Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Challenge Recap

2011 was the year of the challenges for me. I read somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 to 400 books in a given year. In 2011 I topped out at 367. I thought that if I joined a ton of challenges I would definitely be able to complete them all with such a big list of books on my agenda. 

What I didn't add into the equation was the fact that doing challenges is based more on what you want to read and not what you are required to read. I read a ton a books for review. Books I have been sent by publishers and authors that I feel obligated to read. I also read some books for my own personal pleasure, but not nearly so many as I read for other reasons. 

So I mistakenly entered 34 reading challenges. I know, I know, that was way too many. I have cut down considerably for 2012. And I chose challenges I enjoy participating in or wanted to do for specific reasons. There are tons of 2011 challenges that I didn't finish for various reasons. So here is a run down of what I finished. I what I didn't and which ones I want to try again. For a complete list of the books I read for each challenge and the overall list of what I read this year take a look at this post!

The Steampunk Challenge (October 2010 - October 2011)
Result: (FAILED)  
I read 1 out of 5 books for this challenge

2011 Global Reading Challenge
Result: (FAILED)
I read 4 out of 7 books for this challenge

2011 New Authors Challenge
I read 50 out of 50 books for this challenge

2011 TBR Challenge
Result: (FAILED)
I read 1 out of 12 books for this challenge

A to Z Challenge (26 Authors, 26 Titles)
Result: (FAILED) 
I read 35 out of 42 books for this challenge 

2011 Christian Fiction Challenge
I read 12 out of 12 books for this challenge

2011 Support Your Local Library Challenge
Result: (FAILED)
I read 23 out 50 books for this challenge

2011 Highlander Reading Challenge
Result: (FAILED)
I read 9 out of 20 books for this challenge

2011 Mystery and Suspense Challenge
I read 12 out of 12 books for this challenge

2011 Book Blogger Recommendation Challenge
Result: (FAILED)
I read 6 out of 15 books for this challenge

2011 Paranormal YA Reading Challenge
Result: (FAILED)
I read 9 out of 12 books for this challenge

2011 Show Me The Free Challenge
Result: (FAILED)
I read 1 out of 12 books for this challenge

2011 Just For Fun Reading Challenge
I read 12 out of 12 books for this challenge

2011 Vampire Challenge
I read 20 out of 20 books for this challenge

2011 Shape Shifters Challenge (Werewolves)
Result: (FAILED)
I read 4 out of 20 books for this challenge

Read-A-Myth Challenge 
Result: (FAILED)
I read 1 out of 2 books for this challenge

2011 Cozy Mystery Challenge
I read 12 out of 12 books for this challenge

100+ Reading Challenge
I read 367 out of 100 books for this challenge

1st in a Series Challenge
I read 20 out of 20 books for this challenge

2011 Debut Author Challenge
Result: (FAILED)
I read 2 out of 12 books for this challenge

Paranormal Romance Challenge (Adult)
I read 20 out of 20 books for this challenge

2011 E-book Challenge
I read 20 out of 20 books for this challenge

2011 Audio Book Challenge
Result: (FAILED)
I read 2 out of 12 books for this challenge

2011 Historical Romance Challenge
I read 12 out of 12 books for this challenge

2011 Horror and Urban Fantasy Challenge
I read 24 out of 24 books for this challenge

50 States Challenge
Result: (FAILED)
I read 37 out of 50 books for this challenge

What's in a Name Challenge
Result: (FAILED)
I read 5 out of 6 books for this challenge

2011 Romance Reading Challenge
I read 12 out of 12 books for this challenge

2011 ARC Reading Challenge
I read 30 out of 30 books for this challenge

2011 Books Won Challenge
Result: (FAILED)
I read 2 out of 10 books for this challenge

2011 YA Reading Challenge
Result: (FAILED)
I read 17 out of 20 books for this challenge

2011 Historical Fiction Challenge
I read 20 out of 20 books for this challenge

The Reading Challenge Addict Challenge
Result: (FAILED)
I completed 15 out of 34 Challenges in 2011

Not too bad considering everything! I learned a lot from this data.

I read a very eclectic mix of books
My favorite genres are romance, cozy mystery, urban fantasy & paranormal.
Audio books are not my thing.
Don't enter as many giveaways.

Absolutely do NOT enter that many challenges ever again! LOL...


