Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Reading Challenge Update: April 2013

Here is where I stand with the challenges I have joined after the month of April (only challenges that I read books for this month are featured here):

Audio Book (4/12)
4. Eve & Adam by Katherine Applegate & Michael Grant

100 Books in a Year (44/100)
39. Ill Met by Moonlight by Sarah A. Hoyt
40. Many Bloody Returns by Charlaine Harris & Toni L. P. Kelner, eds.
41. Eve & Adam by Katherine Applegate & Michael Grant
42. Spontaneous Performance by Marsh Cassady
43. The Grace Painter by Mark Romang
44. Olivia's Journey by B. G. Lashbrooks
45. Deep Betrayal by Anne Greenwood Brown
46. Revenge of a Not-So-Pretty Girl by Carolita Blythe
47. The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma
48. The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough

Historical Fiction (9/10)
7. Ill Met by Moonlight by Sarah A. Hoyt
8. Olivia's Journey by B. G. Lashbrooks
9. The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

Aussie Authors (1/3)
1.  The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough

Chunkster (2/6)
1. The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma
2. The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough

Sophomore (2/10)
1. Deep Betrayal by Anne Greenwood Brown
2. Revenge of a Not-So-Pretty Girl by Carolita Blythe

YA Mythology (2/10)
2. Deep Betrayal by Anne Greenwood Brown

Standalone (3/15)
3. Revenge of a Not-So-Pretty Girl by Carolita Blythe

YA/MG Fantasy (7/10)
7. Deep Betrayal by Anne Greenwood Brown

Immortal (5/12)
4. Ill Met by Moonlight by Sarah A. Hoyt
5. Many Bloody Returns by Charlaine Harris & Toni L. P. Kelner, eds.

British Books (4/12)
3. Ill Met by Moonlight by Sarah A. Hoyt
4. The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

Free Reads (11/12)
9. Eve & Adam by Katherine Applegate & Michael Grant
10. Spontaneous Performance by Marsh Cassady
11. Olivia's Journey by B. G. Lashbrooks

A to Z (21/26)
20. Many Bloody Returns by Charlaine Harris & Toni L. P. Kelner, eds.
21. The Darwin Elevator by Jason H. Hough

Self-Published (4/10)
4. The Grace Painter by Mark Romang

The Darwin Elevator

The Darwin Elevator
by Jason M. Hough
published by Del Rey
July 2013
ISBN 978-0-345-53712-6
Why Read?: Net Galley, Book Club
Challenges: Aussie Authors, Chunkster, A to Z, 100 Books in a Year

Jason M. Hough takes an interesting spin on the sci-fi genre in The Darwin Elevator.  While firmly a dystopian novel, it also contains elements of space opera and zombie fiction, making it more accessible across genres and a truly entertaining read.

Skyler Luiken makes a decent living as a scavenger since he is immune to the animalistic disease that has affected everyone living outside of the aura of the space elevator that landed in Darwin, Australia.  No one really knows why the elevator is there or where the disease came from, but they know the Builders will be back…although only one man has an idea as to when.  Neil Platz is the richest man in Darwin, and his company leads all research into the Builders’ works.  Working for him is Tania Sharma, a brilliant researcher and daughter of his former partner.  When the elevator begins failing and the disease gets stronger, Platz hires Skyler’s crew to retriever some data cubes to aid in Tania’s research into the return of the Builders.  What they all discover is something that not even Platz could have predicted.

Hough presents some really great ideas in The Darwin Elevator.  The dystopian world he has created is raw and gritty, and the disease that turns humans into animalistic zombies is truly terrifying.  The characters are all very well-formed as we meet quite a few of the major players in Darwin – both on the ground and in space.  The one flaw was that a future date was actually given.  What made this harmful was that while research technology seemed to be realistically advanced for 250 years in the future, weaponry seems to have not aged a day, and this often would throw me out of the story.

Even though I am not the biggest fan of some of the subgenres that Jason M. Hough drew from, I really enjoyed The Darwin Elevator.  It is a fast-paced read that really pulls the reader in.  And the ending definitely left me eagerly anticipating the next installment.

