Author’s Bookshelf: Sentinels of New Orleans by Suzanne Johnson — July 22, 2013

Author’s Bookshelf: Sentinels of New Orleans by Suzanne Johnson

Sorry that post title is a bit misleading. It’s not one book, but two that I’ll be discussing today. But they’re the first two in a series so I’m going to lump them together.

Royal Street & River Road by Suzanne Johnson (Books 1 & 2 in the Sentinels of New Orleans UF series)

Why I read them: The author recently sold books 4 & 5 in the series. When the deal listing showed up in my inbox the description of the series intrigued me. So I bought the first book.

Mini-review: I devoured these books. DJ, the MC, is smart, tries to be sassy and witty (and usually fails at the latter), and funny. (Was that redundant?) And the men in her life? Let’s just say that if the men in her life showed up in mine, it’d be totally complicated and well, interesting. I love the three guys who make her life super-complicated and yet help her navigate the complexities with relative ease. The stories are intriguing blends of PNR and mysteries. But definitely minus the weak heroines of some PNR stories. How’s a girl to choose between a were, a shifter, and an undead suave pirate? (Technically not a zombie. Zombies are mentioned as separate from the historically undead, as the pirate is.)

Final review: Thumbs up. I was reminded of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, but I liked these books a lot more than the first two of his. Definitely will be reading book 3 when it is published next month.

Also, I just have to point out how much I like the covers. While it’s the girl-on-cover trend, it actually fits the character. They haven’t just put her in a pretty dress to market the books. And the staff she’s holding? Key to a couple of plots/subplots and a big factor in the books. A cover that actually relates to what’s on the inside seems so rare these days, especially in YA. (Which this is not.)

Disclaimer: A bit on the salty side where language is concerned. No explicit scenes (yet).

Author’s Bookshelf 6/16/13-6/22/13 — June 21, 2013

Author’s Bookshelf 6/16/13-6/22/13

This time around, I’m not putting the book title in the post header. That’s because I’ve read more than one book this go-around and I’m lumping them together with short reviews.

First up is Brandon Sanderson’s The Rithamtist.

Why I read it: My brother loves Sanderson’s books. When I told my brother the author would be signing at a couple local-ish spots in June as a heads up for him, he said he’d only go if I went. Not wanting to go into the signing without ever having read something of Sanderson’s, I opted for the book he’s promoting with this tour.

Mini-review: Slow start isn’t a bad thing. In this case, it was. The book dragged for the first 100 pages or so. It picked up after that and I did finish the book. I never could quite reconcile the modern-sounding language with the Victorian-era alternate-Earth setting. It actually took me probably half the book to sort out this was an alternate history rather than a post-apocalyptic setting. (Dense, me?) I honestly thought it was something like Hunger Games where a cataclysmic seismic event had fractured the North American continent and we’d reverted to Latin names for everything. The story itself was intriguing but the ending was a let-down.

Final review: Thumbs sideways. Intriguing premise but in the end not my cup of tea, I guess.

Next, I’m going to lump the other two books together. Storm Front and Fool Moon, both by Jim Butcher.

Why I read them: My brother loves the series. Thought I’d give it a try.

Mini-review: As with Sanderson’s book, the premise is intriguing. But in the end, the style and genre just aren’t my cup. All the side characters felt very flat and often times I found the plots too convoluted for sanity. I did laugh at many parts, mostly just little one-liners here and there. That said, I haven’t fallen in love with Harry Dresden enough to take the plunge on the further series.

Final review: Thumbs sideways. I won’t be reading more of Dresden but I’ve spent worse time than reading these books.

Author’s Bookshelf: Transcend by Christine Fonseca — June 14, 2013

Author’s Bookshelf: Transcend by Christine Fonseca

Yay! Another book review!

I’m slowly working my way through my TBR pile. (Though the curse of the TBR Fairy is that books keep getting added so it’s never going to get to zero.)

Why I read it: I’ve been dying to get my hands on this one for a while now. I finally just had my local indie order a copy from the publishers for me.

