03.28.13

Friday Night Bites by Chloe Neill

Posted in Review at 10:15 am by Amber

Title: Friday Night Bites
Author: Chloe Neill
Publisher: New American Library
Source: Columbus Metropolitan Library

Friday Night Bites

Vamps in Chicago!

You’d think headlines like that would have provoked the fine citizens of the Windy City to take up arms against us bloodsucking fiends. Instead, ten months later, we’re enjoying a celebrity status reserved for the Hollywood elite—fending off paparazzi only slightly less dangerous than cross and stake-wielding slayers. Don’t get me wrong, Joe Public isn’t exactly thrilled to be living side-by-side with the undead, but at least they haven’t stormed the castle yet.

But all that will change once they learn about the Raves—mass feeding parties where vampires round up humans like cattle and drink themselves silly. Most civilized vampires frown on this behavior, putting mere mortals at ease with their policy of asking a person’s consent before taking a big gulp of the red stuff. However, that doesn’t make good copy for a first time reporter looking to impress his high society family.

So now my “master,” the centuries old, yet gorgeously well-preserved Ethan Sullivan, wants me to reconnect with my own upper class family and act as liaison between humans and vampires—and keep the more unsavory aspects of our existence out of the media. But someone doesn’t want people and vamps to play nicey-nice—someone with an ancient grudge.

This book had a bit of a mystery feel to it. Merit’s Scooby Gang (Mallory – fledgling sorcerer; Catcher – excommunicated sorcerer; Jeff – computer genius and supernatural being; and Ethan – Vampire Master and supreme strategist) gets to investigate the raves. Merit’s former high school sweetheart blackmails Merit and Ethan into it. Meanwhile, the shifters are getting ready to meet in Chicago to discuss if they are going to keep their presence from humans hidden or not.

The attraction Ethan and Merit feel for each other yet deny at every turn creates an underlying tension to their encounters. When they relax and engage in witty banter it’s very entertaining. I admit I’m rooting for them to have a relationship at some point in the series.

The ending of this one made me say “Argh!” because it ended on a cliffhanger. I had to get my hands on the third book in the series immediately!

03.18.13

Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill

Posted in Review at 10:03 pm by Amber

Title: Some Girls Bite
Author: Chloe Neill
Publisher: New American Library
Source: Columbus Metropolitan Library

Some Girls Bite

Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn’t exactly glamorous, but it was Merit’s. She was doing fine until a rogue vampire attacked her. But he only got a sip before he was scared away by another bloodsucker—and this one decided the best way to save her life was to make her the walking undead. Turns out her savior was the master vampire of Cadogan House. Now she’s traded sweating over her thesis for learning to fit in at a Hyde Park mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan “Lord o’ the Manor” Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed, four-hundred- year-old vampire, he has centuries’ worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects her gratitude— and servitude. But an inconvenient sunlight allergy and Ethan’s attitude are the least of her concerns. Someone’s still out to get her. Her initiation into Chicago’s nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war—and there will be blood.

The novel takes place over a two week span of time. Merit is attacked while on campus one evening and wakes up different. At first she thinks her grubby, comfortable grad school clothes have been swapped for a mani-pedi and designer clothes. It doesn’t take long for her new situation to be explained to her.

Most of the novel has Merit coming to terms with a feudal style vampire system of honor versus her independent, modern woman lifestyle. She’s headstrong and makes some blunders because she doesn’t read the all important vampire canon given to all newly turned vampires. Vampires have been out in the open for a short time but none of the other supernatural beings are which gives Merit a lot to catch up on.

In addition to Ethan Sullivan, the vampire who makes her blood boil and leaves her googly-eyed, the cast of characters includes Merit’s family (parents and grandfather), her roommate (Mallory), a handsome vampire (Morgan) from another house and some other supernatural characters I can’t say anything more about because I don’t want to give any spoilers.

I rather liked Merit. She’s one of the few characters I’ve come across who has a sense of who she is. Sure, she’s been thrust into a situation not of her choosing, but it’s a lot better than being dead.

