Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Posted by Simcha 5:23 PM, under | 3 comments

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

I really don’t know why I read all the way through Hex Hall when it was clear to me early on that this wasn't my kind of book. The story wasn’t particular original or the characters that interesting, but it was an easy and uncomplicated read, so perhaps that’s why I kept picking up again.

Towards the end of the book the plot takes some surprising turns that suddenly rekindled my interest in the story and and it left off in a way that made me actually want to read the sequel, which I had not expected to happen.

If you are someone that enjoys reading books about teenager girls at magical boarding schools then you will probably enjoy Hex Hall as well, as long as you don't mind the predictable formula.
As for me, I would have probably written the book completely off if it wasn't for the very end, which managed to surprise me, and now I unexpectedly find myself looking forward to reading sequel.

Saturday Snapshots: False Dusk

Posted by Simcha 3:30 PM, under | 1 comment

Saturday Snapshots
Hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books

My regular camera hasn't been working lately so I've been reduced to using the camera on my phone, which sometimes results in some interesting pictures.

It was actually the middle of the day, and quite bright outside, when I took this picture, and I was trying to capture the playground on the top of the hill. What I got instead was this really cool image of the sun's rays bursting through the clouds, as dusk appears to be falling.

Perhaps I'll be sticking with my phone's camera for a while ;)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fool For Books Giveaway Hop

Posted by Simcha 1:20 AM, under | 124 comments

Wow, I can't believe it's April already. It's almost frightening how quickly this year has sped by. For me, the start of April also means that it's time to begin preparing for Passover, which is just around the corner. This involves getting into turbo-cleaning mode and scouring the house from top to bottom, getting rid of any crumbs of food that may be lurking.

I usually begin by cleaning off my bookcases and so the Fool For Books Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and The Bookish Snob, coincides perfectly with my need to clean.

Here are the books that I've cleared off my shelf, one of which you can enter to win by leaving a comment below. Please include in the comment your name, email address and the title of the book that interests you (you may list more than one).

The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card

Summerland by Michael Chabon

River Marked by Patricia Briggs

The Painted Boy by Charles De Lint

Journal of a UFO Investigator by David Halperin

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

The giveaway is open internationally and will be running for just two days, ending at midnight on Saturday, April 2nd.

You must be a follower to enter.

And now check out some of the other awesome giveaways being hosted at the blogs below:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Books That Kept Me Up All Night

Posted by Simcha 5:56 PM, under | 11 comments

It’s been a while since I read a book that captivated me so completely that I was unable to put it down; a book that kept me reading late into the night, until I reached the very last page. Well this turned out to be a lucky week for me because I ended up with two such books, both of which were completely worth the precious sleep that I gave up for them, as well as the bleary-eyed mornings that followed.

The first of the books was Paranormalcy by Kiersten White. I decided to read Paranormalcy after it received positive reviews by a couple of book reviewers that I trust, but my expectations of it were still pretty low. I was unimpressed with most of the Young Adult books that I've read recently and I didn’t have such high hopes for this one. But the narrator’s engaging voice quickly pulled me into the story, which was unique and fresh, and the steady pacing kept me quickly turning the pages.

Orphaned at a young age and passed from foster family to foster family, Evie was eventually discovered by the International Paranormal Containment Agency, and brought to live within their headquarters. Evie’s unique ability to see through paranormal glamor makes her an available asset, and she has become an integral part of the agency, using her skill to identify and capture vampires and other paranormal creatures. But despite the satisfaction she gets in helping the Agency in their work, Evie often wishes she got to live like a normal teenager; going to school and hanging out with friends, just like on TV.

When an unfamiliar creature infiltrates the Agency, and gets captured, Evie finally gets the chance to spend time with a boy her own age. But the Agency is suspicious of him and what he represents because he has appeared just when supernatural creatures are suddenly turning up dead . Evie is certain that he is innocent and for the first time she finds herself questioning the Agency that has raised her and their intentions towards her.

Paranormally is definitely one of the best Young Adult and Urban Fantasy books that I've read in a long time and Kiersten White is now high on my list of new authors to keep an eye on.

