Review: Night and Chaos by Naomi Clark

Title: Night and Chaos
Series: The Deva Chronicles, #1
Genres/Themes: urban fantasy, hinduism, romantic elements, action, novella
Author: Naomi Clark

Quick Take:
This tale had a a great premise, but I must admit that I had a hard time connecting to both the characters and the story. By the end I gained insight on some of the possible reasoning behind plotting decisions, but wished that could have come much sooner. Overall, the story is an intriguing entree into a series arc.

Book Description (via Goodreads):
     Ryan McCarthy fled Applied Paranormal Theory and Tactics, her father, and her lover six years ago, desperate to build life away from the weird science and supernatural experiments of her childhood. But everything she hoped to escape comes back with a vengeance when she's kidnapped and tortured by a possessed APTT employee out for revenge on the man responsible for his possession: Ryan's father.
     Now, reunited with the lover she abandoned, Ryan is forced back into a world of danger and darkness she no longer understands, pursued by enemies with powers she can't fathom. But Ryan's not entirely powerless herself. She'll have to use every trick she knows - as well as the mystic gift she hates - to stay ahead of those enemies. And that will be easier said than done.
Review:
I feel a bit silly, because I only realized the meaning of the book's title a moment ago as I sat down to write this review (I'll give you a hint: it's about two main characters). That fact doesn't make me feel all that bright, but the realization illuminates quite a bit about the focus of this story. You see, whilst reading the book I often found myself a bit unsure about the direction of the plot: where it was heading and why it was doing such.

I was a bit concerned about the aforementioned, because in my opinion this was not a "character driven" book. There was information given about protagonist Ryan McCarthy, of course, including some description of her complicated familial and romantic relationships, but they were mere facts; the character reiterating that she dislikes her father won't automatically make me dislike him, too. So I didn't really feel the requisite distaste for the potentially shady figures, nor did I particularly care for the supposed "good" guys. I certainly didn't find Ryan to be all that sympathetic…though, some of that was due to her childish behavior and questionable decisions, which could mean that she's not intended to be endeared to the reader, anyway. I dunno. ^_^

Along those lines, I wasn't a big fan of how frequently a variation of "it's APTT business" was used to avoid some exposition. It just felt too easy, and ended up in both the protagonist and the reader having no idea what was going on. At one point, when Ryan's ex-boyfriend Van explains to her that their current goal is to catch one baddy in order to get to another, who would in turn lead to yet another, she muses, "was that the entire APTT ethos now? Did Van even know why he was finding [the bad guy], or was this one of those 'need to know' things?" followed by a sarcastic "Great." I admit, I was thinking the same thing. ^_^

However, I really did enjoy the paranormal aspect of the tale. It's got some basis in Hinduism, involving the deities known as devas and asuras. If you're not at all familiar with these figures, it would definitely be worth doing a quick search to find out about their role in Hindu belief, seeing as how they serve as the basis for this urban fantasy series.

Events did become quite exciting and engaging in the last third of the story, I must say. And the manner in which the novella concluded made it clearer to me that a complete story arc was not intended for in this installment. That helped ease my mind on pacing and plot progression, which at the time I thought didn't match up to the length of the book ("it's halfway done and not much has happened!!").

All of the above having been said, I think that whatever story follows will be quite interesting to read about. I can even see the series being addictive. ^_^ Many of the situations alluded to in this story will surely be further developed, providing more insight into the cast of characters and their motivations.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars
"I liked it"

Guess who's newly covered up?

...that'd be Jeaniene Frost! The author just released the cover and stepback for the upcoming 6th novel in the Night Huntress series, entitled One Grave at a Time.

click on cover for full-size image
I'll give you a moment to figure out if there are any major changes. ..... got it yet? Well, the model is different, of course!  As Frost notes in her blog entry, the previous "Cat" model is no longer doing book covers. While the woman made for some nice covers, I must say that I super dig this new gal. Personally speaking, she's actually a closer match to the Cat I've had in my mind. This is a hell of an introduction; I hope she sticks around as the model for the following 3 installments!

New cover model, BUT same cover artist. Thomas Egner continues to bring just the right kind of tone and atmosphere. The stepback cover is fantastic:
click on image for larger size
Mystery, intimacy, intensity. Well done, sir. Well done.

Just for the sake of comparison, you can find below the full complement of Egner's Night Huntress covers up to this point.


One Grave at a Time is scheduled to be released on August 30, 2011.

