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Book Review: My Big Fat Demon Slayer Wedding by Angie Fox (Series, #5)

July 24, 2014 3 comments

Woman in short wedding dress and black boots holds a sword. A dog in a bow tie is nearby.Summary:
Lizzie Brown, once preschool teacher turned demon slayer, is extremely excited to be marrying her true love, Dimitri Kallinikos, who just so happens to also be a magical shape-changing griffin.  And she’s also fine with letting her adoptive mother run the whole show, even though her mother wants to make the wedding into a week-long event.  She’s not so ok with having to tell her mother about being a demon slayer, though. Or about integrating her mother’s posh southern lady lifestyle with her recently discovered blood-related grandmother’s biker witch gang.  She’s pleasantly surprised that her mother found a goth-style mansion to rent for the wedding.  Maybe the magical and the non-magical can integrate fairly well, after all.  But then it becomes evident that someone in the wedding is trying to kill her.  Plus, they find demonic images around the property…..

Review:
This remains one of my most enjoyed urban fantasy series.  The world Fox has created is bright, witty, imaginative, and a real pleasure to visit, even though sometimes the main character can rub me the wrong way (she’s a bit too straight-laced for me sometimes).  Urban fantasy books can either keep the main character perpetually single or have her get married.  If they choose to get married, the wedding book winds up with a lot on its plate.  It’s hard to integrate the world of urban fantasy with the wedding scene a lot of readers enjoy reading about.  Fox achieves this integration eloquently, presenting an intriguing urban fantasy mystery, the clash of urban fantasy magical folks and real world expectations, and manages to show the wedding is about the marriage, not the party.

My main gripe with the previous book was Dimitri and Lizzie’s relationship.  Primarily that they don’t appreciate what they have, and how annoying that is.  I think the events of the previous book really snapped them out of it, because here, Lizzie and Dimitri have taken their relationship to another level.  They have a trust in and intimacy with one another that manages to withstand some pretty tough tests, and is a pleasure to read about.  It’s easy to see that this is a couple that is ready for a marriage.  It’s a healthy relationship that’s rare to see in urban fantasy.  At this point in the series, I can appreciate that Dimitri and Lizzie aren’t perfect in the earlier books.  Relationships change and grow with time, and Fox demonstrates that beautifully.  Of course, it’s still more fun to read about a happy couple than one bickering with each other over minor things.  But those hiccups in the relationship in earlier books helps make it (and the marriage) seem more real.

Similarly, Lizzie has grown with the series.  Where at first she’s annoyingly straight-laced, now she is not just starting to break out of that but is enjoying breaking out of it.  Seeing her adoptive mother pushes this issue to the forefront.  Lizzie is finally coming into her own, and she, and her loving mother, have to confront that.

[Lizzie’s mother] paused, straightened her already squared shoulders. “Is this type of style…” she waved a hand over me, “appealing to you? You look like a hooligan.” I let out a sigh. “Try biker.” (page 16)

Whereas this confrontation between Lizzie and her mother could have led to the mother looking like a bad guy, Fox leaves room for Lizzie’s mom to be different from her but still a good person and a loving parent.  They butt heads over different opinions, just as real-life parents and adult children do, but they both strive to work through them and love each other for who they are.  It’s nice to see how eloquently Fox handles that relationship, particularly with so many other plot issues going on at the same time.

The plot is a combination of wedding events and demon problems.  Both ultimately intertwine in a scene that I’m sure is part of many bride’s nightmares.  Only it really happens because this is urban fantasy.  How Fox wrote the plots to get to that point is enjoyable, makes sense, and works splendidly.  The climax perfectly demonstrates how to integrate urban fantasy and real life situations.  Plus, I did not come even close to guessing the ending, which is a big deal to me as a reader.

The wit and sex scenes both stay at the highly enjoyable level that has been present throughout the series.  Dimitri and Lizzie are hot because they are so hot for and comfortable with each other.  The humor is a combination of slapstick and tongue-in-cheek dry humor that fits the world perfectly.  I actually laughed aloud quite a few times while reading the book.

