Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: The Bro-Magnet (Nice Guy #1) by Lauren Baratz-Logsted


3 stars for The Bro-Magnet (Nice Guy book 1) by Lauren Baratz-Logsted.

Entertaining and lighthearted, the Bro-Magnet tells of the life and love story of a certain 33 year old Johnny Smith. Instead of writing long boring history leading to present day, the author does a great job of providing quick yet sufficiently detailed background history on our hero by summarizing in one chapter, Johnny’s life from birth to grade school, to middle school to college graduation to present day.

Though the story is smooth flowing and well written, certain aspects of the story is country specific and culture related; and so may not be easily comprehended by readers. Nevertheless, the tale as told through the eyes of our hero is realistic and filled with welcoming light humor which certainly helps to negate the aforementioned difficulty.

Publisher: TKA Distribution
Publication date: 11 Dec 2011

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Women have been known to lament, "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride." For Johnny Smith, the problem is, "Always a Best Man, never a groom." At age 33, housepainter Johnny has been Best Man eight times. The ultimate man's man, Johnny loves the Mets, the Jets, his weekly poker game, and the hula girl lamp that hangs over his basement pool table. Johnny has the instant affection of nearly every man he meets, but one thing he doesn't have is a woman to share his life with, and he wants that desperately.

When Johnny meets District Attorney Helen Troy, he decides to renounce his bro-magnet ways in order to impress her. With the aid and advice of his friends and family, soon he's transforming his wardrobe, buying throw pillows, ditching the hula girl lamp, getting a cat and even changing his name to the more mature-sounding John. And through it all, he's pretending to have no interest in sports, which Helen claims to abhor.

As things heat up with Helen, the questions arise: Will Johnny finally get the girl? And, if he's successful in that pursuit, who will he be now that he's no longer really himself? THE BRO-MAGNET is a rollicking comedic novel about what one man is willing to give up for the sake of love.

*Blurb from author's website*

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review: Havoc (Dred Chronicles #2) by Ann Aguirre


5 stars for Havoc (Dred Chronicles book 2) by Ann Aguirre.

Ann Aguirre did it again, by fabricating a superb science fiction fantasy romance with just about the right blend of romance against the exhilarating backdrop of a space opera escapade.

I have not been hopeful of laying hands on another set of adrenaline-charged sci-fic romance series ever since the concluding chapters following Sirantha Jax’s expedition in Endgame. I will never have imagined any other series that can measure up to Jax’s passion for navigating ships through grimspace and her intense first person account of interstellar travel amid heart-stopping quests against aliens alike.

Yet, the Dred Chronicles is proof enough, that sci-fic romance stories written from third person point of view can be equally invigorating, if not better. Though Ann Aguirre creates a kick-ass heroine in this series, book 2 Havoc is skilfully written with well-rounded perspectives. The third person is like the all-seeing, all-knowing person telling the story from each character’s point of view.

Whereas book 1 Perdition centres on intricate politics, brawling and surviving across the different factions within each group's bordered territories of the floating prison ship, book 2 Havoc spotlights on the continual internal strife among the criminals and additionally, the hostility and combat brought on by external invasion from hired mercenaries with the mission to wipe out this whole lot of dangerous convicts who have been confined in Perdition for life imprisonment. While the rebellion and fighting scenes are not for the faint hearted due to much violence, bloodshed and gore, the carnage is actually essential and to be expected since survival is a constant battle and death is the only escape in this hellhole of a space ship. Nevertheless, readers can still find love and loyalty in Perdition, a place designated for the condemned and pronounced to be doomed from the beginning.

Overall, the world building of Havoc is excellent, the storyline fabulous, and the action scenes are well-paced with breathers in between to explore beyond the surface acquaintance of various characters on a skin-deep connection. The result is a rich read that is far more than a series of action adventures strung together.

Fans of this Dred Chronicles series will be thrilled. For new readers, I will recommend to start at the beginning (book 1 Perdition), or risk drowning in this immersive world building.

Publisher: Ace
Publication date: 26 Aug 2014

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HELL IS EMPTY AND ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE.