The second of the books is Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohen and David Leviathan. Now I don’t usually read non-genre YA books but this one has been receiving so much praise that I was overcome by curiously and had to try it for myself. And boy am I glad that I did because this book was just so much fun.

While browsing in Strand bookstore one day, Dash comes across a red notebook that someone has inconspicuously slipped between a couple of books.

“I’ve left some clues for you. If you want them, turn the page. If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

Unable to resist, Dash turns the page and follows the clues left by the owner of the notebook. But before following the final instructions, Dash leaves his own trail for the notebook owner.

Lilly loves the holiday season and is disappointed that her parents havedecided to spend this Christmas on their own in Fiji. Her older brother is too wrapped up in his new romance to spend time with her, and suggests that she finds herself a boyfriend to keep her occupied. But how does one go about getting a boyfriend? With a little help from her brother and his new boyfriend, as well as from various well-meaning (and over-protective) relatives, Lily sets up a series of clues to help her find the perfect boy.

As Dash and Lilly pass the red notebook between them, they slowly get to know each other through the thoughts and messages, and the occasional dares, that they exchange within its pages.

I’m usually weary of books in which the point-of-view switches between a male and female protagonist, but Cohen and Leviathan pull it off wonderfully. Dash and Lilly each have a completely individual voice that expresses their different personalities, and I enjoyed reading the story from each of their perspectives. Despite their differences, Dash and Lilly still manage to complement each other and I loved how their friendship develops through their notes in the notebook and later, through their in-person interactions.

In addition to the unique story and the engaging characters I also really enjoyed the writing which was witty and full of quotable passages that I made sure to mark off:

I always hoped that after the prince found Cinderella and they rode away in thier magnificent carriage, after a few miles she turned to him and said "could you drop me off down the road, please? Now that I've finally escaped my life of horrific abuse, I'd like to see something of the world, you know? Maybe backpack across Europe or Asia? I'll catch back up with you later, Prince, once I've found my own way.

Boris the dog who needed walking turned out to be more like a pony who needed sprinting

Well sure, who doesn't need a boyfriend? but realistically, those exotic creatures are hard to come by. At least a quality one.

"You think fairy tales are only for girls? Here's a hint - ask yourself who wrote them. I assure you, it wasn't just the women. It's the great male fantasy - all it takes is one dance to know that she's the one. All it takes is the sound of her song from the tower, or a look at her sleeping face. And right away you know - this is the girl in your head, sleeping or dancing or singing in front of you. Yes, girls want their princes, but boys want their princesses just as much. And they don't want a very long courtships. They want to know immediately."

This book was just so delightful and fun that I wish I had a dozen more like it that I could gorge myself on. Though I’m not sure I could afford the loss of sleep this would entail. I am excited to see that Cohen and Leviathan have written a couple of other books together (including Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist) as well as some books written individually, and I intend to check all of them out.

And now that I've finished off all my unputtdownable books (and no, I did not make up this word, I've just been waiting for the chance to use it) I'm off to get some sleep.

Monday, March 28, 2011

New Scifi & Fantasy Releases: Week of March 28

Posted by Simcha 1:57 PM, under | 3 comments

If you've been following Jean M. Auel's Earth's Children series then undoubtedly you've been looking forward to this week, when the sixth book of the series will be released. Since I had gotten bored by book three, this doesn't apply to me (though I remember really enjoying books one and two) but there are some other books here that I an pretty eager to read, such as The Silent Land by Graham Joyce. Just reading the book blurb makes me desperately want to find out what happens next.

And even though I haven't been following Alex Bledsoe's Eddie LaCrosse series, there is something very appealing about the title and cover of his newest book, Dark Jenny, that makes me want to pick it up (I don't know, I just love the way the title sounds).

What about you? Are any of this week's new releases calling your name?

Hope you have a great reading week!


The Bloody Chamber And Other Stories
Angela Carter
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: March 29

An absorbing collection of dark, sensual, and fantastic stories inspired by the fairy tales and legends of Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast, vampires, werewolves, and more.

