Sunday, October 30, 2011

In My Mailbox (92)

In My Mailbox (92)
In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. I've included links to Goodreads if you want more information on the books.

For Review:

Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire
by Gregory Maguire

A nice surprise from the publisher! Love getting surprises in the mail! I've read other books by this author, but not his Wicked series. Not sure if I want to read the last book in a series, but I know that Maguire is good. This one may wind up as a giveaway.

The Night Eternal by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

This was another nice surprise in my mailbox this week! I read the first book in the series and have #2 in my TBR pile, so don't need to wait to see what happens. The first one was a little scary and very visual, so am looking forward to seeing how it all turns out!

What did you get in your mailbox this week?
Please leave me a link and I'll stop by to check it out!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Review: Love Lies Bleeding

Love Lies Bleeding by Jess McConkey

To what lengths would you go to keep a past buried?

Samantha Moore is the golden girl - with a perfect job, a perfect man, a perfect life - until a random act of violence changes everything. Unconscious for two months, Sam awakens from her coma a different person - bitter, in constant pain, and forced to endure medications that leave her nauseous, paranoid, and struggling to keep a grip on reality. (Goodreads)

My Thoughts:
This is one of those books that caught my eye because of a promising synopsis, but didn't turn out the way I expected. I didn't really care for Sam, the main character. I was sympathetic towards her at first, but her behavior eventually turned me off. Didn't care for her family or fiance either, but some of the secondary characters were okay. And I really liked Roxy!

Sam has nightmares because of her attack. Horrible nightmares. In pain, she lashes out at her fiance and anyone who tries to get too close. Jackson, her fiance, seems like a nice guy at first. And he only wants whats best for her, right? Or does he? And what about Sam's parents? Did they send her away to recover in the peace and quiet of the country, or because she was no longer their perfect little girl? Honestly, Sam annoyed me so much at this point that I didn't really care.

While I've never been the victim of a violent attack, Sam's reaction felt off to me somehow. I could understand her medication affecting her behavior, but she didn't come across as a very nice person to begin with, so it was hard for me to care about her story. And by the time strange things started happening, it was a little too late for me.

This was an okay story with a strange twist, but my main objection was that I didn't really care for any of the characters. Maybe it's just me, but it's hard for me to enjoy a story when I don't really like the characters. Gave this one a 3/5 as there was nothing wrong with the writing and overall, it was okay. Would love to hear from anyone who has read this one for a different point of view!

Review copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Book Review: Confessions of a Call Center Gal

Confessions of a Call Center Gal by Lisa Lim

Source:  eBook won from The Book Vixen

Rating:  4/5

Madison Lee is a fresh college grad, ready to take on the world of print media. But she has zero luck landing a job.... Desperate and left with no other options, she accepts a position as a service rep at a call center in Pocatello, Idaho.

At the Lightning Speed call center in Spudsville, Maddy plunges into the wild and dysfunctional world of customer service where Sales is prided over Service and an eight hour shift is equivalent to eight hours of callers bashing her over the phone. Oh sure, the calls are bad. But Maddy manages to find humor on the phone and off the phone. And with all the salacious drama behind the calls, there is never a dull moment at the Lightning Speed call center.... Working at a call center has never been this garish . . . or this delightful.

***DISCLOSURES: If you find politically incorrect shows like The Office, South Park and Chelsea Lately detestable, childish and offensive, then this book is probably NOT for you. (Goodreads)

My Thoughts:
As a fellow call center gal, I have to confess that I really loved this book! Like Maddy, I've dealt with team leads and AHT, but instead of the Not Ready button we have ACW (after call work). Are call centers dysfunctional? Of course they are! So many rules and regulations and having to deal with angry callers, yet Lisa has managed to put a humorous spin on it while still remaining true to the life.

Maddy is a smart woman who, like many others, cannot find a job in her chosen field. She takes what she hopes is a temporary job in a call center and enters the weird, wild world of customer service. Lisa's characters are fun and interesting and will be familiar to anyone who has worked in this environment. There are the lifers who have been there seemingly forever, as well as the agents just passing through. To her surprise, Maddy not only survives, but is promoted! So is her hunky crush Mika and BFF Kars.