A, I love the cover. I mean, how gorgeous is that? And it perfectly conveys the main character’s struggle and story arc. B, it’s a riff on Phantom of the Opera. Any excuse to continually hum Weber’s music is a bonus in my book. C, it sounded so stinking awesome from the back cover copy.

Mini-review: This pretty much lived up to my expectations. And honestly, if I ever were to get my PhD in English and start a teaching career, I would use this book. I would use this book in my curriculum as an example of gothic horror and its elements. It is just that good. It’s literary and yet accessible to even the most casual of readers. The craft of this book is beautiful as well.

Final review: Thumbs up

About the book: All seventeen-year-old composer Ien Montgomery desires is an escape from his family’s rigid expectations for his life; someone to inspire his music. When he meets a beautiful violin-prodigy, Kiera McDougal, his life music takes on new life. With her, he imagines a future outside of his parents’ control. That is, until a horrible accident tears them apart. 

Sent to die in a sanatorium, Ien’s obsession for Kiera grows unbearable. Tortured by thoughts he can’t escape and the truth of his monstrous disfigurement, he flees, desperate to exact revenge on the people that ruined his life – his parents. But, vengeance is empty. Betrayed by those closest to him, Ien discovers that the price for his happiness may be his sanity.

Set amidst the landscape of New York’s Gilded Age, and inspired by Phantom of the Opera, TRANSCEND exposes the fine line between love and madness.


About the author: Critically acclaimed nonfiction and YA author Christine Fonseca is dedicated to helping children of all ages find their voice in the world. Drawing on her expertise as an educational psychologist, her nonfiction titles address issues of emotional intensity, resiliency and giftedness. In fiction, she explores the darker aspects of humanity and delivers gothic thrillers that take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. In life, she teaches her own children to embrace their unique talents and find their voice by being a force of positive change in the world.

When she’s not writing or developing programs to support children with exceptional needs, she can be found spending time with her family, sipping too many skinny vanilla lattes at her favorite coffee house or playing around on Facebook and Twitter.



Author’s Bookshelf: Transparent by Natalie Whipple — April 22, 2013

Author’s Bookshelf: Transparent by Natalie Whipple

Guys, I’m nearly speechless as to what to say about this book. Speechless in a good way. I was lucky enough to score a chance to read an ARC of Natalie’s book and wow am I ever glad I had this on my “wanna read” list.

I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads. That’s a pretty rare feat, for a book to earn that. I have to be utterly swept away and captivated. The book has to take me on the wildest roller coaster ride I’ve ever been on. (Not hard since I’ve never been on an actual roller coaster.)

And this book totally did. I loved this book so much. And I know the biggest reason.

It’s a very personal reason but it’s there. You see, Fiona felt so much like me. I think it might stem from the bullying I’ve already talked about on here. But there’s more than that. There’s this sequence where she has this beautiful dream that’s so much what I dream about. And her feelings when she wakes up from it and talks about how many times she’s had that. Well, that really hit home to me.

Like Fiona, I’ve never believed that anyone could find anything in me attractive. I’m not fishing for compliments here. I’m just stating a fact. I’m that girl who would ask “Is this some sort of sick joke?” if a cute guy hit on me. Well, if that cute guy even so much as said “Hi” I’d ask that. I really felt Fiona’s insecurities when she first ends up in Arizona.

And the ending. Well, there are things in the ending I genuinely didn’t see coming. True surprises to me. I cried, guys. I cried at the end. I haven’t cried at a book’s ending since the last Harry Potter book. Do you know how long that’s been?

Transparent debuts May 21 and it should really be on everyone’s list.

The details:

Transparent by Natalie Whipple

Natalie’s website

Book blurb:

Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona McClean actually is.

An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona’s own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years– everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults.

After sixteen years, Fiona’s had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona’s father isn’t giving up that easily.

Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.

