Give me magic, gadgets, monsters, zombies, everything that seems impossible, and throw in some tough chicks with swords. That's the stuff.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: Personal Demons (Hopeless, Maine #1)

Personal Demons (Hopeless, Maine #1) by Tom & Nimue Brown

I am not a graphic novel expert, but I do like to grab one now and then as a change of pace. I've tried some of the newer Wonder Woman's, Locke & Key, and of course The Sandman. I find myself drawn to the darker fantasy works. This one is closer to a YA dark fantasy.

The horrible occurrences in Hopeless, Maine, were just right. Creepy, kid-centered, there is violence but not to the extent of those geared for older audiences. I absolutely fell in love with the illustrations (a must with a graphic novel, of course).

Terrible things have been happening in Hopeless. The orphanage is full, people keep dying, and there are demons everywhere. A strange girl named Salamandra has been found living alone. She says her mother wants to drink her and her father has some very interesting acquaintances. She is sent to the orphanage where she encounters a dangerous enemy, finds a friend, and also shows what she can do. Salamandra might be small, but she is not helpless.

I liked the atmosphere and the little taste of Hopeless we get in Book 1. I'll keep an eye out for future installments.

[Received an ARC to review.]

Review: The Dead of Winter

The Dead of Winter (Cora Oglesby #1) by Lee Collins

This book was so good - a mix of the action I love, interesting characters, and a few kicks to the emotional gut.

Cora Oglesby is a character I always want to read about - the older, experienced, battle-hardened female lead. Cherie Priest and Philippa Ballantine have done this so well, and now I can add Lee Collins to the list.

Set in the late 1800s American West, Cora and her husband, Ben, are bounty hunters. However, the things they hunt are vampires, werewolves, hellhounds, and other dark creatures that prey on humanity. They have been doing this for a long time - 20 years, and while very experienced and kickass, Cora is starting to feel those years. Her penchant for whiskey and gambling takes its toll too.

Cora and Ben find themselves in a mining town beset by a savage killer who is hunting people for food. They also meet an English vampire hunter and scholar whose employer has a problem with vampires in his mine. Through it all Cora relies on her network of priestly connections for information and weapons, faces a terrible enemy, finds a bitter truth, and kicks some serious ass.

Cora and Ben's relationship is also unique. At the start of the book,  it's quiet and understated. You get the feeling that they know all about the other persons crap, have accepted it, and made their own groove to fit alongside. This isn't the fiery first passion. These two have lived and fought together, respect each other, and have a real partnership, to the point that Cora takes point on most of their hunts. Ben is more the bookish type. It felt very real.

And here I'm going to stop because I will not spoil one thing. I will say that there were more than a few "Damn!"'s uttered as I read it. Those kicks to the emotions I mentioned. Yeah, Collins delivered.

However, if you read it and want to discuss, we can do that.

Another book that proves the Western is not dead. Can't wait for book 2.

[I received an ARC to review.]


The winner of the Weird Girls swag giveaway is Tonya Kuper!

The winner of the Mr. Real giveaway is Merry!

Congrats and thanks to everyone for participating, and to Cecy Robson and Carolyn Crane for the giveaways!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Everything's Starting to Get Real...

Today the awesome Carolyn Crane is here! Her latest, Mr. Real, is going to be out October 30.

This is not the first time Carolyn has dropped by the Book Pile, but this time she came with some genuine Carolyn Crane art (perhaps you have seen them on her blog or other places around the internets - if not, I weep for you).

From the Mr. Real blurb:

"He finds the girl of his dreams…with the secret agent of his nightmares.

Alix Gordon is a woman who doesn’t take life too seriously. What’s the fun in that? So when she stumbles across occult software that can bring any computer image to life, she conjures up lots of awesome outfits and accessories. And then, on one drunken, horny night, she conjures up Sir Kendall, the sexy TV ad spy . . . who looks exactly like Paul Reinhardt, the super-sexy martial arts teacher who kicked her out of class three years ago.

Fighter Paul Reinhardt has good reason to hate Sir Kendall, the character he brought to life to land a part in a TV ad; he’d do anything to forget him. A cross country road trip seems just the thing . . . until Paul finds himself inexplicably drawn to Minnesota and is shocked to discover Sir Kendall - in the flesh - with the girl he’d once loved from afar. He barges into Alix and Sir Kendall’s love nest, determined to stop the madness - somehow.

But is superspy Sir Kendall transforming into something more dangerous anyone can imagine? And what will Sir Kendall do when Paul and Alix finally give into their mad lust for each other?"

My take: Mr. Real is a paranormal-romance-superspy-mashup that defies a strict category and was just so much fun to read. When Carolyn's characters mess up, they do not do it half-assed. In fact, the first lesson I gleaned from this book was to never screw with an occult computer program after the 5th beer. Definitely want the beer goggles off for that kind of decision.