Overall, this is an excellent entry in this urban fantasy series.  It tackles the wedding of the main character with a joyful gusto that leaves the reader full of wedding happiness and perhaps breathing a sigh of relief that no matter what may go wrong at their wedding, it couldn’t possibly be as bad as what can go wrong at an urban fantasy wedding.  Highly recommended to fans of the series.  You won’t be disappointed in Lizzie’s wedding, and you’ll be left eager to see her marriage.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Gift

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Previous Books in Series:
The Accidental Demon Slayer, review
The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers, review
A Tale of Two Demon Slayers, review
The Last of the Demon Slayers, review

Cross-Stitch #5: Dinosaur Love

January 11, 2014 Leave a comment

The largest cross-stitch I made to gift for the holidays was for my partner, naturally.  I thought these dinosaurs in love were too cute to pass by!  I also chose to use my bf’s favorite colors for the color scheme: red, orange, and yellow.

Cross-stitch of two dinosuars hugging with their necks. A red heart above their heads says "Rawr"

Series Review: The Georgina Kincaid Series by Richelle Mead

January 9, 2014 1 comment

Introduction:
I post series reviews after completing reading an entire series of books.  It gives me a chance to reflect on and analyze the series as a whole.  These series reviews are designed to also be useful for people who: A) have read the series too and would like to read other thoughts on it or discuss it with others OR B) have not read the series yet but would like a full idea of what the series is like, including possible spoilers, prior to reading it themselves or buying it for another.  Please be aware that series reviews necessarily contain some spoilers.

Red-headed woman in front of Seattle skylineSummary:
Georgina Kincaid loves her job managing a bookstore in Seattle.  She’s not so sure about her job as Seattle’s only succubus, but she doesn’t have much choice about that one since she sold her soul to Hell back when she was mortal in ancient Greece.  After hundreds of years of being a succubus, Georgina has started to feel guilty about stealing the life energy of good-souled men.  So she’s switched to stealing the less high-quality life energy of bad-souled men.  Her demon boss, Jerome, is none too happy about this.  Things take an even more interesting turn when famous author, Seth Mortensen, moves to Seattle and chooses Georgina’s bookstore as his base of operations.  Georgina quickly finds herself falling for him.  Her first time falling for a man since WWII.  Nobody seems to like the idea of Georgina dating Seth, except for Seth, but Georgina doesn’t have much time to wonder why as supernatural life carries on.  Everything from an incubus plot to attempts at overthrowing her demonic boss (by another demon of course) to an escaped ancient supernatural power who feeds on dreams come Georgina’s way.  Georgina starts to notice that Seattle seems to be facing more than the normal level of supernatural upheaval, and she starts to wonder why.

Woman in push-up vest against red background.Review:
A tightly told, sexy, humorous series featuring an overarching plot that ties into all of the smaller plots and lends the series as a whole a greater meaning makes this urban fantasy stand out above the rest.

The series ostensibly focuses on the bad guys of the supernatural world, not something that is seen very often in urban fantasy.  Yes, Georgina is a succubus with a guilt complex, but she is still a succubus, and she still goes out and does her succubus thing.  She is not out trying to save the world.  She’s just trying to get by day by day in the role she has chosen for herself–fighting on the bad guy side of the battle.  But Mead does not let the series fall easily into clear good versus evil.  It soon becomes evident that good guys can be on the bad guy side and bad guys on the good guy side.  In most cases, one decision or the fault of birth decides where they land.  Just because someone is a vampire doesn’t mean he can’t desire to help out his friends.  Just because someone is an angel doesn’t mean they can’t make mistakes.  And the rules aren’t always fair and sometimes incomprehensible.  This gray complexity lends a lot of interesting notes to the series that otherwise wouldn’t be there, not least of Woman standing in front of electrical storm.which is the fact that the characters are able to be three-dimensional in this world Mead has created.