Review: Badlands by Seleste deLaney

Title: Badlands
Series: n/a
Author: Seleste deLaney
Published: Feb. 28, 2011 by Carina Press
Genres/Themes: steampunk adventure with romance, set in North America.

Quick Take:
An imaginative and adventurous read. I greatly enjoyed the world and broader elements of the story, but felt like some of the particulars could have been well-served by further development, or perhaps even omission.

Book Description (partial, from Goodreads):
     After a brutal Civil War, America is a land divided. As commander of her nation's border guards, Ever is a warrior sworn to protect her country and her queen. When an airship attacks and kills the monarch, Ever must infiltrate enemy territory to bring home the heir to the throne, and the dirigible Dark Hawk is her fastest way to the Union.
Captain Spencer Pierce just wants to pay off the debt he owes on the Dark Hawk and make a life for himself trading across the border. When the queen's assassination puts the shipping routes at risk, he finds himself Ever's reluctant ally.
As they fly into danger, Ever and Spencer must battle not only the enemy but also their growing attraction. She refuses to place her heart before duty, and he has always put the needs of his ship and crew above his own desires. Once the princess is rescued, perhaps they can find love in the Badlands—if death doesn't find them first...
Review:
Novellas can be tricky, can't they? The content of such written pieces sometimes fits perfectly with the requisite length, developing a complete story, world and cast, all whilst fostering reader attachments to one or all of those elements. At other times, it's fairly clear that the story just desperately needs more content, either in quality or quantity. I found this tale to be of neither extreme; it was certainly entertaining and intriguing but I finished the book longing for a bit more development of specific elements.

Before delving further into the latter half of that assertion, I'd like to first discuss what I really enjoyed. This book is a steampunk tale set in America, or rather a version of the land mass we would recognize as the U.S. of today. The human/political geography of this world is fascinating, playing on some of the natural features of the landscape and historical conventions to serve as the basis for the book's main adventure. Swaths of the Southwest are what's known as the Badlands, under a sort of monarchical rule and secured by highly skilled and deadly women. The ways in which the author played with her world such that the overall dynamics were at once recognizable and fantastical were quite a joy to discover.

Now, I love romances and I love adventures, so I can appreciate a book that balances the two. This tale would not fall completely into either camp, nor should it. The combination provided a change in the pacing every so often, breaking up the intense turn of events with something softer, more identifiable.

In my personal opinion (always to be taken with a grain of salt, as you well know by now), the book could have supported a longer form. As it was, there were some plot developments that were quite sudden or random, some details that would have been compelling if delved into further. Main character Ever's intense fear of robotics, for instance; it didn't seem to be very relevant to the plot, nor did it develop the character beyond the strictly factual. In shorter tales where "space is limited," one would imagine each and every inclusion is there for some specific reason. But I dunno; I'm not a doctor. ^_^

All told, I really did enjoy this book, and I truly hope the author dips back into the world for another story or five. ^_^ It could support the future tales of many fascinating characters and riveting adventures.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Book Blogger Hop & Follow Friday - March 11, 2011

It's been a while since I've participated in a BBH or FF...maybe a month or so? This is mostly due to the fact that I've been so busy as to not have time to visit all the other hopping blogs to see what's goin' on in their worlds. :o) I try to take a few minutes to read some posts and whatnot, which when added up takes the. whole. weekend. It's so much fun, but you've got to have the time to do it! :o)
But anyway. I ramble. This week on the FF hop, the Featured blogger is Ashley from Bookaholic Does Blogging.

Q. Just like Ashley said (love it) "Ashley the girl..." who are You the Boy/Girl, instead of You the Blogger?
Alisha the girl. Well, when I'm not being a book lover, I'm being a word lover, teaching English and editing materials for others. I'm currently kickin' it abroad short-term with my husband, and am (very) slowly learning how to speak German. Crafting is my other love: crochet, knitting, jewelry-making...I love them all.
Gah! That's it. I look forward to reading other responses because it's always nice to know a bit about the person behind the books. ^_^
The Book Blogger Hop's question this week is the kind of question I often use for daydreaming. ^_^

Book Blogger Hop
"If I gave you £50 (or $80) and sent you into a bookshop right now, what would be in your basket when you finally staggered to the till?"
To be completely honest, if I were given some mad money to spend on books, I'd make selections not in my usual group. That means cookbooks!!
....can you tell that I love sweet treats? ^_^
So there you have it. If you're participating in this week's hops, I look forward to stopping by your place and reading your own answers! Schoenes Wochenende!