Winner's Post

It's time for another winner's post. I usually do one about every two weeks or so. I'll try to be more consistent and do one a week in the new year. We've had several giveaways ending the last little bit. All books will be sent out directly from the publisher. I will be notifying winners later today and publishers on Monday. 

Thanks to everyone for participating! As always the winners are chosen using I tried Rafflecopter on a few giveaways and had some problems getting the correct giveaway to show up in the post. I'm not the best at html and I'm sure the problem was mine, but I'll stick with GoogleDocs for now and see what happens in the new year.

I do want everyone to know that in light of all the problems with Google deleting several blogs for Terms of Service violations... I am considering a switch to WordPress in the new year. I am a part time blogger. I freelance for print and web media and book reviewing is just a personal passion.  I love to introduce readers to new books, new authors, even new genres. I enjoy hosting giveaways and interacting with my readers and I hope to do that even more in the new year and thinking about the possibility that Google could just decide to terminate my blog today, is more than a little disheartening to me. I LOVE my blog. I would be devastated if that happened and I'm not sure I want to take the risk. With Blogger I have no control at all over my work, with WordPress it would be different and there are also a lot more avenues to expand. If I choose to make this move, the blog may be down for a day here and there as the transfer is taking place. I will make a note of all of that as it comes up. Also everything will be moved... posts, giveaways, comments etc. I will also incorporate my GFC followers until March when Google ends that service to WordPress users. 

I can't tell you how important it will be at that point for you to follower either in your Google Reader or other rss reader format or more importantly by e-mail. If you follow my posts by e-mail you will never miss a post, a giveaway or anything else. I am considering doing some things in the new year to encourage readers to follow by e-mail and I hope that I get your cooperation. I apologize for any inconveniences this will cause you as readers, but I feel it's an important decision on my part. I hope you will continue to support my blog and follow. Any feedback on this issue would be great... good or bad!

Now on to the winners!

Dead Bolt by Juliet Blackwell
Winner: Stacie Amelotte

Bound by the Vampire Queen by Joey W. Hill (autographed)

A Spirited Gift by Joyce and Jim Lavene
Winner: Nancy B.

Endangered by Pamela Beason
Winner: Zee, A Voracious Reader

Agony/Ecstasy Edited by Jane Litte
Winner: Victoria Zumbrum

How to Worship a Goddess by Stephanie Julian
Winner: June M.

Dreaming of the Wolf by Terry Spear
Winners: Ann & yadkny

Review: Shadow Heir

Shadow Heir (Dark Swan - Book 4) by Richelle Mead

Publication Date: December 27, 2011
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: Paperback, 390pp
ISBN-13: 978-1420111804
ISBN: 1420111809

(Received for an honest review from Kensington Zebra)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Richelle Mead on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Books in the Series: Storm Born (2008), Thorn Queen (2009), Iron Crowned (2011), Shadow Heir (2011)

CoverArt: Click the picture for a larger, clearer image of the covers in this series.

Excerpt from Shadow Heir


Shaman-for-hire Eugenie Markham strives to keep the mortal realm safe from trespassing entities. But as the Thorn Land's prophecy-haunted queen, there's no refuge for her and her soon-to-be-born-children when a mysterious blight begins to devastate the Otherworld...

The spell-driven source of the blight isn't the only challenge to Eugenie's instincts. Fairy king Dorian is sacrificing everything to help, but Eugenie can't trust that synergy drawing them back together. The uneasy truce between her and her shape shifter ex-lover Kiyo is endangered by secrets he can't - or won't - reveal. And as a formidable force rises to also threaten the human world, Eugenie must use her own cursed fate as a weapon - and risk the ultimate sacrifice...


Shadow Heir is the final book in the Dark Swan urban fantasy series written by prolific writer Richelle Mead of Vampire Academy fame. Mead is a favorite author of mine in both the adult and young adult market. This is a series that I have been particularly interested in since it's onset, but I have to admit this is a difficult review to write. Mead's writing is exceptional as always. Her characters are multi-faceted and engaging. The plot was in keeping with the feel of the series and Mead's descriptive prowess is formidable. Shadow Heir is suspenseful, emotional and riveting. So why can't I write a spectacular review?

My issues with this book do not stem in any way from the writing or the crafting of this series. The series itself is definitely a favorite of mine and I would recommend it to any Urban Fantasy reader. This book in particular was difficult for me as a reader, but in a sense I see where Mead was going with it, despite the fact that I didn't like it. I think readers were expecting something different for this final book in the series and when we didn't get it we were disappointed, a little mystified, maybe even a little angry with how Mead chose to end it. 

