Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Venom by Jennifer Estep

Product DetailsPub. Date: September 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 416pp
Series: Elemental Assassin Series , #3
ISBN-13: 9781439148013
ISBN: 1439148015

What kind of assassin works pro bono?

It’s hard to be a badass assassin when a giant is beating the crap out of you. Luckily, I never let pride get in the way of my work. My current mission is personal: annihilate Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who murdered my family. Which means protecting my identity, even if I have to conceal my powerful Stone and Ice magic when I need it most. To the public, I’m Gin Blanco, owner of Ashland’s best barbecue joint. To my friends, I’m the Spider, retired assassin. I still do favors on the side. Like ridding a vampire friend of her oversized stalker—Mab’s right-hand goon who almost got me dead with his massive fists. At least irresistible Owen Grayson is on my side. The man knows too much about me, but I’ll take my chances. Then there’s Detective Bria Coolidge, one of Ashland’s finest. Until recently, I thought my baby sister was dead. She probably thinks the same about me. Little does she know, I’m a cold-blooded killer . . . who is about to save her life.

My thoughts:
This is the third book in the Elemental Assassin series. I read the first one months ago. I liked it but it didn’t quite grab me as well as this one did from the start. I recall having a hard time getting into the story in the first book, maybe because Estep was setting up the series and wanted to really get her reader into the setting. Lately I haven’t had much time for reading and I’ve been having a hard time getting into books, but this one I read over the course of the weekend. I just didn’t want to put it down! Even if you haven’t read the first two book I think it would be easy to jump in because Estep does enough review of the pertinent details you need, plus she adds to the back story filling in some of the blanks from the first book.

I liked Gin better this time around. She has a new love interest and he seems like a much better fit for her life than the detective she was dating in the first book. I think she must have learned to better use her ability to do ice magic in the second book because I don’t recall that from the first book. I am torn now as to whether I will go back and read book two or just wait for the next one. I think I may skip it since I skipped ahead in the series already.

In this book Gin is still trying to be retired from her work as the Spider but keeps getting pulled back in. She put Rosalyn, a vampire club owner and former prostitute, in danger when she used the club as her cover on an assignment and now Rosalyn is being stalked by a giant who works for the mob boss who murdered Gin’s mother and sister and tortured her seventeen years ago. The dwarfs and giants throw me off a bit and the vampires seem to drink blood and eat real food.

The family Gin has made for herself with her foster brother Finn and the dwarf sisters with Air elemental power feels real, in the way the support and take care of each other. I loved that she gets to meet the sister she thought was dead for all these years and can’t wait to see where the story goes with them.

I read this book as part of Gallery & Pocket Books SciFi/Fantasy Blog Tour.


By night, Jennifer Estep is an author, prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fun, sexy fantasy idea.

Jennifer currently writes the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series for Pocket Books. The star of the series is Gin Blanco, an assassin who can control the elements of ice and stone when she’s not too busy running her barbecue restaurant, the Pork Pit. Jennifer is also the author of the Bigtime paranormal romance books, which feature sexy superheroes, evil ubervillains, and smart, sassy gals looking for love. Titles in the Berkley series include Karma Girl (May 2007), Hot Mama (November 2007), and Jinx (September 2008).

By day, Jennifer is an award-winning features page designer for a daily newspaper with a broad range of journalism and media experience. She's also a certifiable fangirl and an authority on fantasy literature and culture. Jennifer is a member of Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and other writing groups.

Jennifer's books have been featured in Cosmopolitan, Entertainment Weekly, Southern Living, and a variety of other publications. For more information, visit her Web site at

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

Product Details
Format: Paperback, 208pp
Series: Ramona Series
ISBN-13: 9780380709540
ISBN: 0380709546


At last Beverly Cleary has given Ramona Quimby a book of her own. No longer is she the shy nemesis of Henry Huggins or the exasperating responsibility of Beezus. Instead she is a five-year-old with spirit'and a rare opportunity to explain her side of things.

The story deals with Ramona's entrance into kindergarten, a memorable event for all concerned. Whether Ramona is proving what a good rester she is by snoring delicately during quiet time or whether she is pulling Susan's tempting curls, she makes her presence known. Most of the time Ramona loves her teacher, Miss Binney, wholeheartedly. How Miss Binney feels is anyone's guess. Mrs. Quimby tells her daughter, "She will never forget you as long as she lives."

Nothing seems quite so funny to children as the tales of what they did when they were little. Here then is an account of kindergarten days for readers who have passed that awkward stage. Many will find that Ramona's escapades hilarious; others will be moved by her struggles to make a place for herself in an uncomprehending world.