This story is definitely for adults with a sense of humor. Lisa shows that it's a tough life that can reduce agents to tears, so a healthy dose of humor is needed to survive. Some of the scenes that seem too over the top to be true are the ones that had me laughing the hardest and thinking been there, done that! The crazy email addresses. The hard to decipher accents. The strange requests. The excessive cursing. All of these rang true!

This is a very funny, original book that gives a glimpse into the life of a customer service agent at a call center. It's about time that someone told our story! Whether you've worked in a call center or not, you need to read this book! If you've never been an operator, maybe you'll be a little more sympathetic next time you call with a problem. And if you have been an agent, this is your story! Go! Buy it! And high fives to all the call center gals out there!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Review: When She Woke

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Source: ARC provided by the Amazon Vine Program

Rating:  5/5

When She Woke is, in its simplest terms, a futuristic retelling of The Scarlet Letter. This sophomore novel from Mudbound author Hillary Jordan takes Hawthorne's classic several steps further, turning it into a pointed, blunt warning about the consequences of an America run by the church, not the state.

Hannah Payne is sentenced to sixteen years of melachroming for aborting her child. Instead of bearing a scarlet "A" like Hester, Hannah's pigment is dyed a stop sign red, leading her to endure an ostracizing societal punishment as well... While some readers may balk at Jordan's political and religious messages, the story of owning our decisions and actions is the focus of this engaging tale of redemption. (Goodreads)

My Thoughts:
This book was amazing! Kept calling to me until I finally picked it up, and then I couldn't put it down! The story really grabbed me, and I wound up staying up much too late in order to finish it. The whole idea of literally dying people different colors is both unbelievably cruel, yet strangely fascinating.

While I've seen several reviews referencing The Scarlet Letter, this story actually reminded me of The Handmaid's Tale, where women had their rights stripped away and the country was taken over by self-righteous male hypocrites.

Hannah was raised a "good girl" and made to feel as though her natural feelings were somehow wrong. A gifted seamstress, she was reduced to designing and sewing gorgeous outfits in secret in order to feed her artistic side. Repressed in every possible way, she engages in an affair with a married man and chooses to have an abortion rather than risk her lover's career.

Her punishment is severe. Kept in solitary confinement for 30 days after the procedure, with her every move televised to the public, Hannah is then released to survive as best she can. Forbidden to return home by her scandalized mother, Hannah's father finds her a place in a halfway house called The Straight Path Center. Technically a religious organization to help women find their way back to redemption, it's actually worse than prison.

Hannah finds that she's stronger than she ever believed possible, as she takes a stand and refuses to take any more of the abusive treatment and leaves the halfway house. Her journey to freedom is fascinating, and I loved watching Hannah grow and discover that there's a whole other world out there. While there are several strong secondary characters who help her along the way, this is ultimately Hannah's story.

This was a fascinating story, with fully developed characters, an interesting plot, and a totally fascinating premise. Jordan is an amazingly talented writer, and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next! Definitely one for the Keeper Shelf!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Poll: What Do You Like in Reviews?

I've been playing around with my review format lately and was wondering if anyone had any preferences for what they like or don't like? For instance, what's the general feeling on including a synopsis? Do you care about the page count? Does publisher matter?

Personally, I want to know a little about the book before reading a review, so like a short synopsis. I tend to use the synopsis from Goodreads, but noticed that some reviewers write their own. Any preferences?

The publisher and publication date don't really matter to me, unless it's a book that hasn't come out yet. And I don't mind seeing the genre, but it's not necessary. I also like some sort of rating system, but not too complicated, I think we have to include the source now because of the FTC rules, but should it be at the beginning or the end or who cares?

To help me improve my reviews, could you please answer the poll over on the right side, or leave a me a quick comment? I'd really appreciate feedback, suggestions or helpful hints. Thanks!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

In My Mailbox (91)

In My Mailbox (91)
In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. I've included links to Goodreads if you want more information on the books.