The characters, even the minor ones, are indeed three-dimensional.  They sometimes make stupid choices, big mistakes, and are annoying.  But they also make tough good choices, ones that aren’t easy but still happen.  They fall in genuine love.  They accidentally hurt each other but also sacrifice themselves for each other.  They worry about having a bad hair day.  They cry.  They have great sex and bad sex.  And they come to life in the reader’s mind.

The sex scenes, a key element of an urban fantasy series about a succubus, are never repetitive.  They are tantalizing and sexy, except for a few which are aiming to show that sex can be bad.  They range from the intense love making of a couple madly in love to a fun night out having sex in public at a public sex bar.  And many positions and types of sex are covered as well.  The sex scenes walk the line between barely mentioned and extremely explicit quite well.  They are fully fleshed-out sex scenes without being extremely explicit.

Read-headed pale woman standing seductively against a purplish-red backdrop. The book title and author name are over her.The overarching plot, though, is what really made me fall in love with the series.  Georgina became a succubus in exchange for her husband and all those who knew her forgetting all about her.  She cheated on her husband, and she felt so much guilt at both the act and the pain it caused that she felt this was the best solution.  At first, she goes into being a succubus with enthusiasm but over time her feelings change.  Her hurt starts to heal, and she begins to see the good side of both humanity and life.  She is in the throes of this complex situation of wanting to be good but having already signed a contract for the bad side of the fight when Seth shows up and everything starts going haywire in the supernatural world in Seattle.  Eventually, she finds out that Seth is the reincarnation of her original husband, Kiriakos.  He lived his life thinking he must have a soul mate but never meeting her, so when he died he struck a bargain to get more chances at meeting her.  He has a limited number of reincarnations (10, I believe), that will occur in the same vicinity as his soul mate.  His soul mate is Georgina, and she has met him multiple times throughout her life as as a succubus.  This reincarnation as Seth is his last chance.  From here, the story takes a hard look at what makes people soul mates, that being soul mates doesn’t mean no mistakes will be made, that love Redheaded woman in a sexy leather top standing in front of fog.and a relationship aren’t an easy cakewalk and sacrifices and compromises must be made.  It delves into the idea of redemption, and that being a good person and having a good life aren’t just something innate in you.  It’s a beautiful love story, spanning many centuries, that takes a hard look at what makes relationships work.  It also ties in nicely with the questions established earlier about good versus evil and if being good or evil is a one-time choice or something that happens over time.  I never would have guessed that I could end up feeling so positively about a love story that begins with betrayal but that’s where Mead uses the supernatural with great skill.  The story works because the betrayal is treated so seriously.  Georgina’s betrayal of her husband (and soul mate) leads them both to centuries of pain.  It is not something that can be just brushed off.  It’s a mistake she made, yes, but just because it was a mistake doesn’t mean she can just say sorry and make it all right.  On that note, Kiriakos/Seth also made mistakes when they were first together that he also has to work through.  They both learn through time that you can’t just sit back and let the marriage happen.  You have to pay attention, invest, and work at growing together.

Woman in white and wearing a cross standing in front of a foggy sky.The fun setting, tantalizing sex scenes, three-dimensional characters, and unexpected yet beautiful overarching plot about the nature of good and evil and love and redemption makes this series a stunner in urban fantasy.  Highly recommended to urban fantasy and romance fans alike, although those who are irritated at the concept of soul mates might not enjoy it as much.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap, library, gift, Audible

Books in Series:
Succubus Blues, review, 4 stars
Succubus On Top, review, 4 stars
Succubus Dreams, review, 5 stars
Succubus Heat, review, 4 stars
Succubus Shadows, review, 5 stars
Succubus Revealed, review, 5 stars

Book Review: Succubus Revealed by Richelle Mead (Series, #6) (Audiobook narrated by Elisabeth Rodgers)

January 8, 2014 1 comment

Woman in white and wearing a cross standing in front of a foggy sky.Summary:
Seattle’s succubus, Georgina Kincaid, is incredibly happy to be back together with her previously ex boyfriend, Seth Mortensen.  But getting back together with him came at the price of hurting his once-fiancee and having to leave her previously loved position managing the bookstore.  It’s all worth it to be with Seth, though.  But then a transfer notice comes in, sending her to her dream job in Las Vegas.  It’d be a dream come true, except Seth can’t come with her because his sister-in-law has cancer.  Georgina starts to wonder just why so many elements seem to keep coming together to try to drive her and Seth apart.