Eugenie has been a character that has always given me a bit of pause. Even from the beginning of the series, she has always seemed a bit to artificial. Like she had some kind of hidden agenda that the reader could sense but not figure out. As the series has unfolded, a little of that aloofness, that serious exterior has kind of broken down a bit and I have found more about her, that I could like. Her sense of duty. Her conflicted ideas of about who and what she was. I even understood her suspicions of Dorian and how she felt he betrayed her. So I had high hopes that the final book in the series would come full circle and show readers a different Eugenie. One who had grown and thrived and come into her own, but I was to be disappointed.

In the end Mead chose to have Eugenie make some decisions that readers didn't see coming. How she chose to handle the situation with Dorian was beyond my comprehension in a lot of ways. Perhaps Mead was going for the shock factor. Maybe she wanted to end this series in a way that would be totally unexpected. I don't know. I was completely dumb founded. I wanted a happy ending and there was one, Eugenie ended up with the man she wanted despite everything, but it was so hypocritical that I was almost sick. I'm not one to give away spoilers in my reviews and I won't do that this time, but I will say that Mead ended this book on a very sour note. If another book was in the works, one that would somehow undo what happened here or show a reason for it, I might have been able to let it go, but this is the final installment. How could it end like that? 

I rarely ever have such a gut-wrenching reaction to a book. I like just about everything I read. Shadow Heir certainly won't turn me against Mead as a writer. My issues were with the where the story went not how it was written. The writing in and of itself was fantastic. The loose ends that Mead doesn't tie up to end the series, only gave me reason to consider on my own how I would have wanted these things to go. But, I hurt for Dorian. I fell like he's living a lie not of his own making. Were it me, and I eventually find out the truth behind Eugenie's lies, there would no place in or out of hell she could hide from me. That's how strongly I reacted to this one. So I guess I can see where Mead was going. She wanted that reaction and she damn well got it.

The writing would have gotten this one a four or a five, but I could not in good conscious give it that high of a nod. There are just some lines I don't think any author should cross and this was one of them.

Shadow Heir is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 3 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Richelle Mead has an M.A. in Comparative Religion and a passion for all things wacky and humorous. She currently lives in Seattle with her husband, cats, and a closet with too many dresses.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Review and Giveaway: Crops and Robbers

Crops and Robbers (Farmers' Market Mystery - Book 3) by Paige Shelton

Publication Date: December 6, 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: Paperback, 292pp
ISBN-13: 978-0425244999
ISBN: 0425244997

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Paige Shelton on the WEB: website, blog, facebook

Books in the Series: Farm Fresh Murder (2010), Fruit of all Evil (2011), Crops and Robbers (2011)

CoverArt: Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image of the covers in this series.

Excerpt from Crops and Robbers (Amazon Look Inside Feature)


Thanks to her delicious farm-made jams and preserves, Becca Robins's business has been booming. But when an unhappy customer turns up dead in Becca's kitchen, she's afraid it will really sour her reputation...

Bailey's Farmers' Market is all abuzz with the impending visit of the Central South Carolina Restaurant Association. Becca is pleased about the visit, but with her jams and preserves already flying off her market table it's her parents' unexpected visit she is truly excited about. With her family watching from the sidelines, Becca happily hands out samples.

But when Joan Ashworth, the president of the association, vetoes the strawberry preserves, Becca finds herself reeling from the snub. After pulling herself together, Becca heads home, only to find Joan's body in her kitchen and her mother with blood on her hands. Now, Becca has to figure out what really happened to Joan and get her Mom out of a terrible jam...


Crops and Robbers is the third book in the Farmers' Market Mystery series by Paige Shelton, who just happens to be one of my favorite cozy writers. This is a series that will bring out the foodie in all of us. It mixes life on the farm with a first class mystery and comes away with a winning combination. Shelton has a way with description that is unparalleled in the cozy sub-genre. Readers can smell the lavender, feel the soil, see the strawberry vines. A very well written series!

Though Crops and Robbers is the third book in the series, it can easily be read as a stand alone. But I recommend readers eventually go back and catch the first two, just because they are so good. I will have to say this one is my favorite of the series so far, for a lot of reasons. Readers who follow the series, will enjoy the return to Monson, South Carolina because it feels like meeting old friends again. We've settled in a bit in this series, we know the characters, we feel connected to Becca and her sister Allison and it has that nice small town feel where everybody knows your name. (homage to Cheers!)