Rating 4/5

Elsewhere Online: April 2013

As you know from my Stacking the Shelves posts, I review for two other websites (bookloons.com and bittenbybooks.com). As I cannot post my reviews there and here, but I would still like to count the books I read for the challenges, I am going to have a post like this at the end of the every month listing the books I reviewed and what challenges the went towards.

Title: Deep Betrayal
Author: Anne Greenwood Brown
Challenges: Sophomore, YA Mythology, YA/MG Fantasy, 100 Books in a Year

Title: Revenge of a Not-So-Pretty Girl
Author: Carolita Blythe
Challenges: Sophomore, Standalone, 100 Books in a Year

Title: The Map of Time
Author: Felix J. Palma
Challenges: Historical Fiction, Chunkster, British, 100 Books in a Year

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Assured Destruction

Assured Destruction
by Michael F. Stewart
published by author
Why Read?: Review
Challenges: 100 Books in a Year

If you are looking for a unique YA mystery, Michael F. Stewart’s Assured Destruction definitely fits the bill.

High schooler Jan Rose is an expert at computers.  Working long hours at Assured Destruction for her wheelchair-bound mom, Jan does not have much of a social life outside of school, so she creates her own friends based off of information she recovers off of hard-drives dropped off for shredding.  While Jan knows it is not right to pry into personal files – much less not shred the drives, which is what the customers are paying for – she does not see the harm in creating her Shadownet of online profiles…until very personal files from those stolen hard drives end up leaking out and causing serious problems for the very real former owners.  Determine to clear her name, Jan must delve even deeper into the world of hacking, risking her own life in the process.

While Jan is not the most upstanding protagonist for a YA novel, she is incredibly likeable, despite her numerous faults.  She also has some very admirable spunk to her, which helps to make her story fast and engaging.  While Jan herself is unique, what really makes Assured Destruction stand out is the multimedia aspect Stewart has woven in.  Various words are hotlinked to the characters’ online accounts adding another dimension to the story that can only be found with an ebook.  The story itself, though, is just as enticing without these Easter eggs.

Assured Destruction is a wonderful start to what promises to be a fun and fast-paced YA mystery series.  Michael F. Stewart has definitely found a way to stand out in the genre.

Rating 4/5

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Stacking the Shelves: 4/14-4/20

Requested from Paperbackswap:
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield
The Charlatan's Boy by Jonathan Rogers
The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields
Criminal by Karin Slaughter

Olivia's Journey

Title: Olivia's Journey
Author:  B. G. Lashbrooks
Publisher: Astraea
ISBN: 978-1-936852-24-6
Why Read?: Book Club
Challenges: Historical Fiction, Free Reads, 100 Books in a Year

Thoughts: I was not really sure what to expect with Olivia's Journey because I am not the biggest fan of Civil War fiction, but I absolutely loved it.  Lashbrooks pulls the reader in immediately and writes an excellent story of love and survival during the war.

Rating: 5 stars

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Grace Painter

The Grace Painter
by Mark Romang
published by author
Why Read?: Review
Challenges: Self-Published, 100 Books in a Year

Mark Romang’s The Grace Painter is unlike anything the title could imply.  What sounds like a gentle, character-driven story of redemption is actually a high-speed thriller about redemption.

After discovering that his partner shot and killed his family, Matthew London leaves the NYPD and moves to Louisiana where he lives as Jon Rafter, a quiet fisherman and painter.  After living this peaceful existence for eight years, his life is turned upside when during a hurricane, he finds injured FBI agent Annie Crawford on the side of the road.  It seems she is on a mission to recover a kidnapped child from a family of known drug dealers who has kidnapped another child decades ago.  As the storm rages, the fight to rescue the child and take down a major drug cartel escalates as Jon gets dragged back into the sort of life he thought he has left well behind him.

Romang starts out with intense action that never lets up for long the whole way through the novel.  Even though the plot is mostly action-driven, Romang makes sure to also develop the characters along the way.  And while there is a Christian undertone to the whole story, the message is easily accessible to people of any faith.

Mark Romang does a wonderful job with the suspense in The Grace Painter.  I just wish the title gave more sense of the thrilling plot contained within.

Rating 3/5

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Privilege Book Blast

A Privilege:
The Angel Chronicles, Book 3

The beloved Angel/Warrior team face pure evil in their final climactic story!

