Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers

The Cleaner of ChartresThe Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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Thanks for dragging me along through the most boring of stories. I really learned a lot and grew as a person.

The Cleaner of Chartres is about the quiet Agnes, found in a basket by a farmer. The slow and overwritten novel jumps from the present to Agnes past where we learn surprisingly little considering the mountain pages we had to get through for the information.

I stopped reading this book at least a dozen times telling myself to just give up. It wasn't going to get better. Then, finally at 54% stuff started to happen! Holy shit! Stuff is happening!

I should have just given up. I have a good nose for bad books. This one was just...listen, I congratulated myself for finishing it, okay. I'm fairly certain that I haven't high-fived myself for finishing a book since my junior year of college when I read The Wife of Bath for English Lit of the Middle Ages.

The Cleaner of Chartres is slow, over-written, and full of contradictions. Is Agnes a real person or is she a Mary figure? Is she both? Who knows. We certainly don't because (view spoiler)[the book just ends after Agnes makes a out of character declaration to Abbe Paul. (hide spoiler)]

This is not a horrible book, but it is a self-indulgent piece that goes nowhere.

ARC provided by Viking for review purposes in conjunction with

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Never List by Koethi Zan

The Never ListThe Never List by Koethi Zan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 Stars

Escape is just the beginning

The Never List
is a psychological thriller. When Sarah and Jennifer were in a car accident that resulted in the fatality of Jennifer's mother, and more than four months of hospitalization for the best friends, they created a list--The Never List. Filled with statistics that only an insurance statistician could love, the girls found a way to minimize their fears of victimization and helplessness. Unfortunately, in their first year away to school, the worst happens. The best friends are captured and held in a cellar by a sadist.

Sarah's Story

The Never List is told by Sarah, who tells us that she's escaped. Little by little we are told what occurred in the cellar, and who their captor was. Though it's been 10 years, for Sarah, it might as well have been yesterday.

Throughout the reading, I anxiously bit my nail, finally putting the book aside for hours at a time, such is the power of her story and the terror that she experienced. Fortunately, I sucked up my courage, otherwise I'd have missed an compelling story.

The Never List takes Sarah back to where it all began, and as one reads, they can't help be feel the tremendous fear the protagonist faces in her effort to redeem herself--for what, we aren't sure, but Sarah's guilt is just as prevalent as her fear. It is this theme of redemption that propels the plot along, because their captor has just gotten married. Sarah can't stand idly by while another woman walks into a fatal trap, especially if he is paroled.

The psychology at play in this novel is intensely frightening, so much so that there's little trust in any character. Paranoia runs high. Anyone could betray Sarah at any given time. Her phobias, which seem debilitating at first, start to seem like excellent choices.

If it were not for the deceleration of impending doom by what can only be described as easy outs, this book would be a four or five star thriller. However, it became apparent, at least to me, (view spoiler)[ that the author was not willing to hurt her protagonist. (hide spoiler)] When the theme began to overwhelm the action during the climax, the physical threats become less fear laden--less tangible.

The Never List is a fast paced thriller that allows readers to view the aftermaths created by the captivity of humans. Safe is only a word. Escape is just the beginning.

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Outcast by Adrienne Kress

OutcastOutcast by Adrienne Kress

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

5 fangirl stars for Outcast

"To describe a kiss that was such a kiss would only be to diminish everything about it. The only thing to say about it is that it was."

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Before you say that you've read books that contain angels and nephilim and they didn't really work for you, let me say, forget it. Forget all of it.

Outcast is truly awesome.

Angels are coming to Earth and taking people from Riley's small southern town once a year. The first couple years, there was fear, but it was soon replaced by religious fanatics who saw the Taking as a Glory. But not Riley. Riley thinks the Taking and the Glory are bullshit. Last year the angels took Chris, Riley's first kiss and best friend. The taking this year will be different. Riley's pissed. Riley shot an angel in the face with a shotgun. The angel turned into Gabe McClure, who was Taken in 1956.

Outcast is a fantastic read full of Riley's unique dark humor, and Gabe's flirtatious wit. The sexual tension between Riley and Gabe is thick, but Riley is no dummy. It's going to take more than good looks, and 50's charm to let down her guard against something that's been taking the citizens of her town.

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Adrienne Kress has crafted a YA heroine that is smart, cunning, and honest. Riley shuns drama and follows her heart, avoiding cliche YA plot devices. But Kress goes a step farther. In Riley's character, other stereotypes prevalent in YA novels are shattered such as the quintessential cheerleading captain.