The Conglomerate’s most dangerous convicts have made the prison ship Perdition their home. And they will defend it…

Perdition is under siege. Mercenaries have boarded the station with orders to take control of the facility—and execute the prisoners. Their commander is offering full pardons to the first five inmates willing to help the mercs complete their mission.

Dresdemona “Dred” Devos hasn’t survived hard time just to surrender to the Conglomerate’s armored thugs. Leading a ragtag army of inmates, Dred and her champion Jael wage a bloody guerilla war of chaos and carnage against impossible odds. But no matter how dire the outlook, the dread queen never backs down …

*Blurb from author's website*

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review: The Color of Heaven (Color of Heaven #1) by Julianne MacLean


5 stars for The Color of Heaven (Color of Heaven book 1) by Julianne MacLean.

The Colors of Heaven is a grippingly engaging read that tells of a story spanning over three generations, that of the narrator Sophie, her daughter Megan and her mother Cora.

The story, absolutely amazingly written from first person account, perfectly blurs out the line between fiction and reality. As I cruise through waves and waves of life happenings of the narrator, I wonder if the story is written based on first hand account of the author's own experiences or fabricated out of nothingness but solely ingenious imaginations. I especially like the chapter before the epilogue. Taken verbatim from chapter 63:

"If you're reading this book, you've probably already guessed that Mr. Velcoff represented me on this project as well, which also went for a significant advance. You can hunt around for the exact dollar amount on the Internet if you're curious.

But let me remind you that it really doesn't matter. I would have written this book for nothing, for it was a story I simply had to tell."

Chillingly poignant to the point of heartbreaking, the story takes me on an intense emotional rollercoaster ride. Taking the role of a mother myself, I can fully empathize and sympathize on the pain Sophie has to go through and worst still, having to endure the agonizing process alone. Reading the portion on Sunshine and Rain makes me happy and sad, calm and agitated, betrayed and vulnerable, angry and helpless.

The Color of Heaven teaches us hope against hope, and what it means to truly live, to let go, to forgive and to love. The novel with richly developed characters carefully woven into the story, is full of unexpected twists and turns; and a near-death out of body experience that leaves me fighting for breath. The tale is so absorbing that I finish the book in a matter of hours, but I have no doubt that the messages conveyed through Sophie's story will stay deeply entrenched in my heart, in the years to come.

This is seriously a story not to be missed.

Publisher: Blue Ocean
Publication date: 23 Mar 2011

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Sophie Duncan is a successful columnist whose world falls apart after her daughter's unexpected illness and her husband's shocking affair. When it seems nothing else could possibly go wrong, her car skids off an icy road and plunges into a frozen lake. There, in the cold, dark depths of the water, Sophie experiences something profound and extraordinary--something that unlocks the secrets from her past, and teaches her what it means to truly live.

*Blurb from Goodreads*

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Review: Promise Me by Barbie Bohrman


Did not finish Promise Me by Barbie Bohrman.

Promise Me starts out promising but as promises go, this one falls short of living it up. The story though written from first person account does not feel like one as the actions of the female protagonist is pretty much directed through her roomie who also happens to be her best friend. What irks me the most is that the heroine who, in her mid to late twenties, should be fully capable of making life's decisions for her ownself, needs to be led by the nose and reminded constantly by her bestie on what to do where relationships are concerned. As if this is not bad enough, we have an annoying and overbearing mother whose conversations with our heroine grates on my nerves.

As a debut novel, it is not too bad as the story flows and is well edited. Unfortunately the good ends here. The plot is too cliché for my liking and it feels very much like reading a young adult novel with characters that are very juvenile and a storyline that is too predictable. At 32% of the book, I decide that I have enough and throw in the towel. Out of sheer curiosity, I flip to the last few pages to get a gist of the ending. There I have it, no surprises, the ending I will have come to expect.

Publisher: Montlake Romance
Publication date: 17 Sep 2013

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Sabrina Chandler has had a rough go at love: just before her high school graduation, she found her boyfriend in the arms of her so-called best friend. Tyler Anderson, the town’s sexy bad boy, stepped out of the shadows then to save her pride. Drawing strength from him, she left everything behind and sought a new life for herself, far away from the pain and shame.

Fast forward ten years: Sabrina is settled in Miami, happy at last—until her best friend urges her to attend her high school reunion and face her painful past once and for all. And…maybe meet the mysterious Tyler once again.

Can Sabrina find the courage to face the demons in her past, let go of the pain, and move forward into happiness? Or will insecurity and self-doubt ruin her one chance to get the love she’s not sure she even deserves?

*Blurb from author's website*

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Review: The Grendel Affair (SPI Files #1) by Lisa Shearin


5 stars for The Grendel Affair (SPI Files book 1) by Lisa Shearin.

This book has been on my to-be-read list since its publication date but I have not got down to reading it until recently. While I recognise that the author’s penmanship is pretty good from her first urban fantasy series, her Raine Benares chronicles are by no means light reading as they require certain amount of concentration and efforts due to introduction of a tad too many characters to my liking. Relying on this prior experience, I am not excited enough to actively seek The Grendel Affair for my reading pleasure and hence it is never top on my to-be-read list. That is, until one fine Sunday when I visit the Central Library and there the book is, perching on one of the display bookstands and staring me right in my face.

As is my usual habit, I flip through the first few pages to read praises for the book and the author’s acknowledgement. What stops me, or rather propels me into action of hoarding the book for borrowing is seeing high praises from one of my favourite authors. Taken verbatim from Ilona Andrews “...The Grendel Affair is urban fantasy at its best" and "...From now on Lisa Shearin is on my auto-buy list!". These coming from a highly credible author, though short and simple, undoubtedly packs a heavy punch.

The Grendel Affair is a delightful and enchanting read from the very first page. Sans the too-many characters that have a tendency to confuse, the plot is uncomplicated, but intense and suspenseful. The world the author has created is vibrant with rich and deep human and otherworldly magical history. I especially love the heroine’s first person narration which sparkles with layers of implied humour. Needless to say, her dialogues with our hero and other side characters are so witty that they make me smile to myself and re-read more than once.

As I read along, I am really glad that I have watched this American motion capture computer-animated fantasy film, Beowulf in 2007 when it was screened in theatres. There are unquestionably a number of instances in The Grendel Affair whereby references have been made to Beowulf and having seen the film before allows me to better understand and appreciate the SPI Files story. That said, the feeling of nostalgia comes in waves as soundtrack of two of the theme songs keep floating to my mind as I enjoy my book. As if in tandem with The Grendel Affair, these two songs “A Hero Comes Home” and “Gently as She Goes” feature violent and foreshadowing tones intertwined with the gentler anthem-like tendencies.

The above mesmerising folksongs (in my mind’s eye) combined with an intriguing folklore and well-rounded likeable characters, result in a splendid read where the perils are high but incentives to overcome the risks even higher. Looking back, I totally agree with the aforementioned favourite author’s proclamation, because now, Lisa Shearin is placed high up on my auto-must-read list.

Publisher: Ace; Reprint edition
Publication date: 31 Dec 2013

*** Favourite quote 1 ***

Dragons didn’t fool around when it came to protecting things that they acquired—be it gold, gems, or a monster’s body parts.

*** Favourite quote 2 ***

I tried to sit and relax, but the latter wasn't happening, so the former was impossible.

~ The Grendel Affair
Lisa Shearin

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Vampires, ghouls, and CIA agents? Just another day at the office. We’re Supernatural Protection & Investigations, known as SPI. Things that go bump in the night, the monsters you thought didn’t exist? We battle them and keep you safe. But some supernatural baddies are just too big to contain, even for us.When I moved to New York to become a world famous journalist, I never imagined that snagging a job at a seedy tabloid would change my career path from trashy reporter to undercover agent. I’m Makenna Fraser, a Seer for SPI. I can see through any disguise, shield, or spell that a paranormal pest can come up with. I track down creatures and my partner, Ian Byrne, takes them down.

Our cases are generally pretty routine, but a sickle-wielding serial killer has been prowling the city’s subway tunnels. And the murderer’s not human. The fiend in question, a descendant of Grendel—yes, that Grendel—shares his ancestor’s hatred of parties, revelry, and drunkards. And with New Year’s Eve in Times Square only two days away, we need to bag him quickly. Because if we don’t find him—and the organization behind him—by midnight, our secret’s out and everyone’s time is up.

*Blurb from author's website*

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