I liked the fact that Shelton chose to introduce her readers to Becca's parents. I thought that was a great touch. In the first two books in the series, Becca has solved mysteries that involved friends and townspeople, but now her parents have come for a visit and her mother becomes the prime suspect in a murder. How's that for hitting close to home? I loved the way Shelton portrayed the marriage between Becca's parents. It was very loving and positive and readers get to see just how Becca became who she is through their eyes. 

The mystery aspect of the novel was also very well written and entertaining. Becca has been selling her homemade jams and preserves at the local Farmer's Market for some time, but now the restaurant association is planning on using and endorsing some of the products found there. It would a huge opportunity for Becca and she's excited. But when the president of the association doesn't like Becca's strawberry preserves and she is stunned. But she definitely doesn't expect to find said president dead in her barn and her mom covered in blood, later that evening. I thought the premise was believable and the motives were authentic, but they didn't really show up until well into the book. But that gave Shelton time to focus on other aspects of the story.

The love triangle that is starting to come up between Becca, Ian her, boyfriend and her other friend Sam was very enjoyable to read about. I'm glad that Shelton is taking that direction with this part of the story. I think it adds a lot of excitement and I'm looking forward to where she goes with this. I'm on team Sam, I can't help it, LOL! It's rare to find a love triangle in any mystery, let alone a cozy, so I thought that was a very good idea for this one.

As usual when a cozy has a section in the back providing ideas or recipes. I try out at least one just to see how it turns out while reading the book. I've been doing that for the last little while and I really enjoy it. So, for this book, I chose to make, "Allison's Jailbreak Cookies" and I've got to tell ya, "You Have To Try This..." They were really good and the kids loved them over the holidays. I love that little extra section at the back of most cozies!

I recommend this one to cozy fans and readers who enjoy reading about food. The descriptions are out of this world and Paige Shelton has created a series that really resonates with a lot of readers. These characters become your friends as you read and that's the claim of a good writer. The mystery was interesting and not easy to figure out.... You've got to read this one... it's tooo good!

Crops and Robbers is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Paige Shelton spent lots of years in advertising but now writes novels full time. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and son. When she's up early enough, one of her favorite things to watch is the sun rise over the Wasatch Mountains.


The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Crops and Robbers by Paige Shelton.

~ You must be a GFC follower to participate.
~ US Addresses only!
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST January 13th.

1. Please leave a question or comment for Paige on THIS post.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review: Blood of Eden

Blood of Eden (Sloan Skye - Book 1) by Tami Dane

Publication Date: December 1, 2011
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Pages: Paperback, 344pp
ISBN-13: 978-0758267092
ISBN: 0758267096

(Received for an honest review from Kensington)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Tami Dane on the WEB: website, facebook

Excerpt from Blood of Eden (Amazon Look Inside Feature)


This mind-blowing new series introduces Sloan Skye, an ambitious intern at the FBI's paranormal unit, where the usual rules of crime fighting don't apply...

Sloan has a sky-high IQ, a chaotic personal life, and a dream: to work for the FBI. Her goal is within reach until an error lands her with the FBI's ugly stepchild: the new Paranormal Behavioral Analysis Unit. She'll get to profile criminals, but the pool of suspects is a little more... diverse. Yet even as Sloan tackles her first case - a string of victims, all with puncture wounds to the neck - she can't silence her inner para-skeptic.

To catch the killer she'll have to think like one. That means casting aside her doubts, and dealing with bizarre nightmares that started with the job. But the strangeness is only the beginning, as Sloan pieces together the shocking truth about a case that's more personal than she ever would have guessed.


Blood of Eden is the first book in Tami Dane's new Sloan Skye urban fantasy series. As usual with a first book in any series, this one needs a little grace. The premise is interesting and there are some good ideas, but I think they lost a little bit in translation in a manner of speaking. This is one of those books you really want to like, but it makes it difficult. 

There are things that I liked about Blood of Eden and some things that I had a hard time with. When I read the blurb on the back I was expecting the PBAU (Paranormal Behavioral Analysis Unit) to have in some small way an X-files kind of feel to it. And it did to some extent. I liked the whole premise of Sloan being set to start as an intern with the FBI and ending up stuck in a unit that she doesn't completely believe in or accept. That idea has tons of potential, but then things start to slide down hill a little bit. 