If you have a question you’re dying to ask me, something you want me to address either here on my site or over at the Dojo, send it to info(at)stephanie-mcgee(dot)com

Comments and other fun stuff can be sent to stephanie(at)stephanie-mcgee(dot)com

Author’s Bookshelf: The Breakaway by Michelle Davidson Argyle — May 3, 2012

Author’s Bookshelf: The Breakaway by Michelle Davidson Argyle

Why I read it: I received an ARC from Michelle as part of her pre-release promotional swing. I wanted to read it, which is why I’d signed up for the chance to get an ARC.

Mini-review: I liked the book. I did. Michelle’s writing is phenomenal and the bar by which I judge my own works. It’s not right, but it is. Her writing is so lyrical.

And now I want my own fancy-pants camera. So jealous of Naomi for that one.

Ah, Naomi. I have a love-hate relationship with this girl. So much of the time I just wanted to smack her upside the head and down the other. But it’s the mark of excellent writing to elicit such intense emotions in the reader. I felt every emotion and had to keep reminding myself to read what was on the page and not skip forward for that emotion to be released.

I have to say that the book did start to feel a little long. But that could have just been that it was kind of hot where I was reading it and so that was making me cranky. I did enjoy the book though. It’s definitely worth the time invested in it to read.

The Breakaway is just that, a break from the usual. This is YA but there’s a healthy dose of adult perspective throughout. It’s a fresh perspective in the YA genre and for that it’s absolutely worth the read.

Final say: Thumbs up. If you’re intrigued about it, read it.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: When Naomi Jensen is kidnapped, it takes her parents two days to realize she’s missing. Escape isn’t high on her list of priorities when all she has to return to is an abusive boyfriend and parents who never paid much attention to her. For the first time in her life she’s part of a family—even if it is a family of criminals. But she’s still a captive. In a desperate attempt to regain some control in her life, Naomi embarks on a dangerous plan to make one of her kidnappers think she’s falling in love with him. The plan works too well, and when faced with the chance to escape, Naomi isn’t sure she wants to take it.
The Breakaway is available now! You can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and anywhere else books are sold, both as an e-book and in print. Find it for a discounted price on the publisher’s website here: http://shop.rhemalda.com/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle lives and writes in Utah, surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. She loves the seasons, but late summer and early fall are her favorites. She adores chocolate, sushi, and lots of ethnic food, and loves to read and write books in whatever time she can grab between her sword-wielding husband and energetic daughter. She believes a simple life is the best life.

You can find Michelle on her blog, http://theinnocentflower.blogspot.com.

Author’s Bookshelf: Witch Song by Amber Argyle — October 24, 2011

Author’s Bookshelf: Witch Song by Amber Argyle

Why I read it: I received a free copy in exchange for reviewing this book. It also intrigued me which is why of the five books I received free from the publisher this is the first one I chose to read.

Mini-review:

First off, this book is engaging.  When I had to put the book down I thought it would be much later than it was, I was that engrossed.  That said, I had to put it down for some other things and it was about three days before I picked it up again.  While it’s engrossing, I wasn’t dying to get back to it.

Brusenna, the main character, is fifteen but seems much older than that at times.  Yes, there are times where she seems to be her age, too.  She’s equal parts “I can do this” and “I can’t do this, but I’m going to try anyway.”  Which is great for an MC.  I do wish she’d had a bigger part in some of the story rather than being just a bystander or being acted upon.

There was a lot of focus on Brusenna through the story, to be expected when she’s the MC, but I felt at times that was to the detriment of the secondary characters, and to a certain extent the antagonist.  Overall this was a very enjoyable read and I’ll probably pick up the next book from the author, as I’m assuming it’s a continuation of some of the threads left open at the end of this one.

Final Say: Thumbs up. If you enjoy fantasy I think you’ll enjoy this unique take on magic and sorcery.  It’s available now through the publishers and Amazon.  (And probably other places.)

Author’s Bookshelf: Monarch by Michelle Davidson Argyle — September 15, 2011

Author’s Bookshelf: Monarch by Michelle Davidson Argyle

Why I read it:
Michelle is a friend of mine and I really enjoyed her novella, Cinders, which she published last year so I knew I was going to enjoy the ride this time.  I’ve been waiting for this one since I read and offered feedback on Michelle’s synopsis ages ago.  When I got the chance to read an ARC of this one, too, I jumped at the opportunity.