In Anticipation: My Life As A White Trash Zombie

So, this is not exactly hot-of-the-presses news or anything, but nonetheless I need to show my love for an upcoming series by Diana Rowland. The author's Kara Gillian series is just so fabu-tastic. This summer will mark the release of the first book in her second series, featuring the most misunderstood of paranormal creatures, the zombie. ^_^
     Living with her alcoholic deadbeat dad in the swamps of southern Louisiana, she's a high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record who's been fired from more crap jobs than she can count. Now on probation for a felony, it seems that Angel will never pull herself out of the downward spiral her life has taken.
      That is, until the day she wakes up in the ER after overdosing on painkillers. Angel remembers being in an horrible car crash, but she doesn't have a mark on her. To add to the weirdness, she receives an anonymous letter telling her there's a job waiting for her at the parish morgue--and that it's an offer she doesn't dare refuse.
      Before she knows it she's dealing with a huge crush on a certain hunky deputy and a brand new addiction: an overpowering craving for brains. Plus, her morgue is filling up with the victims of a serial killer who decapitates his prey--just when she's hungriest!
     Angel's going to have to grow up fast if she wants to keep this job and stay in one piece. Because if she doesn't, she's dead meat. Literally.
Now, I've already read two of the Kara Gillian books. And I tell you, Ms. Rowland is gifted when it comes to writing about forensics and detective work. Not surprising, seeing as how she writes from experience and first-hand-knowledge. The fact that this new series has a protagonist that works for a morgue...well, you can bet there'll be some interesting visuals. ^_^ 

What's more, the protagonist seems to be a bit of an f-up as far as responsibility goes (during her mortal existence, at least). While it seems that Angel's death is a bit of a wake up call for her to get her act together, I'd imagine she's bound to me a more down-to-earth type. Not a vision of perfection, but a potty-mouthed, mistake-making...human like some of us are. Well, maybe not quite human. One doesn't often think of zombies as loveable, cool or sexy. This book will likely be a nice change from the vamp and shifter protags of most urban fantasy series.

Now, I've got to Cover-Talk for a second, because as it happens, this artwork was done by none other than Dan Dos Santos. The man is just so gifted. A beautiful, cute-looking zombie with blood all over her mouth? Love it. And the "I Love Brains" tattoo is just a crack-up.Thankfully, the cover copy is simple and lets the beauty of artwork shine through.

A sample of the book cover with full copy text. From dianarowland.com

What are your thoughts on this new series? Do you like the cover art? Do you think you might pick it up when it's released this summer?

My Life As A White Trash Zombie will be released on July 5th, 2011 by DAW.

An Interview with 12.21.12 Protagonist, Sheppard "Shep" Smyth

Continuing the festivities of author Killian McRae's 12.21.12 blog tour, My Need to Read has been given the amazing opportunity to hold an interview with Dr. Sheppard Smyth, the book's protagonist. In McRae's story, "Shep" Smyth finds himself dropped into the middle of a whirlwind of mythology, high adventure and historical intrigue. I sit down with him today to discuss some points about his profession as a well-respected archeologist and specialist on Egyptology.
My Need to Read: Thank you for joining us today, Dr. Smyth. Your reputation as a prominent Egyptologist precedes you; I’d love for you to tell us how and when you first discovered an interest in Egyptology.
Dr. Smyth: Well, I first discovered a love for Egypt when I was in high school. I was sick one day and got stuck home from school. I spent the whole day watching TV, and as I was flipping through the channels, I happened on the film "Cleopatra." You know, the one from the '60's with Liz Taylor? I don't know exactly why, but the second I started watching, I became obsessed. I felt like I came alive. I mean, of course I had heard of the pharaohs and the pyramids and all that, but it didn't seem... You know, real to me until there was a concrete person I could scaffold all that knowledge around. I had always enjoyed digging up stuff in the yard, and as I read more and more about Egypt, I guess my two loves just sort of ... merged.

MNtR: You've spent much of your career attempting to prove that the infamous Cleopatra VII did not commit suicide, but rather was murdered. What made you first believe in this theory?