The first time they were sent down, Irish lives were led. Emily, the angel, ended up embedded in murder and lost in the realm of true love. While Matthew, the warrior, took over a life that left blood on his hands and anger in his soul.

With their second coming, Emily found herself facing an oncoming war that brought her to the shores of America. While Matthew tried desperately to unveil the evil character of a young man who was intent on locking his partner in a ‘gilded’ cage.

Now...Emily and Matthew find that their lives are all their own. Yet, all the memories, hatred, longing and regret have come hand-in-hand with this newfound freedom.

In small town U.S.A., Matthew finds himself loving his new life. From his military school existence to a new, ‘odd’ friend who’s arrived in town, Matthew’s looking forward to graduation and heading off into a brilliant future with Emily by his side.

Emily wants nothing more than to hide. Although doing her best to fit in, she lives a life on the edge, wondering when her past love with reappear to either forgive or seek revenge on the angel who let him down. Battling the shadows that seem to be breaking her soul in two, Emily soon discovers that her small, quiet town has a secret that’s beyond dangerous...

As she and Matthew join forces to help a ‘haunted’ victim, they open the door on a mystery neither of them can believe. A true villain has returned from the past, and not even their heavenly family will be able to save them. This time they’re on their own, as they face a fight that could lead them straight to Hell…and end the angel/warrior team forever.


Without a word, Matthew reached out, took Emily by the hand and pulled her down beside him. He looked into her eyes and smiled. “I knew my Emily was still in there.”

Out of the blue, the room became incredibly hot, as if Gabriel had entered in order to give a lesson to his favorite students. “What?”

“That spark.” He pulled Emily’s face closer before she could push herself away. “You’ve been acting all this time like you’re just here to sit and wait it out until you’re lucky enough to go Home. But you’re still in there, Emily. You still have all that energy and belief in there and you want to do something. That’s the partner I know.”

Shaking her head, Emily listened to her own breathing intensify as she stared at his full lips and wondered why she felt so completely and utterly strange...vulnerable even. “I want to help this girl. This is a job, maybe my only job down here. She saw a ghost and she wants me to help her out, that’s all.”

“And you will.” Matthew captured Emily’s lips, and she could no longer feel the breath in her lungs. Completely different than the one kiss they’d shared up above so long ago, this one was far more demanding, as if Matthew was a young man determined to kiss his human love for the very first time.

Sitting back, Emily practically jumped off the bed.

“I’m sorry,” she heard him whisper behind her. “I guess I was just excited to see you again.”

Not trusting her voice, she remained silent.

“We have jobs, but we also have a life to live. Our own lives this time around. Maybe you should think about adding that into your angelic plans.” Matthew continued softly, “Jason isn’t here, Emily.”

The name being said out loud sent a chill down Emily’s spine. It reminded her of the vow she’d made a long time ago—a vow that an angel couldn’t break.

She cleared her throat. “It doesn’t matter if he’s here. We were sent to do a job, and maybe helping this little girl prove her story is what I need to begin.”

Standing up, Matthew looked as if he was a man who wanted nothing more than to turn back the clock and erase the name he’d spoken aloud. He walked to the open window. “Well, I hope the job goes well. Good luck with it.”

“Matthew,” Emily took a step toward him. “Don’t leave like this.”

He nodded at the book on the bed. “You have your mission, Emily...your job. Ghosts, goblins, lost souls—knock yourself out.” He took a deep breath. “I wonder when you’re going to figure out that the living souls around you would like some of your attention as well.”

Closing her eyes, Emily shed silent tears as she heard his feet hit the ground beneath her window. A friend, a partner, the one who actually listened, was now just an angry young man racing back to The Armory—a place where warriors reigned.

Emily sighed. She’d done it again. No matter how hard she tried to be good, her mouth always got her into trouble. She needed Matthew to understand. She’d made a promise to a young man a long time ago; a promise that was supposed to last for eternity. How was she to know at the time that their eternity would include death by her hand? Had the second time around broken their vow? Emily had no idea. But whatever happened she could not and would not offer Matthew her heart if payment was still due for her past sins. Above all, Matthew was the last person who deserved to be punished for her mistakes.