Review:
A breathtaking conclusion to the series that reveals not just Georgina’s entire life story but also that the series itself is more than originally meets the eye.

It was obvious in the prior book that a much larger overarching plot was going to be revealed in the final entry in the series.  Mead reveals this plot through an artful combination of the characters investigating, flashbacks, and a court case.  Normally, I’m not a fan of courtroom drama, but Mead pulls it off beautifully, really playing up the supernatural elements and keeping it moving along at a rapid pace.  While I had pretty much already figured out what the big reveal would be, how it was revealed and how the characters reacted was unexpected and complex.

A running theme in the series has been that the characters are not perfect and life doesn’t hand out easy answers or resolutions.  The resolutions to the various problems and questions in the plot and in Georgina’s life follow these guidelines as well.  It is not a simple reveal that places perfection into Georgina’s life.  She has to address her issues, how she has dealt with herself and other people, and she must face the supernatural community as well.  It was refreshing to see characters in an urban fantasy have to work toward resolution instead of having it handed to them by virtue of just being lucky or having the right powers.

The romance is in full-swing in this book.  Georgina is much more focused on her love life than on being on a succubus.  Thus, most of the sex scenes we get are hot in an entirely romantic way.  Once again, though, I was more focused on the quality of the plot and characters than on the quality of the sex scenes.  The story of Georgina overpowered the juicy bits, and that’s a sign of a great urban fantasy.

The book brings to light the questions of good versus evil, love and what it takes to make a relationship work, soul mates, and the qualities of humanity.  And it does it with humor, brightly written characters, sexy sex scenes, and creative settings.  An ending to the series as satisfying as a rich dessert that will leave the reader wanting to re-read the series as soon as possible.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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Previous Books in Series:
Succubus Blues, review
Succubus On Top, review
Succubus Dreams, review
Succubus Heat, review
Succubus Shadows, review

Book Review: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (Audiobook narrated by Kevin Kenerly)

April 16, 2012 5 comments

Living hand in dead one.Summary:
R is a zombie, and he remembers nothing about his life before he was one–except that his name starts with the letter R.  He and his group of the other living dead inhabit an old abandoned airport and are ruled by the bonies.  They hunt the living not just for the food, but also for the memories that come from ingesting their brains.  It’s like a drug.  One day when he’s out on a hunt, R eats the brain of a young man who loves a young woman who is there, and R steps in to save her.  It is there that an unlikely love story begins.

Review:
Now that I have a new job I decided to stop going through the rigamarole that is finding something you actually want to read as an audiobook in the public library and subscribe to Audible, especially since I always have my kindle with me anyway.  I decided to choose audiobooks to read from the bottom of my wishlist, so everything you’ll be seeing on here (unless it was free on Audible) was put on my wishlist a long time ago.  Half the time I couldn’t remember why it wound up there.  That was the case here.  I mean; I’m assuming it was there for the zombies, but I basically had no other idea about it heading in.  This is partly why my mind was blown, so if you want a similar experience I’m telling you to go get yourself a copy right this instant!  Vamoose!  For those who need more convincing, though, please do read on.

Perhaps surprisingly, I have read zombie love stories before, so I wasn’t expecting too many new or particularly engaging ideas.  This book is overflowing with them though.  Everything from zombies getting high on other people’s memories to getting to see both the zombie and living side of the war to the concept of what the war is ultimately about to even what a zombie is was all brand-new.  And it pretty much all makes sense in the world Marion has set up and is engaging.  I could not “put the book down.”  I listened to it in every spare second I had.  Nothing went the way I predicted and yet it all made complete sense.