S: First, you have to understand this, and I know it's going to sound like I'm overturning my own theory, but it needs to be said: when you study history, you have to be careful not to make presumptions and overthrow truth based on the moral and cultural framework you take to the field with you. The accepted version of history is that Cleo killed herself when Rome had seized power over Egypt and she felt like she had fought every fight she could. Some even speculate that her heart was broken because of Mark Antony's death shortly before her own. And the truth is, suicide in the ancient world was considered an honorable option for a defeated leader to exercise. Still, every bit of my instinct has always told me this wasn't in line with her ways. Even if Octavian had gotten her back to Rome, I think she still would have felt that she'd have allies. She did have friends amongst the Romans, though few. Also, few people outside the field don't realize how exceptionally intelligent Cleo was. The whole snake thing? It sounds suspicious. Cleo would have been considered a physician in her time; she had a keen knowledge of poisons and how to prepare them. I doubt a snake would have been necessary.  

But the clincher for me was actually a bit of papyrus that turned up recently that documents the arrival of what I believe were Cleopatra's children to a nearby Nubian region south of Egypt. In this text, it states that three children and their guardian asked the Nubian king for sanctuary in the wake of the Pharaoh's death. We know from history that Octavian was very concerned with what to be done with Cleo's children, and no doubt those in Egypt that thought they still had a chance to rise up against Rome would have wanted her bloodline preserved. Cleo always had a plan, and I think this fits with her character. She would have had a plan for where her children would go if she should fall. Someone knew they were in danger. Someone tried to get them to safety.

MNtR: That's a fascinating find, although I'd imagine your work is not accepted by your peers. Are there any other Egyptologists that you look up to or admire?

S: Zahi Hawass is the current Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities... Well, I mean to say, he was, prior to the overthrow of the Mubarek regime. Still, I think as things normalize in Egypt, you're likely to see him continue in that post, as well he should. Zahi is an exceptional talent in the field, and because he's Egyptian, he's brought the passion of a native of the region to his work. Because of him, a whole new generation of Egyptian youngsters are embracing the rich, cultural past of their country. He's also re-popularizing Egyptology in the west by encouraging a multi-disciplinary approach to the discipline.

But, I would have to say, the legend who inspires me is Anathea Hermapolous. Anathea pioneered the use of modern technologies like carbon dating and sonar in the field of archaeology, and has the most in depth knowledge of anyone in our field. If there's any figure I inspire to be like, it's her.

MNtR: What about Egyptian deities...do you have any favorites, any you find particularly fascinating?
S: Everyone loves a good story, right? To me, I've always been entertained by the story of Horus, most notably the story of his conception. As the story goes, Isis - I guess you might call her the matron of the goddesses, sort of like Hera is in Greek myth- conceived Horus by resurrecting her dead husband. Only, there was  a catch- her husband was resurrected without a... how should I put this politely- without a male reproductive organ. I guess a crocodile had eaten it. So, Isis made one for him out of gold, and the result of their coupling was Horus.

MNtR: What are your thoughts on the popular 12/21/12-related theories…namely, that the world will end on that date?
S: You mean that Mayan prophecy thing? I guess I haven't thought much about it in particular. But, I guess I can say this: If I had a penny for every silly end-of-the-world prediction that has come and gone during the history of the world, I'd be a very rich man. They're all hogwash. But in this day and age, like any day and age, humans fear time. We fear our mortality. People who propagate these things play on the weak-minded's fear and exploit it- for money, for fame, for power. Whatever their drug of choice is. So this--what was it, 12.21.12?--yeah, let's just say I'm not scared.  

MNtR: A logical outlook, indeed. In that case, how do you plan on spending December 21, 2012?
S: It falls a few days before Christmas, so I'll probably be avoiding the shopping centers.

MNtR: That’s certainly a good idea in any case. It's been an honor and a pleasure to have you here today, Dr. Smyth!