Neill creates characters who come to life. Merit and Mallory have the banter of longtime friends. The attitude of Merit’s father fits a man who wants to hoard money and power. It’s a marked contrast to her grandfather. It’s all convincing. Because of that, I’m able to overlook the Corgi misspelling I found. 🙂

This took me a day to read and I’m already looking forward to the next in the series. There are lots of plots hinted at in the first novel which will take several books to play out. The sixth novel in the Chicagoland Vampires series was released last month and the seventh is scheduled to come out in August 2013.

Mailbox Monday – March 18th

Posted in Event at 9:53 pm by Amber

Mailbox Monday

A big thank you to Marcia for originating Mailbox Monday. This weekly meme is now on tour with a new host each month. March’s host is Caitlin of Chaotic Compendiums.

The 2013 Campbellian Pre-Reading Anthology which features short stories from writers nominated for the John W. Campbell Best New Writer award.

What arrived in your mailbox this week?

03.15.13

A Month of Letters 2013 Wrap-Up

Posted in Event at 10:33 pm by Amber

Here are the links to my weekly LetterMo updates:

The challenge is to mail an item daily for each day of postal service in your area. The second part of the challenge is to reply to all the letters you receive.

I did better this year in sending items out, replying to letters, and posting my updates. Last year I mainly wrote to people I knew. This year I added some new people from the LetterMo forums to my address book. Postable seemed like a popular choice for keeping track of mailing addresses although I did not create an account for myself. I did add my address to a few Postable accounts. I made sure each new person I wrote or was hoping to get a letter from had something in common with me. Usually it was an interest such as reading, writing, or yarn crafting. Read the rest of this entry »

03.14.13

Goodreads and LibraryThing

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:51 pm by Amber

I’m pondering actually getting a Goodreads account. I’ve had a lifetime account with LibraryThing for years. Many of my book blogging friends are on LibraryThing but more of my social friends are on Goodreads. Does anyone have a preference between them? Or use both?

03.12.13

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Posted in Review at 3:24 pm by Amber

Title: Wolf Hall
Author: Hilary Mantel
Publisher: Macmillan
Source: My Personal Library

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII’s court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king’s favor and ascend to the heights of political power

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king’s freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum.

Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, where individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage. With a vast array of characters, overflowing with incident, the novel re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death.

Mantel creates a sympathetic portrayal of Thomas Cromwell. He’s a self-made man who left his abusive father’s home as soon as he could. I’ve commented in the Wolf Hall Read-Along discussions (held by The Bluestocking Society  and It’s All About Books) how his story can appeal to Americans since he’s a self-made made. Out of nothing but his willingness to work (or fight in battle) and use his brains, he rises to power in King Henry’s court.

One aspect of Cromwell nearly everyone commented on in the Read-Along was his love for his wife. Because of his background he was able to choose his own wife. Mantel certainly makes you believe he loved her. After her death he longs for her and often finds himself mistaking his sister-in-law’s presence for his wife. Years later, he still thinks of her.

The political intrigue is quite interesting but nothing I’d want to live through or with. A lot of the book is spent trying to figure out how Henry can leave his wife and still be a religious example. Cromwell thinks like a lawyer and a common man so it’s interesting when he thinks ahead to the counter-arguments.

There are so many different characters with the same first names – Thomas, Henry, Edward and William – it can be difficult to keep track of them. Fortunately, Mantel has a reference guide in the front of the book. I didn’t want to wait too long before reading Bring Up the Bodies. For some readers it will be confusing because some of the story is told through Cromwell’s recollections and some parts are third-person point of view. But if you can read it for long stretches at a time, it will become second nature to know what is happening in the action.

Niteblade Fundraiser – Fantastic!

Posted in Event at 2:48 pm by Amber

In 12 days, Niteblade has almost reached the halfway mark of the indiegogo fundraiser. It’s already more money than was made with last year’s fundraiser. I do the interviews for the site and it’s nice to know people like to see what Rhonda, Alexis and the slush readers are doing. My position isn’t a paid one (nor am I looking to make it a paid position) but does pay the poets and fiction writers who are selected for publication.

