Monday, March 29, 2010

Changes: by Jim Butcher



Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden's lover-until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it.

Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it-against Harry. To prevail this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power. Because Harry's not fighting to save the world...

He's fighting to save his child.


Over the past decade Jim Butcher has pushed the limits to our imagination through his Dresdan Files series. He has become the leader in urban fantasy and fantasy genres. And he has done it with books that have transcended past the normal fan base of science fiction and fantasy readers into other interests, earning his books spots on numerous awards lists, including numerous appearances on the New York Times Bestseller list.

And through all of this Butcher has created a web of fascinating plot lines that entice and captivate readers worldwide. Yet it is in this book, and this book alone that leaves me speechless in wake of the conclusion. I wont say more about the way this book ends for fear of giving anything away, but I implore that you read it yourself.

Changes is the heart pounding 12th book in the Dresdan Files. It contains all the aspects that can be expected in a Jim Butcher book; action, plot twists, and most importantly good writing. Jim Butcher is my favorite fantasy writer, and he has earned this position by writing sensational books that even the most skeptical of the fantasy genre would enjoy.

But what makes Changes different from all Butchers other books is that it is in this book that some important answers are answered about Harry’s past and some decisions are made that will change the course of this series and Harry’s life forever.

Because of this and because this book is one of the best books in the series I would recommend this book to anyone. I implore readers to read the entire series as the plot builds upon each book, but when those who do follow my advice finish this book they will thank me for introducing them to one of the best fantasy series out today.

Of course those of you that want something more for their experience, Jim Butcher himself will be in Houston at MURDER BY THE BOOK on April 6th to begin his tour for Changes. Here is the link for Butcher’s tour schedule for Changes, and I encourage those of you interested in good fantasy to stop by and meet the king of fantasy.


10 out of 10


Publisher: Roc

Published: April 6, 2010

Price: $25.95

King of the Screwups: by K.L. Going



Liam Geller is Mr. Popularity. Everybody loves him. He excels at sports; he knows exactly what clothes to wear; he always ends up with the most beautiful girls in school. But he's got an uncanny ability to screw up in the very ways that tick off his father the most.
When Liam finally kicked out of the house, his father's brother takes him in. What could a teenage chick magnet possibly have in common with his gay, glam rocker, DJ uncle who lives in a trailer in upstate New York? A lot more than you'd think. And when Liam attempts to make himself over as a nerd in a desperate attempt to impress his father, it's his "aunt" Pete and the guys in his band who convince Liam there's much more to him than his father will ever see.


What would you do if your father said you were a screwup?

What would you do if he said it everyday for as long as you could remember? After a while would you start to believe it? Would you strive for his acceptance and praise only to fall short, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of your screwups?

This is the life of Liam Geller. He is incredibly popular, has an amazing fashion sense, and is a king screwup. His father has beaten it into his skull that he will never be good enough and it is because of this that Liam screws up in life. On top of all of that Liam’s dad has kicked him out of the house. Liam now out of house and home is sent to live with his drag wearing black sheep of an uncle who lives in a trailer park.

I really enjoyed King of the Screwups. K.L. Going is an excellent writer who truly knows her way around a pen and paper, and it is through this sensational writing style that Going is able to create a multidimensional protagonist that truly make her story stand out.

Readers are able to get a 360 degree look at Liam through Going’s snapshots of the past revealing: why Liam’s loves fashion, his father’s unfairly attributed disappointment and verbal abuse of Liam, and the reason Liam’s mother sent him to his uncle Pete. But besides this, King of the Screwups also has an interesting story line that will captivate and entice readers of all ages.

One of only complaint I had for this book was the fact that it all seemed to end to fast. It felt like the reader spent a large amount of time building up to the point when Liam would rebel and get his life in order, but things kept spinning out of control until the very last second.

I also felt there were some secrets that were never answered or could have been left out. These secrets include, why Liam cherishes his surfboard and the reason everyone kept focusing on Liam being some other person’s child besides his fathers.

Yet while it has it’s flaws, King of the Screwups, is a sensational book. I really enjoyed it I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys young adult literature. Finally I plan to put K.L. Going on my list of authors to watch in the future as she is positively sparking with talent.