Ever been an intern? If you have you'll understand my problem. When interning with any kind of commercial business or company, a publishing firm or in this case the FBI, there is one common denominator... Intern is another word for go-fer. Go for this or go for that. It's not a glory job. Even though Dane writes this up as a completely new unit and Sloan as a very intelligent woman who mistakenly ends up in the unit, it is not conceivable than an intern would have as must control as an agent. 

Sloan is a natural fit for the FBI. She's smart, determined and a little on the nerdy side, which I totally loved, but nobody walks into a place with an established routine and chain of command and steps to the head of the line without any experience or training. So that kind of set me off on the wrong foot with this one (I have been an intern btw). But as I said, I'll give it a little grace because now that we have the set up, Sloan will have a case under her belt with the start of the second book. So, that will be slightly more believable.

Sloan is a great character and I thought Dane did a great job of developing her. She comes across as a very forthright person. No-nonsense. Very intelligent, with a kind of nerdy side that was appealing. She has a family that has a few quirks, including her mom who's a nut job LOL! I loved the way that Dane really brought out Sloan's personality and balanced her personal issues against her professional ones in this book. There is a lot of potential in this area as well. Sloan is the kind of character that will be able to pull of story lines involving her career and her home life.

Unfortunately, that's where another problem with this one came in for me. Sloan was very well written. Her mother was quirky and interesting and the two guys who are interested in Sloan had their moments, but the rest of the supporting cast of characters were lacking. They were very one dimensional and not memorable at all. Characters like the FBI chief were so flat I had a hard time remembering his name. But again, I'll give it some grace and hope that Dane will begin to add some details that let the reader know more about these other players in subsequent books.

As with any first book in a series, there was a lot a set up that was necessary to give this series a start and for the most part it worked in Blood of Eden. The case that Sloan is working on is also a set up for the kinds of cases that the PBAU will be working with. I thought Dane gave readers an interesting take on vampire mythology and used it well with this book. I liked that fact that it took Sloan a little while to believe the un-believable. As readers we have become accustomed to believing somewhat in vampires and werewolves and that sort of thing, so this was an attitude you might expect from a real person, so that was refreshing in my opinion. 

As you can see there were ups and downs with this book, but certainly not anything that can't be worked on. There is a lot of potential in this series and the premise is sound. I think Dane's second in the series will probably be a much more well rounded book and I am definitely going to give it a try. It takes a lot to turn me against a good writer and Tami Dane is a good writer. Never judge a series by the first book (wink)...

Like I always say, get a copy and let me know what you think. What might not be my cup of tea, might be just what the doctor ordered for you!

Blood of Eden is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 3 out 5 apples from my book bag!

Tami Dane is rarely seen in anything but black sweatpants and hoodies, unless she's in historical garb. And when she's not stomping around in mud, bedecked in velvet and lace, or working on her latest sewing project, she has her head buried in a book or eyes glued to her computer monitor. Not only does she love sewing. She also loves writing.

Review: The Mortal Bone

The Mortal Bone (Hunter Kiss - Book 4) by Marjorie M. Liu

Publication Date: December 27, 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal
Pages: Paperback, 287pp
ISBN-13: 978-1937007188
ISBN: 1937007189

(Received for an honest review from Ace Books)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Marjorie M. Liu on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Books in the series: The Iron Hunt (2008), Darkness Calls (2009), A Wild Light (2010), The Mortal Bone (2011)

CoverArt: Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image of the covers in this series.


Tattoos with hearts, minds and dreams - they are obsidian shadows of the flesh. Created to be armor that protects my body, they unwind by night and take on their own forms - demons made of flesh.

When the bond Maxine Kiss shares with Zee and the boys - the demons tattooed on her skin - is deliberately severed, the hunter is left vulnerable and unprotected. For the first time in ten thousand years, the boys have a taste of freedom - without Maxine's guiding influence.

As they grow more violent and unpredictable, Maxine starts to fear that the little demons will lose their minds without their attachment to her. But reuniting won't be easy, as a great temptation waits for her little demons: a chance to return to their lives as Reaper Kings and unleash hell on earth.


The Mortal Bone is the fourth book in the Hunter Kiss urban fantasy series by Marjorie M. Liu. Readers who have been with this series from the beginning will be thrilled that Maxine and the boys are back. New readers may want to consider reading this series from the beginning. There is just too much ground to cover and readers would miss out on so much of the relationship building and back story. This is a series to be savored, but if you are just getting in on it be prepared, it's an emotional roller coaster as well as a fast paced thrilling ride.