My thoughts:
I listened to Ramona the Pest in the car with my children as we ran errands to prepare for our family beach vacation. It is odd but I can’t recall if I ever read this books as a child. The covers and titles are all familiar from seeing them in libraries and bookstores, but if I read them as a child it was so long ago that I had forgotten all about them.

Ramona reminds me a bit of Junie B. Jones, who obviously came many years later. She isn’t trying to be bad but her perception of reality is her own and that causes her to run into problems. The audio book was read by Stockard Channing. She changes her voice a bit for each of the characters which helps to entertain my children.

Ramona is in kindergarten in this book and is getting used to going to school and all that entails. I am not sure my children understood the chapter with the rain boots that were pulled on over shoes since they’ve never seen boots like that, I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen boots like that. While the book was written before I was born the story isn't actually that dated. It shows how, while we have a ton more technology now than there was then, the interactions between sisters, parents, teachers and friends really hasn’t changed all that much.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series #4) by Rick Riordan

Product Details
Pub. Date: June 2009
Format: Hardcover, 368pp
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series , #4
ISBN-13: 9781615534272
ISBN: 161553427X


This thrilling New York Times bestselling series of modern-day mythology continues.

Time is running out as war between the Olympians and the evil Titan lord Kronos draws near. Even the safe haven of Camp Half Blood is growing more vulnerable. To stop them from invading, Percy and his demigod friends must go on a quest through the Labyrinth.

My thoughts:

Each time I read one of these books I think to myself that I wish I knew more about Greek Myths. While we were on vacation we actually bought an easy reader at one of the book stores so my children can start reading about them on their own. I also set aside a book we already had on our shelf to read, but that was at least a month ago and so far I haven’t gotten around to opening it.

This series is really engaging. As we listened to the audio book in the car my children asked a lot of relevant questions and at one point when we got home they complained that they didn’t want to get out of the car because they wanted to keep listening. I think it could be really good for older reluctant readers with its elements of fantasy. Plus for someone who was learning Greek myths for school putting them into the context of a story could make them even easier to remember.

Part of me is a bit sad to know that there is only one more book to read. I guess things will be resolved as much as they can by the end of the next one but then end of good series always makes me a little sad because you are saying goodbye to characters who feel like they have become your friends.
I thought Riordan did a really good job with incorporating the labyrinth into the story and liked how they met all different creatures and beings within the maze. It reminded me of a myth book come to life with the way the new creatures were introduced. I wonder if Percy will ever tell Paul what he really is and was surprised to see Poseidon turn up at his house for the first time. I hope to be listening to book five very soon!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3) by Rick Riordan

Product Details
Pub. Date: May 2009
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians , #3
ISBN-13: 9781423131977
ISBN: 1423131975


Percy Jackson returns in another modern-day adventure with a Greek mythology twist—this time he must find a goddess kidnapped from Mount Olympus!

When the goddess Artemis goes missing, she is believed to have been kidnapped. And now it's up to Percy and his friends to find out what happened. They must find Artemis before the winter solstice, when her influence on the Olympian Council could swing an important vote on the war with the titans. Not only that, but first Percy will have to solve the mystery of a rare monster that Artemis was hunting when she disappeared—a monster rumored to be so powerful it could destroy Olympus forever.

My thoughts:
As I mentioned in the last review I ended up listening to this audio book at the same time I was reading the second book aloud to my children which was a bit confusing, but we needed enough time to listen to this one before it was due at the library. Once we finished the other one it made it easier to keep track. Also there were a few periods of time that I wasn’t able to pay as good attention as usual so I feel like I should reread this one at some point.
In this one we were introduced to Riordan’s version of Artemis and Apollo. The sun chariot was interesting and Artemis’s hunters were a nice element of the story. In the last book Percy, Anabeth and Grover end up on the quest even though they weren’t selected for it and it made me wonder how, out of all the heroes or demigods, Percy keeps ending up on quests. Last time it was Clarice’s quest and she did end up getting to end it. This time having Thalia in the mix changed the balance of things. It will be interesting to see how the series ultimately wraps up.
Zoe, Nico and Bianca were interesting to get to know. I liked how they ended up in Las Vegas again since my husband and I spent seven years living there. In this book they end up at Hoover Dam, so they aren’t quite all the way to Las Vegas, but having visited the Dam while we lived there it made it easy to picture the setting. Meeting Anabeth’s family as well was nice because they were not as I had pictured them based on her descriptions of her past interactions with her father and stepmother.