At the Gates of Darkness
Raymond E. Feist
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: March 29

Ten years beyond the Darkwar, the demon hordes are relentless in their quest to subjugate a realm of magic and wonder . . .
The defeat of the Demon King Maarg hasn't stemmed the death tide, and an even graver danger now looms. The fearsome demon Dahun and the mad necromancer Belasco have joined forces—a union of black magics that no power on Midkemia may be strong enough to withstand.
The conflict has already claimed the lives of nearly everyone dear to the Black Sorcerer Pug. In uneasy alliance with the Conclave of Shadows, Midkemia's clandestine protectors, the distraught champion must stand firm against the demonic plague that has overrun worlds. And at the gates of darkness—where shadows hide deeper shadows—Midkemia's most terrible battle will be joined . . . as a malevolence beyond anything that came before is unleashed upon the world.

Burning Lamp (Dreamlight Trilogy, Bk 2)
Amanda Quick - Author
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Jove
Release Date: March 29

In this second novel of the Dreamlight trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Amanda Quick, psychic power and passion collide when a legendary curse ignites a dangerous desire

Children of Scarabaeus
Sara Creasy
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: March 29

The crib is everywhere . . .
Edie Sha'nim believes she and her bodyguard lover, Finn, could find refuge from the tyranny of the Crib empire by fleeing to the Fringe worlds. But Edie's extraordinary cypherteck ability to manipulate the ecology of evolving planets makes her far too valuable for the empire to lose. Recaptured and forced to cooperate—or else she will watch Finn die—Edie is shocked to discover the Crib's new breed of cypherteck: children. She cannot stand by while the oppressors enslave the innocent, nor can she resist the lure of Scarabaeus, the first world she tried to save, when researchers discover what appears to be an evolving intelligence.
But escape—for Edie, for Finn, and for the exploited young—will require the ultimate sacrifice . . . and a shocking act of rebellion.

Con & Conjure
Lisa Shearin
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace
Release Date: March 29

Raine Benares is a seeker who finds lost things and people. Ever since the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone that's given her unlimited power, has bonded to her, the goblin king and the elves have wanted to possess its magic themselves. Which means a goblin thief and her ex-fiancé-an elven assassin-are after her. To survive, she'll need the help of her notorious criminal family.

Dark Jenny
Alex Bledsoe
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: March 29

Alex Bledsoe’s novels featuring detective Eddie LaCrosse have drawn rave reviews for their ingenious blend of classic fantasy and hard-boiled detective fiction. Now with Dark Jenny, Bledsoe returns with an all-new tale of intrigue and murder. . . .

For twenty-five gold pieces a day, plus expenses, Eddie LaCrosse will take on most any case. But the unexpected delivery of a coffin in the dead of winter forces LaCrosse to look back at a bygone chapter in his past—and the premeditated murder of a dream.

Ruled by the noble King Marcus Drake, the island kingdom of Grand Braun is an oasis of peace and justice in an imperfect world. At least until the beautiful Queen Jennifer is accused of adultery and murder. In the wrong castle at the wrong time, Eddie finds himself drafted at sword’s point to solve the mystery. With time running out, and powerful nobles all too eager to pin the murder on Eddie himself, he must untangle a tangled web of palace intrigues, buried secrets, and bewitching women—before the entire kingdom erupts into civil war.

Murder, mystery, and magic—just another day on the job for Eddie LaCrosse.

Catherynne M. Valente
Genre: Alternate History
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: March 29

oschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to European culture: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. But Koschei has never before been seen through the eyes of Catherynne Valente, whose modernized and transformed take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the twentieth century.
Deathless, however, is no dry, historical tome: it lights up like fire as the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever child of the revolution, to Koschei’s beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power. All told, Deathless is a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, which will bring Russian myth back to life in a stunning new incarnation.

Department 19
William Hill
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: March 31

Jamie Carpenter's life will never be the same. His father is dead, his mother is missing, and he was just rescued by an enormous man named Frankenstein. Jamie is brought to Department 19, where he is pulled into a secret organization responsible for policing the supernatural, founded more than a century ago by Abraham Van Helsing and the other survivors of Dracula. Aided by Frankenstein's monster, a beautiful vampire girl with her own agenda, and the members of the agency, Jamie must attempt to save his mother from a terrifyingly powerful vampire.