For Review:

What Happens in Vegas, Dies in Vegas by Mark Everett Stone
by Mark Everett Stone

Really enjoyed the first book of the Bureau of Supernatural Investigation, so was thrilled to get the chance to review the sequel! Kal was their best agent, and I'm looking forward to seeing how he handles his quest on his own, without official backup. Great series!

The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa
by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Fey series is one of my favorites! Even though I'm firmly on Team Puck (who can resist a man who can make you laugh?), I see the appeal of Ash and am looking forward to his story.


Wild & Steamy by Meljean Brooks, Jill Myles, Carolyn Crane
by Meljean Brooks, Jill Myles, Carolyn Crane

Downloaded this free eBook on my nook, mainly for the Carolyn Crane story. Have already finished reading it and, while the other two stories weren't bad, Carolyn's was my favorite!

Looking forward to seeing what everyone received in their mailboxes this week!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review: Commune of Women

Commune of Women by Suzan Still

On an ordinary Los Angeles morning, the lives of seven women are about to become inextricably entangled, as they converge upon LA International Airport for various purposes. Suddenly, the morning erupts into chaos, as black-clad terrorists charge into the terminal, guns blazing. As the concourse becomes a killing field, six of the women dodge a hail of bullets to find refuge in a tiny staff room.

At the same time, in a similar small room close by, the sole female terrorist, dubbed simply X by her so-called Brothers, has the task of watching a bank of surveillance monitors. Apparently forgotten by her co-conspirators, she nevertheless is the best informed of the happenings in the outside world--happenings that are not easily understood.

Why are the police and FBI so slow to respond? What has motivated this attack? Who are these terrorists and what do they want? And will the women survive to tell their tale? Answers to these questions slowly reveal the terrible web of conspiracy and deceit into which they all have fallen. But the most profound revelation of all is how each has betrayed herself. (Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

This was a tough book to read at times, as I found myself wondering how I would react in a similar situation. Different women, from different walks of life, find themselves trapped in a small break room after a terrorist attack at the Los Angeles International Airport. We meet them as they arrive at the airport and watch as they find sanctuary in the break room, then try to survive.

There is Sophia, a strong "mountain woman" who takes charge and whose medical training comes in handy. Pearl, an old homeless woman who was napping in the room when the attack occurred. Heddi, a therapist who comes up with the idea of sharing stories to help pass the time. Betty, one of Heddi's patients who drove her to the airport to pick up Ondine, another of Heddi's patients. And Erika, a business woman shot in the shoulder, who Sophia tends to during their ordeal.

In a separate room is X, the only female terrorist, who is holed up in a control room where she can monitor both the airport and the local news. We learn her story as well, and watch as she tries to make sense out of how she got there and wonders what might happen next.

This is a powerful story, as the women share very personal stories. Not knowing if they will survive or not, the stories become more intimate and soul searching as the days pass. I found myself caring about these women, and marveling at their strength and perseverance. I was especially impressed with Sophia and Pearl, who had very different histories, but were both incredibly strong women.

Gave this one a 4/5 as I really enjoyed getting to know these characters, was immediately pulled into the plot, and found myself really caring about what would happen to the women. Still is a very gifted writer, and I look forward to reading more of her books in the future!

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Book Review: Double Cross by Carolyn Crane

Book Review: Double Cross by Carolyn Crane
Double Cross by Carolyn Crane

Review copy provided by Untreed Books

Rating: 4/5


Justine Jones lived her life as a fearful hypochondriac until she was lured into the web of a mysterious mastermind named Packard, who gifts her with extraordinary mental powers - dooming her to fight Midcity’s shadowy war on paranormal crime in order to find the peace she so desperately craves.

But now serial killers with unheard-of skills are terrorizing the most powerful beings in Midcity, including mastermind Packard and his oldest friend and worst enemy, Midcity’s new mayor, who has the ability to bend matter itself to his will.

As the body count grows, Justine faces a crisis of conscience as she tests the limits of her new powers and faces an impossible choice between two flawed but brilliant men - one on a journey of redemption, the other descending into a pit of moral depravity.