The goal of $500 is ambitious and like most online fundraising campaigns held through a third party site, if the goal isn’t met then Niteblade doesn’t get the money. Some of the items up for donations include ebooks, art work, books, and writing-related critiques. You may not be interested in horror or fantasy literature, but you may know someone who does. Help spread the word; it’s appreciated. 🙂

03.06.13

Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD

Posted in Review at 2:32 am by Amber

Title: Wheat Belly
Author: William Davis, MD
Publisher: Rodale Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Every day, over 200 million Americans consume food products made of wheat. As a result, over 100 million of them experience some form of adverse health effect, ranging from minor rashes and high blood sugar to the unattractive stomach bulges that preventive cardiologist William Davis calls “wheat bellies.” According to Davis, that excess fat has nothing to do with gluttony, sloth, or too much butter: it’s due to the whole grain wraps we eat for lunch.

After witnessing over 2,000 patients regain their health after giving up wheat, Davis reached the disturbing conclusion that wheat is the single largest contributor to the nationwide obesity epidemic─and its elimination is key to dramatic weight loss and optimal health.  In Wheat Belly, Davis exposes the harmful effects of what is actually a product of genetic tinkering and agribusiness being sold to the American public as “wheat”─and provides readers with a user-friendly, step-by-step plan to navigate a new, wheat-free lifestyle.

Informed by cutting-edge science and nutrition, along with case studies from men and women who have experienced life-changing transformations in their health after waving goodbye to wheat, Wheat Belly is an illuminating look at what is truly making Americans sick and an action plan to clear our plates of this seemingly benign ingredient.

The beginning of the book was difficult to get through because it’s all science. Yes, it’s good to know how Davis came to his conclusion that living without wheat will make a person healthier, but twelve chapters seemed long.

He explains the best way to cut wheat out of your diet is cold turkey and goes on to give reasons why some people also cut out cornmeal, rice, nightshades and soda in order to feel healthier. He provides a list of things you should eat. The book  includes a one week meal plan.

I do believe the wheat we eat now is different from what was available 50 years ago and no one knows the long-term effects of the genetically modified wheat we’re ingesting. One of my best friends feels better on a gluten free diet. I am ingesting more fruits and vegetables at meal time and eating less processed items but I’m not certain I’m ready to try a wheat free diet at this time.

About The Author

William Davis, MD is a preventive cardiologist whose unique approach to diet allows him to advocate reversal, not just prevention, of heart disease. He is founder of the TrackYourPlaque.com program. He lives in Wisconsin.

03.05.13

Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Posted in Review at 1:03 am by Amber

Title: Phoenix Rising
Author: Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
Publisher: HarperCollins (Voyager Imprint)
Source: NetGalley

Phoenix Rising Book Cover

These are dark days indeed in Victoria’s England. Londoners are vanishing, then reappearing, washing up as corpses on the banks of the Thames, drained of blood and bone. Yet the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences– the Crown’s clandestine organization whose bailiwick is the strange and unsettling — will not allow its agents to investigate. Fearless and exceedingly lovely Eliza D. Braun, however, with her bulletproof corset and a disturbing fondness for dynamite, refuses to let the matter rest. . .and she’s prepared to drag her timorous new partner, Wellington Books, along with her into the perilous fray.

For a malevolent brotherhood is operating in the deepening London shadows, intent upon the enslavement of all Britons. And Books and Braun — he with his encyclopedic brain and she with her remarkable devices — must get to the twisted roots of a most nefarious plot . . .or see England fall to the Phoenix!

This was my introduction to recent steampunk. I had to smile at the pun of the main characters’ surnames. They fit the characters personalities and interests. I rather liked Book and Braun and was rooting for them to solve the case. They balance one another.

The plot was action-packed. My only complaint is villain related. A villain was introduced and then disappeared for most of the book only to return at the end. It’s almost as though Ballantine and Morris had him as a forgotten subplot but plan to use him as the main villain in the second book in the series.