I did like Alix. She of course did stupid things, but she tried so hard to do right and build herself up after years of feeling inferior. Paul, yeah, good stuff right there. He is tormented but he tries to work through it and I liked him a lot. And Sir Kendall was exactly how all of my Bond fantasies play out. Sure he's a suave, charismatic figure, but get involved with him and you'll be screwed over (and not in a happy-fun-times-way). I really liked that we got to get into all 3 of their heads. Especially Sir Kendall. Also really happy with how Paul & Alix balance each other. I do like when the couple have a prior history.

This is just book 1 and I can't wait to see what Carolyn cooks up for us next.

And now on to the Q&A!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Things are getting Weird....

Today, the very fun Cecy Robson is here promoting her new Weird Girls series!

From the blurb: "Celia Wird and her three sisters are just like other 20-something girls—with one tiny exception: they're products of a backfired curse that has given each of them unique powers that make them, well, a little weird…"

Book 1, Sealed With a Curse, is out December 31 (and Cecy will be back to talk about it on December 14). Today, we're looking at the prequel novella The Weird Girls (out December 4).

Blurbage on the novella: "The Wird sisters are different from every race on earth—human and supernatural. When human society is no longer an option for them, they move in among the resident vampires, werebeasts, and witches of the Lake Tahoe region. Could this be the true home they’ve longed for? Um, not quite. After the sisters accidentally strip a witch of her powers in a bar brawl, they soon realize the mistake will cost them. Because to take on a witch means to take on her coven. And losing the battle isn’t an option."

My reaction: The action junkie is happy! It starts with a fight in the girls room of a bar and keeps going until the end. I like the shapeshifting Celia a lot. She is strong, but her strength sets her apart from everyone else, making her lonely too. She is fiercely protective of her sisters and I love that aspect. A lot of books have relationships between men and women, but not as many positive relationships between women. While they may not always agree, these girls love each other and have each others backs. Taran the hot head, Shayna the bubbly one, and Emme the sweet, they all also have powers that make these sisters a force to be reckoned with.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tough Chick...With a Broom?

Have you been reading Clean Sweep, the free serial by Ilona Andrews?

If you have, then you have discovered the giddy excitement of a new chapter to devour.

Wait, you haven't read it yet? Then you are missing a magic innkeeper with the most awesome broom ever, a tiny dog who is a ferocious as her name, a werewolf, and a deadly creature stalking the inhabitants of a sleepy subdivision. Just your normal, suburban adventures, yes?

Throughout you'll find the action and humor that have made Ilona Andrews a permanent fixture of the Book Pile.

Right now you'll find Clean Sweep, the Innkeeper Chronicles, chapters 1-4 here. When its done it will eventually be available as an eBook (or at least, that is the plan right now).

If you sign up to receive e-mail updates from Ilona Andrews blog, or follow her on Twitter, then you'll know when the next installment is up. Or you can check obsessively a few times a day - whatever floats your boat.

It looks like I am going to have to add brooms to my list of kickass weapons.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review: Moonlight & Mechanicals

Moonlight & Mechanicals (Gaslight Chronicles #4) by Cindy Spencer Pape

I did something with this book that I really rarely do - I read book 4 without reading any of the preceding books in the series. To be fair, it is a romance and generally you can get away with reading out of order for most romance series (of course, there are exceptions). I didn't realize it was a book 4 when I first requested it, but I really had no trouble getting into the world, so it all works out. I plan on reading the other books too, so that works out better.

This is a paranormal romance with an infusion of gadgets and alt-Victoriana.

Winifred, better known as Wink, is a brilliant scientist and inventor who used to be a street urchin before she was adopted. Liam is a werewolf who works for Scotland Yard. She's been in love with him for years. He has feelings for her, but fears his werewolf self is too dangerous to be around. He has many issues stemming from his parents abusive union.

Both are involved with the Order of the Round Table, who use magic and gadgets for queen and country.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Review: Katya's World

Katya's World by Jonathan L. Howard

Right now this is one of my favorite YA books read this year, as well as my favorite YA Sci Fi book read in recent memory.

I fully do realize that a part of my excitement for this book is that it is a YA book with NO ROMANCE. I can't remember the last time I read a YA book that didn't have romance. Middle School books, yes, but not YA.

It's not that I hate romance, but it was sooooo refreshing to read a book that in the middle of a battle with a semi-sentient AI bent on destroying everyone, there wasn't a subplot about unrequited love, or which of 2 suitors to pick. And it could have happened, and might have even worked for me, but the story worked so well without it that I'm glad it wasn't added because "that's what you do these days with YA."