Again new myths were woven in that opened my eyes to how much I don’t know about Greek Mythology and made me want to learn more. Somehow I will find the time to fit them into my reading, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series #2) by Rick Riordan

Product Details
Pub. Date: March 2007
Format: Paperback, 304pp
Age Range: 9 to 12
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series , #2
ISBN-13: 9781423103349
ISBN: 1423103343
Edition Description: Reprint


Percy Jackson, hero of the The Lightning Thief, returns to Camp Half-Blood and undertakes a perilous voyage to save the camp in this modern-day adventure with a Greek mythology twist.

Percy Jackson's seventh-grade year has been surprisingly quiet. Not a single monster has set foot on his New York prep school campus. But when an innocent game of dodgeball among Percy and his classmates turns into a death match against an ugly gang of cannibal giants, things get well, ugly. And the unexpected arrival of Percy's friend Annabeth brings more bad news: the magical borders that protect Camp Half-Blood have been poisoned by a mysterious enemy, and unless a cure is found, the only safe haven for demigods will be destroyed. Percy and his friends must journey into the Sea of Monsters to save their beloved camp. But first, Percy will discover a stunning new secret about his family one that makes him wonder whether being claimed as Poseidon's son is an honor, or simply...

My thoughts:

Somehow I ended up reading this book aloud to my children at the same time we were listening to book three on audio CD in the car. It worked out that way with library due dates. I have to say I do not recommend reading two books from the same series at the same time, we started getting the two stories mixed together! It took a couple nights of long story times to get this one done so we could stop getting mixed up.

Percy finds out that he has a brother who is a Cyclops in this story which raised some questions that I didn’t bother exploring with my children. If Zeus, Poseidon and Hades made a pact after WWII not to have any more children, which was violated when Poseidon became Percy’s father and Zeus became Thalia’s father, how in the world did he also father a Cyclops? I thought that Sally Jackson was supposed to be so wonderful that Poseidon had trouble resisting her with the outcome of Percy but then he also found someone else as desirable? Had he not worried with Percy since most of the big three children end up as cyclops and don’t violate the treaty? Does this kind of convoluted logic happen often in YA or children’s books?

Back to my thoughts on the story, this quest for the golden fleece and also to save Grover from the Cyclops (not Tyson the brother but a different one who uses the fleece to lure satyrs to his island thinking they are finding the god Pan in the Bermuda Triangle) was interesting and engaging. I like how Riordan is pulling in so many other myths and stories and it is making me want to read more about them. One of the books we bought on vacation was a book of Greek Myths in an easy reader format for my children to read to themselves. I love that this series is raising interests for them and for me in finding out more about a subject, that is one of the hallmarks of a good book, that we want to go beyond it.

While the story is above my children's current reading level they have no problem following it when I read it to them, or in the case of some of the other books in the series listening to the audio book. The slightly more teen content between the characters seems to mostly pass over their heads. My one worry is that they will not pick the book up in the future to read to themselves since we've already read it, but there are so many good books out there that it probably doesn't matter and favorite books tend to be read repeatedly so if they like these they may read them again. Mostly I am glad to enjoy a story with them and nurture their love of reading!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris

Product Details
Pub. Date: October 2004
Series: Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Series , #4
ISBN-13: 9780786548750
ISBN: 0786548754

When cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse sees a naked man on the side of the road, she doesn't just drive on by. Turns out the poor thing hasn't a clue who he is, but Sookie does. It's Eric the vampire--but now he's a kinder, gentler Eric. And a scared Eric, because whoever took his memory now wants his life

My thoughts:
With going back to work my time for reading has really shrunk. When I read book three I finished it in two days, this book took me closer to two weeks! Hopefully as I adjust to my new schedule and get better at planning my time I will be able to carve out more time to read.

This story brought in some more supernatural elements. Along with the shape shifters there are now Weres and witches and a fairy. I do not have HBO but last night was one of our free preview nights so I saw the last episode of season three of True Blood. It looks like they have incorporated some elements from book four into this season, since I don’t recall them meeting the Hotshot Weres until this book. Then again a lot is changed from the books. I’ve noticed the same thing with The Vampire Diaries. It seems that the series are only loosely based on the books. I wonder how the authors feel about the changes, if they would have rather things stayed the same or if it doesn’t bother them.

I really liked Eric without his arrogance. Honestly I like him as a character normally as well, but found him more likeable when he was vulnerable. It was nice to see Sookie being taken care of by someone who was really focused on her. I’ve never been totally sold on Bill. He relies on her a lot and asks a lot of her and doesn’t always seem to see how he could also be helping her in return. My heart broke for her a bit at one point in the story.