8.5 out of 10


Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books

Published: April 6, 2009

Price: $17.00

Monday, March 22, 2010

Kiss of Death: by Rachel Caine



Vampire musician Michael Glass has attracted the attention of a big- time producer who wants to cut a demo and play some gigs-which means Michael will have to enter the human world. For this, he's been assigned escorts that include both a dangerous immortal as well as Michael's all-too-human friends. And with that mix of personalities, this is going to be a road trip from hell...


There is a reason Rachel Caine is a New York Times bestseller, and Kiss of Death reminds us of this.

Caine who has written The Weather Warden series, The Outcast series, and The Morganville Vampire series, structures all her stories in the same way, in an adrenaline high adventure that leaves the reader begging for more.

Here’s the simple truth, Caine’s books are addictive. They read like the show “24”, in a high action serial that causes more questions to come up than answers. It doesn’t matter if one installment is bad, once you’ve started you have to finish, no matter what. And I must say this sensational writer has a way with introducing new plot twists that make even the most seasoned reader clutch at their armrests in excitement.

This particular book, Kiss of Death, brings something new to the series. It offers our first real glace outside of Morganville, and shows different sides of characters that we would have never expected. But like all of Caine’s books this episode ends with a bang, leaving the reader eager with anticipation for the next installment.

As you can tell I am a fan of Rachel Caine and all her works, but what I must caution against is starting the series in the middle. While it is possible to read these books out of order, Caine’s style of writing is significantly more enjoyable when read from the beginning, so the reader is not constantly guessing at what past relationships were.

I enjoyed this book a lot and would recommend it to both girls who have gotten caught up in the “Twilight” vampire craze and any fantasy reader looking for a good action packed read.


7.5 out of 10


Publisher: Signet

Published: April 27, 2010

Price: $6.99

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Heights: by Peter Hedges



Tim Welch is a popular history teacher at the Montague Academy, an exclusive private school in Brooklyn Heights. As he says, "I was an odd-looking, gawky kid but I like to think my rocky start forced me to develop empathy, kindness, and a tendency to be enthusiastic. All of this, I'm now convinced, helped in my quest to be worthy of Kate Oliver." Now, Kate is not inherently ordinary. But she aspires to be. She stays home with their two young sons in a modest apartment trying desperately to become the parent she never had. They are seemingly the last middle-class family in the Heights, whose world is turned upside down by Anna Brody, the new neighbor who moves into the most expensive brownstone in Brooklyn, sending the local society into a tailspin.

Anna is not only beautiful and wealthy; she's also mysterious. And for reasons Kate doesn't quite understand, even as all the Range Rover- driving moms jockey for invitations into Anna's circle, Anna sets her sights on Kate and Tim and brings them into her world.


Having just finished "The Heights", by Peter Hedges, I can tell you, I loved it.

"The Heights" is a well-written fun novel that will certainly be passed friend to friend in the neighborhood. The main characters, Tim and Kate, a young couple with two young sons, are realistic and loveable. The characters that populate their world are quirky and entertaining. They are so well-crafted that every reader will recognize some of her friends in the group.

The story itself is like a ride on the log ride. The story builds and builds, each crank adding anticipation and expectation with a little bit of doubt, and then the story sends you plummeting down the hill with a final exhilarating splash. Invigorating fun that leaves you wanting more.

While "The Heights" may not appeal to those who haven't experienced marriage it is still a phenomenal book that I would recommend to anyone looking for a good beach read. And I personally hope Hedges will write a follow up novel so I can revisit my new friends Tim and Kate.


8 out of 10


Publisher: Dutton Adult

Published: March 4, 2010

Price: $25.95

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ostrich Boys: by Keith Gray



Ross is dead, and Blake, Sim, and Kenny are furious. To make it right, they steal Ross’s ashes and set out from their home on the English coast for the tiny village of Ross in southern Scotland, a place their friend had always wanted to go. What follows is an unforgettable journey with illegal train rides, bungee jumping, girls, and high-speed police chases—all with Ross’s ashes along for the ride. As events spin wildly out of control, the three friends must take their heads out of the sand long enough to answer the question: What really happened to Ross?


Death is one of the hardest things anyone has to deal with.

It’s maddening, heartbreaking, and pointless. But worst of all it’s lonely.