R is far more complex than what you’d expect from a zombie, even before his symbolic awakening.  Julie is everything you would want from a heroine.  She’s pretty, smart, and she says fuck!  She can hold her own but is still emotional and vulnerable.  She’s exactly what any artistic, strong woman would be in a zombie apocalypse.  Even the more minor characters are well-rounded, and there is the racial diversity one would expect from a zombie apocalypse in a big city.

Alas, the narration was not quite as amazing as the story.  Although Kenerly does a very good job, sometimes he fails to convey all of the emotions going on in the scenes or doesn’t switch characters quite quick enough.  Don’t get me wrong, it was very good and didn’t detract from the story at all, but I also don’t feel that it added a ton to it.

This is a book that I know I will want to read again, and I may even need to buy an ebook or print version just to do so in a whole nother way next time.  It is an engaging new look at a zombie apocalypse that reads more as a dystopia than post-apocalyptic.  Anyone who needs restored faith in the ability of humanity to fix where we’ve gone wrong should absolutely give this book a shot.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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Book Review: The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy

January 24, 2012 2 comments

Woma in red cloche hat.Summary:
It’s 2007, and Reba is a journalist living in El Paso, Texas, with her fiance, border patrol guard, Riki.  She hasn’t been able to bring herself to be fully honest with him about her dark childhood overshadowed by her Vietnam Vet father’s struggle with depression and PTSD.  Christmas is coming up, and she is interviewing Elsie, the owner of the local German bakery.  Elsie has some intense secrets of her own that show it’s not always easy to know what’s right when your country and family go wrong.

Review:
I have an intense love for WWII stories, and I immediately was drawn to the idea of intergenerational similarities and learning from an older generation innate in this book’s plot.  It is a complex tale that McCoy expertly weaves, managing to show how people are the same, yet different, across race, time, and gender.

Reba’s and Elsie’s tales are about two very different kinds of bravery.  Reba has a wounded soul that she must be brave enough to reveal to the man she loves.  She lives in fear of turning into her father or losing herself entirely in the love for another, the way her mother did.  She faces a struggle that I have heard voiced by many in my generation–do I risk myself and my career for love or do I continue on alone?    To this end, then, the most memorable parts of Reba’s story, for me, are when Elsie advises her on love in real life, as opposed to the love you see in movies and fairy tales.

I’ve never been fooled by the romantic, grand gestures. Love is all about the little things, the everyday considerations, kindnesses, and pardons.  (location 482)

The truth is, everyone has a dark side. If you can see and forgive his dark side and he can see and forgive yours, then you have something.   (location 844)

One issue I had with the book, though, is that although we see Elsie’s two relationships before her husband in stark clarity and reality, we never really see what it is that made her ultimately choose her own husband.  We see their meeting and first “date,” yes, but that’s kind of it.  I felt the book was building up to what ultimately made Elsie choose her American husband and move to Texas, but we only see snippets of this, whereas we see a lot of Elsie’s interactions with her prior two boyfriends.  That was a big disappointment to me, because I wanted to know how Elsie knew he was the one, and how she herself was brave enough to take the leap she encourages Reba to make.

I am sure most people will most intensely react to the story of Elsie’s actions to attempt to save a Jewish boy during WWII and may even wish that was the only real story told.  Elsie’s life during wartime Germany.  It is definitely the stronger of the two stories, but I so enjoyed the lesson in valuing and listening to those older than you that we see through Reba meeting and learning from Elsie that I must say I like the book just the way it is.  Is it different? Yes.  But that’s part of what makes it stand out in a slew of WWII fiction.  Elsie did this brave thing, and her whole life she never knew if it really made much of a difference.  She just lived her life, married, had a daughter, was kind to a journalist.  In a sense, it makes her story seem more realistic.  Less like something from “The Greatest Generation” and more like something possible to accomplish for anyone with a strong will and willingness to make up her own mind.