As a Liu fan, I was really excited to read the latest book in the Hunter Kiss series. Urban Fantasy is often a genre that relies heavily on dark, edgy story lines, strong heroines and danger, after danger, after danger. Each book in an Urban Fantasy series, has to be darker or stranger or more climactic than the last and The Mortal Bone is no different. The energy in this series, and particularly this book continues to ramp up both emotionally and physically. The characters are facing steeper challenges, more disturbing choices and ultimately the world as well as their souls may be in jeopardy. 

Maxine Kiss is a demon hunter. On her arms she carries a set of tattoos that make her virtually invincible. The "boys," as she calls them are her armor against demon kind. She fights for the forces of good, but the hunger inside to use her darker more dangerous powers is strong. At night the "boys" get a measure of freedom as they unwind from Maxine's body and take on their own demon forms. But as long as they are connected to Maxine she has some control over them. In their previous lives they were known as Reaper Kings, demons with the ability to destroy the world, before they became trapped to serve the women of Maxine's family. Now after being with her for so long, the "boys" are forcibly ripped from Maxine's body, giving them the freedom they so desperately crave and the choice to return to their old ways. But has being with Maxine somehow changed them? and can Maxine make the hard choices it may take to get them back?

That's a really quick summary of what's going on in this book. But there is so much more under the surface. Maxine and the "boys" share the kind of bond that makes it almost painful for them to be separated. They want their freedom, but the guilt they feel when they commit some of the acts they do in this book is palpable. Maxine knows she has the ability to change it all, by using her powers, but the danger of turning into a monster herself is great. The author throws just about everything including the kitchen sink at Maxine in this book. I had a bit of a hard time trying to figure out why that was necessary but in the end I think it all goes back to being done in the name of making each book messier and darker than the last. I thought she needed a breather here and there that she didn't get. 

Grant is somewhat of a buffer. He is Maxine's light, literally. He keeps her grounded and reminds her of what shes fighting for. The better good. Grant is the last of his kind, a light-bringer and he uses music to control destiny, in a sense, even demons listen. I liked the way that Liu has built the relationship between Grant and Maxine over the course of the series. In this book they are facing some of the most heart wrenching decisions they've had to make thus far, but they are doing it together. It's nice, even in Urban Fantasy for the main characters to have kind of deep connection. I loved the connection between Maxine and the "boys" as well.

The fact that both Maxine and Grant are scared to use their abilities, lest they become what they fear, monsters themselves with uncontrollable power, proves that they will never succumb to that. It's interesting to see that when they are faced with saving the world, it's still not an easy choice. I liked all the soul searching and the whole idea that sometimes you have do some things you never thought you'd do, in order to get the best outcome in a given situation. I don't think they were really compromising their beliefs so much as understanding that everything is not quite so cut and dried. Good and evil are the stark opposites that they appear to be. Liu's writing on this subject was exception. 

I like this series a lot. I think it has has some far reaching ideas that are being explored. I like Maxine and Grant and their relationship is unbelievable and the "boys" are my favorites. They have issues, don't we all? And that's what makes them so easy to read about. They may be under the guise of demons in this series, but they are still facing problems like anybody else. If you could do anything you wanted without consequence... what would you do? Ah the moral question! I love that in a good book!

I recommend this one to Urban Fantasy readers, but try to read the series from the beginning if you can and you'll have a better understanding of how all of this came about. I think this is probably a transition book for Liu. It is kind of moving the series in a different direction, a good one in my opinion and I look forward to seeing what happens next!

The Mortal Bone is available is NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Marjorie M. Liu is an attorney and the bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance, as well as comic books for Marvel. She is, occasionally commandeered by poodles - and highly opinionated cats - and divides her time between Bloomington, Indiana, and Beijing/Shanghai, China.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review: The Thirteen Hollows

The Thirteen Hallows by Michael Scott and Colette Freedman

Publication Date: December 6, 2011
Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC.
Genre: Fantasy, Horror
Pages: Hardcover, 349pp
ISBN-13: 978-0765328526
ISBN: 0765328526

(Received for an honest review from Tor Books)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Michael Scott and Colette Freedman on the WEB: Micheael's website, Colette's website, Michael's blog, Collette's blog, Michael's facebook, Michael's twitter, Colette's twitter

Excerpt from The Thirteen Hallows (Amazon Look Inside Feature)

The Hallows: Ancient artifacts inbued with a primal and deadly power. But are they protectors of this world, or the keys to its destruction?
A gruesome murder in London reveals a sinister plot to uncover a two-thousand-year-old secret.