And when it happens to your best friend it’s so horrible you couldn’t and shouldn’t try to deal with it alone.

In Ostrich Boys Kenny, Sim, and Blake have lost their best friend, Ross. They don’t know what to do but they know it all just seems… wrong. All the people in Ross’s life made him miserable. From his parents’ constant nagging, to his teacher’s unrelenting harassment, to the school bully’s daily abuse, they all beat him down until there was nothing left. And now that Ross is gone they don’t even acknowledge it’s their fault. Because of this, Ross’s friends decide to steal his ashes and set out to the one place Ross joked he wanted to live, Ross, Scotland.

Now with an adventure rivaling Steve Martin and John Candy’s Planes, Trains, and Automobiles three friends travel across the country in effort to resolve their feelings of grief and guilt and to finally lay their best friend to rest.

Ostrich Boys was a truly remarkable book. The emotions expressed in this novel are palpable as the three teenagers fight against the bitter disappointment and sadness that has encompasses them in their effort to deal with their friend’s death.

But what was most shocking to me were the connections I felt to the main characters. I could easily relate to the sense of togetherness each of the boys felt for each other, and had no trouble believing that this ragtag group of friends could form.

Gray clearly spent countless hours honing the interactions between these characters, as this is the essence of the book. Without these lifelike and charismatic interactions between the characters, Ostrich Boys would flounder and fail. But with them they create a relatable coming of age story that will captivate audiences worldwide.

Ostrich Boys is a compelling tale filled with memorable characters, an interesting plot, and emotions galore. Because of this I would recommend Ostrich Boys to boys between 12 and 20. That said, the feelings and lessons within Ostrich Boys are applicable to anyone, no matter their age, and as such I could see people of all ages enjoying Ostrich Boys.


7.5 out of 10


Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Published: March 23, 2010

Price: $17.99

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Divine Misfortune: A. Lee Martinez



Divine Misfortune is a story of gods and mortals---in worship, in love, and at parties.

Teri and Phil had never needed their own personal god. But when Phil is passed up for a promotion - again-it's time to take matters into their own hands. And look online.

Choosing a god isn't as simple as you would think. There are too many choices; and they often have very hefty prices for their eternal devotion: blood, money, sacrifices, and vows of chastity. But then they found Luka, raccoon god of prosperity. All he wants is a small cut of their good fortune.

Oh -- and can he crash on their couch for a few days?

Throw in a heartbroken love goddess and an ancient deity bent on revenge and not even the gods can save Teri and Phil.


With the introduction of the internet everything from shopping to dating has been redirected to the internet. A. Lee Martinez has taken this a step further and offered divinity selection via a matching service. This is the world according to Divine Misfortune, where gods and mortal live among each other (well mostly, the gods still have the best real estate), and anyone can offer up their allegiance to a god in exchange for heavenly favors.

This is exactly what protagonists Phil and Teri think they’re getting themselves into when they sign up to worship a god. They want something easy, nothing that will completely alter their lives, just something to make things a little easier.

Enter Lucky.

Lucky is a minor god of luck. He wont smite you, he doesn’t put on airs, and he’s offering just what Phil and Teri are asking for. What they don’t know is that with Lucky comes, house parties filled with gods, a roommate (he’s fine with just crashing in the guest room), and a holy war. Now with bad luck raining down, Phil and Teri are just trying to survive, but when the gods have it in for you, things aren’t looking up.

I loved Divine Misfortune, it was hilarious! Between gods watching daytime soaps to Hades playing videogames, this book is rip-roaringly funny. Martinez has a humorous bite to his writing style that would make even the most bitter, humorless, flop of a person laugh.

From stalker gods to divinophiles (obsessive god lovers), Divine Misfortune has it all. The reader is easily able to relate to the characters yet the situations are zany enough that the reader will laugh their ass off.

But what I loved most about this book were the lovable characters. Martinez created all the characters with just the right about of personality and spunk. From Quezacotl (Quick), who is a sad but helpful god crashing of Phil and Teri’s couch. To Teri, the strong and loving wife who wont have any of that chauvinistic chivalry crap her husband keeps offering himself when they get into trouble. To Syph, the bitter and obsessive ex-girlfriend of Lucky, who will resort to anything from stalking to revenge to get what she considers hers, Lucky. These characters are put into situations that offer hint of realistic grievances with absurd solutions, creating uproarious and entertaining story lines.