I get asked by folks to recommend books, and a common question I get is if I know of any new YA titles that don't have romance. Now I have an answer.

Katya's World is an action-filled sci fi set on a planet completely filled with water, so everyone travels by submarine. I freaking love anything with submarines. I used to watch the Disney version of 20K Leagues over and over again. I wanted to live on the Nautilus. My inner child is still squeeing.

Katya's ancestors were colonists from Earth who braved a new, harsh environment and survived. When the Earth, or Terran, forces finally came to "check on them", the colonists weren't interested in being ruled by anyone other than themselves. Cue a war that the planet is still recovering from.

Katya has finally earned her license and is ready to start working on her uncle's sub. Kids grow up fast here, and they have an ingrained sense of responsibility and rugged determination. Without it, they wouldn't live very long.

Her uncle's sub is commandeered by a Fed transporting a prisoner. Soon, they make contact with something that the Terran forces left behind and Katya is on an adventure that will test her trust in others, her bravery, and her skills.

Katya was strong, older than her years, very smart - my kind of lead. Kane is an intriguing character. I got in the end why he did what he did, but sometimes I had to wonder. I thought the other characters were well done as well. This is the first book, so there is a lot of introduction. It will be interesting to see where it all goes next.

There is a lot of action here, and I felt like I was hurtling to the end, but it kept my attention and I really enjoyed the book.

I will be eagerly awaiting book 2.

Katya's World will be out November 6, 2012.

[Received an ARC to review.]

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Review: Blackwood

Blackwood by Gwenda Bond

The second I heard that Blackwood featured the disappearance of the Roanoke colonists, I HAD to read it. The Roanoke mystery is one of my favorite historical conundrums. What happened to them? Where did they go? Did anyone survive?

This one begins in present day Roanoke Island. Miranda Blackwood is an intern with The Lost Colony production. It is a welcome respite from her days of tending her alcoholic father and dealing with constant taunts from the locals. The Blackwoods have always been known as screwups, cursed with being lowlifes, and always stuck on Roanoke.

Then Miranda sees something strange, a gigantic ghostly ship, and the next day, 114 people have vanished, her father included. Although he isn't missing, he's dead and soon the snake birthmark on his face is now on Miranda.

Phillips has a bad reputation - he broke every rule he could in an effort to get sent away, the only way he knew to escape the voices of the dead that invade his mind. However, when 114 people disappear from the island, Phillips father, the police chief, knows something weird is going on, and that he needs Phillip's help.

Soon Phillips and Miranda have teamed up, trying to stop what was started years ago when the first colony vanished.

There's alchemy, curses, and two leads that I really liked. Miranda is geeky (her favorite curse is frak) and snarky. She's more than a bit bitter about how she has been treated, and is rightfully freaked out by what is happening. She is not completely altruistic, but she also doesn't back down. Phillips knows about being cursed - he hears the voices of the dead and can't control it. He and Miranda have a bit of a past history. At first, I thought that their teaming up happened a bit too fast, but as I got to know the characters better, it made sense.

Blackwood is fast paced with some romance. It is also the rare YA standalone, so the story has an ending and you won't be waiting a year (or more) to find out how it all ends. While I do like reading series, it is so nice to have a standalone too.

I'll be looking for the next book from Bond.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: The Assassin's Curse

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

I really got into this one. The pages flew by and I had a lot of fun reading it. You know I love YA, and I can usually handle ones set in high school, but I've read lots of those lately. I LOVE that this is a YA fantasy outside of the schoolroom, in a completely unique world.

Ananna is a pirate, raised in a pirate clan on the seas. She is an expert thief, knows her way around a sword, and while not bloodthirsty she also doesn't run from a fight. She also has a good sense of self-preservation and while her manners might be rough, she is very intelligent.

So, I was very, very happy with our lead.

Ananna's parents are trying to marry her off to the pretty boy son of another pirate clan. Of course, Ananna has other plans. Her father taught her to take advantage of opportunities when they arise, and she jumps at the first chance to escape. Her intended's family sends an assassin, Naji, after her, a blood magician and the stuff of legend and nightmares. However, Ananna saves the assassin's life and he becomes bound as her protector, something neither one wants. He is overcome with intense pain if she is too far away from him or if she is in danger. Ananna and Naji team up to find a way to break the curse and stay one step ahead of everyone trying to kill them.

This is action-packed goodness right here. There is a teensy bit of romance, something that I'm sure will develop in another book. I liked how Naji and Ananna start forging a tenuous friendship. Neither one trusts easily. I really liked both leads and I'm looking forward to them traveling to new lands with even more adventures.

The story is definitely not done, but I got enough for now.

Highly recommended if you like YA Fantasy, fairytales, magic and pirates.

[I received an ARC to review.]