The witches and fairies were not what I was expecting. In book one we met vampires and shape shifters, in two there was the maenad and more shifters, then in three were the Weres and in four fairies and witches. It makes me wonder what is coming next and if having so many supernatural creatures together might get to be too much. I think I thought based on the covers and premise that Harris would be sticking to vampires and whatever Sookie turns out to be. True Blood seems to be saying she is a fairy but so far in the stories that hasn’t really come into play. The fairy in Merlotte’s is so attractive to all the vampires and Sookie doesn’t seem to have quite that much of a hold on them all. Perhaps because she isn’t a full fairy. It will be interesting to read the rest of the series but I am still frustrated by how slowly it looks like I will be getting to them.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Product Details
Pub. Date: August 2010
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Format: Hardcover, 390pp
Series: Hunger Games Series , #3
ISBN-13: 9780439023511
ISBN: 0439023513

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

My thoughts on Mockingjay:
Usually I wait to find books at the library or for my turn to come up on PaperbackSwap, but once in a while I treat myself to a brand new book. Last year I bought one to take on vacation with me and I decided to do the same this year as well and this was my selection. It took me longer to read than the other two but I didn’t have a whole lot of free time to read. While we were on the beach I was playing or watching my children so I didn’t even take it along with me. I found myself having trouble remembering the other tributes who were in the Quarter Quell when the rescue took place. I think part of the issue is the way each of names was unique, a variation of a name we might use but twisted in some way.

This time I was back to having questions as I read. I wondered how like the capitol District 13 was with their daily schedules tattooed on their arms and the food rationed down by weight and activity level. How nutrition was just enough to keep them going but never any extra. Especially the questions about how ethical different weapons or tactics would be, with the argument that the capitol wouldn’t hesitate risk innocent lives so should they as the rebellion be concerned about it.
I think if I had it to do over again I would love to read the books back to back. I now can't decide if I should hold onto this one or pass it along in some way. While I would like to reread them all the other two I borrowed from the library and my free time for reading has really dwindled down. I now hesitate about rereading a book, even if I loved it, because I might miss the chance to read something new.

I was content with the conclusion of the story but don’t want to reveal it so I don’t ruin the book for anyone else. I am not sure I would have made the choice she made between Peeta and Gale but it did seem to end up being the best choice in the end.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

McKettricks of Texas: Austin by Linda Lael Miller

Product Details
Pub. Date: June 2010
Publisher: Harlequin
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 378pp
Series: McKettrick Men Series
ISBN-13: 9780373774463
ISBN: 037377446X


World champion rodeo star Austin McKettrick finally got bested by an angry bull. His career over, his love life a mess, the lone maverick has nowhere to go when the hospital releases him. Except back home to Blue River and the Silver Spur ranch. But his overachieving brothers won't allow this cowboy to brood in peace. They've even hired a nurse to speed his recovery. Paige Remington's bossy brand of TLC is driving him crazy. As is her beautiful face, sexy figure and silky black hair.

Paige has lost count of how many times Austin has tried to fire her. She's not going anywhere till he's healed—body and heart.

And by then her place in his life just might become permanent….

My thoughts:

Before I left for our family vacation I finished up the McKettricks of Texas trilogy. I like this family. While I haven’t read every book from Linda Lael Miller’s McKettricks I have read most of them. I enjoy how she comes out with trilogies. Once a series gets too long it can be hard to keep track of who is who, but three books seems to be just about perfect. Plus they usually come out pretty close together as well. She and Nora Roberts seem to do a lot of trilogies. It is nice to have three to read and then feel like you can move on to something else for a while.

Austin is back home at the ranch following his rehabilitation from a rodeo accident with a bull that almost killed him. Both of his brothers are engaged and set to married to sisters on New Years Eve. Paige, the high school love that he hurt because he felt they were too young to be so serious, is staying at the ranch in the guest quarters because work is being done on her house and her sister needs her help taking care of son while she works on a play. This book pretty much jumps in where the last one ended but even if you hadn’t read the first two it wouldn’t be too hard to jump into the series now.

While I enjoy reading romances the predictability of them makes me not want to read them exclusively. I love having a chance to feel good for a while and know that it will all work out. It is part of the reason I try to mix things up in my book choices and not let myself read the same genre all the time.

Austin and Paige are likeable and the mystery with the cattle rustling is solved. By the end everything is neat and tidy. I am sure there will be more about the McKettricks somewhere down the way.