All-in-all Divine Misfortune was a side-splittingly funny book. It is a perfect read for any fan of Christopher Moore or Terry Pratchett, and I personally am planning to go out and get Martinez’s other books, starting with Monster.


9 out of 10

Publisher: Orbit

Published: March 26, 2010

Price: $19.99

The Recruit (Cherub): by Robert Muchamore



CHERUB agents are all seventeen and under. They wear skate tees and hemp, and look like regular kids. But they're not. They are trained professionals who are sent out on missions to spy on terrorists and international drug dealers. CHERUB agents hack into computers, bug entire houses, and download crucial documents. It is a highly dangerous job. For their safety, these agents DO NOT EXIST.

James is the latest CHERUB recruit. He and his sister were recently orphaned, and James has been in a lot of trouble. But he is brilliant in math. And CHERUB needs him. After one hundred days, the grueling training period is over. But the adventure has just begun.


For decades people has been fascinated with the world of espionage. From James Bond to Jason Bourne, spies have made the entertainment industry billions of dollars.

Whether it be their debonair, devil may care, attitude, the endorphin high we feel as they pull a fast one over the mark, or the exhale of exhilaration as they narrowly escape death to clutch victory from the hands of defeat, we were born to love spies.

But where did these spies learn their trade? When did they start?

We learn all this and more in Robert Muchamore’s, The Recruit. The Recruit takes place at Cherub, a government training facility for underage spies. These child spies are trained to perform the duties of an adult spy, operating in situations that would draw less attention from children than from adults. These situations includes everything from vandalizing a house to infiltrating an organization through the suspects children.

The Recruit starts a little slow but the minute James enters Cherub it becomes a captivating rollercoaster ride of excitement. Readers wont be able to put the book down as James navigates the brutal training program at Cherub, and with the execution of his first mission readers will hold their breath in anticipation.

I would have liked the main characters to be a few years older, possibly 14 or 15, but it doesn’t affect the story enough to put the book down. That said the only other complaint I had for the book were some of the characters like Amy, who seemed to change personalities throughout the book, causing the reader to feel confused about their purpose.

That said The Recruit is a fast paced exciting read that young adult boys will just love. It is a perfect fit for its target audience, and anyone else who enjoys the world of espionage and deceit should pick it up as well.


9 out of 10


Publisher: Simon Pulse

Published: April 6, 2010

Price: $16.99

Deader Still: by Anton Strout



It’s been 737 days since the Department of Extraordinary Affairs’ last vampire incursion, but that streak appears to have ended when a boat full of dead lawyers is found in the Hudson River. Using the power of psychometry—the ability to divine the history of an object by touching it—agent Simon Canderous discovers that the booze cruise was crashed by something that sucked all the blood out of the litigators. Now, his workday may never end—until his life does.


I liked the idea of a government facility being used to hunt down and solve supernatural problems, but I felt the sequel to Dead to Me just didn’t live up to its predecessor.

Strout continues the jokes on having to put in mountains of paperwork for even the smallest issue, but he fails to add anything new to the series to make this book anything other than a copy of the first book with a different adventure. And while that works for some series, I felt the jokes were stale by the time I read this sequel.

One of my only real gripes about Dead to Me was the character development, or lack their of. Deader Still continues this problem. While I did find some of the characters had been improved, such as Connor and Simon, many still irked me, such as the annoying girlfriend Jane. I didn’t like her in the first book and I don’t like her in the second. But the saddest thing about this was that there was no further character development. While Strout is improving his writing, it seems he’s only improving his characters between books, and not having them grow during the books at all.

That said Strout did try to make this book better than Dead to Me. For starters Strout improved the plot in Deader Still in comparison to Dead To Me. He did this by introducing aspects of Simon’s old life as a criminal, and by having these people blackmail him into working for them one last time. This balancing act that Simon has to endure between his job, his recently procured position as a FOGie, and his old life lead to some interesting situations that do make the book more interesting, but still overall it just doesn’t cut it as a good book.