Adults and teens alike will revel in the friendship that grows between Riley and Gabe. Who couldn't sympathize with Gabe, who finds himself thrust into the future without family or friends? Certainly not Riley, who is the reason he's here in the first place.

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Outcast will have you up late into the night, so plan accordingly. This addictive read is sure to catch fire.

ARC provided by Diversion Books for review purposes, in association with

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Charlaine Harris Sucks Again

Dead Ever After (Sookie Stackhouse, #13)Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

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Alisha: The fan who is neither crazy, nor entitled rants


So I've been on Amazon, watching the reactions. Lots of sock puppets and rabid Charlaine fans giving this turd 5 stars. Even Anne Rice is weighing in! I'm uber suspicious of all reviews that say, "She tied this up nicely, way to go Ms. Harris! and I look forward to reading the Coda in October!" Gotta hand it to Penguin, they are on top of this.

"Hey everyone! Look over here! Disregard the bad reviews. Those people are CRAZY!"

There's been a lot said about this final installment of Sookie. There have been angry fans, sad fans, furious bloggers, and Charlaine sheeple. Fans of Charlaine and maybe free speech? are calling the upset masses entitled and crazy. If you didn't like the book, you are a crazy Eric/Sookie shipper. Just check out the Wall Street Journal's crap article, How to Kill a Vampire Series if you don't believe me.

It's a mess. In the end, this will sell plenty of books, but a good portion of readers will remember that their emotional trust was broken. Say what you will, that is a legitimate feeling. There is a relationship between reader and writer and that is built on trust. When a writer chooses not to just add a twist, but to twist a knife into the reader, it's sometimes permanent.

(view spoiler)[The world of Sookie has changed. I've thought a lot about why Harris would write an arc that heavily favored Eric, then dismantle the entire work in three books. (hide spoiler)] My guess is that Harris, being tired of Sookie isn't in the same frame of mind she once was when writing the frisky waitress/telepath. Of course she isn't in the same place she once was. We change. What once was exciting and fresh, can become dull and stale. Likewise, with Sookie, Harris' ability to do what she wanted in light of True Blood, crazed fans, and simple boredom all took their toll on the work.

I've read books 1-9 at least five times each. 10-12? Why bother?

I'm not a whiny girl who didn't get her way.

I did not read this final installment and I don't plan to, but not for the reasons that you might think. I'm not an entitled douche bag. I don't want to make Harris my bitch. I've been known to read a book or two, and despite what Harris' PR camp is spinning, I won't be attempting suicide or threatening the author any time soon. Most likely, I'll just read something else.

Here's my complaints, since I know the ending and I've read all the reviews on Amazon.

Bad Plot Devices

Alisha takes offense. Harris thinks that (view spoiler)[ rape is a appropriate plot device, selling Eric into sex slavery for the next 200 years. Lets salt that and add that Pam is forbidden to go with him. What's troubling is that I doubt she would have made the same choice for a female character, because RAPE! Holy crap! (hide spoiler)]. Try saying that out loud to someone who hasn't read the books and see if they don't laugh at the absurdity of that particular choice. "She did WHAT to Eric?!?"

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1. I waffle between thinking that Harris hates her fame or or fans or the book. I can't tell which one. Then I think, no, she's just tired of it. But after her choices for DEA, I am back to thinking that she's a bit vindictive. Why? I haven't a clue. It could be the fans, or True Blood/Alan Ball hate. I can't say. I do feel her choices for Eric were vindictive. Let me restate that. I feel this. YOU are free to feel other stuff.

But Alisha! Wait! Harris can do whatever she sees fit. See my last comment, but also...

Sure, she can and she did. I ask you though, how did Moning conclude the Fever series? How has Gabaldon treated Fraser and Claire? How did Mead conclude Vampire Academy? You can literally insert any couple into this example and get a similar outcome. That outcome being that not everyone is satisfied with conclusions, but the readership did not freak the fuck out.

2. Harris wrote the love between Eric and Sookie. Eric always had Sookie's back even when she didn't realize it. He graveled her drive, and replaced her coat. He called her brave and self-less. He tried to protect her from a bond with Andre. Harris also wrote Sookie saving Eric. In those books, many of us became invested readers.