Mini-review:
There is something entirely captivating about Michelle’s writing.  There’s a lyric quality to it which pulls you along from page to page.  (Taut pacing and excellent characterization help with that one, too.)  I liked Nick and Lilian instantly and waited with bated breath to see if they’d get their happy ever after (or happy for now).  I won’t spoil anything for you, don’t worry.  The setting was spectacular, I felt like I was right there next to the characters, whether they were sweating bullets in Brazil or on a mountain in West Virginia.
This is a book I’ve not been able to get out of my head since I read it.  I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Final review: Thumbs up. Go. Buy. Thank me later.

About the author:
Michelle is a mother, artist, and writer who lives in the Rocky Mountains with her sword-wielding husband and energetic daughter.  She writes contemporary, literary, and fantasy fiction.

Michelle believes imagination is the only rule in fiction.  This is the foundation of her writing, and she plans to strengthen it with each and every story she writes.

Oh, and she likes peanut butter and tomato sandwiches.  And cheese.  Lots and lots of good cheese.

The all-important links:
Book Depository
Amazon
Website/Blog
Facebook
Twitter

Author’s Bookshelf: Shifting by Bethany Wiggins — September 13, 2011

Author’s Bookshelf: Shifting by Bethany Wiggins

Hi all!  So, I know it’s been a long time since I did anything under this category.  But I’ve read a couple of ARCs recently that I just couldn’t not talk about here on the blog.  I’ll be posting my own review of each of them (there are only two right now) this week.

Shifting by Bethany Wiggins

Why I read it:
I’ve met Bethany and her sister before.  They’re both amazing women so I always knew that when they debuted I’d read them.  This is Bethany’s debut novel and I had the opportunity arise to participate in an ARC tour for her book.  (Thanks, Elana!)

Mini-review:

I struggled at first to connect to the character, but that’s just a personal thing, I think.  I mean, I’ve never faced the humiliations Maggie Mae goes through in this book, though I have faced bullies in the past.  And I’ve never faced the foster care system so for me it took a couple of chapters to click with the MC.  But I did click.  And I liked that even though this is a romance, she never once feels like she’s going to just die if Bridger doesn’t reciprocate.  She fights it and she fights back against the bad things she faces.  I didn’t once question whether this is a girl I’d want my (hypothetical) daughters to read and admire.

But I love, love, love, love anything to do with Navajo culture.  My dad grew up in New Mexico, my Grandpa owned trading posts on the reservation, and it’s always just been there as something I’m peripherally familiar with.  So the idea of taking the paranormal romance genre and dropping it into that world was really appealing to me.  Plus I’m often a sucker for a good YA romance.
The best thing about this is Bridger O’Connell, the love interest.  He’s a good guy.  Not a “bad boy,” not a player.  Just a good guy who is trying to do the right thing.

Final review: Thumbs up. You should be pre-ordering this one or rushing to your bookstore of choice on September 27th.

About the author:

Bethany Wiggins has always been an avid reader, but not an avid student.  Seriously!!!  She failed ninth grade English because she read novels instead of doing her homework.  In high school, she sat alone at lunch and read massive hardback fantasy novels (Tad Williams and Robert Jordan anyone?).  It wasn’t until the end of her senior year that the other students realized she was reading fiction – not the Bible.

Seven years ago, Bethany’s sister dared her to start writing an hour a day until she completed a novel.  Bethany wrote a seven-hundred page fantasy novel that she wisely let no one read – but it taught her how to write.  Since then she has completed six novels, each one a little better than the one before.

The all-important links:
Book Depository
Amazon
Website
Blog
Twitter
Facebook

Author’s Bookshelf February 15 — February 15, 2010

Author’s Bookshelf February 15

So, now that I’m reading for pleasure again, I thought I’d revive my author’s bookshelf series.

The 39 Clues: In Too Deep by Jude Watson

Location in Barnes and Noble: B&N Jr.

Why I read it:

I’m hooked on the series.  I have been since I read the first couple for a paper in grad school.