But the worst part of the book had to be the power’s used in it. Connor’s power’s are never described to their full extent, and because of this barely seem like powers at all. Jane’s power’s seem ridiculously powerful for someone who had no idea she had them. And Simon’s powers are just plain boring. There are only so many things you can do with feeling the past with your hands, and I feel Strout has used them all by now. Besides this the evil they face seem so much more organized and powerful than them, and it just seems odd this band of semi-untrained people can bring them down.

All this adds up to one thing, boring powers + lack of character development = not that interesting of a book. Because of this I would say stay away from this book for a while. I think Strout can improve his writing, but until that time just read something else.


3.5 out of 10


Publisher: Ace

Published: February 24, 2009

Price: $7.99

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Conqueror’s Shadow: by Ari Marmell

The Conqueror’s Shadow


They called him the Terror of the East. His past shrouded in mystery, his identity hidden beneath a suit of black armor and a skull-like helm, Corvis Rebaine carved a bloody path through Imphallion, aided by Davro, a savage ogre, and Seilloah, a witch with a taste for human flesh. No shield or weapon could stop his demon-forged axe. And no magic could match the spells of his demon slave, Khanda.

Yet just when ultimate victory was in his grasp, Rebaine faltered. His plans of conquest, born from a desire to see Imphallion governed with firmness and honesty, shattered. Amid the chaos of a collapsing army, Rebaine vanished, taking only a single hostage—the young noblewomanTyannon—to guarantee his escape.

Seventeen years later, Rebaine and Tyannon are married, living in obscurity and raising their children, a daughter and a son. Rebaine has put his past behind him, given up his dreams of conquest. Not even news of Audriss—an upstart warlord following Rebaine’s old path of conquest—can stir the retired warrior to action.

Until his daughter is assaulted by Audriss’s goons.

Now, to rescue the country he once tried to conquer, Rebaine once more dons the armor of the Terror of the East and seeks out his former allies. But Davro has become a peaceful farmer.Seilloah has no wish to leave her haunted forest home. And Khanda . . . well, to describe his feelings for his former master as undying hatred would be an understatement.

But even if Rebaine can convince his onetime comrades to join him, he faces a greater challenge: Does he dare to reawaken the part of him that gloried in cruelty, blood, and destruction? With the safety of his family at stake, can he dare not to?


When I first picked up The Conqueror’s Shadow, I thought it sounded interesting but not that original. Now after reading it I have to say, boy was I wrong. I loved The Conqueror’s Shadow! From the fast paced action to the witty and endearing characters The Conqueror’s Shadow has it all.

My initial thought that the book would be unoriginal and overly filled with war details was completely wrong. The book is instead filled with strong supporting characters that are both endearing and comical, a strong and fast paced plot, and an ending filled with twists to delight even the most jaded reader.

But what impressed me most about The Conqueror’s Shadow, were the flashback sequences interspersed throughout the book and the level of writing Marmell uses to transform Corvis, the Terror of the East into a peaceful and happy husband and father.

I’ve read a number of fantasy books that have tried to use this same flashback technique, but often it comes across as dull and unnecessary. This is not the case for The Conqueror’s Shadow, instead these flashbacks complete the character development necessary to make an evil warlord likable to the reader, as well as show the sequence of events that brought us to the present. These flashbacks round out the protagonist and ultimately giving this book a step up on the majority of books in this genre.

As for Marmell’s writing, never before have I read a book that the author is able to so aptly paint the protagonist in such a morally grey area. Corvis is truly a monster of a man, he killed thousands in his war, unleashed the gnomes and other terrifying creatures on the world, and had his demon, Khanda, eat the souls of hundreds of innocent men, women, and children. Yet Marmell has done a remarkable job infusing Corvis with just the right amount of admirable qualities to make him instead into a humble yet flawed man. A man who just wanted to make the world into a better place. Marmell uses these same skills and the flashback sequences mentioned above to illustrate the transformation that causes this monster of a man to become the husband and father we meet at the beginning.

Yet at the end of the day it all comes down to one question. Did I enjoy the book? And I can clearly and easily say, yes, I enjoyed this book.

Marmell’s superior righting ability, the fast paced action, and the lovable supporting character make The Conqueror’s Shadow a great read and easily something I would recommend to anyone who likes fantasy.


9 out of 10


Publisher: Spectra

Published: February 23, 2010

Price: $26.00