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3. Harris wrote the (view spoiler)[friend/boss/big brother relationship between Sam and Sookie. There was a kiss here and there, but we READ that it could never work because Sookie could hear his thoughts unless he was actively blocking her. But now, it's all good. Thoughts, shmoughts, is what I always say! (hide spoiler)]

4. Harris wrote that Sookie was worried (annoyingly concerned) that the bond between her and Eric was influencing her feelings of love, so much so that she broke the blood bond. And yet, Sookie is willing to overlook (view spoiler)[the use of the Culivial Dor on Sam because...we don't know. Sookie decided that reading Sam's thoughts didn't matter, so maybe it a new life choices/attitude thing. Maybe her clock is ticking? Settling worked well for Tara, right? After all, Tara has twins! (hide spoiler)]

5. Harris wrote Sookie as brave in the beginning and accepting of other supes because people had always treated her like crap. She was open to others, but now, to live a happy life (view spoiler)[ she must shun other supes and try to live as humanly as possible? (hide spoiler)]

6. I'm not okay with the way it ended for Eric. (view spoiler)[ Rape happens and so does sex slavery. I know it's just a book, but it leaves a horrible taste in my mouth. CH wouldn't make this choice for a female character, but it's okay for a man? *face palm* Just kill him off! This choice is cruel and the sex slavery is icky. We know what happened between Eric and his maker and we know he was abused sexually. (hide spoiler)] That was sad. Now it's full circle? Jesus. I just can't...

My hard-hearted husband laughed up when I told him what Harris did to Eric. He said I ought to charge Harris with committing a McMurtry in the first degree. If you don't know what I'm referring to, see Lonesome Dove and the sequel, The Streets of Laredo.

But wait! There's more weird plots! Why would Sookie's gay cousin, Claude want to (view spoiler)[ kidnap and rape Sookie? He was foiled by homophobes? Right wingers save the day! (hide spoiler)] Again, I didn't read this, but there are some heated rants of tumblr that are discussing this peculiar plot device.

If you don't want to end up a spinster, it's time to settle!

Back to my point. I'm not reading the book because Sookie isn't fun anymore. That character I loved has devolved into a bigoted old woman, hell bent on nitpicking every aspect of her life. Sookie settled! She settle for line dancing, kids, and casseroles. That is NOT BRAVE. Remember ladies, when a woman nears thirty, it's time to quit being picky. The music is about to stop, so pick a chair! Charlaine wrote that too.

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SVM books once involved a mystery, some witty banter, a bit of fantasy with a smidgen of lust. When it worked, it was magic.

Sadly, the magic is gone. Luckily, there are other books in the sea, err...library.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

The Exodus Towers by Jason M. Hough

The Exodus Towers (Dire Earth Cycle, #2)The Exodus Towers by Jason M. Hough

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Zero G is such a pain in the ass.

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I need sci-fi and Jason M. Hough is my fix.

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How do a handful of humans stop the Builders before they finish what they started?

This second installment of The Dire Earth series, like the last novel, comes with a time table. The Builders are coming back in about 18 months, and what they'll bring this time, no one is sure. Speculation runs high, and nobody wants to talk about the possibility of total extinction. The Builders destroyed most of the human population, and those humans that remain, would like to live.

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Hough works his way through four different plots, which are tied together by Skyler, Tania, Blackfield, and Samantha. Skyler and Tania work in Brazil with the second elevator, while Sam is on the ground in Darwin and Blackfield is still king dick of space elevator one.

The Exodus Towers moves a bit slower than the first book, charging quickly through heavy combat scenes and alien discovery and dragging while our characters scavenge and maneuver politically.

The Exodus Towers is full of new alien surprises, none of which are good. I mean, they're bad. Like, really bad, and things are only likely to get worse. This is where Hough really shines. His world building is first rate. Add to that a really wonderful protagonist and you have a damn good story.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough

The Darwin Elevator (Dire Earth Cycle, #1)The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Darwin Elevator: SciFi lovers look no further.

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This imaginative, action-packed gem ended my losing streak. I am by nature a scifi lover. Fans of Steven King will love this book.

The Darwin Elevator is another dystopian novel, but don't let that deter you. Darwin has something new to offer: a compelling plot, fantastic writing, and characters with substance.

Set nearly 300 years in the future, Darwin tells the story of Skyler, the captain of a scavenger ship who supplies the city of Darwin, Australia and the space elevator with finds located outside of the protective Aura that surrounds Darwin and the elevator.

The elevator was built by aliens, twenty years prior. Industry around the elevator exploded. Darwin became a hub of activity. Then the virus broke out. A gift from the aliens? The subhuman virus erodes the human brain, killing some, leaving others to function at the lowest levels. The Aura, which is given off by the elevator, acts as a barrier between the virus and the inhabitants of Darwin.

