Monthly Archives: June 2013

Just Like Heaven (Julia Quinn, Smythe-Smith Quartet #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Light and fluffy with bits of enjoyable dialogue and amusing scenes, this is a retooling of the we’ve-always-been-friends-but never-been-lovers story. She’s the younger sister of his best friend… yeah… that story. It’s totally readable and pleasant, just not very memorable. Not to damn with faint praise, but it was really just… pretty good, a nice way to spend a couple of hours: there are a few light laughs (some of the scenes are a little drawn out), a lot of cameos from characters from Quinn’s other novels, a little medical drama, and then we’re done. The story is driven more by friendship and banter than passion or even a believable romantic journey, but it was cute… and mostly entertaining.

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Posted in Romance

Vicious Circle (Linda Robertson, Persephone Alcmedi #1)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Vicious Circle is a generic urban fantasy with generic witches, werewolves, and vampires a generic urban fantasy setting that incorporates generic fantasy elements with a generic semi-romance tacked on. I’m not averse to authors using common elements in their sub-genre, but I do strongly feel that if you have no original elements in your setting, then you as the author are expected to work extra hard to make your characters and story memorable. Unfortunately, this wasn’t done in this book, and the story doesn’t really make sense and the characters are forgettable. Even the romance was uninteresting. There’s nothing really objectionable here, but unless you just want some generic urban fantasy with a few romance elements, I would suggest you read something else.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Zip! Pop! Hop! and Other Fun Words to Say (Michela Muntean)

Not Recommended, Not Repeatable

To be perfectly honest, this is slightly more fun to read than your average Sesame Street offering (I think we own around 15 of this type of book now). It has a certain rhythm and toddler-age-appropriate words and pictures… but it’s not drawn to nearly the same degree as other Sesame Street books (what? they spent the whole budget on writing?). My toddler, who’s obsessed with Elmo, doesn’t seem completely convinced that this is actually a legitimate Elmo book, and since I can get better rhymes and writing (and drawing) with Seuss…

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

Grunts (Mary Gentle)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Grunts is a strange mix of traditional swords-and-sorcery fantasy with modern military marine corps ideology. The plot is a bit chaotic, as it follows a group of standard fantasy orcs who stumble upon modern military equipment cursed to transform whoever uses it into US marines. I enjoyed the imagination and unique blend of contrasting styles, but the story wasn’t especially satisfying or engaging. The book relies on a constant stream of both absurd and dry humor, which is something of an acquired taste. I found it quite funny, but I recognize that others probably would not. There is quite a bit of over the top violence as well, which may unsettle many readers. I’m not exactly sure if there is a more engaging way to bring these two very different concepts together, but as a reader I always felt somewhat removed from the story, like an audience member rather than a participant. I would still recommend this book, despite its flaws, to those not averse to gratuitous violence, due to it being quite readable and very imaginative.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Proof of Seduction (Courtney Milan, Carhart #1)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
There’s lots to like about this — thoroughly interesting and believable central characters who have entirely different motivations and back stories. They are multilayered and complex: you’ve got a woman who’s pretending to be a gypsy fortune teller because she was born on the wrong side of the sheets and really has nothing else to do with a ladies’ school finishing education combined with no family name or background. The hero, as an earl who sees his title as an encumberance to his scientific pursuits, is also interesting. However, while this is a strong novel (perhaps more so because it was Milan’s debut effort), there are parts of it that take some patience to get through, and it doesn’t feel as effortless or buoyantly entertainingly as many of her other works. Still better than a lot of historical romances out there… but not my favorite Milan.

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Posted in Romance

Kale Made Easy: Simple and Delicious Recipes (Deborah Kirk)

Friend of the site Deborah Kirk has just published her new Kindle e-book of kale recipes.  Since she’s a friend of the site, we can’t provide an unbiased review, so we’ll let her speak for herself:

In Kale Made Easy: Simple and Delicious Recipes, you’ll find 20+ irresistible recipes to incorporate into your breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, from berry kale smoothies and honey mustard kale chips, to kale and white bean Italian soup and sesame parmesan kale fettuccini!

This great book includes healthy recipe ideas for:
Breakfast
Kale Chips
Snacks & Appetizers
Soups
Salads
Main Dish & Entrees

Hailed as a super food, kale is full of nutrients and easy to grow in home gardens or window pots. Kale is low in calories and high in vitamins A, B6, C, and K, as well as being a great source of calcium, magnesium, copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. Yet many people are unsure how to cook kale properly or combine it with other ingredients to create delicious dishes. Raw, cooked, or baked, kale takes on a different flavor depending on how it is prepared. Learn how to make it a family favorite with easy recipes for snacks, smoothies, and every meal of the day.

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Posted in Nonfiction

What Happened At Midnight (Courtney Milan)

1 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
What a waste! Though there are potentially interesting characters and plot sequences throughout, this book and its characters just never came together. Everything was resolved far too easily, and there are not just one, but two (maybe three depending on how you count it) plot twists that just feel contrived and artificial. I don’t know if it’s just because this was part of a three novella collection (the other two are by Sherry Thomas and Carolyn Jewel), and Milan was forcing in details to stay within that setting or certain expectations, but really, this is one to avoid… I found myself not caring about either of the main characters by the end, and was relieved when it finally ended.

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Posted in Romance

The Quantum Thief (Hannu Rajaniemi, The Quantum Thief Trilogy #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The Quantum Thief is a far future mystery/thriller sci-fi novel. I’m not a big fan of the extreme far future sci-fi stuff, but The Quantum Thief was definitely interesting enough that I enjoyed it. It is really a beautiful novel visually. The scenes are incredibly vivid and dramatic and almost operatic. I found the plot and frequent perspective shifts to be disorienting, though, so you are left with something very unique in my experience, a crowded, busy, distracting morass of a novel from which these poignant, visually arresting scenes suddenly emerge, then suddenly vanish. This is the first in a planned trilogy, so some of the awkwardness might stem from that. I would recommend this book as a somewhat frustrating but unique experience.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Cinder (Marissa Meyer, The Lunar Chronicles #1)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
As the title suggests, this is a modern retelling of the classic fairytale Cinderella. Luckily, the story is retold in an exciting, feminist-friendly update to the sexist base of the traditional Cinderella. Cinder takes place in a dystopian future where cyborgs, androids, and hovercraft are part of everyday life and a war is on the horizon with the seemingly magical beings who live on the moon (the Lunars). The character Cinder is a fiesty adopted cyborg who is trying to make enough money as a mechanic to leave her oppressive homelife in Little Beijing. All the characters (including a prince, of course) are written so well you feel as if you have actually met them in real life. Cinder is a strong female character who turns the fairy tale on its head and refuses to be rescued. This is a great book for people of all ages – my sixty-one year old dad adores this series and can’t wait for the next book in the series. It’s definitely a good read for just about anyone!

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Once Bitten Twice Shy (Jennifer Rardin, Jaz Parks #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Once Bitten Twice Shy is a standard format butt-kicking, waif-fu practicing, supernatural hunter woman urban fantasy novel. Given the strengths and weaknesses of this sub-genre as a whole, I think that this is probably one of the better examples of it. This is the first in a series, so I can’t comment on the quality (or lack of thereof) of the sequels, but I found this book to have a fairly well developed protagonist who was somewhat of a departure from the tired standard, a setting that was more imaginative than average, and a plot that was fairly coherent and didn’t suffer from a lot of progression through characters acting on willful stupidity. I wouldn’t say that this is the most inspired book I have ever read or anything, but for the genre it was fairly strong and a decent pick if you are in the mood for an uncomplicated urban fantasy.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy