Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August books & reviews...

August was a slow month for me. I've been busy planning/shopping for a 50th wedding anniversary for my parents from 300 miles away. On top of that, I've been dealing with a stressed out aspie teen, and running around to find him school clothes'n'supplies. Add to that an at-home husband who was debating on a job offer, a dog that underwent dental surgery ... Its been a LONG month.

August 2010 - total 9

Wait for Dusk by Jocelyn Drake ***
Total Eclipse by Rachel Caine ****
Three Days to Dead by Kelly Meding *****
As Lie the Dead by Kelly Meding *****
Shadow Bound by Erin Kellison **
Blood Memories by Barb Hendee ***
Hunting Memories by Barb Hendee ***
Black & White by Jackie Kessler & Caitlin Kittredge ****
Shades of Gray by Jackie Kessler & Caitlin Kittredge ****


Shadow Bound by Erin Kellison (2 stars) wasn't my favorite book. It has an interesting premise - death (or maybe the grim reaper) and a terminally ill woman who can see him fall in love, have sex & she gives birth to a daughter. The story is about the girl, Talia, who has no idea what she is, just that she's not "normal". Because of the union, bad things have been let out in the world. Now there are people who can't die. Adam, a wealthy man, is trying to find a way to kill them because his brother is one. Adam hunts down Talia based on her thesis. Anyway, I didn't like Talia - I found her weird and a little creepy, not to mention a total wimp. That's a problem for me. And the sex scene between them, I found thoroughly unpleasant. There was no emotional attachment. I'm not saying its a bad book. Or that its poorly written. It just wasn't my cup of tea. (I'll still probably read the sequel...)

Wait for Dusk by Jocelyn Drake (3 stars) is the latest in the series about Mira, a vampire, and Danaus, a human/demon. In this book, Mira is forced to return to the council & take her place. Not all the vampires are happy about it & she has to fight for something she doesn't actually want. Mira discovers some shocking truths about herself in this book. It wasn't my favorite of the series, but I enjoyed it. I just want Mira & Danaus to realize they're meant for each other.

Blood Memories & Hunting Memories by Barb Hendee (3 stars) are about Eleisha, a vampire turned at the age of 17 to care for a senile vampire, as well as all the other vampires in her life. The books feel like a series of short stories about each vampire seen through their memories and are connected by what is happening in the present. Even though not much happened, I really liked these books.

Total Eclipse by Rachel Caine (4 stars) is the final book in the Weather Warden series. Joanne and David (a djinn and her lover) have been through hell & back in this series as they attempt to save the world and keep Mother Earth from waking up. In this book, things finally come to a head. I love this series. But I'm not a big fan of the jump-ahead-in-time epilogue & this one disappointed me (even tho its a good end).

Black & White and Shades of Gray by Stacia Kane & Caitlin Kittredge (4 stars) are very clever. They're the story of Jet and Iridium. The books hop from Then to Now and from Jet to Iri, and read like a comic book. Seriously. I'm a total fan-girl of comics, so these were a treat. Then: Jet and Iri are roommates in the academy for superheroes, run by Corp. Now: Jet works for Corp & is their poster child, Iri is a "rabid" that Jet is hunting. But is Jet the hero? Or is Iri? Who are the good guys and who are the bad? Definitely worth reading, especially if you like superhero comics.

Three Days to Dead and As Lie the Dead by Kelly Meding (5 stars) are the story of Evie. I've read the first book before, but I loved it so much I went back & read it again. Evie is a Dreg Bounty Hunter who is murdered and comes to in the morgue in another woman's body. Her handler Wyatt brought her back thru magic. Something big is happening & they have three days to figure out what & stop it. I highly recommend this series. It's well written, the world is unique and believable, the characters are excellent. Buy them. You'll want to read them more than once.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Apple's Patent Asshattery

I don't own an iPod.
I don't own an iPhone.
I don't own an iPad.
And frankly after Apple's efforts to control their devices usage thru strong arm tactics that should have them hanging their heads in shame, I don't think I ever will.

Most people are aware that the US court ruled that Apple can't stop people from jailbreaking their devices. (For those who don't know, jailbreaking means altering the software to use the device for something other than its intended purpose - say turning an iPod into a portable programming device.)

How many have read the recently published patent application by Apple? In effect, its a patent to put a series of tracking programs in its devices to determine if a person hacks their devices after purchase. And not only that, but it can identify the device hacker from using heart rate recording to photo taking techniques. It would then report back to Apple the information, at which point Apple will have a built in kill switch they will use that would make the device permanently unusable.

Now, call me naive, but I thought when I purchased a device it belonged to me.

If I want to spend $600 for a pseudocomputer, bring it home, take it out of the box & use it as a tray to serve tea to my friends, that's my right.

If I want to take that same device, set it on the floor, stamp it into oblivion and glue the remains to a picture frame for art work, that's my right.

If I want to alter the software so that the device displays "You dumbass, you just voided your warranty", you know what? That's my right.

Apple doesn't own the device once I've paid for it. If they want to have a say in how I use it then lease it to me. But if I'm spending my hard earned money on a ridiculously expensive piece of hardware and I choose to void my warranty for whatever reason, I can. It's mine.

I'm not saying I would.

I've never hacked a device in my life. I like my Zune just the way it is. It holds all my music & pictures & even has some neat games. I like my computer with Windows. But if tomorrow, I decided to switch my computer to Linux or turn my Zune into a lamp, no one but me should have a say in it.

So, I have a few final questions for Apple....

If I buy a toothbrush and use it to clean the grout in my bathroom, is that legal?
If I buy a toaster oven and use it to bake my clay, is that legal?
If I buy a beer and use it to condition my hair, is that legal?

I'm pretty sure it is. So is altering the use of my iPod (again, don't own one - don't want to). Just because you made it, doesn't mean you get a say in how I use it. You don't have to like it, but I paid for it. So mind your own business.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

If I could run away from home...

I know this will sound awful. But there are days (and there have been a number of them this summer) where the only thing that gets me through my day is imagining where I would go & what I would do if I could run away from home. That I'm a 47 year old woman fantasizing about this isn't lost on me.

What gets me through days when my unemployed husband is obsessing on jobs, money & our budget -when my son is on one of his perseverations about computers, computer companies, operating systems, programming, etc. etc. for 12 hours straight like a monotone monologue (I love my son. Seriously. But I dare anyone to make it through a day like that without drifting off mentally.) - when they're at each other's throats because they're both trying to have my full undivided attention - when neither one of them (a) cleans their dishes (b) takes the dog out - and both follow me to the bathroom door (which I shut in their faces) to continue their one sided conversations while I sit on the toilet (not using it, just escaping)....

...I travel in my mind to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Have I ever been there? No. But I've seen pictures. It looks like a nice, quiet, peaceful place to live. I'd take the dog (cause otherwise he'd starve to death or die of dehydration). And we'd live in a tiny little adobe house, whitewashed with a center courtyard, and lots of bookshelves filled with books. I'd spend my days sitting outside my blanket shop, under the shade of an awning just outside the door with the dog at my feet, sipping lemonade, reading and talking to tourists. (Why a blanket shop? I don't know. It just seems comforting.) And at night, I'd have a job in a roadside diner where the only thing I did was serve strong coffee and pie to truckers. Are you there with me? Are you feeling it? Peace. And quiet. Ahhhhh...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Zip-Line Craziness

This video, if it works, is of Bromley Mountain Resort's Zip-Line in Vt. which sails over the Alpine Slide. Its crazy fun. I am terrified TERRIFIED of heights. I can't stand on a chair without getting a little panic-y. The worst part of it was climbing the metal grate staircase. Once at the top, its not bad - and in the loading dock, you can't see anything until you're strapped into the chair and the gate bursts open. It was so amazing, I did it twice. If it hadn't been $15 a ride, I think I would have done it all day. But then I would have missed out on the alpine slide, which I love with the heart of a wanna-be racecar driver. The 3rd track (the curvy one) is the best! Wait for the person in front of you to get a good distance down & FLY. (Just remember when the cart starts to get a little hinky to let up on the speed...well, unless you really want to fly...off the track.)

video

Friday, August 6, 2010

Glee

So, I'm a secret Glee lover.

And you know what's funnier? So are my son and my husband. Although both of them have threatened me with death if I ever tell anyone. (uh oh) *peering cautiously around to make sure they're not in the vicinity* (You won't tell, right??!)

If you've never watched it, I highly recommend you try. Put it on for 5 mins. & see if you aren't hooked. Sue? Oh my God! She's freaking hilarious. And the wacky relationship between the OCD guidance counselor & the gym teacher/football coach? I nearly peed my pants when she agreed to marry him - as long as they never spoke outside of school, he didn't touch her, and they maintained their own residences (among other things).

The show is so clever - each song is carefully built into the crazy plot - from Madonna to Elton John to last night's "You're Having My Baby" (a repulsive song I hate above all others in this world & I was practically on the floor screaming with laughter). Its subjects are current - teen pregnancy, handicapped access, drug use, social acceptance, etc. Its characters are over the top - the sensitive music teacher, the geek, the jock, the bad boy, the cheerleader, etc. And just when the story gets serious or emotional, you're thrown into another pop melody to lighten it up. Its f*ing brilliant!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Books Read July 2010 w/ratings

The following is my list of books read in the month of July. It was a serious month of reading. 16 total! (Well - 15 1/2...)

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews *****
Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews *****
Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews *****
Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews *****
Friday Night Bites by Chloe Neill *****
Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill *****
Twice Bitten by Chloe Neill *****
A Devil in the Details by K.A. Stewart *****
Pray for Dawn by Jocelyn Drake ****
The Strain by Guillermo del Toro ***
Double Dating with the Dead by Karen Kelley ***
One if by Heaven, Two if by Hell by Rick Maydak ***
Demons by John Shirley **
Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane *****+
Unholy Magic by Stacia Kane *****+
City of Ghosts by Stacia Kane *****+

So, why so many 5 stars this month? Because it was a month of AUTHOR AWESOMENESS!

(5+ stars) I've already blogged about Stacia Kane's new series (Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic, City of Ghosts) and I honestly think these are right up there on my favorite list for gritty dark urban fantasy. I loved the characters, I loved the story, I loved the world it was set in. Each and every piece of it was brilliantly executed. It all made sense. It was so good, I actually debated turning around and reading it a second time just to enjoy it all over again. I want more of this series - more Chess, more Terrible and more Lex!!

Ilona Andrew's Kate Daniels series - 5 stars - (Magic Bites, Magic Burns, Magic Strikes, Magic Bleeds) - this is my third time reading through this series. With each new book, I start from the beginning. They're that good. Kate, the main character is tough as nails. Curran, the beast lord, will melt your socks. Every character is thought out, well written and built into the story perfectly. And the world she's created is unique and interesting.

Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampire series - 5 stars - (Friday Night Bites, Some Girls Bite, Twice Bitten) is another great read. Merit is a vampire, not by choice but because of a late night attack on campus. Ethan is head of Cadogan House & saves her life by turning her. She's not exactly thrilled by it (even if Ethan is yummy as hell). Merit is smart, strong as a vampire and her own person. No one is going to push her around. Again, another well thought out world where vampires have come out of the closet so-to-speak. The shape shifters are not happy about it. And the fae? Hmm. I love this series.

A Devil in the Details by K.A. Stewart (5 stars) is the first in a new series about Jesse James Dawson, a father, a husband and a modern day samurai. Oh, and he fights demons. I loved the references to ancient samurai books as well as pop culture. Listening to anime soundtracks in the car? Priceless. And Jesse gets hurt & heals like the human he is. Which is only to be expected when you're fighting demons. The characters were well written, tho I'm hoping for more insight into some of them, the world was interesting and the story pulls you in slowly and lets you get comfortable before picking up pace and speeding to the finish with action-packed goodness. I can't wait to read more.

Pray for Dawn by Jocelyn Drake (4 stars) is the 4th book in her vampire series feature Mira, a 600 yr. old vampire & fire starter and Danaus, a thousand year old human/bori demon. This book is told from Danaus's POV, a first. I can't say it was my favorite in the series. Maybe because I really like Mira's POV, which I think is phenomenally well done. Part of it was the story, though. A lot of it seemed out of character to me. And I had issues with the end - things happened that I was NOT happy about, but I'm not saying what. I just didn't see the point. I'm currently reading the next book (Wait for Dusk) which I'm enjoying so much more. I do like this series quite a bit & the other books are all 5 stars for me. This just wasn't my favorite.

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro (3 stars) is about a plane, an ancient strigoi vampire, a vampire hunter, a CDC doctor and is more of a horror story than UF. I liked it. It hops from one character to another, but the main character is the CDC guy. It reminded me a lot of early Stephen King. I thought it read more like a movie than a book (like it was laid out to be a movie). I thought in the end the main character veered from who he was through the entire book so severely that it didn't make sense. I'm hoping in the sequel that series of decisions will be explained. Overall, an enjoyable read.