For decades, the Keepers guarded these Hallows, keeping them safe, hidden, and apart from one another. But now the Keepers are being brutally murdered, their prizes stolen, the ancient objects bathed in their blood.
Now, only a few remain.
With her dying breath, one of the Keepers convinces Sarah Miller, a virtual stranger, to deliver her Hallow - a broken sword, with devastating powers - to her nephew, Owen.
The duo quickly become suspects in a series of murders as they are chased by both the police and the sadistic, Dark Man and his nubile mistress.
As Sarah and Owen search for the surviving Keepers, they unravel a deadly secret the Keepers were charged to protect. The mystery leads Sarah and Owen on a cat-and-mouse chase through England and Wales - and history itself - as they discover that the sword may be the only thing standing between the world... and a horror beyond imagining.
The Thirteen Hallows is the beginning of a spellbinding new saga, a thrilling tale of ancient magic and modern times by a New York Times bestselling author and an award-winning playwright. 
The Thirteen Hallows is the first book in a new series from author Michael Scott and playwright Colette Freedman. Both are seasoned professionals and it shows in the depth and creativity of this book. Michael Scott's young adult series, The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel has earned him great accolades as a storyteller which is evident in every page of this book, while Colette Freedman's background in theatre and film serves The Thirteen Hallows well by giving it an almost movie-like feel to it. 

So many adults are reading YA fiction today because of the astute storytelling and the fact that YA writers are coming up such incredible ideas. I was extremely excited to find out that The Thirteen Hallows was for the adult market. Though Michael Scott is known as a YA writer and this may cause some confusion this book is labeled as horror/fantasy. There should not be any question as to the audience. I don't think it outside the box to think that a YA writer would or could not write adult fiction because clearly in this situation that is not the case. Micheal Scott and Colette Freedman are giving adult readers what they crave from YA paranormal writing, but they are giving it to them through experienced and world weary characters. This isn't your teenagers version of the life and that's what I liked most about this one.

It's easy to see why Michael Scott is considered and authority on mythology. This book is absolutely full of it and I found it incredibly interesting. I first heard about "hallows" or objects that are considered to have power from the Harry Potter series, clearly YA, and I loved the fact that Scott and Freedman were about to translate that to an adult version. The hallows described in The Thirteen Hallows each contains a measure of power, but when brought together that power is magnified and carries with it the risk of destroying everyone and everything around them. 

The whole idea of the Keepers and how they were tasked to protect not only these ancient objects but the secrets surrounding them was riveting and I found it really hard not to think about this book when I wasn't reading... a rare thing when you consider how many books I read in a given month. The main characters Sarah and Owen were complex and had personalities that were compelling and interesting. I liked the fact that Sarah's well ordered British world gets turned on it's ear. I liked that she was an adult with adult problems and issues. I liked that Owen was attracted to her and how he wanted to protect and take care of these historical objects. He saw the power in them and in himself. 

As I noted before this an adult book, there is sex, there is tons of action, a blistering pace and there is violence, hence the horror label. Not just a little bit of violence. This one isn't for the faint of heart! It might make you a little queasy... it might make you light headed... it might even turn your stomach, it certain did mine, but it was worth it. This book as flashes of The da Vinci Code, it has moments that are reminiscent of historical fiction. It has the action and intensity of urban fantasy. There is so much going on here and most of it is absolutely fantastic. I love the idea that adults can experience that feel of a good YA book, but the complexity of an adult plot and characters. I am really looking forward to where this series might go. 

I recommend it for readers who love history and artifacts, for those who love magic and mystery and if you love horror, this one is definitely for you. I don't recommend it for young adults. I think it's a little too much for them. But for me... it was darn near perfect. Who would have thought a top ten book of the year in the final week!
The Thirteen Hallows is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
Michael Scott is an authority on mythology and folklore, and the author of the New York Times bestselling series, The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. 

Colette Freedman is an award-winning, internationally produced play-wright. 

Review and Giveaway: You Might As Well Die

You Might As Well Die (Algonquin Round Table Mystery - Book 2) by J.J. Murphy

Publication Date: December 6, 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: Paperback, 324pp
ISBN-13: 978-0451235329
ISBN: 0451235320

(Received for an honest review from Obsidian Mystery)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

J.J. Murphy on the WEB: website, facebook, twitter

Books in the Series: Murder Your Darlings (2011), You Might As Well Die (2011)

CoverArt: Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image of the covers in this series.