One critique I have that slowed the book down for me and made it less enjoyable are the insertion of letters between Elsie and her sister, Hazel, who is in the Lebensborn program.  Compared to the rest of the book, the letters were slow-moving and only moderately interesting.  I can’t help but feel shorter letters would have gotten the same message across without slowing down the story quite so much.  Yes, the inclusion of the sister was necessary to the story, but I feel like she got too much stage time, as it were.

I also have to say that I really hate the cover.  It reflects none of the spirit or warmth of the book itself.  The story is wrapped in warm ovens, scents of cinnamon, and bravery, and yet we get the back of a woman’s head with an inexplicable gingham strip at the bottom? Yeesh.

Overall, this is a life-affirming story that teaches the value of connecting with the older generations and cautions against thoughtless nationalism.  I highly recommend it to fans of literary and WWII fiction alike.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: NetGalley

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Book Review: Hungry For You by A. M. Harte

August 8, 2011 4 comments

Brain in a bowl.Summary:
A collection of zombie-themed short stories and poetry with the twist that they all have to do with romantic relationships in some way, shape, or form.

Review:
This is a solid collection of short stories and poetry that can be enjoyed one at a time or inhaled in one sitting.  I went for the one sitting option.

In some stories Harte sticks to zombie tropes but in not all.  The ones where she varies or surprises the reader in some way are definitely the stronger ones.  She has an ability to imagine multiple different possible zombie apocalypses that are all, if not equally believable, still believable.  Her dialogue is a definite strength, reading as incredibly realistic in the midst of fantastical happenings.

Where she excels though, and where I would encourage her to focus future horror writings, is when she uses the zombies and zombie apocalypse as a metaphor or an instigator for something in a relationship from women’s perspective.  My three favorite stories from the collection–“Dead Man’s Rose,” “Seven Birds,” and “Alive”–all feature this element.  In “Dead Man’s Rose,” the zombie is a metaphor for an abusive lover who refuses to grant the woman her freedom.  In “Seven Birds” the surprise of the zombie apocalypse coincides nicely with an unexpected break-up (I particularly enjoyed that female character’s reaction to both).  In “Alive” the female character must deal both with the zombie apocalypse and the emotional fall-out after a one-night stand with a co-worker.  These are all three things modern women face in relationships and getting to see them take place in a world infested with zombies (one of my favorite kinds) was such a welcome change!  Too often, especially in zombie movies, we see the apocalypse from a man’s perspective and not from a woman’s.  I found myself saying to Harte in my head, “Ignore the male perspective and switch to just writing from the female perspective, because you do it so well!”  For instance, it’s not every day in a female zombie fiction fan’s life that you come across a resonant passage like this:

When I am lonely for boys what I miss is their bodies. The smell of their skin, its saltiness. The rough whisper of stubble against my cheek. The strong firm hands, the way they rest on the curve of my back.  (location 1206)

Never have I come across a passage in zombie fiction that so struck at the heart of what it is to be a modern straight woman, and to have that followed up by oh no zombies was just awesome.

There are a few shortcomings though.  A couple of the stories simply felt too short, and a couple of them–“A Prayer to Garlic” and “Arkady, Kain, & Zombies”–just didn’t make much sense to me.  I think the former would have benefited from being a bit longer with more explanation, whereas the latter actually felt too long and had a couple of plot holes that I couldn’t wrap my mind around.  This collection is periodically more British than at other times.  One short story revolves around tea to an extent that I’m afraid a Boston gal like myself just couldn’t quite relate to.  I know that those more British stories will definitely appeal to the type who love Doctor Who for instance, though.  I also really wish it included a table of contents.  That would be super-helpful in revisiting those stories readers would like to revisit.

Overall this book is definitely worth the add to any zombie fan’s collection, but particularly to female zombie fans.  It’s different and fun simultaneously.

4 out of 5 stars

Source:  Smashwords copy from the author in exchange for my honest review

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