My Thoughts:
I'm always a little wary of the second book in a series, as they usually don't live up to the first or meet my expectations. Especially when I really loved book one. Well, no worries here, as this is another great story featuring Justine and her fellow Disillusionists!

Justine is not enjoying her job, and is beginning to have doubts about her mission of rebooting the criminals that Mayor Otto has imprisoned. If the Disillusionists reboot the bad guys, Otto won't have to expend so much energy to keep up all of the prisons, thus relieving his awful headaches and reducing the pressure. But what if the imprisoned are really innocent? Who made Otto judge and jury? Is he infallible? Justine begins to doubt her boyfriend and, in her confusion, finds that Packard might not be as bad as she thought.

On top of her job dissatisfaction, someone is targeting highcaps and both Otto and Packard are at risk. How the killers are able to track down the highcaps is a mystery, and pretty clever once discovered. Crane is nothing if not original, and I love her sense of humor!

Poor Justine has to deal with a tangled love life, a confusing work situation, and the fact that someone wants to kill all highcaps, including the two men in her life. Doesn't help that she's a major hypochondriac who can only find relief through disillusioning someone. No wonder she's worried about a star vein bursting in her head!

The ending took me by surprise and made me rethink a few things. Really looking forward to the finale of this trilogy, Head Rush, and finding out what happens next!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review: Loose Diamonds

Loose Diamonds by Amy Ephron

Source:  Review copy received from publisher, via Shelf Awareness

Rating:  3/5

In Loose Diamonds, an engaging collection of essays and observations, Amy Ephron, the acclaimed, award-winning author of the One Sunday Morning and A Cup of Tea, paints a rich, vivid, and comic portrait of modern living from a modern woman’s perspective. Fans of the writings of Amy Sedaris and Joan Didion’s Slouching Toward Bethlehem will enjoy Ephron’s funny, incisive take on the intricate weave of a woman’s world. (Goodreads)

My Thoughts:
This is an amusing collection of essays, mostly about Amy's life. And it's not exactly a typical cookie-cutter life either, as she was raised in Beverly Hills by a pair of Hollywood screenwriters. Not many people I know had a childhood neighbor who transformed his home into an exotic bird sanctuary, has an alcoholic mother who insists on putting all condiments in their own serving dish, or is asked to confront a possible terrorist by an airline pilot. Strange tales all, but Amy makes them interesting!

Amy is a talented writer, and this is a good book to have while waiting for an appointment as you can pick it up and read at will. I like collections like this for that very reason, as all of the essays are stand-alone stories and can be read in any order. Gave it a 3/5 as I liked the book, but it didn't set my world on fire.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review: Zombie Mommy

Zombie Mommy by M. T. Anderson

Source:  eBook provided by Simon & Schuster Galley Grab

Rating:  3/5

Our intrepid heroes are home from their Delaware crime-stopping excitement, only to discover that Lily’s mom has become possessed by a menacing zombie who wants to take over the world! (Or, at least, the world of stage and screen.) Thank goodness Lily’s friends Katie, Jasper, and foxy Blue-Hen-State monk Drgnan Pghlik are around - accompanied by Jasper’s Astounding High-Pressure Holy Water Extruder Gun, of course - to help save the day. But not before some truly scary things happen, things involving stuff like killer tarantulas, web-footed teen vampire boys, bad weather (it’s a horror novel, remember?), and, well, I can’t really go on. It’s TOO TERRIFYING FOR WORDS! (Goodreads)

My Thoughts:
This is one of those books that I picked mainly because of the title, as who could resist something called Zombie Mommy? Turns out that it was a little young for my tastes, but still an okay read.

Lily and her friends have various adventures, and publishers contact them periodically to see what they've been up to and then publish their stories. Lily's mother gets it into her head that something awful is going to happen to her as mothers never seem to survive in YA books (she has a point), so goes off to hide. Trouble is, she picked the worst possible place to hide as the town is full of vampires, ghosts, and other creatures that go bump in the night.

Lily's mother comes home after a few days, but it's obvious to everyone (except the adults) that she isn't her usual self. Lily and her friends head up to the creepy town to find out what happened, then have to figure out how to get Lily's mom back to her old self.