One must be careful never to pick up a stray piece of paper at the Algonquin Round Table - it might be the check. But when second-rate illustrator Ernie MacGuffin slips Dorothy Parker an envelope, she's none the wiser. Only later does she discover it's a suicide note.

It seems MacGuffin has leaped to a watery death from the Brooklyn Bridge. Days later, his artistic works have tripled in value, and he's become so renowned that Harold Ross at the fledgling magazine The New Yorker wants Robert Benchley to writer a profile on him.

Something smells fishy to Dorothy, though, so she enlists magician and skeptic Harry Houdini to accompany her to a seance being held by self-proclaimed clairvoyant Viola Sweet. There the ghostly voice of Ernie MacGuffin seems hauntingly real - almost as if he could reach out and grab them...


J.J. Murphy's second Algonquin Round Table Mystery, You Might As Well Die is an amazing mix of historical fiction, real life characters and devilishly good wit. Murphy's mysteries are full of historical figures readers have read and know about including the intrepid Dorothy Parker, a prolific writer, poet and critic in the 1920's. This book even boasts a guest appearance by renowned escape artist Harry Houdini. Don't you love it when history and mystery mix?

“Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.”

- Dorothy Parker

Let me start off by saying... I absolutely love Dorothy Parker and I did long before I read J.J. Murphy's first book in the Algonquin Round Table series, Murder Your Darlings. Parker was a writer after my own heart, with a wit that was sharp and yet sanguine. She uttered or wrote some of my most favorite sayings and I loved the fact that Murphy decided to write a series that featured such an icon for women's writing. I think Murphy does Dorothy Parker justice in this series. Her wit and personality shine in a way that I wouldn't have imagined possible and I applaud Murphy for going in this direction. Murphy's depiction of Parker is spot on in my book!

The combination of historical figures and mystery isn't a new idea, but Murphy takes it to new heights in this series. Using the writers and journalists of the 1920's to create an atmosphere that many books of this nature are missing. It's almost as if Murphy has somehow gotten a hold of time machine and transports the reader back to New York during this turbulent time period. Prohibition is in full swing and there weren't too many female journalists or amateur sleuths. 

Some readers may not be familiar with the background of this series. The Algonquin Hotel in New York was host to what became known as "The Round Table", a group of journalist that met daily to share lunch and news and in this case clues. Murphy uses this bunch of real life journalist as the core group of characters in this series and takes them on all kinds of wild rides as they ferret out clues and find the killers. What's amazing to me as a reader is the amount of research the author had to do just to get the personalities of these people anywhere close to what they might have been like. I love the wit and humor that Murphy gives Dorothy Parker and Benchley. It just imbues the book with lively banter despite the seriousness of the subject matter.

You Might As Well Die is the second in the series and Murphy continues to expand on Dorothy and her cohorts. Their personalities and ideas are just really starting to come to light and I think the author did a great job balancing the character development with the mystery aspect of the book. I liked the overall premise, a second-rate artist commits suicide and triples of value of his work (or so it seems). He slips Dorothy his suicide note before he takes a plunge off the Brooklyn Bridge, giving her ample reason to investigate. The clues were not difficult to interpret and I had a good idea whodunit before the end, but that certainly didn't take away from the journey. This was such a good book. I loved the appearance of Harry Houdini and I hear that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will guest in the third book in the series due out in 2012. I really like this mixing of history and mystery. This is fast becoming one of my favorite types of cozy mysteries.

I recommend this one to cozy mystery fans and to the reader who has a penchant for history or journalism and especially to those of you who have an appreciation for Dorothy Parker...

“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” - Dorothy Parker

You Might AS Well Die is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

J.J. Murphy grew up as the child of a circus performers. But life under the big top was monotonous and dreary for an inquisitive youth. So one night J.J. ran away from the dull and dismal circus to join the thrilling, razzmatazz world of business-to-business trade publishing. After a highly lucrative and award-winning career in corporate journalism, J.J. sought a totally new challenge: writing the sayings in fortune cookies. Soon by piecing together thousands of these random sayings, J.J. realized that this collection was actually a (somewhat) coherent novel - the first Algonquin Round Table Mystery - and had serendipitously embarked on a new career!


The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of You Might As Well Die by J.J. Murphy.

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~ US addresses only (publisher request).
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST January 11th.

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