Many thanks to Killian McRae for the interview! You can pick up a copy of 12.21.12 here at Omnific Publishing's website. It's also available at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
-----
The blog tour continues throughout the rest of March, across a wide swath of book blogs. The schedule includes the visits below. Be sure to check them out for more information about the book and author.
Julie @ A Tale of Many Reviews - Review – March 1st 2011
Yelania @ The Itzel Library – Interview – March 2nd 2011
Damaris @ Good Choice Reading – Top Ten/Giveaway – March 3rd 2011
Mandy @ Twimom101's book blog – Interview – March 4th 2011
Casey @ Dark Readers Blog – Interview – March 5th 2011
AlishaMy Need to Read – Character post – March 6th 2011
Jules @ One Book Shy of a Full Shelf – Interview/Giveaway – March 7th 2011
Lisa K. @ Baffled Books – review – March 8th 2011
Sarah @ The Book Bee – Character Interview – March 9th 2011
Page @ One Book at a Time – Guest post/Interview – March 10th 2011
Michelle @ Hooked To Books – Giveaway/Review – March 11th 2011
Kristin @ My Bookish Ways – Review/Interview – March 12th 2011
Celine @ Nyx Book Reviews – Top Ten – March 13th 2011
Sherri @ Urban Girl Reader – review/Q&A/giveaway – March 14th 2011
Cherry @ Cherry Mischievous – Guest post – March 15th 2011
Bianca @ Sweet Nothings xo – review/giveaway – March 16th 2011
Rebecca @ My Life with Boys and Books – review – March 17th 2011
Megan @ A Trail of Books Left Behind – review/character interview – March 18th 2011
Jennifer @ Ponytails Book Reviews – review – March 19th 2011
Tammy @ Into The Mystic –  - March 20th 2011
Lisa @ Bookworm Lisa – Top Ten/Giveaway – March 21st 2011
Tara @ Taming the Bookshelf –  - March 22nd 2011
Rachel @ Parajunkee’s View –  - March 23rd 2011
Melissa @ I Swim for Oceans – review/interview – March 24th 2011
Kathy @ I Am A Reader, Not A Writer – giveaway/interview – March 25th 2011
Christin @ Between the Covers – review – March 26th 2011
Stacy @ Girls in the Stacks – review – March 27th 2011
Ash @ Smash Attack Reads – character interview – March 28th 2011
Aleetha @ bacaan-ally blog – review – March 29th 2011
Ashlie @ Bookish Novelties – review/interview – March 30th 2011
YaraOnce Upon a Twilight – Review/Giveaway – March 31st 2011
Once Upon a Twilight Author Live chat – March 31st 2011 @ 9pm CST


Review: Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin

Title: Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin
Series: n/a
Author: Kathy Griffin
Genre/Themes: humorous memoir
Published: Sept. 9, 2009 by Ballantine

Quick Take:
From the tongue-in-cheek title to the celebrity-filled index, this book was a hoot. Griffin manages to write a memoir that is at once touching, informative, freaky and above all FUNNY.
Book Description (partial, from Publisher): Official Book Club Selection is Kathy Griffin unplugged, uncensored, and unafraid to dish about what really happens on the road, away from the cameras, and at the star party after the show. (It’s also her big chance to score that coveted book club endorsement she’s always wanted. Are you there, Oprah? It’s me, Kathy.)
 Review:
I like to consider myself a "fan" of comedian Kathy Griffin. Her reality show, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, is full of kooky situations where Griffin's personality is deliciously larger than life. On one particular episode, she announced to the world that she was planning on writing a tell-all book about her life. She informed her pal Rosie O'Donnell of this development, exclaiming, "Guess what my book's going to be called? Official Book Club Selection!" in an uh-huh-you-heard-me-right manner before Rosie gave her a you-go-girl! high-five. At that moment, I knew I had to have this book in my life. ^_^

If you know anything about Kathy Griffin, you'll know that she's all about the snarky humor. Most of her stand-up work is centered around a loose, conversational type routine that is blessedly free of the "set-up/punchline" framework common to many other comics. She really seems to enjoy "dishing" on celebrities, including her awkward (or wonderful) interactions with the many personalities populating Hollywood. Her book has some of that same humor, and even includes a handy index at the end allowing for easy reference to the myriad stars she mentions. She clearly doesn't mind telling some tales out of school…about herself as well as others.

However, the book is not set up to duplicate her particular brand of stage comedy. Indeed, her humor translates quite well to the page, and avoids gratuitous punchline-after-punchline. But she also provides a genuine and seemingly heartfelt description of her upbringing, family, career struggles and personal dramas. While it's clear that Kathy deals with a lot by using humor (a trait that she apparently got from her parents), she's not exempt from frustration and heartbreak, and that comes across in this memoir. She seemed to have a good balance in which the reader is entertained but also gets a glimpse of the real Kathy.

It's made obvious through this book that Griffin absolutely adores her parents. I think that this more than anything else really grabbed me about her; one is so used to seeing the Firebrand Kathy who's always pushing buttons. It was touching to see how, in her own way, she's all about family first.

I'm of the opinion that this book would appeal to many, including those who are not very familiar with Griffin's work. Her dedicated fans will totally be able to envision her dishing her story and enjoy her irreverence. And the uninitiated would get a slightly smoother dose of Kathy Griffin. The only prerequisite is that you have to love the Funny. ^_^

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

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