This is a slightly amusing story, but seemed to be geared for a much younger crowd. Lily and her friends had all these adventures, while the adults sat on the sidelines and didn't seem too bright. I never cared for that, even when I was still in grade school, as it just wasn't realistic. I could handle vampires and magic and werewolves, but I knew even then that there needed to be at least some helpful adults. Gave it a 3/5 as it wasn't a bad story, just too young and silly for my taste.

This title will be released October 25, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

In My Mailbox (90)

In My Mailbox (90)
In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. I've included links to Goodreads if you want more information on the books.

For Review:

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

When She Woke is, in its simplest terms, a futuristic retelling of The Scarlet Letter. Hannah Payne is sentenced to sixteen years of melachroming for aborting her child. Instead of bearing a scarlet "A" like Hester, Hannah's pigment is dyed a stop sign red, leading her to endure an ostracizing societal punishment as well. (Goodreads)

Dreamland by Alyson Noel
Dreamland by Alyson Noel

Riley’s finding that the afterlife can be a lonely place when all you do is focus on work.

In The Forests of the Night by Kersten Hamilton
In The Forests of the Night by Kersten Hamilton

Teagan, Finn, and Aiden have rescued Tea's and Aiden's father and have made it out of Mag Mell alive, bringing a few new friends with them. But The Dark Man's forces are hot on their heels.

Thanks to Amazon Vine, Shelf Awareness, and Kersten Hamilton for the review copies!
Looking forward to seeing what everyone received this week!
Leave me a link and I'll be sure to stop by!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Book Review: Before Ever After

by Samantha Sotto

Three years after her husband Max's death, Shelley feels no more adjusted to being a widow than she did that first terrible day. That is, until the doorbell rings. Standing on her front step is a young man who looks so much like Max; same smile, same eyes, same age, same adorable bump in his nose; he could be Max's long-lost relation. He introduces himself as Paolo, an Italian editor of American coffee table books, and shows Shelley some childhood photos. Paolo tells her that the man in the photos, the bearded man who Paolo says is his grandfather though he never seems to age, is Max. Her Max. And he is alive and well.

As outrageous as Paolo's claims seem; how could her husband be alive? And if he is, why hasn't he looked her up? Shelley desperately wants to know the truth. She and Paolo jet across the globe to track Max down; if it is really Max and along the way, Shelley recounts the European package tour where they had met. As she relives Max's stories of bloody Parisian barricades, medieval Austrian kitchens, and buried Roman boathouses, Shelley begins to piece together the story of who her husband was and what these new revelations mean for her "happily ever after." And as she and Paolo get closer to the truth, Shelley discovers that not all stories end where they are supposed to.(Goodreads)

My Thoughts:
This was an interesting premise that really delivered! Shelley is still trying to recover from her husband's death. Barely hanging on three years later, her entire life changes when Paolo shows up at her door, claiming that her late husband was actually his grandfather. Is he crazy? Could it be true? If so, why hasn't Max tried to contact her?

During their journey to track Max down, Shelley recounts how they met. Piecing together the tales he told to his European tour groups with their memories of life with Max, Shelley and Paolo try to figure out the man they both loved. I found the stories told to the tour group more fascinating than Shelley's and Paolo's journey, but the entire book was enthralling!

Really liked Max and his stories. From the doomed Isabelle to the lusty Adrien to the mad Uri, all the way back to pregnant Livia, their stories really came alive. Just who was Max anyway? And how did he know all of these stories? Was he a fan of history, or just a talented storyteller with a great imagination?