Hough has created a world the feels real because it's based on what we already know. For instance, some of the space level stations have ugly carpeting. Taking a climber to the first station takes 14 hours. Ah. I know this world. It's full of time sucking waits and ugly carpeting. It's these kinds of details that make a world real.

In addition to extraordinary world building, the characters make you feel. I wanted Skyler to be okay. Tania is brilliant but naive, from her life spent in orbit. I was forever suspicious of Prumble and Neil. Then there's Russell.

Russell mother f-ing Blackfield.

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I hate Russell. He's like Hitler of space.

That is why this is an amazing book. There are no meh feelings while reading The Darwin Elevator.

If you love an in depth SciFi thriller, I highly suggest The Darwin Elevator.

ARC provided by Netgalley in conjunction with Random House Publishing

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Office of Mercy by Ariel Djanikian

The Office of MercyThe Office of Mercy by Ariel Djanikian

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Normally I don't keep reading books that irritate me, but I just kept punishing myself with this gem of a novel.

I'm always wary of synopsis that promise that fans of awesome book, or awesome author with LOVE this novel. Apparently, fans of The Hunger Games should love The Office of Mercy. Well, I loved The Hunger Games?!?! Ergo, I loved The Office of Mercy. Uh, no. No I didn't.

The Office of Mercy is a dystopian that tells the story of Natasha, a citizen in America-Five. American-Five is a 305 year old post-storm settlement that "swept" 5.9 billion folks from the face of the earth. And by "swept," I mean bombed the earth back into the Stone Age. The Alphas, who established the community and the eternal life of the community, are stoked about this monumental achievement.

Oh, but wait! See, some super smart folks got away and lived. The Office of Mercy (yes, there's an office of just about everything, including government, agriculture, and the dumbest, exit) is changed with sweeping the remaining tribes that near their dome perimeter. The thought is that The Office of Mercy is dispatching the outsiders to a better place where they won't suffer. Gah. *eyeroll*

The premise is intriguing, but the execution is a total fail.

1. The book bugged me immediately. At first it was the name of our protagonist; Natasha. The author overuses the name to the point of distraction. Have you ever met a new mother who finds excuse after excuse to use their baby's name repeatedly because they like the sound of it? Natasha, Natasha, Natasha! I wanted to stab my eyeballs out.

2. There were info dumps concerning the emphatic code that the citizens follow so that they can murder and be super happy. The code could have scared the shit out of me, but instead it was YA simplistic and about as deep as a puddle. Since I'm an adult, and this is published by Viking as an adult novel, I had to rage a bit.

3. The terminology in any sci-fi can be hard to accept. I never accepted the vocabulary choices in this book. The elevator is called "the elephant," there is an office of everything, and they don't abbreviate. Seriously? When the citizens swear, they say, "By Alpha," or some such nonsense. It's truly obnoxious.

4. Natasha is only twenty-four, so it makes perfect sense that her love interest in the book is creepy older guy and her BOSS, Jeffery. Jeffery totes has a thing for Natasha and has since she was a little girl and he gave her extra chocolates. OOOOOH MY GOD! MY MIND!!!!! Jeffery is so not swoon worthy it hurts. I didn't buy their romance AT ALL. NONE. NO. Natasha is such a freaking Mary Sue and then she goes off with Jeffery and I had to scream. I didn't think her choices could get worse. I didn't, but then JEFFERY the creeper.

5. I haven't read pseudo science this bad since Feed, by Mira Grant. At one point, Natasha is injured and they doctor from the Office of Health tells her that she gave Natasha a few dozen bundles of nuero-synapses and 40 billion fresh blood cells. Wow! That sounds technical and completely legit.

6. The book has nothing new to offer us. 15% in and I was sure it was a bad rip-off of Under the Never Sky, which I loved. In UTNS, the protagonist lives in a dome, post-storm, has interactions with outsiders, and has access to a virtual world called The Realms. The Office of Mercy has The Pretends. Again, the name alone is painful.

7. Where is the scary murder government? Apparently, the same folks who built the dome don't keep tabs on their citizens very well because Natasha and friends can go in and out without detection. Really? These are the guys that killed everyone, but a handful of disenters and allowed to hold meetings in the library and nobody is monitoring the exits? Mmm, kay.

If it's post-apocolyse/dystopian you're looking for, just skip this one. There are so many good dystopians out there. This just isn't one of them.

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