Double Dating with the Dead by Karen Kelley (3 stars) is a light, funny read. Good for days when you can't put too much thought into what you're reading. The two main characters are staying at a haunted hotel because they have a bet. She says ghosts exist, he says they don't. Thing is, she knows ghosts exist. Whoever loses the bet has to publish a column in their respective newspaper admitting they were wrong. You know from the get-go how the story is going to go & that's okay. Because its fun getting there.

One if by Heaven, Two if by Hell by Richard Maydak (3 stars) was by a local author, so I don't know how easy it is to come by across the country. Its the story of a man, Ethan, a real loser to be honest. He's overweight, slovenly, a raging alcohol and really unlikeable. Thing is, he can hear people's voices - all the time, everywhere he goes & it's basically made him a little nuts, not to mention anti-social & a useless person. When he was a kid, a "toad" creature haunted him at night. Now a man in white shows up. Angel? Devil? Well, I'm not saying but lets just say its up to Ethan to figure it out & save the world. My problem is he was so thoroughly unlikeable (he watches a girl he's in love with be gang raped in an alley and does nothing) I had trouble sticking with it. But in the end, I kind of liked the story as much as the main character disgusted me. It is very dark & the imagery is violent and creepy. It won't be everyone's cup of tea.

Demons by John Shirley (2 stars)....I haven't actually managed to finish this. In fact, I got to the end of the first chunk of it and couldn't read the second part. Don't get me wrong - the story, when its actually a story, is pretty damn good. I liked the world & I liked the storyline (where demons have risen up and are intermittently killing off humans). My problem was for every page of story, there were pages and pages of pontificating on the existential meaning of our very existence within this conundrum known as life and examining our choices as they pertain to the greater meaning of good vs. evil in a world where chaos reigns. Get the point? UGH. I found myself skipping huge chunks just to read the action sequences. When the first part finished, I looked at the second part and just couldn't bring myself to keep going. Will I finish it someday? Yes. But not anytime soon.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

MUST READ!! Stacia Kane's new series

I just finished a marathon reading session. Laundry? Abandoned. Wear dirty undies honey geez! Dishes? Ignored. Wash em yourdamnself dude! Computer? Wha? I own a computer? Groceries? Uh, we can scrounge can't we??! You want to go where? Ugh. cough. Not. Feeling. Well. Go without me, okay? Dog? We own a dog? Get. Away. From. Me. I'm. READING!!!!

So what had me so hooked?

Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic & City of Ghosts by Stacia Kane

I love reading book series in sequence, so I purchased the first two books in this series when they came out, but saved them aside & started the first the day before the 3rd book came out. I ended up having to hunt for the 3rd in the series & basically pleaded with a Borders employee last night to search her back room for one (because they weren't on the shelves) so that I could read it today. Thank GOD!

The story is about Chess, a church witch. Only the church is not our churches today -- its more of an inquisition church with magic mixed in. And our world? Greatly altered after the dead (ghosts) rose during Halloween & killed off millions. (Ghosts are not happy in this dark tale.) Chess is a debunker. Her job is to disprove hauntings. If she proves they're faked, she gets paid. If they're real, she deals with the ghost and the people who have the haunting get paid. Its pretty ingenious as a storyline & unique.

Chess is a seriously flawed character. She's all alone in the world -- an orphan raised in foster homes where she suffered serious abuse -- and she's a drug addict. While you might think this would ruin the story, it doesn't. It makes it infinitely more interesting and believeable. With what she's been through, self-destruction by drugs makes sense. And yet, she still has a will to live. You can't help but hope for her. Enter Terrible (enforcer for a drug lord - Bump - who supplies her) and Lex (employed by a rival drug lord). Bump has a ghost problem & wants Chess to use her magic to solve it. He assigns Terrible to help her. Lex doesn't want to see her succeed, because it would give Bump an edge. And Chess is put into a very difficult situation.

I LOOOVED these books!! I was so fascinated, so engrossed, that it was impossible to put them down. They had such emotional pull, I cried in the third book & had to take breaks because I was so upset with the characters (and, no, I'm not saying why). I drove my son nuts ranting about it. I will say, I was very satisfied with the end, but hope I get to read much more about Chess.

If you like dark urban fantasy, books with a gritty edge, books that make you feel the emotional struggles of their characters, these books will not disappoint. I'm actually debating reading them a second time, because I enjoyed them that much.