Author Amy Lignor

Amy Lignor began her career at Grey House Publishing in northwest Connecticut where she was the Editor-in-Chief of numerous educational and business directories.

Now she is a published author of several works of fiction. The Billy the Kid historical The Heart of a Legend; the thriller, Mind Made; and the adventure novel, Tallent & Lowery 13.

She is also the owner of The Write Companion, a company that offers help and support to writers through a full range of editorial services from proofreading and copyediting to ghostwriting and research. As the daughter of a research librarian, she is also an active book reviewer.

Currently, she lives with her daughter, mother and a rambunctious German Shepherd named Reuben, in the beautiful state of New Mexico.

Books 1 and 2 are now 99 cents on Kindle!

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Stacking the Shelves: 4/7-4/13

For Review (on Bookloons):
Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris
Unbreakable by Elizabeth Norris
Zen of Wonder by Frank Beddor

The Inventor's Secret by Chad Morris

Requested from Paperbackswap:
White Noise by Don DeLillo

Bought on Amazon:
The Witch Collector by Loretta Nyhan
Die for Her by Amy Plum

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spontaneous Performance

Title: Spontaneous Performances: Acting Through Improv
Author:  Marsh Cassady
Publisher: Meriwether
ISBN: 1-56608-064-9
Why Read?: For Fun
Challenges: Free Reads, 100 Books in a Year

Thoughts: Good look at ways to further improv skills through monologues and scenes. The last chapter, on using improv to write a play, was the best and probably the one I will draw from the most.

Rating: 3 stars

Eve & Adam

Title: Eve & Adam
Author:  Katherine Applegate & Michael Grant
Publisher: Macmillian Young Listeners
ISBN: 9781427226631
Why Read?: For Fun
Challenges: Audio, Free Reads, 100 Books in a Year

Thoughts: This is one of those sci-fi novels that is freaky because it seems to possible. The authors are basically dealing with what happens when humans try to play God. I absolutely loved this, and part of that was due to it being an audio book. Jenna Lamia’s narration was good and she sounded believable as a teenage girl, but Holter Graham’s narration was spot on with pauses and inflections in all the right places to make me laugh out loud.

Rating: 5 stars

Monday, April 8, 2013

Many Bloody Returns

Title: Many Bloody Returns
Author:  Charlaine Harris & Toni L. P. Kelner, eds.
Publisher: Ace
ISBN: 978-0-441-01522-1
Why Read?: For Fun
Challenges: Immortal, For Fun, 100 Books in a Year

Thoughts: This anthology contains 14 stories from famous authors that mix vampires and birthdays.  Some of my favorite stories were the funny ones, such as "I Was a Teenage Vampire" by Bill Crider, and the mystery ones, such as "Grave-Robbed" by P. N. Elrod.  Of course, I really enjoyed the funny mystery "How Stella Got Her Grave Back" by Toni L. P. Kelner, which was the perfect ending to the collection.

Rating: 4 stars

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Stacking the Shelved: 3/31-4/6

For possible review (here and on Bookloons):
Dead River by Cyn Balog
Mojo by Tim Tharp
Spirit's Chosen by Esther Friesner
Revenge of a Not-So-Pretty Girl by Carolita Blythe
manicpixiedreamgirl by Tom Leveen
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder & Michael French
The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough

Deadweather and Sunrise by Geoff Rodkey
New Lands by Geoff Rodkey
Fangtabulous by Lucienne Diver
Days of Iron by Russell Proctor

Requested from Paperbackswap:
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Venom by Jennifer Estep

Downloaded from Discover a New Love:
Heart of Iron by Bec McMaster

Selection for Astraea Press Book Club:
Olivia's Journey by B. G. Lashbrooks

Monday, April 1, 2013

Ill Met by Moonlight

Title: Ill Met by Moonlight
Author:  Sarah A. Hoyt
Publisher: Ace
ISBN: 0-441-00860-7
Why Read?: For Fun
Challenges: Historical Fiction, British Books, Immortal, 100 Books in a Year

Thoughts: This historical fantasy combines two subjects that I absolutely love - Will Shakespeare and Fae.  However, it was so slow that I just couldn't really get into it.  The climax was good, but the rising action was a very gradual slope that did not make for exciting reading.

Rating: 2 stars