Department 19 takes us through history, across Europe, and beyond - from the cobbled streets of Victorian London to prohibition-era New York, from the icy wastes of Arctic Russia to the treacherous mountains of Transylvania. Part modern thriller, part classic horror, it's packed with mystery, mayhem, and a level of suspense that makes a Darren Shan novel look like a romantic comedy.

Equations of Life
Simon Morden
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: March 29

Samuil Petrovitch is a survivor.

He survived the bombs falling on St. Petersburg and made it to the London Metrozone-one of the last free cities. He's lived this long because he's a man of rules and logic.

For example, getting involved = a bad idea.

But when he stumbles into a kidnapping in progress, he acts without even thinking about it. Before he can stop himself, he's saved the daughter of the richest man in London.

And clearly saving the girl = getting involved.

Now, the equation of Petrovitch's life is looking increasingly complex.

Russian mobsters + Yakuza + something called the New Machine Jihad = one dead Petrovitch.

But Petrovitch has a plan-he always has a plan-he's just not sure it's a good one.

Haunted: Dark Delicacies III
Del Howison, Jeff Gelb
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace
Release Date: March 29

In this third distinguished collection of twenty-one superb, sublimely dark tales written especially for this volume, today's acknowledged masters of horror fiction offer readers a truly twisted taste of terror.

Waking Nightmares
Christopher Golden
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace
Release Date: March 29

Peter Octavian, once a vampire, now a powerful mage, has been living a quiet life in San Francisco. But when the barrier that used to prevent demons and monsters from entering the world have fallen, Octavian is compelled to do what he can to hold back the darkness.

I Don’t Want to Kill You
Dan Wells
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: March 29

Dan Wells introduced us to John Wayne Cleaver in the chilling novelsI Am Not a Serial Killer and Mr. Monster. In I Don't Want to Kill You, Cleaver faces his toughest challenge yet.

John Wayne Cleaver has called a demon---literally called it on the phone---and challenged it to a fight. He’s faced two monsters already, barely escaping with his life, and now he’s done running; he’s taking the fight to them. As he wades through the town’s darkest secrets, searching for any sign of who the demon might be, one thing becomes all too clear: in a game of cat and mouse with a supernatural killer, you are always the mouse.

In I Am Not a Serial Killer we watched a budding sociopath break every rule he had to save his town from evil. In Mr. Monster we held our breath as he fought madly with himself, struggling to stay in control. Now John Wayne Cleaver has mastered his twisted talents and embraced his role as a killer of killers. I Don't Want to Kill You brings his story to a thundering climax of suspicion, mayhem, and death.

It’s time to punish the guilty.

And in a town full of secrets, everyone is guilty of something.

The King of Plagues (Joe Ledger, #3)
Jonathan Maberry
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: March 29

Saturday 09:11 Hours: A blast rocks a London hospital and thousands are dead or injured… 10:09 Hours: Joe Ledger arrives on scene to investigate. The horror is unlike anything he has ever seen. Compelled by grief and rage, Joe rejoins the DMS and within hours is attacked by a hit-team of assassins and sent on a suicide mission into a viral hot zone during an Ebola outbreak. Soon Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences begin tearing down the veils of deception to uncover a vast and powerful secret society using weaponized versions of the Ten Plagues of Egypt to destabilize world economies and profit from the resulting chaos. Millions will die unless Joe Ledger meets the this powerful new enemy on their own terms as he fights terror with terror.