Mini-review:

Sigh.  The MCs are in constant danger.  Again.  This time they’re in Australia, following a path mysteriously shown to them by someone who wants them to know more about their now-deceased parents.  I am getting a little tired of the “danger at every turn” aspect of this series.  Yeah, their relatives are out to kill them.  I get that.  But, really, it’s getting tiring.  It’s making it tiring to read the books.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re super-entertaining.  I know I’m not the target audience for these books and I really do think that the taruget demographic won’t get so tired of the constant danger.  They’ll more likely be thinking, “How are they going to get out of this one now?”

I do like the character arc appearing for one of the secondary characters.  I’m quite pleased with it.  And the character arcs for the MCs, well, I’m torn on those.  The way the older girl’s arc is going I find quite compelling but I’m just not seeing any change really in her little brother.  I do hope to see this begin to change in future installments, but I understand that he’s only 11 and so there’s not much to change other than maybe he’ll hit puberty early.

I’m not trashing this book.  I’m just giving my honest opinion.  It’s well-written, entertaining, and fast-paced.  Maybe a littel too fast-paced.

Final review: Thumbs up.

The 39 Clues: The Viper’s Nest by Peter Lerangis

Location in Barnes and Noble: B&N Jr.

Why: Hooked.

Mini-review:

We continue the character arc begun in book 6, at least for the girl MC.  I am still finding it quite compelling and it’s getting even more emotionally complicated. Which is a very good thing.  (Side note: Did someone check the book for typos?  Because there’s a paragraph or two in a couple spots where there seems to be an excess of question marks, many where there should be periods.  Just curious.)  The little brother is still pretty much the same though he might be showing early signs of a character arc coming his way.  I quite enjoyed the lessened sense of impending doom and danger in this book.  It was a nice breath of fresh air, really.  The kids weren’t in constant jeopardy.  The girl MC even had time to sit and play a nice game of chess in the middle of everything.  Overal I felt this book was less emotionally taxing on me.

Final review: Thumbs up.

FTC disclaimer: I bought these books of my own free will with my hard-earned money.  No one paid me to review these and so you don’t have any reason to look twice at this blog.

Bookshelf: A Retrospective — September 17, 2009

Bookshelf: A Retrospective

First off, I just have to squee a little that I’ve hit 50 followers. I am humbled to think that so many out there find my words to be of value to them in some way. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I truly would not have made it so far in my writing journey these past few months without your support.

On Tuesday, I posted my TBR list. Since I really couldn’t come up with an idea for today’s post (shocker, I know), I thought I’d post the list of the books I’ve read so far this year. At the end of the year I will update this list with any books I manage to read before then.

The list:

Poetry
Ariel by Sylvia Plath
Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes
How Long She’ll Last in This World by Maria Melendez
the volcano sequence by Alicia Suskin Ostriker
Ancestor Worship by Brock Dethier
The Empty Boat by Michael Sowder
Itch Like Crazy by Wendy Rose
The Business of Fancydancing by Sherman Alexie
187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border by Juan Felipe Herrera

Fiction
Talking God by Tony Hillerman
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Fools Crow by James Welch
The Surrounded by D’Arcy McNickle
Tracks by Louise Erdrich
Ghost Singer by Anna Lee Walters
Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King
Bone Game by Louis Owens
Solar Storms by Linda Hogan
Flight by Sherman Alexie
Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
The 39 Clues Book 3: The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis
The 39 Clues Book 4: Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson
The 39 Clues Book 5: The Black Circle by Patrick Carman
Silvertongue by Charlie Fletcher
Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry
Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary by Brandon Mull
The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce
Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson
Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
Monster Hunters by Dean Lorey

Non-fiction
The Art of War by Lao Tzu
A Pocket Guide to Herbs by Jenny Linford
The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life by Noah Lukeman
Elements of Fiction: Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
Astronomy for Dummies by Stephen P. Maran, PhD

Well, there you have it. It’s as accurate as I could make it. I did give a bunch of books away recently so I no longer own some of these titles. And I may have given away something I read this year but since I don’t have it I can’t jog my memory of it. Oh well.