Gave this one a 4/5 as it was well written, kept me guessing, and was full of believable characters. I enjoyed the history as well, and who knew that chickens played such an important part in so many major events? This is a remarkable story by a very talented writer, and I can't wait to read more!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Review: Things To Do in Denver When You're Undead by Mark Everett Stone

Review: Things To Do in Denver When You're Undead by Mark Everett Stone
Things To Do in Denver When You're Undead by Mark Everett Stone

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Rating:  4/5

For ten years Kal Hakala has been the Bureau of Supernatural Investigation's top man, the longest surviving agent in its blood-soaked history. There has been no case he couldn't crack, no monster he couldn't kill. Until a plague of zombies in Denver turns into an investigation of a vicious serial killer dubbed The Organ Donor. Fueled by rage and a hatred of all things supernatural, he dives headlong into the one mystery that could finally kill him. (Goodreads)

My Thoughts:
Really enjoyed this book and the main character, Kal. Kal is a hardcore veteran monster hunter who is very, very good at his job. Full of wise-cracking, cynical black humor, I had a hard time putting this one down! Wanted to find out what drove Kal, why he hadn't quit the Bureau yet, and how he beat the average 3 year life expectancy of an agent.

The Bureau itself is an interesting idea - a worldwide agency that fights the monsters that the rest of the world doesn't believe exist. But Kal is even more interesting as he is an driven man, full of rage, yet somehow remains sane.

While there is some adult language, it fits the characters perfectly and never feels gratuitous. With a short life expectancy and harsh job, you shouldn't expect tea and crumpets from these guys. Usually Kal and his team are in and out of town pretty fast, dispatching the monsters and moving on to the next gig. But this assignment is different in that they seem to be the targets. Sort of like the hunters being hunted for a change.

Gave this one a 4/5 as I really enjoyed the characters, the storyline, the writing, and the dark humor. Love cynical characters, and Kal delivered! This story was original enough that I didn't see some of the twists coming, which is always appreciated. Will keep an eye out to see what the author comes up with next!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Book Review: until again

by Lou Aronica

Reviewers have called Lou Aronica’s novel BLUE “compelling,” “beautifully written,” “a story to remember and cherish,” and “one of those books that everyone should find a moment to read.” Readers have said it was “a great inspiration,” “I’ve never been more moved or inspired,” and “one of the best books I’ve read.”

Now comes this prequel novella, a short work that provides the essential story behind the story. UNTIL AGAIN tells of a decidedly real-world event: the final weekend in the breakup of a marriage. For Chris Astor, the divorce is not something he wants, primarily because of the distance it will put between his ten-year-old daughter Becky and himself.

Juxtaposed against this is a critical event in Tamarisk, the bedtime-story fantasy world that Chris and Becky created when Becky was much younger. Miea, the university-age princess of Tamarisk fears that her world has become a terribly dangerous place...but she could not possibly have imagined where that danger will lead her and the people she loves.

These parallel stories converge, in a most unusual way, in a tale of change and new tomorrows. A powerful revelation for those who have read BLUE, and an emotionally charged introduction to these deeply relatable characters for those who haven’t, UNTIL AGAIN is a warm, engaging, and bittersweet work that promises to speak to your heart. (Goodreads)

My Thoughts:
This is a prequel to Blue, which I reviewed at the beginning of the year. Really enjoyed Blue and it was such a powerful story that it brought tears to my eyes. You can see my review here if interested.

This novella gives us a little background on Chris and Polly's split, and some insight into why Becky is so angry. We also learn more about Meia, who is at university during this period.

As it's a novella, it's a quick read at only 85 pages. I'm not sure if this should be read before or after Blue. As I had already read the book, this filled in some background for me. I think that if I had read this one first, it might have made the full length story a little more well rounded. Either way, it's a good story.

This time around, I found myself more captivated by Meia's story. I enjoyed seeing her before she became queen, and learning more about her relationship with her parents. Still don't care for Polly, Becky's mother. I never got a feel for why she wanted the divorce, as Chris was more sympathetic in this one. Maybe I missed something, but she came off as a real witch.

All in all, this is a nice companion to Blue.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

In My Mailbox (89)

In My Mailbox (89)
In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. Only one book this week, but I'm still on my book buying ban and I've cut down on the number or review copies I'm accepting since my TBR pile is threatening to topple over and bury me! I've included links to Goodreads if you want more information.

For Review:

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber
by Joe Schreiber

This was one of the hot titles at BEA 2011 and, since I couldn't get my hands on one, I was very happy when it showed up on the Amazon Vine review list! Looks like a quirky, fun read!

What did you get in your mailbox this week?