The Kings of Eternity
Eric Brown
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Solaris
Release Date: March 29

1999, on the threshold of a new millennium, the novelist Daniel Langham lives a reclusive life on an idyllic Greek island, hiding away from humanity and the events of the past. All that changes, however, when he meets artist Caroline Platt and finds himself falling in love. But what is his secret, and what are the horrors that haunt him? 1935. Writer Jonathon Langham and Edward Vaughan are summoned from London by their editor friend Jasper Carnegie to help investigate strange goings on in Hopton Wood. What they discover there – no less than a strange creature from another world – will change their lives for ever. What they become, and their link to the novelist of the future, is the subject of Eric Brown’s most ambitious novel to date. Almost ten years in the writing, The Kings of Eternity is a novel of vast scope and depth, full of the staple tropes of the genre and yet imbued with humanity and characters you’ll come to love.

Land of the Dead
Thomas Harlan
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: March 29

It’s a small change in our history: imagine that the Japanese made contact with the Aztec Empire. Instead of small-pox and Christianity, they brought an Imperial alliance, samurai ethics, and technology. By the time of these books, the Emperor in Mexico City rules not just the entire planet Earth, but a growing interplanetary Empire. But the Galaxy is not a hospitable place, and there are other powers, both new and very very old, who would stop the spread of the power in Anuhuac.

A weapon of the Old Ones, from the time of the First Sun, has been found in a region of space. It must be investigated, then tamed or destroyed to keep it from the hands of opposing powers. Gretchen Anderssen, freelance archeologist and specialist in First Sun artifacts, has been hired by her old mentor Green Hummingbird, agent of the Mirror Service, to join him in the study. They will be joined by old friends, and some old enemies as well.

The Land of the Painted Cave (Earth's Children, Bk 6)
Jean M. Auel
Genre: Alternate History
Publisher: Crown
Release Date: March 29

The highly anticipated sixth book of Jean Auel's Earth's Children® series, THE LAND OF PAINTED CAVES, is the culmination fans have been waiting for. Continuing the story of Ayla and Jondalar, Auel combines her brilliant narrative skills and appealing characters with a remarkable re-creation of the way life was lived more than 25,000 years ago. THE LAND OF PAINTED CAVES is an exquisite achievement by one of the world's most beloved authors.

Lover Unleashed (A Novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood)
J.R. Ward
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: NAL
Release Date: March 29

Payne, twin sister of Vishous, is cut from the same dark, seductive cloth as her brother. Imprisoned for eons by their mother, the Scribe Virgin, she finally frees herself-only to face a devastating injury. Manuel Manello, M.D., is drafted by the Brotherhood to save her as only he can-but when the human surgeon and the vampire warrior meet, their two worlds collide in the face of their undeniable passion. With so much working against them, can love prove stronger than the birthright and the biology that separates them?

The Silent Land
Graham Joyce
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: March 29

Award-winning novelist and cult favorite Graham Joyce transports readers to a mysterious world of isolation and fear with a hypnotically dark story about a young couple trapped by an avalanche in the remote French Alps . . . a daring and powerful novel about love, loss, and rebirth. In the French Alps around Chamonix, a young married couple is buried under a flash avalanche while skiing. Miraculously, Jake and Zoe dig their way out from under the snow—only to discover the world they knew has been overtaken by an eerie and absolute silence. Their hotel is devoid of another living soul. Cell phones and land lines are cut off. An evacuation as sudden and thorough as this leaves Jake and Zoe to face a terrifying situation alone. They are trapped by the storm, completely isolated, with another catastrophic avalanche threatening to bury them alive . . . again. And as the couple begin to witness unset­tling events neither one can ignore, they are forced to con­front a frightening truth about the silent land they now inhabit. Award-winning author Graham Joyce has written a mysteri­ous masterpiece, a tour de force that will thrill fans of Peter Straub and the hit television show Lost

Steven Brust
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: March 29

Long ago, one of the gods fashioned an artifact called the silver tiassa. To Devera the Wanderer, it was a pretty toy to play with. To Vlad Taltos, it was a handy prop for a con he was running. To the Empire, it was a tool to be used against their greatest enemies--the Jenoine. To the Jhereg, it was a trap to kill Vlad.
The silver tiassa, however, had its own agenda.
Tiassa will cover more than ten years in Vlad's life--and, to the delight of longtime fans, will bring him together with Khaavren, from The Phoenix Guards and its sequels. Who may be Vlad's new best friend--or his most terrible enemy.


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