books. From his practical old friend, Durnik, he learns the value of hard work and that the best course is always honesty. From the old storyteller, Belgarath, he learns that many things can be accomplished based on the way others perceive you. From the burly Barak, he learned swordsmanship; from the knight Mandorallen, bravery; from the spy Silk, cunning and wit; from the horse-lord Hettar he learned a sort of stoic justice; from Her Imperial Highness the Princess Ce’Nedra, he learned passion; from his impulsive friend Lelldorin, he learned  devotion. And from his aunt, the sorceress Polgara, he learned the value of boundless love.

As Garion learned these things… So did I. As I read of serpent queens and mad gods, I was also taught the value of self-worth, honesty, the real meaning of courage, practicality, and much, much more.

When I am exhausted, defeated or lonely, I come back to this story, these books (and, to my great satisfaction, I am not the only person I know who does this). The characters are all the oldest of my friends. Each one has a voice of their own in my head, and I could probably quote long portions or at the very least tell the whole tale without reference. It was only recently that I started to wonder at the fact that it seems very apparent that The Belgariad taught me how to be a good person. I am grateful for that, more grateful than even I could know, I think.

So it was with a heavy heart that I heard of Leigh Eddings’ death – on my birthday, no less – in 2007. Later, I read with real devastation the announcement of David’s own death in 2009. Gone were my heroes, the most beloved of the hundreds (thousands?) of authors I have read. I think it took me another year or maybe even two before I realized the full tragedy: I would never meet either of them, would never hear them speak at a convention or book signing, and I would never possess a signed copy of any of these books.

Until now.

Slip case and cover

A dear, dear friend who has often spoiled me far more than I truly deserve has done it yet again. (There is a reason, my dear Reader, that she was the best “man” at my wedding. We could find no better person – woman OR man.)

#280!

This is a Signed, Numbered, Hard Cover, Slip-Cased, Limited, FIRST edition of The Redemption of Althalus. Althalus is, of course, my favorite of Eddings’ work now that I’m an adult. The Belgariad is an old childhood friend that taught me everything I know about growing up. Althalus is the devious, incredibly fun friend of dubious morality – a perfect grown-up companion. Garion’s world is where I retreat when I’m feeling beaten. Althalus’ realm is where I go when I’m feeling sort of naughty*. (*In a “short-sheeting the bed” prank-y kind of way, not the Adults Only kind of naughty.)

I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve friends like this, but boy am I grateful for them. And? Not only do I have the one thing I never thought I would (which is the second best option to actually meeting David and Leigh, which would be sort of difficult at the moment), but apparently the dough that was ponied up for this book also went to benefit the people of Japan after their recent disaster(s). That, I think, would make Durnik awfully proud.

I’m not ashamed to say I cried when I realized what I was holding. I don’t think that even after this entire post that I can really express to you what it means to me to be holding a tiny piece of the history of two people that, despite my never having met them, made a very large difference in my life. It is a gift beyond measure, and I am doubly blessed that not only can I hold it, but that I have a friend who would go to this distance to put this most significant gift into my hands.

The only way I could think to repay her (since she would not accept anything else) was to share this story with you.

Review: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

 

The Wise Man’s Fear

The Kingkiller Chronicle #2

Written: Patrick Rothfuss

Published: March 1, 2011

Publisher: DAW

ISBN: 0756404738

Obtained via: Purchase

Blurb:

For nearly four years, fantasy and science fiction enthusiasts have been eagerly awaiting this second volume to Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles. The first volume, The Name of the Wind, won the prestigious Quill Award and was recently voted as the third-best SFF novel of the decade on Tor.com. In this linchpin book of the trilogy, Kvothe continues his perilous search for answers about the Chandrian even as he grapples with more pressing dangers.

My Review:

Pat Rothfuss’ writing ranks about an 8 on the Sanderson scale. What? You don’t know about the Sanderson scale?

Have you ever read any of Brandon Sanderson’s stuff? Not his Wheel of Time work, but the books that spring from his own imagination like Elantris, Mistborn or — most especially — The Way of Kings? You see, Sanderson writes a mind-bogglingly good fantasy novel. A very highly complex, really good fantasy novel.

If you’ve read any of the above, especially TWoK, you’ll understand. The Sanderson scale is when you come across a book that is a mind-blowing, amazingly fun read — even though you have no idea what the capital-F is going on. And it’s an exponential scale, kind of like the one they have for earthquakes. An 8 on the Sanderson scale is like 100 times more crazily weird than a 7, and so on.

The Wise Man’s Fear is about an 8 on the Sanderson scale because Rothfuss manages to slip in about a 100,000 tiny little mysteries and then MAKES YOU FORGET ABOUT THEM in the next five words, because of the other awesomeness he is writing about.

There are the big ones, of course. Like the Chandrian and the Amyr or who Denna’s patron is. But there are hundreds of smaller ones, too. Like why is Denna’s ring so important to her? And why did Auri come to Kvothe’s room the night Ambrose drugged him? There are tons of little things like that, the ones that make me wonder for an instant and then are gone by the next page.

Intricate is about the only word I can use to describe this book. Kvothe’s whole world seems so intricately locked together that it’s no wonder it took so long for Rothfuss to write and edit book two. I couldn’t even begin to pull out all the threads for examination, let alone keep them all straight in my head if I were the author of this beast!

So yes, here is my summary of adjectives: mind-blowing, amazing, intricate, mysterious, complex. Wonderful. Stunning. (And lots of people say “stunning” in regard to books and movies, but I say I am seriously *stunned* to even think about the amount of effort that went into creating this story.)

Patrick Rothfuss is a rare and delightful storyteller, the likes of which come along by only a handful in each generation. The writer in me can only grovel, bang my forehead on the floor and weep, “I’m not worthy!” The reader in me would say something profound… Except she is still stunned by the depth and richness of this story, and can only blink and rub her eyes and look mystified.

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Reading Meme – Day Twenty-Nine

Day 29 – Current book obsession

That’s not really even a question, is it? My entire world was altered by Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. I have great friends and a loving husband because of this series. I was able to extract myself from a very bad situation because of the people I met because of this series. I’ve cos-played, traveled 8 hours by car to Atlanta (3 times!)  and even had a wedding ceremony at a convention for this series.

Sadly, Robert Jordan’s Wheel has moved past the rest of us lowly creatures, and he left us back in 2007 for great things in the next Turning. However, the successor chosen by Jordan’s widow, Harriet has given WoT fans every indication of a most satisfying, and true-to-the-series, conclusion. I don’t know a single Wheel of Time reader who won’t admit that Brandon Sanderson is this series’ absolute biggest fan. Which is as it should be.

Only one more book to go!